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scarce to be expected in mere apologue. But besides the internal marks of its being a true history, there are external ones which seem to me unanswerable; I mean, Ezekiel's mentioning Job in company with Noah and Daniel a, which it is hardly imaginable he would have done, if Job had not really existed as well as they; and the apostle James' referring to his history at the same time he does to that of Christ. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord b.
As to the author, it is not certain who he was, whether Job himself, Elihu, or Moses. The latter seems most likely, as the name of Jehovah (by which God began to be known, or however chiefly known, in the time of Moses) is frequently used in the historical part of the book; whereas it is scarcely if at all mentioned in the discourses which make up the chief part of the book, and which are supposed to have been spoken, and indeed the whole matter to have happened, before the time of the author. But whoever the author was, the enquiry of the greatest consequence to the business before us is, at what time Job lived. Now it is plain it must have been before Moses's time, because the age of man was then reduced to what it is now, seventy or eighty; whereas Job we find lived one hundred and forty years. It was before sacrifices were confined to one altar, before the general apostacy of the nations, and when there was as yet no other idolatry but the worship of the sun and moon, and that was punished by the Judges c. It was while God was known more by the name of God Almighty than Jehovah, as was hinted before; and when divine knowledge was conveyed not by writing but by tradition, as seems probable from some passages in the course of the book d. In fine, it was evidently before the time of Moses, because no mention is made of the deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt, and no reference is had to any of the customs of that dispensation. I should suppose Job therefore to have lived in the patriarchal age; perhaps about the time of Isaac or Jacob: and very probably he was of the posterity of Nahor, Abraham's brother, whose first-born was Uz e.-It was then in an age of great simplicity of manners, but in which however idolatry began to prevail, and vice
c Chap. xxxi. 26, 28.
a Ezek. xiv. 14.
d Chap. viii. 8, 21, 25.
b James v. 11.
e Gen. xxii. 20, 21.
to spread itself among the nations, that the scene of this history is to be placed.
Now the text tells us, That the sons of Job went and feasted in their houses, every one his day, and sent and called for their three sisters, to eat and to drink with them. And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings, according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
Several things are here deserving our notice, some of which require a little explanation. As,
I. This Festival which was observed in the family of Job. Our accounts of these early times are very short; so that we can frame but a very imperfect idea of matters of this sort. Human nature however being the same in every age, we may easily suppose that such customs in the general as now prevail in most countries, prevailed then; though with less art and more simplicity. Events that were memorable, interesting, and important would be apt to bring people together; and good-nature, an inclination to mirth, and a fondness for shew would be likely to put them on making entertainments for each other, expressive of their mutual joy and good-will. As to this festival, it does not seem to have been on a religious account; or of a very general and public kind. Only one family is mentioned, though it is true families were then very large, and others might be invited to the feast. The occasion it is probable was within themselves, either the birth or the marriage of some one of the house, or some prosperous event that had happened to them. But however that might be, it looks as if these feasts were periodical, or at stated seasons: and it is certain they were circular, for it is said they feasted in their houses, every one his day.
Now all this was innocent enough, yea, on some accounts very commendable. They might lawfully enjoy the comforts of life in a friendly, sociable, and cheerful manner. The remembrance of benefits received might justly excite joy, provided gratitude to God accompanied it. And it shewed an amiable disposition, and answered very valuable purposes, for a family
branched out as this was to meet thus together at certain seasons, and express their mutual love and concord. Here were seven sons, their children it is probable, and the sisters of the family also.
What kind of entertainments they made we cannot say. But it is likely they were as splendid as the simplicity of those times would allow; for their wealth was very great, and it is said, they feasted, and they drank wine a. It is further observable, that these banquets were repeated, they went about from house to house, a day at a house: and these days, it is probable, immediately succeeded each other; for that was much the custom of the easterns in after times. Perhaps they began at the house of the youngest, for it is remarkable they were at the eldest brother's when the last sad catastrophe befel them. And it is not improbable they were ambitious of out-doing each other on these occasions. So that upon the whole we may reasonably conclude, these feasts were very expensive, and their mirth and jollity very great.-Now though these family associations might, as I said, if properly managed, have been innocent, useful, and commendable; yet,
II. They unhappily became the occasions of sin.
Many circumstances concurred to render this the case. company was large, seven sons, and three daughters, and their several children. And where companies are SO numerous (though proper enough on such occasions) they are apt to get into parties, or else to grow too violent in their amusements.— They were also young, as may be gathered from the numerous family Job had after this first race was gone. They were in the bloom of age and the heat of blood: and at this time of life mirth and gaiety are peculiarly ensnaring. They were very rich, and so had all the means that can be well imagined of dissipation and pleasure: and were under no absolute necessity of cutting short their time of relaxation, and returning speedily to their labour. Their father also was not with them. So grave and pious a man as he, had he been present, would no doubt have interposed his authority to restrain their excesses; while, at the same time, his prudence and good-nature would have. led him to make his company as agreeable to them as possible.
a Ver. 13.
They however reasoned otherwise, chose he should be absent, as apprehending they would be more at liberty to gratify their lawless inclinations.-But the most unfavourable circumstance of all was, Satan's being among them. For it is quickly after said, when the Lord asked Satan, Whence comest thou?' that he answered, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.' He diligently watched his opportunity. And no fitter season than this could have offered, for his using all the art and influence he was master of to betray them into sin.-And accordingly, what through his address and their depraved appetites and passions,
III. They actually were betrayed into sin.
So I conclude both from Job's jealousies, and from the event. He said, it may be my sons have sinned. This jealousy of his might be groundless. But indulgent parents are not apt to suspect bad things of their children, till they are forced to it. He knew their complexion, and the power of temptation: knew perhaps some disagreeable things of them in time past, and had probably some hints given him of their behaviour, and so dreaded the consequence. Wherefore from his apprehensions, as he expresses them, I should suppose they really were guilty of some evil practices. And then the calamity that befel them confirms the idea. For though this providence was designed as a trial of Job's patience, yet it may be reasonably enough considered as a punishment of their sins, and not their sins in general only, but their excesses on this occasion. What Job therefore says of them in a way of suspicion, we may, I think, without the charge of uncharitableness, consider as real.
They sinned-eat and drank to excess, grew violent and outrageous in their mirth, and at length proceeded so far as to curse God in their hearts. They were full and denied God, and said, Who is the Lord a? From step to step they advanced, till they plunged themselves into the depths of iniquity.They are cheerful-quickly they begin to think this their cheerfulness real enjoyment; they want no better heaven-so they secretly despise religion in their hearts-they drink-the wine goes merrily round-the fumes arise-they grow noisy and
a Prov. xxx. 9.
clamorous-what they thought before in their hearts, they now speak with their lips-the religion of the old man they make a joke of—and, lost to all sense of parental duty and esteem, no wonder, while they ridicule their father, they curse his God: no wonder they are ready for every abomination they have it in their power to commit. Charity would indeed lead one to hope the best concerning them. Yet if this was their temper and conduct, (and there seems too sad ground to apprehend it) surely the providence of God is abundantly justified in the sentence executed them. But let us now turn our attention awhile,
IV. To their father's conduct.
When the days of their feasting were gone about, Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings, according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
From this account one would be apt to suspect Job of having been guilty of some neglect. He does well, now he understands there had been something amiss, to interpose between God and them. But ought he not to have prevented the evil? Was there no defect in their education, either in regard of severity, or indulgence? Some good men treat their children in early life with too great rigour, and so provoke them, when they become their own masters, to run into excesses they perhaps would not otherwise be guilty of. But in this case, if there was a mistake, it was probably on the side of indulgence: for there is a softness in his manner of speaking that looks much like the undue fondness of a parent-It may be my sons have sinned: just like good old Eli, My sons, why do ye so a? Or if there were no error in their education, and their ill conduct was entirely the effect of their own natural depravity and perverseness; yet was not Job to blame for not asserting his authority, and taking care to preside at these feasts, which he had reason to apprehend would prove occasions of mischief? His presence might have checked these excesses.-But perhaps he was not asked or if he was, he had room to fear they would pay little regard to his rebukes.
a I Sam. ii. 23.