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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Job 42

 

 

Verse 5-6

THE MYSTERY OF PAIN

‘I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.’

Job 42:5-6

There are some verses in the book of Job which are familiar enough to us all. Such as, ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord’ (1:21). Or this, ‘Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not’ (14:1, 2). Or this, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another’ (19:25–27).

But the best way to read almost any book is to read it right through: this is especially so with the books of the Bible. It is certainly the best way to understand Job. He was a prosperous chieftain or sheik in the land of Uz, between Syria and Arabia. He was rich, his family large, his household great, and he feared God. But suddenly the storm falls out of the unclouded blue. Robbers carried off his property. His servants were slain. His sons and daughters were killed by an earthquake. All this was enough to make his brain reel and stagger, but Job ‘fell down upon the ground and worshipped, and said … The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord.’

Then sickness comes, and Job is covered with boils.

To add to his affliction his wife, who seems to have been one of those people who said, ‘I sit as a queen, and shall see no sorrow,’ instead of soothing her husband’s misery, adds to it with cruel, wicked words.

Yet more. His friends condemned Job without cause. Their theory was that calamities fell on men only on account of sin: the righteous prospered, the wicked suffered. No wonder Job called them ‘miserable comforters’ and ‘physicians of no value,’ for they threw a false light on those problems of pain and sorrow which perplex all the ages.

At the end of the book Elihu appears for Job. He is indignant at his self-righteousness. Job had been so sure of his own innocence that he doubted the righteousness of God, and he was deeply in fault. His sorrows taught Job humility.

Rev. F. Harper.

Illustrations

(1) ‘The close of the Book of Job must be taken in connection with its prologue, in order to get the full view of its solution of the mystery of pain and suffering. Indeed, the prologue is more completely the solution than the ending is, for it shows the purpose of Job’s trials as being, not his punishment, but his testing. The whole theory that individual sorrows were the result of individual sins, in the support of which Job’s friends poured out so many eloquent and heartless commonplaces, is discredited from the beginning. The magnificent prologue shows the source and purpose of sorrow. The epilogue in this last chapter shows the effect of it in a good man’s character, and afterwards in his life.

So we have the grim thing lighted up, as it were, at the two ends. Suffering comes with the mission of trying what stuff a man is made of, and it leads to closer knowledge of God, which is blessed; to lowlier self-estimation, which is also blessed; and to renewed outward blessings, which hide the old scars and gladden the tortured heart.

Job’s final word to God is in beautiful contrast with much of his former unmeasured utterances. It breathes lowliness, submission, and contented acquiescence in a providence partially understood. It does not put into Job’s mouth a solution of the problem, but shows how its pressure is lightened by getting closer to God.’

(2) ‘We see in the Book of Job these elements: First, we see a story which has taken hold of the minds of both the thinkers and poets of the world. Secondly, we see a great work which appeals to every human being that has ever lived, as being a picture to him of his daily spiritual experience, and a solution of the chief problem which haunts him all his days. Thirdly, we find the method of the solution of the problem, the appeal to a just God, and the answer that approves of Job’s righteousness, so true to all inner experience. Fourthly, the poem gains in interest and charm by being in a measure Greek in feeling, dramatic in form, and giving as its motive the purifying of the hero not by action, but by the justifying power of a good conscience, which, even in its earlier sceptical mood, tears in fragments the sophistry of a merely conventional belief. If we add to these elements that “freshness of an early world” which gives an atmosphere to this work, we may well ask if a greater and nobler piece of writing has, on the whole, ever been bequeathed to mankind.’

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Job 42:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/job-42.html. 1876.

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