J O B
Solomon says, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof,” Eccl. vii. 8. It was so here in the story of Job; at the evening-time it was light. Three things we have met with in this book which, I confess , have troubled me very much; but we find all the three grievances redressed, thoroughly redressed, in this chapter, everything set to-rights. I. It has been a great trouble to us to see such a holy man as Job was so fretful, and peevish, and uneasy to himself, and especially to hear him quarrel with God and speak indecently to him; but, though he thus fall, he is not utterly cast down, for here he recovers his temper, comes to himself and to his right mind again by repentance, is sorry for what he has said amiss, unsays it, and humbles himself before God, ver. 1-6. II. It has been likewise a great trouble to us to see Job and his friends so much at variance, not only differing in their opinions, but giving one another a great many hard words, and passing severe censures one upon another, though they were all very wise and good men; but here we have this grievance redressed likewise, the differences between them happily adjusted, the quarrel taken up, all the peevish reflections they had cast upon one another forgiven and forgotten, and all joining in sacrifices and prayers, mutually accepted of God, ver. 7-9. III. It has troubled us to see a man of such eminent piety and usefulness as Job was so grievously afflicted, so pained, so sick, so poor, so reproached, so slighted, and made the very centre of all the calamities of human life; but here we have this grievance redressed too, Job healed of all his ailments, more honoured and beloved than ever, enriched with an estate double to what he had before, surrounded with all the comforts of life, and as great an instance of prosperity as ever he had been of affliction and patience, ver. 10-17. All this is written for our learning, that we, under these and the like discouragements that we meet with, through patience and comfort of this scripture may have hope.
B. C. 1520.
1 Then Job answered the LORD, and said, 2 I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. 3 Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. 4 Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. 5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. 6 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
The words of Job justifying himself were ended, ch. xxxi. 40. After that he said no more to that purport. The words of Job judging and condemning himself began, ch. xl. 4, 5. Here he goes on with words to the same purport. Though his patience had not its perfect work, his repentance for his impatience had. He is here thoroughly humbled for his folly and unadvised speaking, and it was forgiven him. Good men will see and own their faults at last, though it may be some difficulty to bring them to do this. Then, when God had said all that to him concerning his own greatness and power appearing in the creatures, then Job answered the Lord (v. 1), not by way of contradiction (he had promised not so to answer again, ch. xl. 5), but by way of submission; and thus we must all answer the calls of God.
I. He subscribes to the truth of God’s unlimited power, knowledge, and dominion, to prove which was the scope of God’s discourse out of the whirlwind, v. 2. Corrupt passions and practices arise either from some corrupt principles or from the neglect and disbelief of the principles of truth; and therefore true repentance begins in the acknowledgement of the truth, 2 Tim. ii. 25. Job here owns his judgment convinced of the greatness, glory, and perfection of God, from which would follow the conviction of his conscience concerning his own folly in speaking irreverently to him.
1. He owns that God can do every thing. What can be too hard for him that made behemoth and leviathan, and manages both as he pleases? He knew this before, and had himself discoursed very well upon the subject, but now he knew it with application. God had spoken it once, and then he heard it twice, that power belongs to God; and therefore it is the greatest madness and presumption imaginable to contend with him. “Thou canst do every thing, and therefore canst raise me out of this low condition, which I have so often foolishly despaired of as impossible: I now believe thou art able to do this.”
2. That no thought can be withholden from him, that is,
(1.) There is no thought of ours that he can be hindered from the knowledge of. Not a fretful, discontented, unbelieving thought is in our minds at any time but God is a witness to it. It is in vain to contest with him; for we cannot hide our counsels and projects from him, and, if he discover them, he can defeat them.
(2.) There is no thought of his that he can be hindered from the execution of. Whatever the Lord pleased, that did he. Job had said this passionately, complaining of it (ch. xxiii. 13), What his soul desireth even that he doeth; now he says, with pleasure and satisfaction, that God’s counsels shall stand. If God’s thoughts concerning us be thoughts of good, to give us an unexpected end, he cannot be withheld from accomplishing his gracious purposes, whatever difficulties may seem to lie in the way.
II. He owns himself to be guilty of that which God had charged him with in the beginning of his discourse, v. 3. “Lord, the first word thou saidst was, Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? There needed no more; that word convinced me. I own I am the man that has been so foolish. That word reached my conscience, and set my sin in order before me. It is too plain to be denied, too bad to be excused. I have hidden counsel without knowledge. I have ignorantly overlooked the counsels and designs of God in afflicting me, and therefore have quarrelled with God, and insisted too much upon my own justification: Therefore I uttered that which I understood not,” that is, “I have passed a judgment upon the dispensations of Providence, though I was utterly a stranger to the reasons of them.” Here,
1. He owns himself ignorant of the divine counsels; and so we are all. God’s judgments are a great deep, which we cannot fathom, much less find out the springs of. We see what God does, but we neither know why he does it, what he is aiming at, nor what he will bring it to. These are things too wonderful for us, out of our sight to discover, out of our reach to alter, and out of our jurisdiction to judge of. They are things which we know not; it is quite above our capacity to pass a verdict upon them. The reason why we quarrel with Providence is because we do not understand it; and we must be content to be in the dark about it, until the mystery of God shall be finished.
2. He owns himself imprudent and presumptuous in undertaking to discourse of that which he did not understand and to arraign that which he could not judge of. He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame to him. We wrong ourselves, as well as the cause which we undertake to determine, while we are no competent judges of it.
III. He will not answer, but he will make supplication to his Judge, as he had said, ch. ix. 15. “Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak (v. 4), not speak either as plaintiff or defendant (ch. xiii. 22), but as a humble petitioner, not as one that will undertake to teach and prescribe, but as one that desires to learn and is willing to be prescribed to. Lord, put no more hard questions to me, for I am not able to answer thee one of a thousand of those which thou hast put; but give me leave to ask instruction from thee, and do not deny it me, do not upbraid me with my folly and self-sufficiency,” Jam. i. 5. Now he is brought to the prayer Elihu taught him, That which I see not teach thou me.
IV. He puts himself into the posture of a penitent, and therein goes upon a right principle. In true repentance there must be not only conviction of sin, but contrition and godly sorrow for it, sorrow according to God, 2 Cor. vii. 9. Such was Job’s sorrow for his sins.
1. Job had an eye to God in his repentance, thought highly of him, and went upon that as the principle of it (v. 5): “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear many a time from my teachers when I was young, from my friends now of late. I have known something of thy greatness, and power, and sovereign dominion; and yet was not brought, by what I heard, to submit myself to thee as I ought. The notions I had of these things served me only to talk of, and had not a due influence upon my mind. But now thou hast by immediate revelation discovered thyself to me in thy glorious majesty; now my eyes see thee; now I feel the power of those truths which before I had only the notion of, and therefore now I repent, and unsay what I have foolishly said.” Note,
(1.) It is a great mercy to have a good education, and to know the things of God by the instructions of his word and ministers. Faith comes by hearing, and then it is most likely to come when we hear attentively and with the hearing of the ear.
(2.) When the understanding is enlightened by the Spirit of grace our knowledge of divine things as far exceeds what we had before as that by ocular demonstration exceeds that by report and common fame. By the teachings of men God reveals his Son to us; but by the teachings of his Spirit he reveals his Son in us (Gal. i. 16), and so changes us into the same image, 2 Cor. iii. 18.
(3.) God is pleased sometimes to manifest himself most fully to his people by the rebukes of his word and providence. “Now that I have been afflicted, now that I have been told of my faults, now my eye sees thee.” The rod and reproof give wisdom. Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest and teachest.
2. Job had an eye to himself in his repentance, thought hardly of himself, and thereby expressed his sorrow for his sins (v. 6): Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. Observe,
(1.) It concerns us to be deeply humbled for the sins we are convinced of, and not to rest in a slight superficial displeasure against ourselves for them. Even good people, that have no gross enormities to repent of, must be greatly afflicted in soul for the workings and breakings out of pride, passion, peevishness, and discontent, and all their hasty unadvised speeches; for these we must be pricked to the heart and be in bitterness. Till the enemy be effectually humbled, the peace will be insecure.
(2.) Outward expressions of godly sorrow well become penitents; Job repented in dust and ashes. These, without an inward change, do but mock God; but, where they come from sincere contrition of soul, the sinner by them gives glory to God, takes shame to himself, and may be instrumental to bring others to repentance. Job’s afflictions had brought him to the ashes (ch. ii. 8, he sat down among the ashes), but now his sins brought him thither. True penitents mourn for their sins as heartily as ever they did for any outward afflictions, and are in bitterness as for an only son of a first-born, for they are brought to see more evils in their sins than in their troubles.
(3.) Self-loathing is evermore the companion of true repentance. Ezek. vi. 9, They shall loathe themselves for the evils which they have committed. We must not only angry at ourselves for the wrong and damage we have by sin done to our own souls, but must abhor ourselves, as having by sin made ourselves odious to the pure and holy God, who cannot endure to look upon iniquity. If sin be truly an abomination to us, sin in ourselves will especially be so; the nearer it is to us the more loathsome it will be.
(4.) The more we see of the glory and majesty of God, and the more we see of the vileness and odiousness of sin and of ourselves because of sin, the more we shall abase and abhor ourselves for it. “Now my eye sees what a God he is whom I have offended, the brightness of that majesty which by wilful sin I have spit in the face of, the tenderness of that mercy which I have spurned at the bowels of; now I see what a just and holy God he is whose wrath I have incurred; wherefore I abhor myself. Woe is me, for I am undone,” Isa. vi. 5. God had challenged Job to look upon proud men and abase them. “I cannot,” says Job, “pretend to do it; I have enough to do to get my own proud heart humbled, to abase that and bring that low.” Let us leave it to God to govern the world, and make it our care, in the strength of his grace, to govern ourselves and our own hearts well.
– Matthew Henry Commentary