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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Job 2

 

 

Verse 1

CHAP. II.

Satan again caluminates Job before God, whose body God permits him to afflict, but not so as to take away his life. Job is smitten by Satan with sore boils. He reproves his wife. His three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, come to mourn with him.

Before Christ 1645.

Job 2:1. Again there was a day Again it was the day. Heath.


Verse 3

Job 2:3. To destroy him without cause The most that can be meant by this expression is, without his desert, (according to the usual way of speaking, for, strictly speaking, we all deserve hell;) or without any signal guilt to draw upon him so signal a calamity: not but that there might be other very weighty causes for it; for the divine wisdom, we may be sure, neither does nor suffers any thing without cause, i.e. without a sufficient reason. That good men are sometimes extremely afflicted, and that not only in their outward estate, but in their persons, as Job was, is a fact too obvious to be denied; (see John 9:3.) and whether God permits wicked spirits or wicked men, or any thing else, to be the immediate instrument of a good man's sufferings, it makes no alteration in the thing itself. To all this it may be added, that the words will bear a different construction. They are translated by Junius and Tremellius, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that he still retains his integrity? and in vain hast thou excited me to destroy him: and by Houbigant, He still retains his integrity, after thou hast excited me against him, that I might trouble him in vain. See Peters.


Verse 4

Job 2:4. Skin for skin A proverbial expression, to denote the great value in which life is held; insomuch that a man, to preserve it, would suffer even his skin to be torn off. It may signify also, that a man, in order to save his life, would willingly suffer himself to be stripped of all his fortunes. The words נפשׁו בעד bead napsho, rendered for his life, might be more properly rendered, for his person. The question here was not about his life; Satan had not the impudence to desire his life; but only to smite him in his bone, and in his flesh; and accordingly, the permission given him in the 6th verse implies this restriction, beware thou touch not his life. The rendering the word נפשׁ nepesh, by person, is not unusual, as may be seen by any one who will consult the Concordances. See Heath and Schultens.


Verse 5

Job 2:5. He will curse thee Blaspheme thee.


Verse 7

Job 2:7. So went Satan forth It has been objected, I. That it does not seem likely that Satan should appear in such good company as the sons of God; nor, II. That God should permit him to afflict Job in this manner, only to satisfy the wicked sycophant that Job was a man of integrity. As to the first objection, we grant that such company is too good for him: but he who can sometimes transform himself into an angel of light, may affect also to appear in company with angels of light, and may impudently intrude himself with them. If good angels are sent forth to mankind, in order to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation, and if Satan also walketh about among men, seeking whom he may devour; it is neither impossible nor improbable that the latter may sometimes present himself in company with the former before the Lord. As to the second objection, we must own that it would be of force if there were any truth in it: but, since the text affords no sufficient grounds for the poor suggestion, and God might have higher ends to answer in that affair than this suggestion hints, the pretended difficulty is easily got over, and so the literal construction of the text may still be the true one: nevertheless, I prefer the figurative construction in the present instance; not condemning those who prefer the literal, nor commending such as are dogmatical and positive in either. I am of opinion with those who think that the structure of the book of Job is of the dramatic kind; relating true history, but curiously embellished with many very lively decorations, such as are not to be interpreted up to the strictness of the letter, but serve to convey an excellent meaning or moral to the pious reader. The prophetic style is generally full of lofty thoughts and bold figures or emblems, and abounds with parables; and Job himself, who perhaps was author of the principal part of the book, has been deservedly reckoned by learned men in the number of prophets. See Waterland's Script. Vind. part 3: p. 14.


Verse 8

Job 2:8. And he took him a potsherd, &c.— It is plain that the disease of Job was cuticular, says Dr. Mede; and it is as certain that the bodies of the Hebrews were (in those hot countries) very liable to ulcers of the skin; upon which account, learned men think it was, that they were forbidden the eating of swine's flesh; which, as it affords a gross nourishment, and not easily perspirable, is very improper food in such constitutions; as by how much hotter the countries were which they inhabited (such as the Desarts of Arabia), the more severely these disorders raged. There is another much worse disease, so frequent in Egypt that it is said to be endemial there, though it may also be engendered in this hot country; I mean the elephantiasis. Perhaps it was this, which is nearly of the same nature with the leprosy, that had afflicted the body of our righteous man. The doctor remarks further, that it is not Job himself, nor his friends, but the author of the book, who attributes his calamities to Satan; for this writer's intention seems to be, to shew, by a striking example, that the world is governed by the providence of Almighty God; and as the holy angels, whose ministry God makes use of in distributing his bountiful gifts, punctually execute all his commands; so Satan himself, with his agents, are under the power of God, and cannot inflict any evils on mankind without the divine permission. Possibly it may be agreeable to our readers to hear something further of this learned writer's opinion of the book of Job in general; which, says he, may justly be esteemed the most ancient of all books whereof we have any certain account: for some are of opinion, that it was written in the time of the Patriarchs; many others, that it was composed about the days of Moses, and even by Moses himself; and there are but few who think it posterior to him. For my part, I embrace the learned Lightfoot's opinion, that it was composed by Elihu; one of Job's companions, chiefly because he therein speaks of himself as a writer; and if so, it will appear to be older than the days of Moses. I take it to be a dramatic poem, composed upon a true history, and perhaps with this design, that, from the example of this illustrious and upright, yet afflicted and most miserable man, the people of Israel might learn to bear with patience all those evils and hardships which they were daily suffering in their Egyptian captivity; nor can there be found, in my opinion, in this kind of writing, any thing more admirable, and better adapted to move the passions, than this piece; whether we regard the sublimity and elegance of its style, its natural descriptions, or the propriety of the characters ascribed to all the persons concerned in it. See his Medica Sacra, cap. 1: and Scheuchzer, tom. 6: p. 15.; see also the Reflections on this chapter.


Verse 9-10

Job 2:9-10. Dost thou still retain thine integrity? &c.— The word תם tam, is the same in chap. Job 27:5 and there rendered integrity. God forbid that I should justify you, says Job, in answer to the uncharitable suspicions of his friends; till I die I will not remove my integrity from me: which, it is evident, cannot be meant of his religion (as a learned writer on this book supposes); for Job's friends never said any thing to him to tempt him to renounce his religion; but, to make him disclaim or renounce his integrity, they said a great deal. It was, indeed, the chief design of their harangues to bring him to confess himself guilty of some secret crimes, for which they supposed the hand of God was so severe upon him. Job's refusing to do this, is what he there calls holding fast his integrity; and so bishop Patrick; Till I die, &c. "I will sooner die than confess the guilt you charge me withal." Why, then, may we not understand the very same expression in the same sense in this speech of Job's wife? For she upbraids him in just the same strain that the friends did; dost thou still retain thine integrity?—BLESS [not curse] God, and die; i.e. "Dost thou still persist in the maintaining that thou art innocent? Bless God, by a confession of those secret sins for which he thus afflicts thee, and so yield thyself up to death?" for I suppose she thought his case remediless. Bless God, in this place, may be used in the same sense as, give glory to God, in the speech of Joshua to Achan; see Joshua 7:19. Bishop Warburton himself acknowledges, that ברךֶ barek, &c. is, literally, Bless God; but he would have it spoken ironically; which is very unlikely, considering the calamitous estate they were both in; for the wife must feel her share, if she had any feeling at all; and therefore the speech, we have reason to suppose, was serious. If the foregoing explication be allowed, there appear to be these two errors in her address; first, her unjust suspicions of his being guilty of some secret sins; and secondly, her rashly advising him to despair and die; to starve himself, or by some way or other put an end to his wretched life; to which Job replies, that she spoke like a weak and inconsiderate woman; [ נבל nabal, one like Nabal, of a rash and unthinking, a hasty and passionate temper; see 1 Samuel 25:25.] that patience and an absolute resignation to the will of God was much better; for, shall we receive good, says he, &c.? This account of the woman's speech, we see, agrees very well with Job's reply to it; and if the words will bear a softer sense than that usually put upon them, such an equitable construction may, for any thing I know, be a piece of justice yet due to Job's wife, though she has been dead three thousand years. What may further incline us to admit a favourable sense of the words is, that the verb ברךֶ barek, properly signifies to accost or salute a person. Thus when Elisha sent his servant Gehazi on a message in great haste, he bids him, If thou meet any man, salute him not; and, if any man salute thee, (the same word, ברךֶ barek, repeated) answer him not again, 2 Kings 4:29. So chap. Job 10:15. Jehu meets Jonadab, ויברכהו vayebarkehu, and salutes or accosts him thus, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? &c. This signification of the verb is confirmed by that of the nouns derived from it. As bowing the knee was used in salutation, ברךֶ berek signifies a knee; and as presents very often accompanied their salutations, ברכה berakah signifies a gift or present; so that they who take this way of investigating the proper meaning of a Hebrew word, viz. from the affinity of the root with its several branches, will easily acquiesce in this sense of the word. And it was, no doubt, the sense which the LXX had in view when they turned the woman's speech thus, ειπον τι ρημα ειν κυριον, say something to God, or address thyself to him. Mr. Heath renders the beginning of the 10th verse mote emphatically thus, Wilt thou, even thou, speak as one of the foolish women speaketh? expressing his surprize at hearing such advice from a wife who had so many opportunities to know better.


Verse 11

Job 2:11. Eliphaz the Temanite, &c.— Eliphaz was the son of Esau, and Teman of Eliphaz; Genesis 36:10-11. This Eliphaz, no doubt, was of this family. Teman certainly was a city of Edom, Jeremiah 7:20. Ezekiel 25:13. Amos 1:11-12. Bildad the Shuhite; Shuah was the son of Abraham by Keturah, whose posterity is reckoned among the easterns. Perhaps he is to be placed with his brother Midian, and his brother's sons Sheba and Dedan; see Genesis 25:2-3. Dedan is a city of Edom, Jeremiah 49:7-8 and seems to have been situated in its southern boundary, as Teman was in its western; Ezekiel 25:13. Zophar, the Naamathite: among the cities which fell by lot to the tribe of Judah, bordering upon the Edomites to the south, Naamah is mentioned; Joshua 21:41 nor does any other occur of this name. Zophar most likely, came from thence. Concerning Elihu, see the note on chap. Job 32:2. From all these particulars it appears, as clearly as can be expected in a matter of this kind, that Job dwelt in Edom, and that all his friends dwelt in Arabia Petraea, or in the countries immediately adjacent. It may be proper just to observe, that the Edomites, particularly the Temanites, were remarkably celebrated for their wisdom; see Jeremiah 49:7 and Baruch 3:22-23. Bishop Lowth: who observes, that, as all the speakers in this poem were Edomites or neighbouring Arabs, sprung most probably from the family of Abraham, the language of it is pure Hebrew, though the author, as it seems, was an Edomite; for it is most probable that all the posterity of Abraham, Israelites, Edomites, and Arabs, as well Keturites as Ishmaelites, made use of the common language of their father for a very long time.


Verse 13

Job 2:13. So they sat down with him upon the ground The circumstance of Job's lying in the ashes, and his three friends with him, for seven days and seven nights together, without speaking, though it has the same poetical aspect with some other circumstances in the history, yet might be literally true, and agreeable, to the manners of those ancient times, for any thing we know to the contrary, though we should understand it of an absolute silence. A long silence is a very natural effect of an extraordinary grief, which overwhelms the mind, and creates a sort of stupor and astonishment: moreover, the rules of decorum are very different in different ages and countries. Sitting on the ground is an oriental phrase, to express their passing the time in the deepest mourning. This, according to the eastern manner, was for seven days; so Joseph made a mourning for his father seven days, Genesis 50:10. We find the prophet Ezekiel (ch. Job 3:15.) sitting with his brethren of the captivity by the river Chebar, for seven days, astonished,—silent among them, as the Chaldee renders it; struck dumb, as it were, at the apprehension of their present miseries, and the still greater desolation coming on his country. Ezekiel, no doubt, was very conversant with the book of Job, and by his own behaviour on this occasion takes off all suspicion of impropriety from the other. The ancient poet AEschylus represents Niobe as sitting three days together on the tomb of her children, covered with a vail, and observing a profound silence. But further, from the reason here given for the silence of these three friends, namely, because they saw that Job's grief was very great, too great, perhaps, to admit of any long or formal consolatory discourses; we may collect that they were only silent as to this point for the first seven days; and, considering the nature of the discourse that they afterwards had with him, they would not have been at all too grave or modest, if they had been silent seven days longer. This they might have been, perhaps, had not their afflicted friend, by bursting forth into that bitter complaint in the next chapter, opened a way for them to interpose with their advice. See Peters.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Restless is our hellish foe, and disappointment but sharpens his rage, and makes him return more furious to the attack. Though proved a liar, he persists in his accusations, and pretends that another trial will yet prove Job a hypocrite. They who hate God's people will submit to no evidence, but lie on in spite of conviction. We have,

1. Another solemn assembly of the sons of God, and Satan with hardened impudence appearing among them, filled with the same inveterate malice against the faithful sufferer. The same inquiries and the same answer introduce the great point in dispute, the integrity of Job; and now it might be expected, that on the issue of his own proposal he would own God's character of Job just, and take shame for his infamous insinuation concerning his hypocrisy; seeing, saith God, he still holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him to destroy him without cause: he rises higher under every pressure, and gains in true greatness by his losses.

2. With persevering accusation this enemy dares to support his plea; and, though baffled, pretends that it was more owing to the insufficency of the test, than the integrity of Job, that he had not made good his allegation. Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life: while he himself rests in a whole skin, he can sit calm under other losses; but put forth thy hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, torture him with pain, or afflict him with sickness, and then he will curse thee to thy face. Note; Bodily torture is, in general, the severest trial of human patience.

3. God consents that he shall make the experiment; reserving only Job's life, he is at mercy to afflict him to the uttermost: thus purposing ultimately to make a more glorious display of the power of his grace; to preserve to future ages an eminent monument of patience under every affliction; with deeper confusion to cover this accuser of the brethren, and by these works of wickedness permit him to fill up the measure of his iniquities.

2nd, No sooner is the permission granted, than the devil is impatient to worry his prey; and while every thing that Job feels is tormenting, and every thing he hears discouraging, Satan hopes that he shall at last prevail.

1. Job is smitten from head to foot with sore boils. What was the specific disease has occasioned many conjectures: I should suppose it was no common case; but some extraordinary effort of him who has the power of death, to concenter perhaps in some sense the force of every disease in one, uniting anguish, pain, sickness, nauseousness, restlessness, and every other ill which flesh is heir to; while no comforter was near, no medicine to assuage, no oil to supple, no rags to cover, not even a dog to lick his sores. In the ashes he sat, a potsherd in his hand, and while with this he sought to assuage the intolerable itching, it served but to aggravate his torment. Yet, in this miserable state, no murmuring word is heard; he is dumb before God, and his soul as deeply abased, as his body is in the dust and ashes which were spread under him. Note; How admirable does Job appear! what a lesson to us, in pain or sickness, to keep the door of our lips from impatient complaints! See note on Job 2:8.

2. The wife of his bosom becomes the tempter of his soul; and what trials can be so severe as those which come through their hands who are dearest to us? Note; They are bad judges of true religion, who look no farther than this present world: had we hope here only, we should be often miserable indeed.

3. Job nobly repels this fiery dart thrown at him from Satan's quiver. Thou speakest (says he) as one of the foolish women speaketh; far different language should flow from those lips which have so long been taught a wiser lesson. What! shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? With indignation he receives the suggestion; many blessings they had received at God's hand: if now he chose to afflict them, it was what with meekness they should prepare to receive, and, under all submissive, wait in hope. Note; (1.) When we rebuke even great provocations, we should avoid every rash or hasty expression, and do it calmly and seriously. (2.) We must never parley with vile suggestions, but reject them at once with abhorrence. (3.) In this world, good and evil are set over against each other; whatever we enjoy of the one, we may not expect exemption from the other; and to a child of God the latter usually proves the greatest blessing.

4. God bears a fresh testimony to Job's integrity, In all did not Job sin with his lips, never uttered a murmuring impatient word: and, whatever struggle there might be within, hitherto grace had triumphed; and in bridling his tongue he had maintained the deserved character of a perfect man.

3rdly, The afflictive circumstances of so great a man's fall and sufferings soon spread abroad; his enemies rejoiced, but his friends mourned. We have here,

1. An appointment made by three of them to come and condole with him, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, men of deep knowledge and experience. They had known Job in the days of his greatness, and were not like many others, who left him when brought low, but thought themselves then especially bound to testify their regard, and by sympathetic tears to alleviate the sorrows of the mourner. Note; (1.) A true friend is known in adversity, and such may be justly esteemed among the chief blessings of this life. (2.) The house of mourning will be frequented by the wise and gracious, both in charity to support others, and as a school to learn themselves.

2. Their astonishment, grief, and anguish, are painted in the strongest colours. When afar off, they lifted up their eyes: so changed was his countenance, so disfigured his body, so wretched his appearance, that at first they knew him not; but soon discovering, through the dark vail, the miserable sufferer, a burst of tears and cries terrified their deep affliction; they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven, the tokens of expressive sorrow; so the sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights,—probably never stirred, and in bitterness ate the bread of mourners, and mingled their drink with weeping: or, at least, each day and part of the night they spent with him, however painful and grievous the scene; and none spake a word unto him: in silence overwhelmed with such stupendous woe, too big for utterance; for they saw that his grief was very great. Note; (1.) Disease makes frightful changes; the dearly beloved countenance will soon be horridly ghastly; let us remember what vile bodies we have, and be abased. (2.) They who haste from the chamber of disease, and are glad to fly from the melancholy door, shew themselves strangers to true friendship, as well as unmindful of, and unprepared for, the evil days that they must shortly see. (3.) When we perceive the grief so great as to be incapable of admitting immediate consolation, we must wait till an opening offers to speak a word in season.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 2:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/job-2.html. 1801-1803.

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