Beckett: Commentary on Job 1

v. 1, There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. The exact location of Uz is uncertain, though biblical scholars estimate it to be in or near the southern portion of Canaan called the Transjordan Region, which is east of the Jordan River and near the Dead Sea. Job here is described as an honest man, a rare trait among both men and women. This does not mean he was sinless. All the speakers of this book, including Job himself, confess all men to be sinful.

v. 2, There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. Some commentators suggest the number 7, together combined with Job’s 3 daughters making 10 children, are symbolic, as 7 symbolises God’s divine favour and 10 symbolises completeness or wholeness. As children themselves are a blessing, the number of Job’s children could be a sign of God’s favour for Job.

v. 3, He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. What the ESV renders “greatest” would better be translated as “richest,” as evident in his vast number of livestock and servants. Job was an extremely successful farmer, and very rich as a result. This is a further sign of God’s favour upon Job. Although this certainly cannot be interpreted as God’s favour is only present when a person is wealthy, as the heretic Joel Osteen falsely preaches. After all, God still favours Job in spite of his incredible suffering. Thus, wealth is not a sure sign of God’s favour. God does as He wills, which Job later confesses.

v. 4, His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. Job’s children lived a very happy, affluent life. We cannot read from this verse that Job’s children lived a worldly life of drunkenness and licentiousness, but simply that they enjoyed the gifts bestowed upon them by God.

v. 5, And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. Every single day, Job would rise up in the morning to offer burnt offerings (for the forgiveness of sins) on behalf of his children. In this way, he was quite the religious, liturgical man. Job’s fear of the sin his children might commit (cursing God in their hearts) is the sin Satan sets out to prove in Job (v. 11; 2:5) and what his wife later tempts him to do (2:9).

v. 6, Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before Yahweh, and Satan also came among them. The inclusion of Satan among the heavenly hosts notes that his presence was an intrusion. The way this setting is presented shows that Satan—evil—is not on equal footing with God. Much of literature, films, and video games display a dualism of good and evil as being equally powerful. Either good or evil can win, depending on which is more cunning to outwit and outplay the other. Pop culture even depicts God and Satan in this way.

Yet here, in this biblical text, Satan appears in the midst of the court of heavenly hosts who answer to God. Like the angels, he answers to God. He is more like a nuisance than an official. You can almost hear God’s exasperation in verse 7.

v. 7, Yahweh said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered Yahweh and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” Satan gives an evasive answer in a poetic bicolon. His verbal action describes a restless vagabond, as St. Peter also describes (1 Peter 5:8).

v. 8, And Yahweh said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” God speaks of Job with deep affection and pride, using the same descriptors in verse 1. Calling someone His servant/slave is an honourific title. He describes few as His servant. Job not only repents; he also refuses what is evil. God confirms Job’s righteousness.

vv. 9-10, Then Satan answered Yahweh and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have You not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.” Satan, which means “the Accuser,” does what he does best: he accuses Job. Why should Job or any other person fear God? Satan wants to prove a person only serves God because He rewards obedience and punishes disobedience. Job’s three friends undertake this opinion for the majority of the book (chapters 3-31).

The Accuser strongly implies Job only fears and serves God because He has blessed his obedience. Satan knows enough about religious people that he is convinced they are for it because of what they can get out of it. This is true for many, even today (e.g. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism), but God knows it is not true of His servant and He sets out to prove this in verse 12.

Satan is convinced Job’s faith is artificial; it has never been proven by testing. “And You are no better,” Satan essentially says, “since You have made it easy for him to be good!” By saying God has placed a hedge around Job and all he has, he is essentially saying Job lives a sheltered life, the only reason for Job’s supposed faith and integrity.

v. 11, “But stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse You to Your face.” Satan bets that if God allows Job to suffer in all he has, God’s servant will renounce Him. The Accuser accuses Job of artificial faith and dares God to prove otherwise. Satan wants to prove that even with God’s most faithful, man will only worship and love Him when there are benefits attached rather than solely for who He is.

Satan not only annoys and insults God with his obtrusive, insolent presence among the heavenly hosts, but even his manner of speaking insults God. Instead of “my Lord” or “the Lord” as one would address a king (especially that of the entire universe), he addresses the Lord with the impertinent “you.” He has no court etiquette.

v. 12, And Yahweh said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So, Satan went out from the presence of Yahweh. God accepts his challenge, only He commands Satan’s limit. He is permitted to attack all Job has, but God disallows him from hurting Job himself. Here, Satan is presented as a dog on a leash. He can only do and go so far as the Lord allows.

vv. 13-14, Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them…” We return to Job. He would’ve done his usual morning routine to ensure God’s favour. Thus, nothing would shock him more than the imminent and unexpected demise of his children and livestock, which is often how suffering comes—one never expects it or is prepared for it.

v. 15, “…and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” Sabeans suddenly came and killed Job’s oxen and donkeys. These people likely came from the kingdom of Sheba in southern Arabia, which was several hundred miles south of the Transjordan Region. Their odd long distance travel cannot be explained, other than Satan’s mischievous way of working in the world. He knows how the prince of darkness brought this about? As we learn in Genesis at the Fall of Man, he is quite crafty.

v. 16, While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” “The fire of God” is not a metaphorical description that God Himself caused His wrath to fall upon Job’s sheep and servants. Today, we call this lightning. (Remember, Satan is the cause of all this.) This would’ve been an unusual storm or some event to destroy 7,000 sheep.

v. 17, While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” The “while he was speaking” throughout these verses shows the rapidity at which this was all occurring. This was all happening too quickly for Job to properly respond to in order to recover. The Chaldeans lived near the Tigris River (the northern river) of Mesopotamia.

vv. 18-19, While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” Satan succeeded in destroying Job’s economy. Now he gets deeply personal by killing his children.

v. 20, Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshipped. Job’s first reaction is remarkable. He grieves with the cultural customs of grief in Mesopotamia and Canaan. Then he prostrates himself and worships God.

Who of us have done this? Who of us, when we suffer greatly, move to worship God? Unlike Job, our first reaction is to blame God. Our initial reaction is to say, “Why, God?!” While Job’s initial reaction is to praise Him.

v. 21, And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away; blessed be the name of Yahweh!” Job accepts God’s will and sovereignty in spite of his immense grief. It does not occur to him that he should cures the bandits or curse God. Instead, he acknowledges his finitude and praises the Lord. Job acknowledges that the Lord does as He sees fit. Who is he to question the Lord?

v. 22, In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. Satan’s accusation was wrong. He failed. God knows the heart of His servant. Job’s faith did not relieve his suffering; it caused it. This is also true of our faith. Satan cannot stand genuine faith, so he sets out to prove its supposed artificiality through suffering. Satan forecasted that Job would curse and renounce God with sudden suffering, and he was grossly erroneous, just as God knew.

Application

So, what do we learn here? As our initial reaction is to blame God in the midst of suffering, so our initial reaction here is to say, “How could God let this happen to His servant in whom He favours?” Our initial reaction is totally unlike Job’s. While we blame and question God, Job instead accepts God’s will and praises Him.

As readers who are likely familiar with Job’s story, the dramatic irony is that we know God is with Job throughout his suffering. To skip ahead to the end of the story, “Yahweh blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning” (42:12). The Lord brings healing to Job and returned to Job double what he had lost, and the Lord gave Job 7 more sons and 3 more daughters (42:13). This does not erase what Satan had done to Job; nevertheless, the Lord was with Him.

Thus, we learn three things here: First, all suffering comes from Satan the Accuser, not God. Second, God only allows Satan to go so far; he is under God’s control and God manipulates the will of Satan only to bring about His good and gracious will, though we shall never understand them, as Job himself later fails to understand despite his faithful integrity. And third, God is with His people in the midst of suffering. It is not within God’s nature to forsake His people in suffering.

Ultimately, the Accuser stands before God and accuses you and me of both false things and true things. He may likewise accuse our faith as being artificial just as he did with Job. He also accuses us of true things of the sins we have committed and continue to commit. Yet God knows the hearts of His servants, and we confess the same Messianic hope as Job, as well as the bodily resurrection, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me” (19:25-27)!

Ultimately, our Redeemer lives, who shall bring ultimate healing in the resurrection to come.

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