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Title: Expositor's Bible: The Book of Job
Author: Watson, Robert, 1882-1948
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Libraries)



  THE BOOK OF JOB.


  BY
  ROBERT A. WATSON, D.D.,

  AUTHOR OF
  "JUDGES AND RUTH," "GOSPELS OF YESTERDAY," ETC.



  NEW YORK
  FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY
  LAFAYETTE PLACE
  1900



                      CONTENTS.



                      _PROLOGUE._

                             I.
                                                        PAGE
  THE AUTHOR AND HIS WORK                                  3

                            II.

  THE OPENING SCENE ON EARTH                              19

                            III.

  THE OPENING SCENE IN HEAVEN                             33

                            IV.

  THE SHADOW OF GOD'S HAND                                50

                             V.

  THE DILEMMA OF FAITH                                    67


                 _THE FIRST COLLOQUY._

                            VI.

  THE CRY FROM THE DEPTH                                  85

                            VII.

  THE THINGS ELIPHAZ HAD SEEN                             99

                            VIII.

  MEN FALSE: GOD OVERBEARING                             116

                             IX.

  VENTURESOME THEOLOGY                                   135

                              X.

  THE THOUGHT OF A DAYSMAN                               141

                              XI.

  A FRESH ATTEMPT TO CONVICT                             154

                             XII.

  BEYOND FACT AND FEAR TO GOD                            162


                  _THE SECOND COLLOQUY._

                             XIII.

  THE TRADITION OF A PURE RACE                           187

                             XIV.

  "MY WITNESS IN HEAVEN"                                 201

                              XV.

  A SCHEME OF WORLD-RULE                                 215

                              XVI.

  "MY REDEEMER LIVETH"                                   222

                             XVII.

  IGNORANT CRITICISM OF LIFE                             243

                             XVIII.

  ARE THE WAYS OF THE LORD EQUAL?                        253


                   _THE THIRD COLLOQUY._

                              XIX.

  DOGMATIC AND MORAL ERROR                              269

                               XX.

  WHERE IS ELOAH?                                       281

                              XXI.

  THE DOMINION AND THE BRIGHTNESS                       298

                              XXII.

  THE OUTSKIRTS OF HIS WAYS                             302

                             XXIII.

  CHORAL INTERLUDE                                      313

                              XXIV.

  AS A PRINCE BEFORE THE KING                           320


                    _ELIHU INTERVENES._

                              XXV.

  POST-EXILIC WISDOM                                    341

                              XXVI.

  THE DIVINE PREROGATIVE                                361


               _THE VOICE FROM THE STORM._

                             XXVII.

  "MUSIC IN THE BOUNDS OF LAW"                          381

                            XXVIII.

  THE RECONCILIATION                                    392

                             XXIX.

  EPILOGUE                                              409


  INDEX                                                 413



PROLOGUE.



I.

_THE AUTHOR AND HIS WORK._


The Book of Job is the first great poem of the soul in its mundane
conflict, facing the inexorable of sorrow, change, pain, and death,
and feeling within itself at one and the same time weakness and
energy, the hero and the serf, brilliant hopes, terrible fears. With
entire veracity and amazing force this book represents the
never-ending drama renewed in every generation and every genuine life.
It breaks upon us out of the old world and dim muffled centuries with
all the vigour of the modern soul and that religious impetuosity which
none but Hebrews seem fully to have known. Looking for precursors of
Job we find a seeming spiritual burden and intensity in the Accadian
psalms, their confessions and prayers; but if they prepared the way
for Hebrew psalmists and for the author of Job, it was not by awaking
the cardinal thoughts that make this book what it is, nor by supplying
an example of the dramatic order, the fine sincerity and abounding art
we find here welling up out of the desert. The Accadian psalms are
fragments of a polytheistic and ceremonial world; they spring from the
soil which Abraham abandoned that he might found a race of strong men
and strike out a new clear way of life. Exhibiting the fear,
superstition, and ignorance of our race, they fall away from
comparison with the marvellous later work and leave it unique among
the legacies of man's genius to man's need. Before it a few notes of
the awakening heart, athirst for God, were struck in those Chaldæan
entreaties, and more finely in Hebrew psalm and oracle: but after it
have come in rich multiplying succession the Lamentations of Jeremiah,
Ecclesiastes, the Apocalypse, the Confessions of Augustine, the Divina
Commedia, Hamlet, Paradise Regained, the Grace Abounding of Bunyan,
the Faust of Goethe and its progeny, Shelley's poems of revolt and
freedom, Sartor Resartus, Browning's Easter Day and Rabbi Ben Ezra,
Amiel's Journal, with many other writings, down to "Mark Rutherford"
and the "Story of an African Farm." The old tree has sent forth a
hundred shoots, and is still full of sap to our most modern sense. It
is a chief source of the world's penetrating and poignant literature.

But there is another view of the book. It may well be the despair of
those who desire above all things to separate letters from theology.
The surpassing genius of the writer is seen not in his fine calm of
assurance and self-possession, nor in the deft gathering and arranging
of beautiful images, but in his sense of elemental realities and the
daring with which he launches on a painful conflict. He is convinced
of Divine sovereignty, and yet has to seek room for faith in a world
shadowed and confused. He is a prophet in quest of an oracle, a poet,
a maker, striving to find where and how the man for whom he is
concerned shall sustain himself. And yet, with this paradox wrought
into its very substance, his work is richly fashioned, a type of the
highest literature, drawing upon every region natural and
supernatural, descending into the depths of human woe, rising to the
heights of the glory of God, never for one moment insensible to the
beauty and sublimity of the universe. It is literature with which
theology is so blended that none can say, Here is one, there the
other. The passion of that race which gave the world the idea of the
soul, which clung with growing zeal to the faith of the One Eternal
God as the fountain of life and equally of justice, this passion in
one of its rarest modes pours through the Book of Job like a torrent,
forcing its way towards the freedom of faith, the harmony of intuition
with the truth of things. The book is all theology, one may say, and
all humanity no less. Singularly liberal in spirit and awake to the
various elements of our life, it is moulded, notwithstanding its
passion, by the artist's pleasure in perfecting form, adding wealth of
allusion and ornament to strength of thought. The mind of the writer
has not hastened. He has taken long time to brood over his torment and
seek deliverance. The fire burns through the sculpture and carved
framework and painted windows of his art with no loss of heat. Yet, as
becomes a sacred book, all is sobered and restrained to the rhythmic
flow of dramatic evolution, and it is as if the eager soul had been
chastened, even in its fieriest endeavour, by the regular procession
of nature, sunrise and sunset, spring and harvest, and by the sense of
the Eternal One, Lord of light and darkness, life and death. Built
where, before it, building had never been reared in such firmness of
structure and glow of orderly art, with such design to shelter the
soul, the work is a fresh beginning in theology as well as literature,
and those who would separate the two must show us how to separate them
here, must explain why their union in this poem is to the present
moment so richly fruitful. An origin it stands by reason of its
subject no less than its power, sincerity, and freedom.

A phenomenon in Hebrew thought and faith--to what age does it belong?
No record or reminiscence of the author is left from which the least
hint of time may be gathered. He, who by his marvellous poem struck a
chord of thought deep and powerful enough to vibrate still and stir
the modern heart, is uncelebrated, nameless. A traveller, a master of
his country's language, and versed no less in foreign learning,
foremost of the men of his day whensoever it was, he passed away as a
shadow, though he left an imperishable monument. "Like a star of the
first magnitude," says Dr. Samuel Davidson, "the brilliant genius of
the writer of Job attracts the admiration of men as it points to the
Almighty Ruler chastening yet loving His people. Of one whose sublime
conceptions, (mounting the height where Jehovah is enthroned in light,
inaccessible to mortal eye), lift him far above his time and
people--who climbs the ladder of the Eternal, as if to open heaven--of
this giant philosopher and poet we long to know something, his
habitation, name, appearance. The very spot where his ashes rest we
desire to gaze upon. But in vain." Strange, do we say? And yet how
much of her great poet, Shakespeare, does England know? It is not
seldom the fate of those whose genius lifts them highest to be
unrecognised by their own time. As English history tells us more of
Leicester than of Shakespeare, so Hebrew history records by preference
the deeds of its great King Solomon. A greater than Solomon was in
Israel, and history knows him not. No prophet who followed him and
wrought sentences of his poem into lamentation or oracle, no
chronicler of the exile or the return, preserving the names and
lineage of the nobles of Israel, has mentioned him. Literary
distinction, the praise of service to his country's faith could not
have been in his mind. They did not exist. He was content to do his
work, and leave it to the world and to God.

And yet the man lives in his poem. We begin to hope that some
indication of the period and circumstances in which he wrote may be
found when we realise that here and there beneath the heat and
eloquence of his words may be heard those undertones of personal
desire and trust which once were the solemn music of a life. His own,
not his hero's, are the philosophy of the book, the earnest search for
God, the sublime despondency, the bitter anguish, and the prophetic
cry that breaks through the darkness. We can see that it is vain to go
back to Mosaic or pre-Mosaic times for life and thought and words like
his; at whatever time Job lived, the poet-biographer deals with the
perplexities of a more anxious world. In the imaginative light with
which he invests the past no distinct landmarks of time are to be
seen. The treatment is large, general, as if the burden of his subject
carried the writer not only into the great spaces of humanity, but
into a region where the temporal faded into insignificance as compared
with the spiritual. And yet, as through openings in a forest, we have
glimpses here and there, vaguely and momentarily showing what age it
was the author knew. The picture is mainly of timeless patriarchal
life; but, in the foreground or the background, objects and events are
sketched that help our inquiry. "His troops come together and cast up
their way against me." "From out of the populous city men groan, and
the soul of the wounded crieth out." "He looseth the bond of kings,
and bindeth their loins with a girdle; He leadeth priests away
spoiled, and overthroweth the mighty.... He increaseth the nations and
destroyeth them; He spreadeth the nations abroad and bringeth them
in." No quiet patriarchal life in a region sparsely peopled, where the
years went slow and placid, could have supplied these elements of the
picture. The writer has seen the woes of the great city in which the
tide of prosperity flows over the crushed and dying. He has seen, and,
indeed, we are almost sure has suffered in, some national disaster
like those to which he refers. A Hebrew, not of the age after the
return from exile,--for the style of his writing, partly through the
use of Arabic and Aramaic forms, has more of rude vigour and
spontaneity on the whole than fits so late a date,--he appears to have
felt all the sorrows of his people when the conquering armies of
Assyria or of Babylon overran their land.

The scheme of the book helps to fix the time of the composition. A
drama so elaborate could not have been produced until literature had
become an art. Such complexity of structure as we find in Psalm cxix.
shows that by the time of its composition much attention was paid to
form. It is no longer the pure lyric cry of the unlearned singer, but
the ode, extremely artificial notwithstanding its sincerity. The
comparatively late date of the Book of Job appears in the orderly
balanced plan, not indeed so laboured as the psalm referred to, but
certainly belonging to a literary age.

Again, a note of time has been found by comparing the contents of Job
with Proverbs, Isaiah, Ecclesiastes, and other books. Proverbs, chaps.
iii. and viii., for example, may be contrasted with chap. xxviii. of
the Book of Job. Placing them together we can hardly escape the
conclusion that the one writer had been acquainted with the work of
the other. Now, in Proverbs it is taken for granted that wisdom may
easily be found: "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man
that getteth understanding.... Keep sound wisdom and discretion; so
shall they be life unto thy soul and grace to thy neck." The author of
the panegyric has no difficulty about the Divine rules of life. Again,
Proverbs viii. 15, 16: "By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.
By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth." In
Job xxviii., however, we find a different strain. There it is: "Where
shall wisdom be found?... It is hid from the eyes of all living, and
kept close from the fowls of the air;" and the conclusion is that
wisdom is with God, not with man. Of the two it seems clear that the
Book of Job is later. It is occupied with questions which make wisdom,
the interpretation of providence and the ordering of life, exceedingly
hard. The writer of Job, with the passages in Proverbs before him,
appears to have said to himself: Ah! it is easy to praise wisdom and
advise men to choose wisdom and walk in her ways. But to me the
secrets of existence are deep, the purposes of God unfathomable. He is
fain, therefore, to put into the mouth of Job the sorrowful cry,
"Where shall wisdom be found, and where is the place of understanding?
Man knoweth not the price thereof.... It cannot be gotten for gold."
Both in Proverbs and Job, indeed, the source of Hokhma or wisdom is
ascribed to the fear of Jehovah; but the whole contention in Job is
that man fails in the intellectual apprehension of the ways of God.
Referring the earlier portions of Proverbs to the post-Solomonic age
we should place the Book of Job at a later date.

It is not within our scope to consider here all the questions raised by
parallel passages and discuss the priority and originality in each case.
Some resemblances in Isaiah may, however, be briefly noticed, because we
seem on the whole to be led to the conclusion that the Book of Job was
written between the periods of the first and second series of Isaian
oracles. They are such as these. In Isaiah xix. 5, "The waters shall
fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and become
dry,"--referring to the Nile: parallel in Job xiv. 11, "As the waters
fail from the sea, and the river decayeth and drieth up,"--referring to
the passing of human life. In Isaiah xix. 13, "The princes of Zoan are
become fools, the princes of Noph are deceived; they have caused Egypt
to go astray,"--an oracle of specific application: parallel in Job xii.
24, "He taketh away the heart of the chiefs of the people of the earth,
and causeth them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way,"--a
description at large. In Isaiah xxviii. 29, "This also cometh forth from
Jehovah of Hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in
wisdom": parallel in Job xi. 5, 6, "Oh that God would speak, and open
His lips against thee; and that He would show thee the secrets of
wisdom, that it is manifold in effectual working!" The resemblance
between various parts of Job and "the writing of Hezekiah when he had
been sick and was recovered of his sickness," are sufficiently obvious,
but cannot be used in any argument of time. And on the whole, so far,
the generality and, in the last case, somewhat stiff elaboration of the
ideas in Job as compared with Isaiah are almost positive proof that
Isaiah went first. Passing now to the fortieth and subsequent chapters
of Isaiah we find many parallels and much general similarity to the
contents of our poem. In Job xxvi. 12, "He stirreth up the sea with His
power, and by His understanding He smiteth through Rahab": parallel in
Isaiah li. 9, 10, "Art thou not it that cut Rahab in pieces, that
pierced the dragon? Art thou not it which dried up the sea, the waters
of the great deep?" In Job ix. 8, "Which alone stretcheth out the
heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea": parallel in Isaiah xl.
22, "That stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them
out as a tent to dwell in." In these and other cases the resemblance is
clear, and on the whole the simplicity and apparent originality lie with
the Book of Job. Professor Davidson claims that Job, called by God "My
servant," resembles in many points the servant of Jehovah in Isaiah
liii., and the claim must be admitted. But on what ground Kuenen can
affirm that the writer of Job had the second portion of Isaiah before
him and painted his hero from it one fails to see. There are many
obvious differences.

It has now become almost clear that the book belongs either to the
period (favoured by Ewald, Renan, and others) immediately following
the captivity of the northern tribes, or to the time of the captivity
of Judah (fixed upon by Dr. A. B. Davidson, Professor Cheyne, and
others). We must still, however, seek further light by glancing at the
main problem of the book, which is to reconcile the justice of Divine
providence with the sufferings of the good, so that man may believe in
God even in sorest affliction. We must also consider the hint of time
to be found in the importance attached to personality, the feelings
and destiny of the individual and his claim on God.

Taking first the problem,--while it is stated in some of the psalms
and, indeed, is sure to have occurred to many a sufferer, for most
think themselves undeserving of great pain and affliction,--the
attempt to grapple with it is first made in Job. The Proverbs,
Deuteronomy, and the historical books take for granted that prosperity
follows religion and obedience to God, and that suffering is the
punishment of disobedience. The prophets also, though they have their
own view of national success, do not dispense with it as an evidence
of Divine favour. Cases no doubt were before the mind of inspired
writers which made any form of the theory difficult to hold. But these
were regarded as temporary and exceptional, if indeed they could not
be explained by the rule that God sends earthly prosperity to the
good, and suffering to the bad in the long run. To deny this and to
seek another rule was the distinction of the author of Job, his bold
and original adventure in theology. And the attempt was natural, one
may say necessary, at a time when the Hebrew states were suffering
from those shocks of foreign invasion which threw their society,
commerce, and politics into the direst confusion. The old ideas of
religion no longer sufficed. Overcome in war, driven out of their own
land, they needed a faith which could sustain and cheer them in
poverty and dispersion. A generation having no outlook beyond
captivity was under a curse from which penitence and renewed fidelity
could not secure deliverance. The assurance of God's friendship in
affliction had to be sought.

The importance attached to personality and the destiny of the
individual is on two sides a guide to the date of the book. In some of
the psalms, undoubtedly belonging to an earlier period, the personal
cry is heard. No longer content to be part and parcel of the class or
nation, the soul in these psalms asserts its direct claim on God for
light and comfort and help. And some of them, the thirteenth for
example, insist passionately on the right of a believing man to a
portion in Jehovah. Now in the dispersion of the northern tribes or
the capture of Jerusalem this personal question would be keenly
accentuated. Amidst the disasters of such a time those who are
faithful and pious suffer along with the rebellious and idolatrous.
Because they are faithful to God, virtuous and patriotic beyond the
rest, they may indeed have more affliction and loss to endure. The
psalmist among his own people, oppressed and cruelly wronged, has the
need of a personal hope forced upon him, and feels that he must be
able to say, "The Lord is _my_ shepherd." Yet he cannot entirely
separate himself from his people. When those of his own house and
kindred rise against him, still they too may claim Jehovah as their
God. But the homeless exile, deprived of all, a solitary wanderer on
the face of the earth, has need to seek more earnestly for the reason
of his state. The nation is broken up; and if he is to find refuge in
God, he must look for other hopes than hinge on national recovery. It
is the God of the whole earth he must now seek as his portion. A unit
not of Israel but of humanity, he must find a bridge over the deep
chasm that seems to separate his feeble life from the Almighty, a
chasm all the deeper that he has been plunged into sore trouble. He
must find assurance that the unit is not lost to God among the
multitudes, that the life broken and prostrate is neither forgotten
nor rejected by the Eternal King. And this precisely corresponds with
the temper of our book and the conception of God we find in it. A man
who has known Jehovah as the God of Israel seeks his justification,
cries for his individual right to Eloah, the Most High, the God of
universal nature and humanity and providence.

Now, it has been alleged that through the Book of Job there runs a
constant but covert reference to the troubles of the Jewish Church in
the Captivity, and especially that Job himself represents the
suffering flock of God. It is not proposed to give up entirely the
individual problem, but along with that, superseding that, the main
question of the poem is held to be why Judah should suffer so keenly
and lie on the _mezbele_ or ash-heap of exile. With all respect to
those who hold this theory one must say that it has no substantial
support; and, on the other hand, it seems incredible that a member of
the Southern Kingdom (if the writer belonged to it), expending so much
care and genius on the problem of his people's defeat and misery,
should have passed beyond his own kin for a hero, should have set
aside almost entirely the distinctive name Jehovah, should have
forgotten the ruined temple and the desolate city to which every Jew
looked back across the desert with brimming eyes, should have let
himself appear, even while he sought to reassure his compatriots in
their faith, as one who set no store by their cherished traditions,
their great names, their religious institutions, but as one whose
faith was purely natural like that of Edom. Among the good and true
men who, at the taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, were left in
penury, childless and desolate, a poet of Judah would have found a
Jewish hero. To his drama what embellishment and pathos could have
been added by genius like our author's, if he had gone back on the
terrible siege and painted the Babylonian victors in their cruelty and
pride, the misery of the exiles in the land of idolatry. One cannot
help believing that to this writer Jerusalem was nothing, that he had
no interest in its temple, no love for its ornate religious services
and growing exclusiveness. The suggestion of Ewald may be accepted,
that he was a member of the Northern Kingdom driven from his home by
the overthrow of Samaria. Undeniable is the fact that his religion has
more sympathy with Teman than with Jerusalem as it was. If he belonged
to the north this seems to be explained. To seek help from the
priesthood and worship of the temple did not occur to him. Israel
broken up, he has to begin afresh. For it is with his own religious
trouble he is occupied; and the problem is universal.

Against the identification of Job with the servant of Jehovah in
Isaiah liii. there is one objection, and it is fatal. The author of
Job has no thought of the central idea in that passage--vicarious
suffering. New light would have been thrown on the whole subject if
one of the friends had been made to suggest the possibility that Job
was suffering for others, that the "chastisement of their peace" was
laid on him. Had the author lived after the return from captivity and
heard of this oracle, he would surely have wrought into his poem the
latest revelation of the Divine method in helping and redeeming men.

The distinction of the Book of Job we have seen to be that it offers a
new beginning in theology. And it does so not only because it shifts
faith in the Divine justice to a fresh basis, but also because it
ventures on a universalism for which indeed the Proverbs had made way,
which however stood in sharp contrast to the narrowness of the old state
religion. Already it was admitted that others than Hebrews might love
the truth, follow righteousness, and share the blessings of the
heavenly King. To that broader faith, enjoyed by the thinkers and
prophets of Israel, if not by the priests and people, the author of the
Book of Job added the boldness of a more liberal inspiration. He went
beyond the Hebrew family for his hero to make it clear that man, as man,
is in direct relation to God. The Psalms and the Book of Proverbs might
be read by Israelites and the belief still retained that God would
prosper Israel alone, at any rate in the end. Now, the man of Uz, the
Arabian sheikh, outside the sacred fraternity of the tribes, is
presented as a fearer of the true God--His trusted witness and servant.
With the freedom of a prophet bringing a new message of the brotherhood
of men our author points us beyond Israel to the desert oasis.

Yes: the creed of Hebraism had ceased to guide thought and lead the
soul to strength. The Hokhma literature of Proverbs, which had become
fashionable in Solomon's time, possessed no dogmatic vigour, fell
often to the level of moral platitude, as the same kind of literature
does with us, and had little help for the soul. The state religion, on
the other hand, both in the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, was
ritualistic, again like ours, clung to the old tribal notion, and
busied itself about the outward more than the inward, the sacrifices
rather than the heart, as Amos and Isaiah clearly indicate. Hokhma of
various kinds, plus energetic ritualism, was falling into practical
uselessness. Those who held the religion as a venerable inheritance
and national talisman did not base their action and hope on it out in
the world. They were beginning to say, "Who knoweth what is good for
man in this life--all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a
shadow? For who can tell a man what shall be after him under the
sun?" A new theology was certainly needed for the crisis of the time.

The author of the Book of Job found no school possessed of the secret
of strength. But he sought to God, and inspiration came to him. He
found himself in the desert like Elijah, like others long afterwards,
John the Baptist, and especially Saul of Tarsus, whose words we
remember, "Neither went I up to Jerusalem, ... but I went into
Arabia." There he met with a religion not confined by rigid ceremony
as that of the southern tribes, not idolatrous like that of the north,
a religion elementary indeed, but capable of development. And he
became its prophet. He would take the wide world into council. He
would hear Teman and Shuach and Naamah; he would also hear the voice
from the whirlwind, and the swelling sea, and the troubled nations,
and the eager soul. It was a daring dash beyond the ramparts.
Orthodoxy might stand aghast within its fortress. He might appear a
renegade in seeking tidings of God from the heathen, as one might now
who went from a Christian land to learn from the Brahman and the
Buddhist. But he would go nevertheless; and it was his wisdom. He
opened his mind to the sight of fact, and reported what he found, so
that theology might be corrected and made again a handmaid of faith.
He is one of those Scripture writers who vindicate the universality of
the Bible, who show it to be a unique foundation, and forbid the
theory of a closed record or dried-up spring, which is the error of
Bibliolatry. He is a man of his age and of the world, yet in
fellowship with the Eternal Mind.

An exile, let us suppose, of the Northern Kingdom, escaping with his
life from the sword of the Assyrian, the author of our book has taken
his way into the Arabian wilderness and there found the friendship of
some chief and a safe retreat among his people. The desert has become
familiar to him, the sandy wastes and vivid oases, the fierce storms
and affluent sunshine, the animal and vegetable life, the patriarchal
customs and legends of old times. He has travelled through Idumæa, and
seen the desert tombs, on to Midian and its lonely peaks. He has heard
the roll of the Great Sea on the sands of the Shefelah, and seen the
vast tide of the Nile flowing through the verdure of the Delta and
past the pyramids of Memphis. He has wandered through the cities of
Egypt and viewed their teeming life, turning to the use of imagination
and religion all he beheld. With a relish for his own language, yet
enriching it by the words and ideas of other lands, he has practised
himself in the writer's art, and at length, in some hour of burning
memory and revived experience, he has caught at the history of one
who, yonder in a valley of the eastern wilderness, knew the shocks of
time and pain though his heart was right with God; and in the heat of
his spirit the poet-exile makes the story of that life into a drama of
the trial of human faith,--his own endurance and vindication, his own
sorrow and hope.



II.

_THE OPENING SCENE ON EARTH._

CHAP. i. 1-5.


The land of Uz appears to have been a general name for the great
Syro-Arabian desert. It is described vaguely as lying "east of
Palestine and north of Edom," or as "corresponding to the _Arabia
Deserta_ of classical geography, at all events so much of it as lies
north of the 30th parallel of latitude." In Jer. xxv. 20, among those
to whom the wine-cup of fury is sent, are mentioned "all the mingled
people and all the kings of the land of Uz." But within this wide
region, extending from Damascus to Arabia, from Palestine to Chaldæa,
it seems possible to find a more definite locality for the
dwelling-place of Job. Eliphaz, one of his friends, belonged to Teman,
a district or city of Idumæa. In Lam. iv. 21, the writer, who may have
had the Book of Job before him, says, "Rejoice and be glad, O daughter
of Edom, that dwellest in the land of Uz"; a passage that seems to
indicate a habitable region, not remote from the gorges of Idumæa. It
is necessary also to fix on a district which lay in the way of the
caravans of Sheba and Tema, and was exposed to the attacks of lawless
bands of Chaldæans and Sabeans. At the same time there must have been
a considerable population, abundant pasturage for large flocks of
camels and sheep, and extensive tracts of arable land. Then, the
dwelling of Job lay near a city at the gate of which he sat with
other elders to administer justice. The attention paid to details by
the author of the book warrants us in expecting that all these
conditions may be satisfied.

A tradition which places the home of Job in the Hauran, the land of
Bashan of Scripture, some score of miles from the Sea of Galilee, has
been accepted by Delitzsch. A monastery, there, appears to have been
regarded from early Christian times as authentically connected with
the name of Job. But the tradition has little value in itself, and the
locality scarcely agrees in a single particular with the various
indications found in the course of the book. The Hauran does not
belong to the land of Uz. It was included in the territory of Israel.
Nor can it by any stretch of imagination be supposed to lie in the way
of wandering bands of Sabeans, whose home was in the centre of Arabia.

But the conditions are met--one has no hesitation in saying, fully
met--in a region hitherto unidentified with the dwelling-place of Job,
the valley or oasis of Jauf (Palgrave, _Djowf_), lying in the North
Arabian desert about two hundred miles almost due east from the modern
Maan and the ruins of Petra. Various interesting particulars regarding
this valley and its inhabitants are given by Mr. C. M. Doughty in his
"Travels in Arabia Deserta." But the best description is that by Mr.
Palgrave, who, under the guidance of Bedawin, visited the district in
1862. Travelling from Maan by way of the Wadi Sirhan, after a difficult
and dangerous journey of thirteen days, their track in the last stage
following "endless windings among low hills and stony ledges," brought
them to greener slopes and traces of tillage, and at length "entered a
long and narrow pass, whose precipitous banks shut in the view on
either side." After an hour of tedious marching in terrible heat,
turning a huge pile of crags, they looked down into the Jauf.

"A broad, deep valley, descending ledge after ledge till its innermost
depths are hidden from sight amid far-reaching shelves of reddish
rock, below everywhere studded with tufts of palm groves and
clustering fruit trees in dark green patches, down to the farthest end
of its windings; a large brown mass of irregular masonry crowning a
central hill; beyond, a tall and solitary tower overlooking the
opposite bank of the hollow, and farther down, small round turrets and
flat house-roofs, half buried amid the garden foliage, the whole
plunged in a perpendicular flood of light and heat; such was the first
aspect of the Djowf as we now approached it from the west." The
principal town bears the name of the district, and is composed of
eight villages, once distinct, which have in process of time coalesced
into one. The principal quarter includes the castle, and numbers about
four hundred houses. "The province is a large oval depression, of
sixty or seventy miles long by ten or twelve broad, lying between the
northern desert that separates it from Syria and Euphrates, and the
southern Nefood, or sandy waste." Its fertility is great and is aided
by irrigation, so that the dates and other fruits produced in the Jauf
are famed throughout Arabia. The people "occupy a half-way position
between Bedouins and the inhabitants of the cultivated districts."
Their number is reckoned at about forty thousand, and there can be no
question that the valley has been a seat of population from remote
antiquity. To the other points of identification may be added this,
that in the Wadi Sirhan, not far from the entrance to the Jauf, Mr.
Palgrave passed a poor settlement with the name Oweysit, or Owsit,
which at least suggests the εν χὡρα τη Αυσἱτιδι of the Septuagint, and
the Outz, or Uz, of our text. With population, an ancient city,
fertile fields and ample pasturage in the middle of the desert, the
nearest habitable region to Edom, in the way of caravans, generally
safe from predatory tribes, yet exposed to those from the east and
south that might make long expeditions under pressure of great need,
the valley of the Jauf appears to correspond in every important
particular with the dwelling-place of the man of Uz.

The question whether such a man as Job ever lived has been variously
answered, one Hebrew rabbi, for example, affirming that he was a mere
parable. But Ezekiel names him along with Noah and Daniel, James in
his epistle says, "Ye have heard of the patience of Job"; and the
opening words of this book, "There was a man in the land of Uz," are
distinctly historical. To know, therefore, that a region in the
Arabian desert corresponds so closely with the scene of Job's life is
to be reassured that a true history forms the basis of the poem. The
tradition with which the author began his work probably supplied the
name and dwelling-place of Job, his wealth, piety, and afflictions,
including the visit of his friends, and his restoration after sore
trial from the very gate of despair to faith and prosperity. The rest
comes from the genius of the author of the drama. This is a work of
imagination based on fact. And we do not proceed far till we find,
first ideal touches, then bold flights into a region never opened to
the gaze of mortal eye.

Job is described in the third verse as one of the Children of the East
or Bene-Kedem, a vague expression denoting the settled inhabitants of
the North Arabian desert, in contrast to the wandering Bedawin and the
Sabeans of the South. In Genesis and Judges they are mentioned along
with the Amalekites, to whom they were akin. But the name as used by the
Hebrews probably covered the inhabitants of a large district very little
known. Of the Bene-Kedem Job is described as the greatest. His riches
meant power, and in the course of the frequent alternations of life in
those regions one who had enjoyed unbroken prosperity for many years
would be regarded with veneration not only for his wealth, but for what
it signified--the constant favour of Heaven. He had his settlement near
the city, and was the acknowledged emeer of the valley, taking his place
at the gate as chief judge. How great a chief one might become who added
to his flocks and herds year by year and managed his affairs with
prudence we learn from the history of Abraham; and to the present day,
where the patriarchal mode of living and customs continue, as among the
Kurds of the Persian highland, examples of wealth in sheep and oxen,
camels and asses almost approaching that of Job are sometimes to be met
with. The numbers--seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five
hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred she-asses--are probably intended
simply to represent his greatness. Yet they are not beyond the range of
possibility.

The family of Job--his wife, seven sons, and three daughters--are
about him when the story begins, sharing his prosperity. In perfect
friendliness and idyllic joy the brothers and sisters spend their
lives, the shield of their father's care and religion defending them.
Each of the sons has a day on which he entertains the others, and at
the close of the circle of festivities, whether weekly or once a
year, there is a family sacrifice. The father is solicitous lest his
children, speaking or even thinking irreverently, may have dishonoured
God. For this reason he makes the periodic offering, from time to time
keeping on behalf of his household a day of atonement. The number of
the children is not necessarily ideal, nor is the round of festivals
and sacred observances. Yet the whole picture of happy family life and
unbroken joy begins to lift the narrative into an imaginative light.
So fine a union of youthful enjoyment and fatherly sympathy and
puritanism is seldom approached in this world. The poet has kept out
of his picture the shadows which must have lurked beneath the sunny
surface of life. It is not even suggested that the recurring
sacrifices were required. Job's thoughtfulness is precautionary: "It
may be that my sons have sinned, and renounced God in their hearts."
The children are dear to him, so dear that he would have nothing come
between them and the light of heaven.

For the religion of Job, sincere and deep, disclosing itself in these
offerings to the Most High, is, above his fatherly affection and
sympathy, the distinction with which the poet shows him invested. He
is a fearer of the One Living and True God, the Supremely Holy. In the
course of the drama the speeches of Job often go back on his
faithfulness to the Most High; and we can see that he served his
fellow-men justly and generously because he believed in a Just and
Generous God. Around him were worshippers of the sun and moon, whose
adoration he had been invited to share. But he never joined in it,
even by kissing his hand when the splendid lights of heaven moved with
seeming Divine majesty across the sky. For him there was but One God,
unseen yet ever present, to whom, as the Giver of all, he did not fail
to offer thanksgiving and prayer with deepening faith. In his worship
of this God the old order of sacrifice had its place, simple,
unceremonious. Head of the clan, he was the priest by natural right,
and offered sheep or bullock that there might be atonement, or
maintenance of fellowship with the Friendly Power who ruled the world.
His religion may be called a nature religion of the finest
type--reverence, faith, love, freedom. There is no formal doctrine
beyond what is implied in the names Eloah, the Lofty One, Shaddai,
Almighty, and in those simple customs of prayer, confession, and
sacrifice in which all believers agreed. Of the law of Moses, the
promises to Abraham, and those prophetical revelations by which the
covenant of God was assured to the Hebrew people Job knows nothing.
His is a real religion, capable of sustaining the soul of man in
righteousness, a religion that can save; but it is a religion learned
from the voices of earth and sky and sea, and from human experience
through the inspiration of the devout obedient heart. The author makes
no attempt to reproduce the beliefs of patriarchal times as described
in Genesis, but with a sincere and sympathetic touch he shows what a
fearer of God in the Arabian desert might be. Job is such a man as he
may have personally known.

In the region of Idumæa the faith of the Most High was held in
remarkable purity by learned men, who formed a religious caste or
school of wide reputation; and Teman, the home of Eliphaz, appears to
have been the centre of the cultus. "Is wisdom no more in Teman?"
cries Jeremiah. "Is counsel perished from the prudent? Is their wisdom
(hokhma) vanished?" And Obadiah makes a similar reference: "Shall I
not in that day, saith the Lord, destroy the wise men out of Edom, and
understanding out of the mount of Esau?" In Isaiah the darkened wisdom
of some time of trouble and perplexity is reflected in the "burden of
Dumah," that is, Idumæa: "One calleth unto me out of Seir," as if with
the hope of clearer light on Divine providence, "Watchman, what of the
night? Watchman, what of the night?" And the answer is an oracle in
irony, almost enigma: "The morning cometh, and also the night. If ye
will inquire, inquire; turn, come." Not for those who dwelt in
shadowed Dumah was the clear light of Hebrew prophecy. But the wisdom
or hokhma of Edom and its understanding were nevertheless of the kind
in Proverbs and elsewhere constantly associated with true religion and
represented as almost identical with it. And we may feel assured that
when the Book of Job was written there was good ground for ascribing
to sages of Teman and Uz an elevated faith.

For a Hebrew like the author of Job to lay aside for a time the thought
of his country's traditions, the law and the prophets, the covenant of
Sinai, the sanctuary, and the altar of witness, and return in writing
his poem to the primitive faith which his forefathers grasped when they
renounced the idolatry of Chaldæa was after all no grave abandonment of
privilege. The beliefs of Teman, sincerely held, were better than the
degenerate religion of Israel against which Amos testified. Had not that
prophet even pointed the way when he cried in Jehovah's name--"Seek not
Bethel, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beersheba.... Seek Him
that maketh the Pleiades and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into
the morning, and maketh the day dark with night; that calleth for the
waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth;
Jehovah is His name"? Israel after apostasy may have needed to begin
afresh, and to seek on the basis of the primal faith a new atonement
with the Almighty. At all events there were many around, not less the
subjects of God and beloved by Him, who stood in doubt amidst the
troubles of life and the ruin of earthly hopes. Teman and Uz were in the
dominion of the heavenly King. To correct and confirm their faith would
be to help the faith of Israel also and give the true religion of God
fresh power against idolatry and superstition.

The book which returned thus to the religion of Teman found an
honourable place in the roll of sacred Scriptures. Although the canon
was fixed by Hebrews at a time when the narrowness of the post-exilic
age drew toward Pharisaism, and the law and the temple were regarded
with veneration far greater than in the time of Solomon, room was made
for this book of broad human sympathy and free faith. It is a mark at
once of the wisdom of the earlier rabbis and their judgment regarding
the essentials of religion. To Israel, as St. Paul afterwards said,
belonged "the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving
of the law, and the service of God, and the promises." But he too shows
the same disposition as the author of our poem to return on the
primitive and fundamental--the justification of Abraham by his faith,
the promise made to him, and the covenant that extended to his family:
"They which be of faith, the same are sons of Abraham"; "They which be
of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham"; "Not through the law
was the promise to Abraham or to his seed"; "That the blessing of
Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ." A greater
than St. Paul has shown us how to use the Old Testament, and we have
perhaps misunderstood the intent with which our Lord carried the minds
of men back to Abraham and Moses and the prophets. He gave a religion to
the whole world. Was it not then the spiritual dignity, the religious
breadth of the Israelite fathers, their sublime certainty of God, their
glow and largeness of faith for which Christ went back to them? Did He
not for these find them preparers of His own way?

From the religion of Job we pass to consider his character described
in the words, "That man was perfect and upright, and one that feared
God, and eschewed evil." The use of four strong expressions,
cumulatively forming a picture of the highest possible worth and
piety, must be held to point to an ideal life. The epithet _perfect_
is applied to Noah, and once and again in the Psalms to the
disposition of the good. Generally, however, it refers rather to the
scheme or plan by which conduct is ordered than to the fulfilment in
actual life; and a suggestive parallel may be found in the
"perfection" or "entire sanctification" of modern dogma. The word
means _complete_, built up all round so that no gaps are to be seen in
the character. We are asked to think of Job as a man whose
uprightness, goodness, and fidelity towards man were unimpeachable,
who was also towards God reverent, obedient, grateful, wearing his
religion as a white garment of unsullied virtue. Then is it meant that
he had no infirmity of will or soul, that in him for once humanity
stood absolutely free from defect? Scarcely. The perfect man in this
sense, with all moral excellences and without weakness, would as
little have served the purpose of the writer as one marred by any
gross or deforming fault. The course of the poem shows that Job was
not free from errors of temper and infirmities of will. He who is
proverbially known as the most patient failed in patience when the
bitter cup of reproach had to be drained. But undoubtedly the writer
exalts the virtue of his hero to the highest range, a plane above the
actual. In order to set the problem of the book in a clear light such
purity of soul and earnest dutifulness had to be assumed as would by
every reckoning deserve the rewards of God, the "Well done, good and
faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

The years of Job have passed hitherto in unbroken prosperity. He has
long enjoyed the bounty of providence, his children about him, his
increasing flocks of sheep and camels, oxen and asses feeding in
abundant pastures. The stroke of bereavement has not fallen since his
father and mother died in ripe old age. The dreadful simoom has spared
his flocks, the wandering Bedawin have passed them by. An honoured
chief, he rules in wisdom and righteousness, ever mindful of the
Divine hand by which he is blessed, earning for himself the trust of
the poor and the gratitude of the afflicted. Enjoying unbounded
respect in his own country, he is known beyond the desert to a circle
of friends who admire him as a man and honour him as a servant of God.
His steps are washed with butter, and the rock pours him out rivers of
oil. The lamp of God shines upon his head, and by His light he walks
through darkness. His root is spread out to the waters, and the dew
lies all night upon his branch.

Now let us judge this life from a point of view which the writer may
have taken, which at any rate it becomes us to take, with our
knowledge of what gives manhood its true dignity and perfectness.
Obedience to God, self-control and self-culture, the observance of
religious forms, brotherliness and compassion, uprightness and purity
of life, these are Job's excellences. But all circumstances are
favourable, his wealth makes beneficence easy and moves him to
gratitude. His natural disposition is towards piety and generosity; it
is pure joy to him to honour God and help his fellow-men. The life is
beautiful. But imagine it as the unclouded experience of years in a
world where so many are tried with suffering and bereavement, foiled
in their strenuous toil and disappointed in their dearest hopes, and
is it not evident that Job's would tend to become a kind of
dream-life, not deep and strong, but on the surface, a broad stream,
clear, glittering with the reflection of moon and stars or of the blue
heaven, but shallow, gathering no force, scarcely moving towards the
ocean? When a Psalmist says, "Thou hast set our iniquities before
Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance. For all our
days are passed away in Thy wrath: we bring our years to an end as a
tale that is told," he depicts the common experience of men, a sad
experience, yet needful to the highest wisdom and the noblest faith.
No dreaming is there when the soul is met with sore rebuffs and made
aware of the profound abyss that lies beneath, when the limbs fail on
the steep hills of difficult duty. But a long succession of prosperous
years, immunity from disappointment, loss, and sorrow, lulls the
spirit to repose. Earnestness of heart is not called for, and the
will, however good, is never braced to endurance. Whether by subtle
intention or by an instinctive sense of fitness, the writer has
painted Job as one who with all his virtue and perfectness spent his
life as in a dream and needed to be awakened. He is a Pygmalion's
statue of flawless marble, the face divinely calm and not without a
trace of self-conscious remoteness from the suffering multitudes,
needing the hot blast of misfortune to bring it to life. Or, let us
say, he is a new type of humanity in paradise, an Adam enjoying a
Garden of Eden fenced in from every storm, as yet undiscovered by the
enemy. We are to see the problem of the primitive story of Genesis
revived and wrought out afresh, not on the old lines, but in a way
that makes it real to the race of suffering men. The dream-life of Job
in his time of prosperity corresponds closely with that ignorance of
good and evil which the first pair had in the garden eastward in Eden
while as yet the forbidden tree bore its fruit untouched, undesired,
in the midst of the greenery and flowers.

When did the man Job live? Far back in the patriarchal age, or but a
short time before the author of the book came upon his story and made it
immortal? We may incline to the later date, but it is of no importance.
For us the interest of the book is not antiquarian but humane, the
relation of pain and affliction to the character of man, the righteous
government of God. The life and experiences of Job are idealised so that
the question may be clearly understood; and the writer makes not the
slightest attempt to give his book the colour of remote antiquity.

But we cannot fail to be struck from the outset with the genius shown
in the choice of a life set in the Arabian desert. For breadth of
treatment, for picturesque and poetic effect, for the development of a
drama that was to exhibit the individual soul in its need of God, in
the shadow of deep trouble as well as the sunshine of success, the
scenery is strikingly adapted, far better than if it had been laid in
some village of Israel. Inspiration guided the writer's choice. The
desert alone gave scope for those splendid pictures of nature, those
noble visions of Divine Almightiness, and those sudden and tremendous
changes which make the movement impressive and sublime.

The modern analogue in literature is the philosophic novel. But Job is
far more intense, more operatic, as Ewald says, and the elements are
even simpler. Isolation is secured. Life is bared to its elements. The
personality is entangled in disaster with the least possible machinery
or incident. The dramatising altogether is singularly abstract. And
thus we are enabled to see, as it were, the very thought of the
author, lonely, resolute, appealing, under the widespread Arabian sky
and the Divine infinitude.



III.

_THE OPENING SCENE IN HEAVEN._

CHAP. i. 6-12.


With the presentation of the scene in heaven, the genius, the pious
daring, and fine moral insight of the writer at once appear--in one
word, his inspiration. From the first we feel a sure yet deeply
reverent touch, a spirit composed in its high resolve. The thinking is
keen, but entirely without strain. In no mere flash did the over-world
disclose itself and those decrees that shape man's destiny. There is
constructive imagination. Wherever the idea of the heavenly council
was found, whether in the vision Micaiah narrated to Jehoshaphat and
Ahab, or in the great vision of Isaiah, it certainly was not unsought.
Through the author's own study and art the inspiration came that made
the picture what it is. The calm sovereignty of God, not tyrannical
but most sympathetic, is presented with simple felicity. It was the
distinction of Hebrew prophets to speak of the Almighty with a
confidence which bordered on familiarity yet never lost the grace of
profound reverence; and here we find that trait of serious naïveté.
The writer ventures on the scene he paints with no consciousness of
daring nor the least air of difficult endeavour, but quietly, as one
who has the thought of the Divine government of human affairs
constantly before his mind and glories in the majestic wisdom of God
and His friendliness to men. In a single touch the King is shown, and
before Him the hierarchies and powers of the invisible world in their
responsibility to His rule. Centuries of religious culture are behind
the words, and also many years of private meditation and philosophic
thought. To this man, because he gave himself to the highest
discipline, revelations came, uplifting, broad, and deep.

In contrast to the Almighty we have the figure of the Adversary, or
Satan, depicted with sufficient clearness, notably coherent,
representing a phase of being not imaginary but actual. He is not, as
the Satan of later times came to be, the head of a kingdom peopled with
evil spirits, a nether world separated from the abode of the heavenly
angels by a broad, impassable gulf. He has no distinctive hideousness,
nor is he painted as in any sense independent, although the evil bent of
his nature is made plain, and he ventures to dispute the judgment of the
Most High. This conception of the Adversary need not be set in
opposition to those which afterwards appear in Scripture as if truth
must lie entirely there or here. But we cannot help contrasting the
Satan of the Book of Job with the grotesque, gigantic, awful, or
despicable fallen angels of the world's poetry. Not that the mark of
genius is wanting in these; but they reflect the powers of this world
and the accompaniments of malignant human despotism. The author of Job,
on the contrary, moved little by earthly state and grandeur, whether
good or evil, solely occupied with the Divine sovereignty, never dreams
of one who could maintain the slightest shadow of authority in
opposition to God. He cannot trifle with his idea of the Almighty in the
way of representing a rival to Him; nor can he degrade a subject so
serious as that of human faith and well-being by painting with any
touch of levity a superhuman adversary of men.

Dante in his _Inferno_ attempts the portraiture of the monarch of
hell:--

            "That emperor who sways
      The realm of sorrow, at mid-breast from the ice
      Stood forth; and I in stature, am more like
      A giant than the giants are to his arms....
             ... If he were beautiful
      As he is hideous now, and yet did dare
      To scowl upon his Maker, well from him
      May all our misery flow."

The enormous size of this figure is matched by its hideousness; the
misery of the arch-fiend, for all its horror, is grotesque:

               "At six eyes he wept; the tears
      Adown three faces rolled in bloody foam."

Passing to Milton, we find sublimity in his pictures of the fallen
legions, and it culminates in the vision of their king:--

      "Above them all the archangel; but his face
       Deep scars of thunder had intrenched, and care
       Sat on his faded cheek, but under brows
       Of dauntless courage, and considerate pride
       Waiting revenge: cruel his eye, but cast
       Signs of remorse and passion, to behold
       The fellows of his crime, ...
       Millions of spirits for his fault amerced
       Of heaven, and from eternal splendours flung
       For his revolt."

The picture is magnificent. It has, however, little justification from
Scripture. Even in the Book of Revelation we see a kind of contempt of
the Adversary where an angel from heaven with a great chain in his
hand lays hold on the dragon, that old serpent which is the devil, and
Satan, and binds him a thousand years. Milton has painted his Satan
largely, as not altogether unfit to take arms against the Omnipotent,
grown gigantic, even sublime, in the course of much theological
speculation that had its source far back in Chaldæan and Iranian
myths. Perhaps, too, the sympathies of the poet, playing about the
fortunes of fallen royalty, may have unconsciously coloured the vision
which he saw and drew with such marvellous power, dipping his pencil
"in the hues of earthquake and eclipse."

This splendid regal arch-fiend has no kinship with the Satan of the Book
of Job; and, on the other hand, the Mephistopheles of the "Faust,"
although bearing an outward resemblance to him, is, for a quite
different reason, essentially unlike. Obviously Goethe's picture of a
cynical devil gaily perverting and damning a human mind is based on the
Book of Job. The "Prologue in Heaven," in which he first appears, is an
imitation of the passage before us. But while the vulgarity and
insolence of Mephistopheles are in contrast to the demeanour of the
Adversary in presence of Jehovah, the real distinction lies in the kind
of power ascribed to the one and the other. Mephistopheles is a cunning
tempter. He receives permission to mislead if he can, and not only
places his victim in circumstances fitted to ruin his virtue, but plies
him with arguments intended to prove that evil is good, that to be pure
is to be a fool. No such power of evil suggestion is given to the
Adversary of Job. His action extends only to the outward events by which
the trial of faith is brought about. Cynical he is and bent on working
evil, but not by low cunning and sophistry. He has no access to the
mind. While it cannot be said that Goethe has descended beneath the
level of possibility, since a contemporary and friend of his own,
Schopenhauer, might almost have sat for the portrait of Mephistopheles,
the realism in Job befits the age of the writer and the serious purpose
he had in view. Faust is a work of genius and art, and succeeds in its
degree. The author of Job succeeds in a far higher sense, by the charm
of simple sincerity and the strength of Divine inspiration, keeping the
play of supernatural agency beyond human vision, making the Satan a mere
instrument of the Divine purpose, in no sense free or intellectually
powerful.

The scene opens with a gathering of the "sons of the Elohim" in
presence of their King. Professor Cheyne thinks that these are
"supernatural Titanic beings who had once been at strife with Jehovah,
but who now at stated times paid him their enforced homage"; and this
he illustrates by reference to Chap. xxi. 22 and Chap. xxv. 2. But the
question in the one passage, "Shall any teach God knowledge? seeing He
judgeth those that are high" [רמִימ, the heights of heaven,
highnesses], and the affirmation in the other, "He maketh peace in His
high places," can scarcely be held to prove the supposition. The
ordinary view that they are heavenly powers or angels, willing
servants not unwilling vassals of Jehovah, is probably correct. They
have come together at an appointed time to give account of their
doings and to receive commands, and among them the Satan or Adversary
presents himself, one distinguished from all the rest by the name he
bears and the character and function it implies. There is no hint that
he is out of place, that he has impudently forced his way into the
audience chamber. Rather does it appear that he, like the rest, has to
give his account. The question "Whence comest thou?" expresses no
rebuke. It is addressed to the Satan as to the others. We see,
therefore, that this "Adversary," to whomsoever he is opposed, is not
a being excluded from communication with God, engaged in a princely
revolt. When the reply is put into his mouth that he has been "going
to and fro in the earth, and pacing up and down in it," the impression
conveyed is that a certain task of observing men, perhaps watching for
their misdeeds, has been assumed by him. He appears a spirit of
restless and acute inquiry into men's lives and motives, with a keen
eye for the weaknesses of humanity and a fancy quick to imagine evil.

Evidently we have here a personification of the doubting,
misbelieving, misreading spirit which, in our day, we limit to men and
call pessimism. Now Koheleth gives so finished an expression to this
temper that we can hardly be wrong in going back some distance of time
for its growth; and the state of Israel before the northern captivity
was a soil in which every kind of bitter seed might spring up. The
author of Job may well have drawn from more than one cynic of his day
when he set his mocking figure in the blaze of the celestial court.
Satan is the pessimist. He exists, so far as his intent goes, to find
cause against man, and therefore, in effect, against God, as man's
Creator. A shrewd thinker is this Adversary, but narrowed to one line
and that singularly like some modern criticism of religion, the
resemblance holding in this that neither shows any feeling of
responsibility. The Satan sneers away faith and virtue; the modern
countenances both, and so has an excellent reason for pronouncing them
hollow; or he avoids both, and is sure there is nothing but emptiness
where he has not sought. Either way, all is _habēl habalim_--vanity of
vanities. And yet Satan is so held and governed by the Almighty that
he can only strike where permission is given. Evil, as represented by
him, is under the control of Divine wisdom and goodness. He appears as
one to whom the words of Christ "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God,
and Him only shalt thou serve," would bring home a sense neither of
duty nor privilege, but of a sheer necessity, to be contested to the
last. Nevertheless he is a vassal of the Almighty. Here the touch of
the author is firm and true.

So of pessimistic research and philosophy now. We have writers who
follow humanity in all its base movements and know nothing of its
highest. The research of Schopenhauer and even the psychology of
certain modern novelists are mischievous, depraving, for this reason,
if no other, that they evaporate the ideal. They promote generally
that diseased egotism to which judgment and aspiration are alike
unknown. Yet this spirit too serves where it has no dream of serving.
It provokes a healthy opposition, shows a hell from which men recoil,
and creates so deadly ennui that the least gleam of faith becomes
acceptable, and even Theosophy, because it speaks of life, secures the
craving mind. Moreover, the pessimist keeps the church a little
humble, somewhat awake to the error that may underlie its own glory
and the meanness that mingles too often with its piety. A result of
the freedom of the human mind to question and deny, pessimism has its
place in the scheme of things. Hostile and often railing, it is
detestable enough, but needs not alarm those who know that God takes
care of His world.

The challenge which begins the action of the drama--by whom is it
thrown out? By the Almighty. God sets before the Satan a good life:
"Hast thou considered My servant Job? that there is none like him in the
earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth
evil." The source of the whole movement, then, is a defiance of unbelief
by the Divine Friend of men and Lord of all. There is such a thing as
human virtue, and it is the glory of God to be served by it, to have His
power and divinity reflected in man's spiritual vigour and holiness.

Why does the Almighty throw out the challenge and not wait for Satan's
charge? Simply because the trial of virtue must begin with God. This is
the first step in a series of providential dealings fraught with the
most important results, and there is singular wisdom in attributing it
to God. Divine grace is to be seen thrusting back the chaotic falsehoods
that darken the world of thought. They exist; they are known to Him who
rules; and He does not leave humanity to contend with them unaided. In
their keenest trials the faithful are supported by His hand, assured of
victory while they fight His battles. Ignorant pride, like that of the
Adversary, is not slow to enter into debate even with the All-wise.
Satan has the question ready which implies a lie, for his is the voice
of that scepticism which knows no reverence. But the entire action of
the book is in the line of establishing faith and hope. The Adversary is
challenged to do his worst; and man, as God's champion, will have to do
his best,--the world and angels looking on.

And this thought of a Divine purpose to confound the falsehoods of
scepticism answers another inquiry which may readily occur. From the
first the Almighty knows and asserts the virtue of His servant,--that
he is one who fears God and eschews evil. But why, then, does He
condescend to ask of Satan, "Hast thou considered My servant Job?"
Since He has already searched the heart of Job and found it faithful,
He does not need for His own satisfaction to hear Satan's opinion. Nor
are we to suppose that the expression of this Adversary's doubt can
have any real importance. But if we take the Satan as representing all
those who depreciate faith and undermine virtue, the challenge is
explained. Satan is of no account in himself. He will go on cavilling
and suspecting. But for the sake of the race of men, its emancipation
from the miserable suspicions that prey on the heart, the question is
proposed. The drama has its prophetical design; it embodies a
revelation; and in this lies the value of all that is represented.
Satan, we shall find, disappears, and thereafter the human reason is
alone addressed, solely considered. We pass from scene to scene, from
controversy to controversy, and the great problem of man's virtue,
which also involves the honour of God Himself, is wrought out that our
despondency and fear may be cured; that we may never say with
Koheleth, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."

To the question of the Almighty, Satan replies by another: "Doth Job
fear God for nought?" With a certain air of fairness he points to the
extraordinary felicity enjoyed by the man. "Hast Thou not made an
hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath, on
every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance
is increased in the land." It is a thought naturally arising in the
mind that very prosperous people have all on the side of their virtue,
and may be less pure and faithful than they seem. Satan adopts this
thought, which is not only blameless, but suggested by what we see of
God's government. He is base and captious in using it, and turns it
with a sneer. Yet on the surface he only hints that God should employ
His own test, and so vindicate His action in making this man so
prosperous. For why should Job show anything but gratitude towards God
when all is done for him that heart can desire? The favourites of
kings, indeed, who are loaded with titles and wealth, sometimes
despise their benefactors, and, being raised to high places, grow
ambitious of one still higher, that of royalty itself. The pampered
servant becomes an arrogant rival, a leader of revolt. Thus too great
bounty is often met with ingratitude. It does not, however, suit the
Adversary to suggest that pride and rebellion of this kind have begun
to show themselves in Job, or will show themselves. He has no ground
for such an accusation, no hope of proving it true. He confines
himself, therefore, to a simpler charge, and in making it implies that
he is only judging this man on general principles and pointing to what
is sure to happen in the case. Yes; he knows men. They are selfish at
bottom. Their religion is selfishness. The blameless human fear is
that much may be due to favourable position. The Satan is sure that
all is due to it.

Now, the singular thing here is the fact that the Adversary's
accusation turns on Job's enjoyment of that outward felicity which the
Hebrews were constantly desiring and hoping for as a reward of
obedience to God. The writer comes thus at once to show the peril of
the belief which had corrupted the popular religion of his time, which
may even have been his own error once, that abundant harvests, safety
from enemies, freedom from pestilence, such material prosperity as
many in Israel had before the great disasters, were to be regarded as
the evidence of accepted piety. Now that the crash has fallen and the
tribes are scattered, those left in Palestine and those carried into
exile alike sunk in poverty and trouble, the author is pointing out
what he himself has come to see, that Israel's conception of religion
had hitherto admitted and may even have gendered a terrible mistake.
Piety might be largely selfishness--was often mingled with it. The
message of the author to his countrymen and to the world is that a
nobler mind must replace the old desire for happiness and plenty, a
better faith the old trust that God would fill the hands that served
Him well. He teaches that, whatever may come, though trouble after
trouble may fall, the great true Friend is to be adored for what He
is, obeyed and loved though the way lies through storm and gloom.

Striking is the thought that, while the prophets Amos and Hosea were
fiercely or plaintively assailing the luxury of Israel and the lives
of the nobles, among those very men who excited their holy wrath may
have been the author of the Book of Job. Dr. Robertson Smith has shown
that from the "gala days" of Jeroboam II. to the fall of Samaria there
were only some thirty years. One who wrote after the Captivity as an
old man may therefore have been in the flush of youth when Amos
prophesied, may have been one of the rich Israelites who lay upon beds
of ivory and stretched themselves upon their couches, and ate lambs
out of the flock and calves out of the midst of the stall, for whose
gain the peasant and the slave were oppressed by stewards and
officers. He may have been one of those on whom the blindness of
prosperity had fallen so that the storm-cloud from the east with its
vivid lightning was not seen, who held it their safety to bring
sacrifices every morning and tithes every three days, to offer a
sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which was leavened, and proclaim
freewill offerings and publish them (Amos iv. 4, 5). The mere
possibility that the author of Job may have had this very time of
prosperity and religious security in his own past and heard Hosea's
trumpet blast of doom is very suggestive, for if so he has learned how
grandly right the prophets were as messengers of God. By the way of
personal sorrow and disaster he has passed to the better faith he
urges on the world. He sees what even the prophets did not fully
comprehend, that desolation might be gain, that in the most sterile
wilderness of life the purest light of religion might shine on the
soul, while the tongue was parched with fatal thirst and the eye
glazed with the film of death. The prophets looked always beyond the
shadows of disaster to a new and better day when the return of a
penitent people to Jehovah should be followed by a restoration of the
blessings they had forfeited--fruitful fields and vineyards, busy and
populous cities, a general distribution of comfort if not of wealth.
Even Amos and Hosea had no clear vision of the prophetic hope the
first exile was to yield out of its darkness to Israel and the world.

The question, then, "Doth Job fear God for nought?" sending a flash of
penetrating light back on Israel's history, and especially on the
glowing pictures of prosperity in Solomon's time, compelling all to look
to the foundation and motives of their faith, marks a most important era
in Hebrew thought. It is, we may say, the first note of a piercing
strain which thrills on to the present time. Taking rise here, the
spirit of inquiry and self-examination has already sifted religious
belief and separated much of the chaff from the wheat. Yet not all. The
comfort and hope of believers are not yet lifted above the reach of
Satan's javelin. While salvation is thought of mainly as self-enjoyment,
can we say that the purity of religion is assured? When happiness is
promised as the result of faith, whether happiness now, or hereafter in
heavenly glory, the whole fabric of religion is built on a foundation
insecure, because it may be apart from truth, holiness, and virtue. It
does not avail to say that holiness is happiness, and so introduce
personal craving under cover of the finest spiritual idea. To grant that
happiness is in any sense the distinctive issue of faith and
faithfulness, to keep happiness in view in submitting to the restraints
and bearing the burdens of religion, is to build the highest and best on
the shifting sand of personal taste and craving. Make happiness that for
which the believer is to endure and strive, allow the sense of personal
comfort and immunity from change to enter into his picture of the reward
he may expect, and the question returns, Doth this man serve God for
nought? Life is not happiness, and the gift of God is everlasting life.
Only when we keep to this supreme word in the teaching of Christ, and
seek the fulness and liberty and purity of life, apart from that
happiness which is at bottom the satisfaction of predominant desires,
shall we escape from the constantly recurring doubt that threatens to
undermine and destroy our faith.

If we look further, we find that the very error which has so long
impoverished religion prevails in philanthropy and politics, prevails
there at the present time to an alarming extent. The favourite aim of
social meliorists is to secure happiness for all. While life is the
main thing, everywhere and always, strength and breadth and nobleness
of life, their dream is to make the warfare and service of man upon
the earth so easy that he shall have no need for earnest personal
endeavour. He is to serve for happiness, and have no service to do
that may even in the time of his probation interfere with happiness.
The pity bestowed on those who toil and endure in great cities and on
bleak hillsides is that they fail of happiness. Persons who have no
conception that vigour and endurance are spiritually profitable, and
others who once knew but have forgotten the benefits of vigour and the
gains of endurance, would undo the very order and discipline of God.
Are human beings to be encouraged to seek happiness, taught to doubt
God because they have little pleasure, given to understand that those
who enjoy have the best of the universe, and that they must be lifted
up to this level or lose all? Then the sweeping condemnation will hang
over the world that it is following a new god and has said farewell to
the stern Lord of Providence.

Much may be justly said in condemnation of the jealous, critical
spirit of the Adversary. Yet it remains true that his criticism
expresses what would be a fair charge against men who passed this
stage of existence without full trial. And the Almighty is represented
as confirming this when He puts Job into the hands of Satan. He has
challenged the Adversary, opening the question of man's fidelity and
sincerity. He knows what will result. It is not the will of some
eternal Satan that is the motive, but the will of God. The Adversary's
scornful question is woven into God's wise ordinance, and made to
subserve a purpose which completely transcends the base hope involved
in it. The life of Job has not yet had the difficult and strenuous
probation necessary to assured faith, or rather to the consciousness
of a faith immovably rooted in God. It would be utterly inconsistent
with the Divine wisdom to suppose God led on and beguiled by the sneer
of His own creature to do what was needless or unfair, or indeed in
any sense opposed to His own plan for His creation. And we shall find
that throughout the book it is assumed by Job, implied by the author,
that what is done is really the doing of God Himself. The Satan of
this Divine poem remains altogether subsidiary as an agent. He may
propose, but God disposes. He may pride himself on the keenness of his
intellect; but wisdom, compared to which his subtlety is mere
blundering, orders the movement of events for good and holy ends.

The Adversary makes his proposal: "Put forth now Thine hand, and touch
all that he hath, and he will bid Thee farewell." He does not propose to
make use of sensual temptation. The only method of trial he ventures to
suggest is deprivation of the prosperity for which he believes Job has
served God. He takes on him to indicate what the Almighty may do,
acknowledging that the Divine power, and not his, must bring into Job's
life those losses and troubles that are to test his faith.

After all some may ask, Is not Satan endeavouring to tempt the Almighty?
And if it were true that the prosperous condition of Job, or any man,
implies God's entire satisfaction with his faith and dutifulness and
with his character as a man, if, further, it must be taken as true that
sorrow and loss are evil, then this proposal of the Satan is a
temptation. It is not so in reality, for "God cannot be tempted to
evil." No creature could approach His holiness with a temptation. But
Satan's intention is to move God. He considers success and happiness to
be intrinsically good, and poverty and bereavement to be intrinsically
evil. That is to say, we have here the spirit of unfaith endeavouring to
destroy God as well as man. For the sake of truth professedly, for his
own pride of will really, he would arrest the righteousness and grace of
the Divine. He would unmake God and orphan man. The scheme is futile of
course. God can allow his proposal, and be no less the Infinitely
generous, wise, and true. The Satan shall have his desire; but not a
shadow shall fall on the ineffable glory.

At this point, however, we must pause. The question that has just
arisen can only be answered after a survey of human life in its
relation to God, and especially after an examination of the meaning of
the term _evil_ as applied to our experiences. We have certain clear
principles to begin with: that "God cannot be tempted with evil, and
He Himself tempteth no man"; that all God does must show not less
beneficence, not less love, but more as the days go by. These
principles will have to be vindicated when we proceed to consider the
losses, what may be called the disasters that follow each other in
quick succession and threaten to crush the life they try.

Meanwhile, casting a glance at those happy dwellings in the land of Uz,
we see all going on as before, no mind darkened by the shadow that is
gathering, or in the least aware of the controversy in heaven so full of
moment to the family circle. The pathetic ignorance, the blessed
ignorance in which a man may live hangs upon the picture. The cheerful
bustle of the homestead goes on, the feasts and sacrifices, diligent
labour rewarded with the produce of fields, the wine and oil of
vineyards and olive gardens, fleeces of the flock and milk of the kine.



IV.

_THE SHADOW OF GOD'S HAND._

CHAP. i. 13-22.


Coming now to the sudden and terrible changes which are to prove the
faithfulness of the servant of God, we must not fail to observe that
in the development of the drama the trial of Job personally is the
sole consideration. No account is taken of the character of those who,
being connected with his fortunes and happiness, are now to be swept
away that he may suffer. To trace their history and vindicate Divine
righteousness in reference to each of them is not within the scope of
the poem. A typical man is taken as hero, and we may say the
discussion covers the fate of all who suffer, although attention is
fixed on him alone.

The writer is dealing with a story of patriarchal life, and himself is
touched with the Semitic way of thinking. A certain disregard of the
subordinate human characters must not be reckoned strange. His
thoughts, far-reaching as they are, run in a channel very different
from ours. The world of his book is that of family and clan ideas. The
author saw more than any man of his time; but he could not see all
that engages modern speculation. Besides, the glory of God is the
dominant idea of the poem; not men's right to joy, or peace, or even
life; but God's right to be wholly Himself and greatly true. In the
light of this high thought we must be content to have the story of one
soul traced with such fulness as might be compassed, the others left
practically untouched. If the sufferings of the man whom God approves
can be explained in harmony with the glory of Divine justice, then
the sudden calamities that fall upon his servants and children will
also be explained. For, although death is in a sense an ultimate
thing, and loss and affliction, however great, do not mean so much as
death; yet, on the other hand, to die is the common lot, and the quick
stroke appears merciful in comparison with Job's dreadful experiences.
Those who are killed by lightning or by the sword do but swiftly and
without protracted pain fall into the hands of God. We need not
conclude that the writer means us to regard the sons and daughters of
Job and his servants as mere chattels, like the camels and sheep,
although the people of the desert would have so regarded them. But the
main question presses; the range of the discussion must be limited;
and the tradition which forms the basis of the poem is followed by the
author whenever it supplies the elements of his inquiry.

We have entirely refused the supposition that the Almighty forgot His
righteousness and grace in putting the wealth and happiness of Job
into the hands of Satan. The trials we now see falling one after the
other are not sent because the Adversary has suggested them, but
because it is right and wise, for the glory of God and for the
perfecting of faith, that Job should suffer them. What is God's doing
is not in this case nor in any case evil. He cannot wrong His servant
that glory may come to Himself.

And just here arises a problem which enters into all religious
thought, the wrong solution of which depraves many a philosophy, while
the right understanding of it sheds a flood of light on our life in
this world. A thousand tongues, Christian, non-Christian, and
neo-Christian, affirm that life is for enjoyment. What gives enjoyment
is declared to be good, what gives most enjoyment is reckoned best,
and all that makes for pain and suffering is held to be evil. It is
allowed that pain endured now may bring pleasure hereafter, and that
for the sake of future gain a little discomfort may be chosen. But it
is evil nevertheless. One doing his best for men would be expected to
give them happiness at once and, throughout life, as much of it as
possible. If he inflicted pain in order to enhance pleasure by and by,
he would have to do so within the strictest limits. Whatever reduces
the strength of the body, the capacity of the body for enjoyment and
the delight of the mind accompanying the body's vigour, is declared
bad, and to do anything which has this effect is to do evil or wrong.
Such is the ethic of the philosophy finally and powerfully stated by
Mr. Spencer. It has penetrated as widely as he could wish; it
underlies volumes of Christian sermons and semi-Christian schemes. If
it be true, then the Almighty of the Book of Job, bringing affliction,
sorrow, and pain upon His servant, is a cruel enemy of man, to be
hated, not revered. This matter needs to be considered at some length.

The notion that pain is evil, that he who suffers is placed at moral
disadvantage, appears very plainly in the old belief that those
conditions and surroundings of our life which minister to enjoyment
are the proofs of the goodness of God on which reliance must be placed
so far as nature and providence testify of Him. Pain and sorrow, it
was held, need to be accounted for by human sin or otherwise; but we
know that God is good because there is enjoyment in the life He gives.
Paley, for example, says that the proof of the Divine _goodness_ rests
upon contrivances everywhere to be seen for the purpose of giving us
pleasure. He tells us that, when God created the human species,
"either He wished them happiness, or He wished them misery, or He was
indifferent and unconcerned about either"; and he goes on to prove
that it must be our happiness He desired, for, otherwise, wishing our
misery, "He might have made everything we tasted, bitter; everything
we saw, loathsome; everything we touched, a sting; every smell, a
stench; and every sound, a discord:" while, if He had been indifferent
about our happiness we must impute all enjoyment we have "to our good
fortune," that is, to bare chance, an impossible supposition. Paley's
further survey of life leads to the conclusion that God has it as His
chief aim to make His creatures happy and, in the circumstances, does
the best He can for them, better far than they are commonly disposed
to think. The agreement of this position with that of Spencer lies in
the presupposition that goodness can be proved only by arrangements
for giving pleasure. If God is good for this reason, what follows when
He appoints pain, especially pain that brings no enjoyment in the long
run? Either He is not altogether "good" or He is not all-powerful.

The author of the Book of Job does not enter into the problem of pain
and affliction with the same deliberate attempt to exhaust the subject
as Paley has made; but he has the problem before him. And in
considering the trial of Job as an example of the suffering and sorrow
of man in this world of change, we find a strong ray of light thrown
upon the darkness. The picture is a Rembrandt; and where the radiance
falls all is sharp and bright. But the shadows are deep; and we must
seek, if possible, to make out what lies in those shadows. We shall
not understand the Book of Job, nor form a just opinion of the
author's inspiration, nor shall we understand the Bible as a whole,
unless we reach a point of view clear of the mistakes that stultify
the reasoning of Paley and plunge the mind of Spencer, who refuses to
be called a materialist, into the utter darkness of materialism.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now, as to enjoyment, we have the capacity for it, and it flows to us
from many external objects as well as from the operation of our own
minds and the putting forth of energy. It is in the scheme of things
ordained by God that His creatures shall enjoy. On the other hand,
trouble, sorrow, loss, bodily and mental pain, are also in the scheme
of things. They are provided for in numberless ways--in the play of
natural forces causing injuries, dangers from which we cannot escape;
in the limitations of our power; in the antagonisms and
disappointments of existence; in disease and death. They are provided
for by the very laws that bring pleasure, made inevitable under the
same Divine ordinance. Some say it detracts from the goodness of God
to admit that as He appoints means of enjoyment so He also provides
for pain and sorrow and makes these inseparable from life. And this
opinion runs into the extreme dogmatic assertion that "good," by which
we are to understand _happiness_,

                    "Shall fall
      At last far off, at last to all."

Many hold this to be necessary to the vindication of God's goodness.
But the source of the whole confusion lies here, that we prejudge the
question by calling pain evil. The light-giving truth for modern
perplexity is that pain and loss are not _evil_, are in no sense
_evil_.

Because we desire happiness and dislike pain, we must not conclude
that pain is bad and that, when any one suffers, it is because he or
another has done wrong. There is the mistake that vitiates theological
thought, making men run to the extreme either of denying God
altogether because there is suffering in the world, or of framing a
rose-water eschatology. Pain is one thing, moral evil is quite another
thing. He who suffers is not necessarily a wrong-doer; and when,
through the laws of nature, God inflicts pain, there is no evil nor
anything approaching wrong. In Scripture, indeed, pain and evil are
apparently identified. "Shall we receive good at the hands of God, and
shall we not receive evil?" "Is there evil in the city, and the Lord
hath not done it?" "Thus saith the Lord, Behold I will bring upon
Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, all the evil that I
have pronounced against them." In these and many other passages the
very thing seems to be meant which has just been denied, for evil and
suffering appear to be made identical. But human language is not a
perfect instrument of thought, any more than thought is a perfect
channel of truth. One word has to do duty in different senses. Moral
evil, wrongness, on the one hand; bodily pain, the misery of loss and
defeat, on the other hand--both are represented by one Hebrew word
[רַע--root meaning, _displeased_]. In the following passages, where
moral evil is clearly meant, it occurs just as in those previously
quoted: "Wash you, make you clean, cease to do evil, learn to do
well"; "The face of the Lord is against them that do evil." The
different meanings which one Hebrew word may bear are not generally
confused in translation. In this case, however, the confusion has
entered into the most modern language. From a highly esteemed thinker
the following sentence may be quoted by way of example: "The other
religions did not feel evil like Israel; it did not stand in such
complete antagonism to their idea of the Supreme, the Creator and
Sovereign of man, nor in such absolute contradiction to their notion
of what ought to be; and so they either reconciled themselves as best
they could to the evil that was necessary, or invented means by which
men could escape from it by escaping from existence." The singular
misapprehension of Divine providence which underlies a statement like
this can only be got rid of by recognising that enjoyment and
suffering are not the good and evil of life, that both of them stand
quite apart from what is intrinsically good and bad in a moral sense,
and that they are simply means to an end in the providence of God.

It is not difficult, of course, to see how the idea of pain and the idea
of moral evil have been linked together. It is by the thought that
suffering is punishment for evil done; and that the suffering is
therefore itself evil. Pain was simply penalty inflicted by an offended
heavenly power. The evil of a man's doings came back to him, made itself
felt in his suffering. This was the explanation of all that was
unpleasant, disastrous and vexing in the lot of man. He would enjoy
always, it was conceived, if wrong-doing or failure in duty to the
higher powers did not kindle divine anger against him. True, the
wrong-doing might not be his own. The son might suffer for the parent's
fault. Iniquity might be remembered to children's children and fall
terribly on those who had not themselves transgressed. The fates pursued
the descendants of an impious man. But wrong done somewhere, rebellion
of some one against a divinity, was always the antecedent of pain and
sorrow and disaster. And as the other religions thought, so, in this
matter, did that of Israel. To the Hebrew the deep conviction of this,
as Dr. Fairbairn has said, made poverty and disease peculiarly
abhorrent. In Psalm lxxxix. the prosperity of David is depicted, and
Jehovah speaks of the covenant that must be kept: "If his children
forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; ... then will I visit
their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes." The
trouble has fallen, and out of the depth of it, attributing to past sin
all defeat and disaster from which the people suffer--the breaking down
of the hedges, curtailment of the vigour of youth, overthrow in war--the
psalmist cries, "How long, O Lord, wilt Thou hide Thyself for ever? How
long shall Thy wrath burn like fire? O remember how short my time is:
for what vanity hast Thou created all the children of men?" There is
here no thought that anything painful or afflictive could manifest the
fatherhood of God; it must proceed from His anger, and force the mind
back upon the memory of sin, some transgression that has caused the
Almighty to suspend His kindness for a time.

Here it was the author of Job found the thought of his people. With
this he had to harmonise the other beliefs--peculiarly theirs--that
the lovingkindness of the Lord is over all His works, that God who is
supremely good cannot inflict moral injury on any of His covenanted
servants. And the difficulty he felt survives. The questions are still
urged: Is not pain bound up with wrong-doing? Is not suffering the
mark of God's displeasure? Are they not evil, therefore? And, on the
other hand, Is not enjoyment appointed to him who does right? Does not
the whole scheme of Divine providence, as the Bible sets it forth,
including the prospect it opens into the eternal future, associate
happiness with well-doing and pain with evil-doing? We desire
enjoyment, and cannot help desiring it. We dislike pain, disease, and
all that limits our capacity for pleasure. Is it not in accordance
with this that Christ appears as the Giver of light and peace and joy
to the race of men?

These questions look difficult enough. Let us attempt to answer them.

Pleasure and pain, happiness and suffering, are elements of creaturely
experience appointed by God. The right use of them makes life, the wrong
use of them mars it. They are ordained, all of them in equal degree, to
a good end; for all that God does is done in perfect love as well as in
perfect justice. It is no more wonderful that a good man should suffer
than that a bad man should suffer; for the good man, the man who
believes in God and therefore in goodness, making a right use of
suffering, will gain by it in the true sense; he will reach a deeper and
nobler life. It is no more wonderful that a bad man, one who disbelieves
in God and therefore in goodness, should be happy than that a good man
should be happy, the happiness being God's appointed means for both to
reach a higher life. The main element of this higher life is vigour, but
not of the body. The Divine purpose is _spiritual_ evolution. That
gratification of the sensuous side of our nature for which physical
health and a well-knit organism are indispensable--paramount in the
pleasure-philosophy--is not neglected, but is made subordinate in the
Divine culture of life. The grace of God aims at the life of the
spirit--power to love, to follow righteousness, to dare for justice'
sake, to seek and grasp the true, to sympathise with men and bear with
them, to bless them that curse, to suffer and be strong. To promote this
vitality all God appoints is fitted--pain as well as pleasure, adversity
as well as prosperity, sorrow as well as joy, defeat as well as success.
We wonder that suffering is so often the result of imprudence. On the
ordinary theory the fact is inexplicable, for imprudence has no dark
colour of ethical faultiness. He who by an error of judgment plunges
himself and his family into what appears irretrievable disaster, may, by
all reckoning, be almost blameless in character. If suffering is held to
be penal, no reference to the general sin of humanity will account for
the result. But the reason is plain. The suffering is disciplinary. The
nobler life at which Divine providence aims must be sagacious no less
than pure, guided by sound reason no less than right feeling.

And if it is asked how from this point of view we are to find the
punishment of sin, the answer is that happiness as well as suffering is
punishment to him whose sin and the unbelief that accompanies it pervert
his view of truth, and blind him to the spiritual life and the will of
God. The pleasures of a wrong-doer who persistently denies obligation to
Divine authority and refuses obedience to the Divine law are no gain,
but loss. They dissipate and attenuate his life. His sensuous or sensual
enjoyment, his delight in selfish triumph and gratified ambition are
real, give at the time quite as much happiness as the good man has in
his obedience and virtue, perhaps a great deal more. But they are penal
and retributive nevertheless; and the conviction that they are so
becomes clear to the man whenever the light of truth is flashed upon his
spiritual state. We read Dante's pictures of the Inferno, and shudder
at the dreadful scenes with which he has filled the descending circles
of woe. He has omitted one that would have been the most striking of
all,--unless indeed an approach to it is to be found in the episode of
Paolo and Francesca,--the picture of souls self-doomed to seek happiness
and to enjoy, on whose life the keen light of eternity shines, revealing
the gradual wasting away of existence, the certain degeneration to which
they are condemned.

On the other hand, the pains and disasters which fall to the lot of
evil men, intended for their correction, if in perversity or in
blindness they are misunderstood, again become punishment; for they,
too, dissipate and attenuate life. The real good of existence slips
away while the mind is intent on the mere pain or vexation and how it
is to be got rid of. In Job we find a purpose to reconcile affliction
with the just government of God. The troubles into which the believing
man is brought urge him to think more deeply than he has ever thought,
become the means of that intellectual and moral education which lies
in discovery of the will and character of God. They also bring him by
this way into deeper humility, a fine tenderness of spiritual nature,
a most needful kinship with his fellows. See then the use of
suffering. The impenitent, unbelieving man has no such gains. He is
absorbed in the distressing experience, and that absorption narrows
and debases the activity of the soul. The treatment of this matter
here is necessarily brief. It is hoped, however, that the principle
has been made clear.

Does it require any adaptation or under-reading of the language of
Scripture to prove the harmony of its teaching with the view just
given of happiness and suffering as related to punishment? Throughout
the greater part of the Old Testament the doctrine of suffering is
that old doctrine which the author of Job found perplexing. Not
infrequently in the New Testament there is a certain formal return to
it; for even under the light of revelation the meaning of Divine
providence is learnt slowly. But the emphasis rests on _life_ rather
than happiness, and on _death_ rather than suffering in the gospels;
and the whole teaching of Christ, pointed to the truth. This world and
our discipline here, the trials of men, the doctrine of the cross, the
fellowship of the sufferings of Christ, are not fitted to introduce us
into a state of existence in which mere enjoyment, the gratification
of personal tastes and desires, shall be the main experience. They are
fitted to educate the spiritual nature for life, fulness of life.
Immortality becomes credible when it is seen as progress in vigour,
progress towards that profound compassion, that fidelity, that
unquenchable devotion to the glory of God the Father which marked the
life of the Divine Son in this world.

Observe, it is not denied that joy is and will be desired, that
suffering and pain are and will remain experiences from which human
nature must recoil. The desire and the aversion are wrought into our
constitution; and just because we feel them our whole mortal
discipline has its value. In the experience of them lies the condition
of progress. On the one hand pain urges, on the other joy attracts. It
is in the line of desire for joy of a finer and higher kind that
civilisation realises itself, and even religion lays hold of us and
lures us on. But the conditions of progress are not to be mistaken for
the end of it. Joy assumes sorrow as a possibility. Pleasure can only
exist as alternative to the experience of pain. And the life that
expands and reaches finer power and exaltation in the course of this
struggle is the main thing. The struggle ceases to be acute in the
higher ranges of life; it becomes massive, sustained, and is carried
on in the perfect peace of the soul. Therefore the future state of the
redeemed is a state of blessedness. But the blessedness accompanying
the life is not the glory. The glory of the perfected is life itself.
The heaven of the redeemed appears a region of existence in which the
exaltation, enlargement, and deepening of life shall constantly and
consciously go on. Conversely the hell of evil-doers will not be
simply the pain, the suffering, the defeat to which they have doomed
themselves, but the constant attenuation of their life, the miserable
wasting of which they shall be aware, though they find some pitiful
pleasure, as Milton imagined his evil angels finding theirs, in futile
schemes of revenge against the Highest.

Pain is not in itself an evil. But our nature recoils from suffering
and seeks life in brightness and power, beyond the keen pangs of
mortal existence. The creation hopes that itself "shall be delivered
from the bondage of corruption." The finer life is, the more sensible
it must be of association with a body doomed to decay, the more
sensible also of that gross human injustice and wrong which dare to
pervert God's ordinance of pain and His sacrament of death, usurping
His holy prerogative for the most unholy ends. And so we are brought
to the Cross of Christ. When He "bore our sins in His own body to the
tree," when He "suffered for sins once, the Righteous for the
unrighteous," the sacrifice was real, awful, immeasurably profound.
Yet, could death be in any sense degrading or debasing to Him? Could
evil touch His soul? Over its most insolent assumption of the right
to injure and destroy He stood, spiritually victorious in the presence
of His enemies, and rose, untouched in soul, when His body was broken
on the cross. His sacrifice was great because He bore the sins of men
and died as God's atonement. His sublime devotion to the Father whose
holy law was trampled under foot, His horror and endurance of human
iniquity which culminated in His death, made the experience profoundly
terrible. Thus the spiritual dignity and power He gained provided new
life for the world.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is now possible to understand the trials of Job. So far as the
sufferer is concerned, they are no less beneficent than His joys; for
they provide that necessary element of probation by which life of a
deeper and stronger kind is to be reached, the opportunity of
becoming, as a man and a servant of the Almighty, what he had never
been, what otherwise he could not become. The purpose of God is
entirely good; but it will remain with the sufferer himself to enter
by the fiery way into full spiritual vigour. He will have the
protection and grace of the Divine Spirit in his time of sore
bewilderment and anguish. Yet his own faith must be vindicated while
the shadow of God's hand rests upon his life.

And now the forces of nature and the wild tribes of the desert gather
about the happy settlement of the man of Uz. With dramatic suddenness
and cumulative terror stroke after stroke descends. Job is seen before
the door of his dwelling. The morning broke calm and cloudless, the
bright sunshine of Arabia filling with brilliant colour the far
horizon. The day has been peaceful, gracious, another of God's gifts.
Perhaps, in the early hours, the father, as priest of his family,
offered the burnt-offerings of atonement lest his sons should have
renounced God in their hearts; and now, in the evening, he is sitting
calm and glad, hearing the appeals of those who need his help and
dispensing alms with a generous hand. But one comes in haste,
breathless with running, scarcely able to tell his tale. Out in the
fields the oxen were ploughing and the asses feeding. Suddenly a great
band of Sabeans fell upon them, swept them away, slew the servants
with the edge of the sword: this man alone has escaped with his life.
Rapidly has he spoken; and before he has done another appears, a
shepherd from the more distant pastures, to announce a second
calamity. "The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up
the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped
to tell thee." They scarcely dare to look on the face of Job, and he
has no time to speak, for here is a third messenger, a camel-driver,
swarthy and naked to the loins, crying wildly as he runs, The
Chaldæans made three bands--fell upon the camels--swept them away--the
servants are slain--I only am left. Nor is this the last. A fourth,
with every mark of horror in his face, comes slowly and brings the
most terrible message of all. The sons and daughters of Job were
feasting in their eldest brother's house; there came a great wind from
the wilderness and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell.
The young men and women are all dead. One only has escaped, he who
tells the dreadful tale.

A certain idealism appears in the causes of the different calamities
and their simultaneous, or almost simultaneous, occurrence. Nothing,
indeed, is assumed which is not possible in the north of Arabia. A
raid from the south, of Sabeans, the lawless part of a nation
otherwise engaged in traffic; an organised attack by Chaldæans from
the east, again the lawless fringe of the population of the Euphrates
valley, those who, inhabiting the margin of the desert, had taken to
desert ways; then, of natural causes, the lightning or the fearful hot
wind which coming suddenly stifles and kills, and the whirlwind,
possible enough after a thunderstorm or simoom,--all of these belong
to the region in which Job lived. But the grouping of the disasters
and the invariable escape of one only from each belong to the dramatic
setting, and are intended to have a cumulative effect. A sense of the
mysterious is produced, of supernatural power, discharging bolt after
bolt in some inscrutable mood of antagonism. Job is a mark for the
arrows of the Unseen. And when the last messenger has spoken, we turn
in dismay and pity to look on the rich man made poor, the proud and
happy father made childless, the fearer of God on whom the enemy seems
to have wrought his will.

In the stately Oriental way, as a man who bows to fate or the
irresistible will of the Most High, Job seeks to realise his sudden
and awful deprivations. We watch him with silent awe as first he rends
his mantle, the acknowledged sign of mourning and of the
disorganisation of life, then shaves his head, renouncing in his grief
even the natural ornament of the hair, that the sense of loss and
resignation may be indicated. This done, in deep humiliation he bows
and falls prone on the earth and worships, the fit words falling in a
kind of solemn chant from his lips: "Naked came I forth from my
mother's womb, and naked I return thereto. Jehovah gave, and Jehovah
hath taken away. Let Jehovah's name be blessed." The silence of grief
and of death has fallen about him. No more shall be heard the bustle
of the homestead to which, when the evening shadows were about to
fall, a constant stream of servants and laden oxen used to come, where
the noise of cattle and asses and the shouts of camel-drivers made the
music of prosperity. His wife and the few who remain, with bowed
heads, dumb and aimless, stand around. Swiftly the sun goes down, and
darkness falls upon the desolate dwelling.

Losses like these are apt to leave men distracted. When everything is
swept away, with the riches those who were to inherit them, when a man
is left, as Job says, naked, bereft of all that labour had won and the
bounty of God had given, expressions of despair do not surprise us,
nor even wild accusations of the Most High. But the faith of this
sufferer does not yield. He is resigned, submissive. The strong trust
that has grown in the course of a religious life withstands the shock,
and carries the soul through the crisis. Neither did Job accuse God
nor did he sin, though his grief was great. So far he is master of his
soul, unbroken though desolated. The first great round of trial has
left the man a believer still.



V.

_THE DILEMMA OF FAITH._

CHAP. ii.


As the drama proceeds to unfold the conflict between Divine grace in the
human soul and those chaotic influences which hold the mind in doubt or
drag it back into denial, Job becomes a type of the righteous sufferer,
the servant of God in the hot furnace of affliction. All true poetry
runs thus into the typical. The interest of the movement depends on the
representative character of the life, passionate in jealousy,
indignation, grief, or ambition, pressing on exultantly to unheard-of
success, borne down into the deepest circles of woe. Here it is not
simply a man's constancy that has to be established, but God's truth
against the Adversary's lie, the "everlasting yea" against the negations
that make all life and virtue seem the mere blossoming of dust. Job has
to pass through profoundest trouble, that the drama may exhaust the
possibilities of doubt, and lead the faith of man towards liberty.

Yet the typical is based on the real; and the conflict here described
has gone on first in the experience of the author. Not from the
outside, but from his own life has he painted the sorrows and
struggles of a soul urged to the brink of that precipice beyond which
lies the blank darkness of the abyss. There are men in whom the
sorrows of a whole people and of a whole age seem to concentrate. They
suffer with their fellow-men that all may find a way of hope. Not
unconsciously, but with the most vivid sense of duty, a Divine
necessity brought to their door, they must undergo all the anguish and
hew a track through the dense forest to the light beyond. Such a man
in his age was the writer of this book. And when he now proceeds to
the second stage of Job's affliction every touch appears to show
that, not merely in imagination, but substantially he endured the
trials which he paints. It is his passion that strives and cries, his
sorrowful soul that longs for death. Imaginary, is this work of his?
Nothing so true, vehement, earnest, can be imaginary. "Sublime
sorrow," says Carlyle, "sublime reconciliation; oldest choral melody
as of the heart of mankind." But it shows more than "the seeing eye
and the mildly understanding heart." It reveals the spirit battling
with terrible enemies, doubts that spring out of the darkness of
error, brood of the primæval chaos. The man was one who "in this wild
element of a life had to struggle onwards; now fallen, deep abased;
and ever with tears, repentance, with bleeding heart, rise again,
struggle again, still onwards." Not to this writer, any more than to
the author of "Sartor Resartus," did anything come in his dreams.

A second scene in heaven is presented to our view. The Satan appears
as before with the "sons of the Elohim," is asked by the Most High
whence he has come, and replies in the language previously used. Again
he has been abroad amongst men in his restless search for evil. The
challenge of God to the Adversary regarding Job is also repeated; but
now it has an addition: "Still he holdeth fast his integrity, although
thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause." The
expression "although thou movedst me against him" is startling. Is it
an admission after all that the Almighty can be moved by any
consideration less than pure right, or to act in any way to the
disadvantage or hurt of His servant? Such an interpretation would
exclude the idea of supreme power, wisdom, and righteousness which
unquestionably governs the book from first to last. The words really
imply a charge against the Adversary of malicious untruth. The saying
of the Almighty is ironical, as Schultens points out: "Although thou,
forsooth, didst incite Me against him." He who flings sharp javelins
of detraction is pierced with a sharper javelin of judgment. Yet he
goes on with his attempt to ruin Job, and prove his own penetration
the keenest in the universe.

And now he pleads that it is the way of men to care more for
themselves, their own health and comfort, than for anything else.
Bereavement and poverty may be like arrows that glance off from
polished armour. Let disease and bodily pain attack himself, and a man
will show what is really in his heart. "Skin for skin, yea, all that a
man hath will he give for himself. But put forth Thine hand now, and
touch his bone and his flesh, and he will renounce Thee openly."

The proverb put into Satan's mouth carries a plain enough meaning, and
yet is not literally easy to interpret. The sense will be clear if we
translate it "Hide for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for
himself." The hide of an animal, lion or sheep, which a man wears for
clothing will be given up to save his own body. A valued article of
property often, it will be promptly renounced when life is in danger
the man will flee away naked. In like manner all possessions will be
abandoned to keep one's self unharmed. True enough in a sense, true
enough to be used as a proverb, for proverbs often express a
generalisation of the earthly prudence not of the higher ideal, the
saying, nevertheless, is in Satan's use of it a lie--that is, if he
includes the children when he says, "all that a man hath will he give
for himself." Job would have died for his children. Many a father and
mother, with far less pride in their children than Job had in his,
would die for them. Possessions indeed, mere worldly gear, find their
real value or worthlessness when weighed against life, and human love
has Divine depths which a sneering devil cannot see. The portraiture
of soulless human beings is one of the recent experiments in
fictitious literature, and it may have some justification. When the
design is to show the dreadful issue of unmitigated selfishness, a
distinctly moral purpose. If, on the other hand, "art for art's sake"
is the plea, and the writer's skill in painting the vacant ribs of
death is used with a sinister reflection on human nature as a whole,
the approach to Satan's temper marks the degradation of literature.
Christian faith clings to the hope that Divine grace may create a soul
in the ghastly skeleton. The Adversary gloats over the lifeless
picture of his own imagining and affirms that man can never be
animated by the love of God. The problem which the Satan of Job long
ago presented haunts the mind of our age. It is one of those ominous
symptoms that point to times of trial in which the experience of
humanity may resemble the typical affliction and desperate struggle of
the man of Uz.

A grim possibility of truth lies in the taunt of Satan that, if Job's
flesh and bone are touched, he will renounce God openly. The test of
sore disease is more trying than loss of wealth at least. And,
besides, bodily affliction, added to the rest, will carry Job into yet
another region of vital experience. Therefore it is the will of God to
send it. Again Satan is the instrument, and the permission is given,
"Behold, he is in thine hand: only save his life--imperil not his
life." Here, as before, when causes are to be brought into operation
that are obscure and may appear to involve harshness, the Adversary is
the intermediary agent. On the face of the drama a certain formal
deference is paid to the opinion that God cannot inflict pain on those
whom He loves. But for a short time only is the responsibility, so to
speak, of afflicting Job partly removed from the Almighty to Satan. At
this point the Adversary disappears; and henceforth God is
acknowledged to have sent the disease as well as all the other
afflictions to His servant. It is only in a poetic sense that Satan is
represented as wielding natural forces and sowing the seeds of
disease; the writer has no theory and needs no theory of malignant
activity. He knows that "all is of God."

Time has passed sufficient for the realisation by Job of his poverty
and bereavement. The sense of desolation has settled on his soul as
morning after morning dawned, week after week went by, emptied of the
loving voices he used to hear, and the delightful and honourable tasks
that used to engage him. In sympathy with the exhausted mind, the body
has become languid, and the change from sufficiency of the best food
to something like starvation gives the germs of disease an easy hold.
He is stricken with elephantiasis, one of the most terrible forms of
leprosy, a tedious malady attended with intolerable irritation and
loathsome ulcers. The disfigured face, the blackened body, soon reveal
the nature of the infection; and he is forthwith carried out according
to the invariable custom and laid on the heap of refuse, chiefly burnt
litter, which has accumulated near his dwelling. In Arab villages this
_mezbele_ is often a mound of considerable size, where, if any breath
of wind is blowing, the full benefit of its coolness can be enjoyed.
It is the common playground of the children, "and there the outcast,
who has been stricken with some loathsome malady, and is not allowed
to enter the dwellings of men, lays himself down, begging an alms of
the passers-by, by day, and by night sheltering himself among the
ashes which the heat of the sun has warmed." At the beginning Job was
seen in the full stateliness of Oriental life; now the contrasting
misery of it appears, the abjectness into which it may rapidly fall.
Without proper medical skill or appliances, the houses no way adapted
for a case of disease like Job's, the wealthiest pass like the poorest
into what appears the nadir of existence. Now at length the trial of
faithfulness is in the way of being perfected. If the helplessness,
the torment of disease, the misery of this abject state do not move
his mind from its trust in God, he will indeed be a bulwark of
religion against the atheism of the world.

But in what form does the question of Job's continued fidelity present
itself now to the mind of the writer? Singularly, as a question
regarding his integrity. From the general wreck one life has been
spared, that of Job's wife. To her it appears that the wrath of the
Almighty has been launched against her husband, and all that prevents
him from finding refuge in death from the horrors of lingering disease
is his integrity. If he maintains the pious resignation he showed
under the first afflictions and during the early stages of his malady,
he will have to suffer on. But it will be better to die at once.
"Why," she asks, "dost thou still hold fast thine integrity? Renounce
God, and die." It is a different note from that which runs through the
controversy between Job and his friends. Always on his integrity he
takes his stand; against his right to affirm it they direct their
arguments. They do not insist on the duty of a man under all
circumstances to believe in God and submit to His will. Their sole
concern is to prove that Job has not been sincere and faithful and
deserving of acceptance before God. But his wife knows him to have
been righteous and pious; and that, she thinks, will serve him no
longer. Let him abandon his integrity; renounce God. On two sides the
sufferer is plied. But he does not waver. Between the two he stands, a
man who has integrity and will keep it till he die.

The accusations of Satan, turning on the question whether Job was
sincere in religion or one who served God for what he got, prepare us
to understand why his integrity is made the hinge of the debate. To
Job his upright obedience was the heart of his life, and it alone made
his indefeasible claim on God. But faith, not obedience, is the only
real claim a man can advance. And the connection is to be found in
this way. As a man perfect and upright, who feared God and eschewed
evil, Job enjoyed the approval of his conscience and the sense of
Divine favour. His life had been rooted in the steady assurance that
the Almighty was his friend. He had walked in freedom and joy cared
for by the providence of the Eternal, guarded by His love, his soul at
peace with that Divine Lawgiver whose will he did. His faith rested
like an arch on two piers--one, his own righteousness which God had
inspired; the other, the righteousness of God which his own reflected.
If it were proved that he had not been righteous, his belief that God
had been guarding him, teaching him, filling his soul with light,
would break under him like a withered branch. If he had not been
righteous indeed, he could not know what righteousness is, he could
not know whether God is righteous or not, he could not know God nor
trust in Him. The experience of the past was, in this case, a
delusion. He had nothing to rest upon, no faith. On the other hand, if
those afflictions, coming why he could not tell, proved God to be
capricious, unjust, all would equally be lost. The dilemma was that,
holding to the belief in his own integrity, he seemed to be driven to
doubt God; but if he believed God to be righteous he seemed to be
driven to doubt his own integrity. Either was fatal. He was in a
narrow strait between two rocks, on one or other of which faith was
like to be shattered.

But his integrity was clear to him. That stood within the region of
his own consciousness. He knew that God had made him of dutiful heart
and given him a constant will to be obedient. Only while he believed
this could he keep hold of his life. As the one treasure saved out of
the wreck, when possessions, children, health were gone, to cherish
his integrity was the last duty. Renounce his conscience of goodwill
and faithfulness? It was the one fact bridging the gulf of disaster,
the safeguard against despair. And is this not a true presentation of
the ultimate inquiry regarding faith? If the justice we know is not an
adumbration of Divine justice, if the righteousness we do is not
taught us by God, of the same kind as His, if loving justice and doing
righteousness we are not showing faith in God, if renouncing all for
the right, clinging to it though the heavens should fall, we are not
in touch with the Highest, then there is no basis for faith, no link
between our human life and the Eternal. All must go if these deep
principles of morality and religion are not to be trusted. What a man
knows of the just and good by clinging to it, suffering for it,
rejoicing in it, is indeed the anchor that keeps him from being swept
into the waste of waters.

The woman's part in the controversy is still to be considered; and it is
but faintly indicated. Upon the Arab soul there lay no sense of woman's
life. Her view of providence or of religion was never asked. The writer
probably means here that Job's wife would naturally, as a woman,
complicate the sum of his troubles. She expresses ill-considered
resentment against his piety. To her he is "righteous over much," and
her counsel is that of despair. Was this all that the Great God whom he
trusted could do for him? Better bid farewell to such a God. She can do
nothing to relieve the dreadful torment and can see but the one possible
end. But it is God who is keeping her husband alive, and one word would
be enough to set him free. Her language is strangely illogical, meant
indeed to be so,--a woman's desperate talk. She does not see that,
though Job renounced God, he might yet live on, in greater misery than
ever, just because he would then have no spiritual stay.

Well, some have spoken very strongly about Job's wife. She has been
called a helper of the Devil, an organ of Satan, an infernal fury.
Chrysostom thinks that the Enemy left her alive because he deemed her a
fit scourge to Job by which to plague him more acutely than by any
other. Ewald, with more point, says: "Nothing can be more scornful than
her words which mean, 'Thou, who under all the undeserved sufferings
which have been inflicted on thee by thy God, hast been faithful to Him
even in fatal sickness, as if He would help or desired to help thee who
art beyond help,--to thee, fool, I say, Bid God farewell, and die!'"
There can be no doubt that she appears as the temptress of her husband,
putting into speech the atheistic doubt which the Adversary could not
directly suggest. And the case is all the worse for Job that affection
and sympathy are beneath her words. Brave and true life appears to her
to profit nothing if it has to be spent in pain and desolation. She does
not seem to speak so much in scorn as in the bitterness of her soul. She
is no infernal fury, but one whose love, genuine enough, does not enter
into the fellowship of his sufferings. It was necessary to Job's trial
that the temptation should be presented, and the ignorant affection of
the woman serves the needful purpose. She speaks not knowing what she
says, not knowing that her words pierce like sharp arrows into his very
soul. As a figure in the drama she has her place, helping to complete
the round of trial.

The answer of Job is one of the fine touches of the book. He does not
denounce her as an instrument of Satan nor dismiss her from his
presence. In the midst of his pain he is the great chief of Uz and the
generous husband. "Thou speakest," he mildly says, "as one of the
foolish, that is, godless, women speaketh." It is not like thee to say
such things as these. And then he adds the question born of sublime
faith, "Shall we receive gladness at the hand of God, and shall we not
receive affliction?"

One might declare this affirmation of faith so clear and decisive that
the trial of Job as a servant of God might well close with it. Earthly
good, temporal joy, abundance of possessions, children, health,--these
he had received. Now in poverty and desolation, his body wrecked by
disease, he lies tormented and helpless. Suffering of mind and
physical affliction are his in almost unexampled keenness, acute in
themselves and by contrast with previous felicity. His wife, too,
instead of helping him to endure, urges him to dishonour and death.
Still he does not doubt that all is wisely ordered by God. He puts
aside, if indeed with a strenuous effort of the soul, that cruel
suggestion of despair, and affirms anew the faith which is supposed to
bind him to a life of torment. Should not this repel the accusations
brought against the religion of Job and of humanity? The author does
not think so. He has only prepared the way for his great discussion.
But the stages of trial already passed show how deep and vital is the
problem that lies beyond. The faith which has emerged so triumphantly
is to be shaken as by the ruin of the world.

Strangely and erroneously has a distinction been drawn between the
previous afflictions and the disease which, it is said, "opens or
reveals greater depths in Job's reverent piety." One says: "In his
former trial he blessed God who took away the good He had added to naked
man; this was strictly no evil: now Job bows beneath God's hand when He
inflicts positive evil." Such literalism in reading the words "shall we
not receive evil?" implies a gross slander on Job. If he had meant that
the loss of health was "evil" as contrasted with the loss of children,
that from his point of view bereavement was no "evil," then indeed he
would have sinned against love, and therefore against God. It is the
whole course of his trial he is reviewing. Shall we receive "good"--joy,
prosperity, the love of children, years of physical vigour, and shall we
not receive pain--this burden of loss, desolation, bodily torment?
Herein Job sinned not with his lips. Again, had he meant moral evil,
something involving cruelty and unrighteousness, he would have sinned
indeed, his faith would have been destroyed by his own false judgment of
God. The words here must be interpreted in harmony with the distinction
already drawn between physical and mental suffering, which, as God
appoints them, have a good design, and moral evil, which can in no way
have its source in Him.

And now the narrative passes into a new phase. As a chief of Uz, the
greatest of the Bene-Kedem, Job was known beyond the desert. As a man
of wisdom and generosity he had many friends. The tidings of his
disasters and finally of his sore malady are carried abroad; and after
months, perhaps (for a journey across the sandy waste needs
preparation and time), three of those who know him best and admire him
most, "Job's three friends," appear upon the scene. To sympathise with
him, to cheer and comfort him, they come with one accord, each on his
camel, not unattended, for the way is beset with dangers.

They are men of mark all of them. The emeer of Uz has chiefs, no
doubt, as his peculiar friends, although the Septuagint colours too
much in calling them kings. It is, however, their piety, their
likeness to himself, as men who fear and serve the True God, that
binds them to Job's heart. They will contribute what they can of
counsel and wise suggestion to throw light on his trials and lift him
into hope. No arguments of unbelief or cowardice will be used by them,
nor will they propose that a stricken man should renounce God and die.
Eliphaz is from Teman, that centre of thought and culture where men
worshipped the Most High and meditated upon His providence. Shuach,
the city of Bildad, can scarcely be identified with the modern
Shuwak, about two hundred and fifty miles south-west from the Jauf
near the Red Sea, nor with the land of the Tsukhi of the Assyrian
inscriptions, lying on the Chaldæan frontier. It was probably a city,
now forgotten, in the Idumæan region. Maan, also near Petra, may be
the Naamah of Zophar. It is at least tempting to regard all the three
as neighbours who might without great difficulty communicate with each
other and arrange a visit to their common friend. From their
meeting-place at Teman or at Maan they would, in that case, have to
make a journey of some two hundred miles across one of the most barren
and dangerous deserts of Arabia,--clear enough proof of their esteem
for Job and their deep sympathy.

The fine idealism of the poem is maintained in this new act. Men of
knowledge and standing are these. They may fail; they may take a false
view of their friend and his state; but their sincerity must not be
doubted nor their rank as thinkers. Whether the three represent
ancient culture, or rather the conceptions of the writer's own time,
is a question that may be variously answered. The book, however, is so
full of life, the life of earnest thought and keen thirst for truth,
that the type of religious belief found in all the three must have
been familiar to the author. These men are not, any more than Job
himself, contemporaries of Ephron the Hittite or the Balaam of
Numbers. They stand out as religious thinkers of a far later age, and
represent the current Rabbinism of the post-Solomonic era. The
characters are filled in from a profound knowledge of man and man's
life. Yet each of them, Temanite, Shuchite, Naamathite, is at bottom a
Hebrew believer striving to make his creed apply to a case not yet
brought into his system, and finally, when every suggestion is
repelled, taking refuge in that hardness of temper which is peculiarly
Jewish. They are not men of straw, as some imagine, but types of the
culture and thought which led to Pharisaism. The writer argues not so
much with Edom as with his own people.

Approaching Job's dwelling the three friends look eagerly from their
camels, and at length perceive one prostrate, disfigured, lying on the
_mezbele_, a miserable wreck of manhood. "That is not our friend,"
they say to each other. Again and yet again, "This is not he; this
surely cannot be he." Yet nowhere else than in the place of the
forsaken do they find their noble friend. The brave, bright chief they
knew, so stately in his bearing, so abundant and honourable, how has
he fallen! They lift up their voices and weep; then, struck into
amazed silence, each with torn mantle and dust-sprinkled head, for
seven days and nights they sit beside him in grief unspeakable.

Real is their sympathy; deep too, as deep as their character and
sentiments admit. As comforters they are proverbial in a bad sense. Yet
one says truly, perhaps out of bitter experience, "Who that knows what
most modern consolation is can prevent a prayer that Job's comforters
may be his? They do not call upon him for an hour and invent excuses for
the departure which they so anxiously await; they do not write notes to
him, and go about their business as if nothing had happened; they do not
inflict upon him meaningless commonplaces."[1] It was their misfortune,
not altogether their fault, that they had mistaken notions which they
deemed it their duty to urge upon him. Job, disappointed by-and-by, did
not spare them, and we feel so much for him that we are apt to deny
them their due. Yet are we not bound to ask, What friend has had equal
proof of our sympathy? Depth of nature; sincerity of friendship; the
will to console: let those mock at Job's comforters as wanting here who
have travelled two hundred miles over the burning sand to visit a man
sunk in disaster, brought to poverty and the gate of death, and sat with
him seven days and nights in generous silence.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] "Mark Rutherford."



THE FIRST COLLOQUY.



VI.

_THE CRY FROM THE DEPTH._

JOB SPEAKS. CHAP. iii.


While the friends of Job sat beside him that dreary week of silence,
each of them was meditating in his own way the sudden calamities which
had brought the prosperous emeer to poverty, the strong man to this
extremity of miserable disease. Many thoughts came and were dismissed;
but always the question returned, Why these disasters, this shadow of
dreadful death? And for very compassion and sorrow each kept secret
the answer that came and came again and would not be rejected.
Meanwhile the silence has weighed upon the sufferer, and the burden of
it becomes at length insupportable. He has tried to read their
thoughts, to assure himself that grief alone kept them dumb, that when
they spoke it would be to cheer him with kindly words, to praise and
reinvigorate his faith, to tell him of Divine help that would not fail
him in life or death. But as he sees their faces darken into inquiry
first and then into suspicion, and reads at length in averted looks
the thought they cannot conceal, when he comprehends that the men he
loved and trusted hold him to be a transgressor and under the ban of
God, this final disaster of false judgment is overwhelming. The man
whom all circumstances appear to condemn, who is bankrupt, solitary,
outworn with anxiety and futile efforts to prove his honour, if he
have but one to believe in him, is helped to endure and hope. But Job
finds human friendship yield like a reed. All the past is swallowed up
in one tragical thought that, be a man what he may, there is no refuge
for him in the justice of man. Everything is gone that made human
society and existence in the world worth caring for. His wife, indeed,
believes in his integrity, but values it so little that she would have
him cast it away with a taunt against God. His friends, it is plain
to see, deny it. He is suffering at God's hand, and they are hardened
against him. The iron enters into his soul.

True, it is the shame and torment of his disease that move him to utter
his bitter lamentation. Yet the underlying cause of his loss of
self-command and of patient confidence in God must not be missed. The
disease has made life a physical agony; but he could bear that if still
no cloud came between him and the face of God. Now these dark,
suspicious looks which meet him every time he lifts his eyes, which he
feels resting upon him even when he bows his head in the attempt to
pray, make religion seem a mockery. And in pitiful anticipation of the
doom to which they are silently driving him, he cries aloud against the
life that remains. He has lived in vain. Would he had never been born!

In this first lyrical speech put into the mouth of Job there is an
Oriental, hyperbolical strain, suited to the speaker and his
circumstances. But we are also made to feel that calamity and
dejection have gone near to unhinging his mind. He is not mad, but his
language is vehement, almost that of insanity. It would be wrong,
therefore, to criticise the words in a matter-of-fact way, and against
the spirit of the book to try by the rules of Christian resignation
one so tossed and racked, in the very throat of the furnace. This is a
pious man, a patient man, who lately said, "Shall we receive joy at
the hand of God, and shall we not receive affliction?" He seems to
have lost all control of himself and plunges into wild untamed speech
filled with anathemas, as one who had never feared God. But he is
driven from self-possession. Phantasmal now is all that brave life of
his as prince and as father, as a man in honour beloved of the
Highest. Did he ever enjoy it? If he did, was it not as in a dream?
Was he not rather a deceiver, a vile transgressor? His state befits
that. Light and love and life are turned into bitter gall. "I lived,"
says one distressed like Job, "in a continual, indefinite, pining
fear; tremulous, pusillanimous, apprehensive of I knew not what; it
seemed as if the heavens and the earth were but boundless jaws of a
devouring monster wherein I, palpitating, waited to be devoured....
'Man is, properly speaking, based upon hope, he has no other
possession but hope; this world of his is emphatically the Place of
Hope.'" We see Job, "for the present, quite shut out from hope;
looking not into the golden orient, but vaguely all round into a dim
firmament pregnant with earthquake and tornado."

The poem may be read calmly. Let us remember that it came not calmly
from the pen of the writer, but as the outburst of volcanic feeling
from the deep centres of life. It is Job we hear; the language befits
his despondency, his position in the drama. But surely it presents to
us a real experience of one who, in the hour of Israel's defeat and
captivity, had seen his home swept bare, wife and children seized and
tortured or borne down in the rush of savage soldiery, while he
himself lived on, reduced in one day to awful memories and doubts as
the sole consciousness of life. Is not some crisis like this with its
irretrievable woes translated for us here into the language of Job's
bitter cry? Are we not made witnesses of a tragedy greater even than
his?

"What is to become of us," asks Amiel, "when everything leaves us,
health, joy, affections, when the sun seems to have lost its warmth,
and life is stripped of all charm? Must we either harden or forget?
There is but one answer, Keep close to duty, do what you ought, come
what may." The mood of these words is not so devout as other passages
of the same writer. The advice, however, is often tendered in the name
of religion to the life-weary and desolate; and there are
circumstances to which it well applies. But a distracting sense of
impotence weighed down the life of Job. Duty? He could do nothing. It
was impossible to find relief in work; hence the fierceness of his
words. Nor can we fail to hear in them a strain of impatience almost
of anger: "To the unregenerate Prometheus Vinctus of a man, it is ever
the bitterest aggravation of his wretchedness that he is conscious of
virtue, that he feels himself the victim not of suffering only, but of
injustice. What then? Is the heroic inspiration we name Virtue but
some passion, some bubble of the blood?... Thus has the bewildered
wanderer to stand, as so many have done, shouting question after
question into the sibyl cave of Destiny, and receive no answer but an
echo. It is all a grim desert, this once fair world of his."

Job is already asserting to himself the reality of his own virtue, for
he resents the suspicion of it. Indeed, with all the mystery of his
affliction yet to solve, he can but think that Providence is also
casting doubt on him. A keen sense of the favour of God had been his.
Now he becomes aware that while he is still the same man who moved
about in gladness and power, his life has a different look to others;
men and nature conspire against him. His once brave faith--the Lord
gave, the Lord hath taken away--is almost overborne. He does not
renounce, but he has a struggle to save it. The subtle Divine grace
at his heart alone keeps him from bidding farewell to God.

       *       *       *       *       *

The outburst of Job's speech falls into three lyrical strophes, the
first ending at the tenth verse, the second at the nineteenth, the
third closing with the chapter.

I. "Job opened his mouth and cursed his day." In a kind of wild
impossible revision of providence and reopening of questions long
settled, he assumes the right of heaping denunciations on the day of his
birth. He is so fallen, so distraught, and the end of his existence
appears to have come in such profound disaster, the face of God as well
as of man frowning on him, that he turns savagely on the only fact left
to strike at,--his birth into the world. But the whole strain is
imaginative. His revolt is unreason, not impiety either against God or
his parents. He does not lose the instinct of a good man, one who keeps
in mind the love of father and mother and the intention of the Almighty
whom he still reveres. Life is an act of God: he would not have it
marred again by infelicity like his own. So the day as an ideal factor
in history or cause of existence is given up to chaos.

        "_That day, there! Darkness be it.
      Seek it not the High God from above;
      And no light stream on it.
      Darkness and the nether gloom reclaim it.
      Encamp over it the clouds;
      Scare it blacknesses of the day._"

The idea is, Let the day of my birth be got rid of, so that no other
come into being on such a day; let God pass from it--then He will not
give life on that day. Mingled in this is the old world notion of days
having meanings and powers of their own. This day had proved malign,
terribly bad. It was already a chaotic day, not fit for a man's birth.
Let every natural power of storm and eclipse draw it back to the void.
The night too, as part of the day, comes under imprecation.

      "_That night, there! Darkness seize it,
       Joy have it none among the days of the year,
       Nor come into the numbering of months.
       See! That night, be it barren;
       No song-voice come to it:
       Ban it, the cursers of day
       Skilful to stir up leviathan.
       Dark be the stars of its twilight,
       May it long for the light--find none,
       Nor see the eyelids of dawn._"

The vividness here is from superstition, fancies of past generations,
old dreams of a child race. Foreign they would be to the mind of Job in
his strength; but in great disaster the thoughts are apt to fall back on
these levels of ignorance and dim efforts to explain, omens and powers
intangible. It is quite easy to follow Job in this relapse, half wilful,
half for easing of his bosom. Throughout Arabia, Chaldæa, and India went
a belief in evil powers that might be invoked to make a particular day
one of misfortune. The leviathan is the dragon which was thought to
cause eclipses by twining its black coils about the sun and moon. These
vague undertones of belief ran back probably to myths of the sky and the
storm, and Job ordinarily must have scorned them. Now, for the time, he
chooses to make them serve his need of stormy utterance. If any who hear
him really believe in magicians and their spells, they are welcome to
gather through that belief a sense of his condition; or if they choose
to feel pious horror, they may be shocked. He flings out maledictions,
knowing in his heart that they are vain words.

Is it not something strange that the happy past is here entirely
forgotten? Why has Job nothing to say of the days that shone brightly
upon him? Have they no weight in the balance against pain and grief?

             "The tempest in my mind
      Doth from my senses take all feeling else
      Save what beats there."

His mind is certainly clouded; for it is not vain to say that piety
preserves the thought of what God once gave, and Job had himself
spoken of it when his disease was young. At this point he is an
example of what man is when he allows the water-floods to overflow him
and the sad present to extinguish a brighter past. The sense of a
wasted life is upon him, because he does not yet understand what the
saving of life is. To be kind to others and to be happy in one's own
kindness is not for man so great a benefit, so high a use of life, as
to suffer with others and for them. What were the life of our Lord on
earth and His death but a revelation to man of the secret he had never
grasped and still but half approves? The Book of Job, a long, yearning
cry out of the night, shows how the world needed Christ to shed His
Divine light upon all our experiences and unite them in a religion of
sacrifice and triumph. The book moves toward that reconciliation which
only the Christ can achieve. As yet, looking at the sufferer here, we
see that the light of the future has not dawned upon him. Only when he
is brought to bay by the falsehoods of man, in the absolute need of
his soul, will he boldly anticipate the redemption and fling himself
for refuge on a justifying God.

II. In the second strophe cursing is exchanged for wailing, fruitless
reproach of a long past day for a touching chant in praise of the
grave. If his birth had to be, why could he not have passed at once
into the shades? The lament, though not so passionate, is full of
tragic emotion. The phrases of it have been woven into a modern hymn
and used to express what Christians may feel; but they are pagan in
tone, and meant by the writer to embody the unhopeful thought of the
race. Here is no outlook beyond the inanition of death, the oblivion
and silence of the tomb. It is not the extreme of unfaith, but rather
of weakness and misery.

      "_Wherefore hastened the knees to meet me,
       And why the breasts that I should suck?
       For then, having sunk down, would I repose,
       Fallen asleep there would be rest for me.
       With kings and councillors of the earth
       Who built them solitary piles;
       Or with princes who had gold,
       Who filled their houses with silver;
       Or as a hidden abortion I had not been,
       As infants who never saw light.
       There the wicked cease from raging,
       And there the outworn rest.
       Together the prisoners are at ease,
       Not hearing the call of the task-master.
       Small and great are there the same,
       The slave set free from his lord._"

It is beautiful poetry, and the images have a singular charm for the
dejected mind. The chief point, however, for us to notice is the absence
of any thought of judgment. In the dim under-world, hid as beneath heavy
clouds, power and energy are not. Existence has fallen to so low an ebb
that it scarcely matters whether men were good or bad in this life, nor
is it needful to separate them. For the tyrant can do no more harm to
the captive, nor the robber to his victim. The astute councillor is no
better than the slave. It is a kind of existence below the level of
moral judgment, below the level either of fear or joy. From the
peacefulness of this region none are excluded; as there will be no
strength to do good there will be none to do evil. "The small and great
are there the same." The stillness and calm of the dead body deceive the
mind, willing in its wretchedness to be deceived.

When the writer put this chant into the mouth of Job, he had in memory
the pyramids of Egypt and tombs, like those of Petra, carved in the
lonely hills. The contrast is thus made picturesque between the state
of Job lying in loathsome disease and the lot of those who are
gathered to the mighty dead. For whether the rich are buried in their
stately sepulchres, or the body of a slave is hastily covered with
desert sand, all enter into one painless repose. The whole purpose of
the passage is to mark the extremity of hopelessness, the mind
revelling in images of its own decay. We are not meant to rest in that
love of death from which Job vainly seeks comfort. On the contrary, we
are to see him by-and-by roused to interest in life and its issues.
This is no halting-place in the poem, as it often is in human thought.
A great problem of Divine righteousness hangs unsolved. With the death
of the prisoner and the down-trodden slave whose worn-out body is left
a prey to the vulture--with the death of the tyrant whose evil pride
has built a stately tomb for his remains--all is not ended. Peace has
not come. Rather has the unravelling of the tangle to begin. The
All-righteous has to make His inquisition and deal out the justice of
eternity. Modern poetry, however, often repeats in its own way the
old-world dream, mistaking the silence and composure of the dead face
for a spiritual deliverance:--

      "The aching craze to live ends, and life glides
       Lifeless--to nameless quiet, nameless joy.
       Blessed Nirvana, sinless, stirless rest,
       That change which never changes."

To Christianity this idea is utterly foreign, yet it mingles with some
religious teaching, and is often to be found in the weaker sorts of
religious fiction and verse.

III. The last portion of Job's address begins with a note of inquiry.
He strikes into eager questioning of heaven and earth regarding his
state. What is he kept alive for? He pursues death with his longing as
one goes into the mountains to seek treasure. And again, his way is
hid; he has no future. God hath hedged him in on this side by losses,
on that by grief; behind a past mocks him, before is a shape which he
follows and yet dreads.

      "_Wherefore gives He light to wretched men
       Life to the bitter in soul?
       Who long for death but no!
       Search for it more than for treasures._"

It is indeed a horrible condition, this of the baffled mind to which
nothing remains but its own gnawing thought that finds neither reason
of being nor end of turmoil, that can neither cease to question nor
find answer to inquiries that rack the spirit. There is energy enough,
life enough to feel life a terror, and no more; not enough for any
mastery even of stoical resolve. The power of self-consciousness seems
to be the last injury, a Nessus-shirt, the gift of a strange hate.
"The real agony is the silence, the ignorance of the why and the
wherefore, the Sphinx-like imperturbability which meets his prayers."
This struggle for a light that will not come has been expressed by
Matthew Arnold in his "Empedocles on Etna," a poem which may in some
respects be named a modern version of Job:--

      "This heart will glow no more; thou art
       A living man no more, Empedocles!
       Nothing but a devouring flame of thought--
       But a naked eternally restless mind....
       To the elements it came from
       Everything will return--
       Our bodies to earth,
       Our blood to water,
       Heat to fire,
       Breath to air.
       They were well born,
       They will be well entombed--
       But mind, but thought--
       Where will they find their parent element?
       What will receive them, who will call them home?
       But we shall still be in them and they in us....
       And we shall be unsatisfied as now;
       And we shall feel the agony of thirst,
       The ineffable longing for the life of life,
       Baffled for ever."

Thought yields no result; the outer universe is dumb and impenetrable.
Still Job would revive if a battle for righteousness offered itself to
him. He has never had to fight for God or for his own faith. When the
trumpet call is heard he will respond; but he is not yet aware of
hearing it.

The closing verses have presented considerable difficulty to
interpreters, who on the one hand shrink from the supposition that Job
is going back on his past life of prosperity and finding there the
origin of his fear, and on the other hand see the danger of leaving so
significant a passage without definite meaning. The Revised Version
puts all the verbs of the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth verses into
the present tense, and Dr. A. B. Davidson thinks translation into the
past tense would give a meaning "contrary to the idea of the poem."
Now, a considerable interval had already elapsed from the time of
Job's calamities, even from the beginning of his illness, quite long
enough to allow the growth of anxiety and fear as to the judgment of
the world. Job was not ignorant of the caprice and hardness of men. He
knew how calamity was interpreted; he knew that many who once bowed to
his greatness already heaped scorn upon his fall. May not his fear
have been that his friends from beyond the desert would furnish the
last and in some respects most cutting of his sorrows?

      "_I have feared a fear; it has come upon me,
       And that which I dread has come to me.
       I have not been at ease, nor quiet, nor have I had rest;
       Yet trouble has come._"

In his brooding soul, those seven days and nights, fear has deepened
into certainty. He is a man despised. Even for those three his
circumstances have proved too much. Did he imagine for a moment that
their coming might relieve the pressure of his lot and open a way to
the recovery of his place among men? The trouble is deeper than ever;
they have stirred a tempest in his breast.

Note that in his whole agony Job makes no motion towards suicide.
Arnold's Empedocles cries against life, flings out his questions to a
dumb universe, and then plunges into the crater of Etna. Here, as at
other points, the inspiration of the author of our book strikes clear
between stoicism and pessimism, defiance of the world to do its worst
and confession that the struggle is too terrible. The deep sense of
all that is tragic in life, and, with this, the firm persuasion that
nothing is appointed to man but what he is able to bear, together make
the clear Bible note. It may seem that Job's ejaculations differ
little from the cry out of the "City of Dreadful Night,"

      "Weary of erring in this desert, Life,
         Weary of hoping hopes for ever vain,
       Weary of struggling in all sterile strife,
         Weary of thought which maketh nothing plain,
       I close my eyes and calm my panting breath
       And pray to thee, O ever quiet Death,
         To come and soothe away my bitter pain."

But the writer of the book knows what is in hand. He has to show how
far faith may be pressed down and bent by the sore burdens of life
without breaking. He has to give us the sense of a soul in the
uttermost depth, that we may understand the sublime argument which
follows, know its importance, and find our own tragedy exhibited, our
own need met, the personal and the universal marching together to an
issue. Suicide is no issue for a life, any more than universal
cataclysm for the evolution of a world. Despair is no refuge. The
inspired writer here sees so far, so clearly, that to mention suicide
would be absurd. The struggle of life cannot be renounced. So much he
knows by a spiritual instinct which anticipates the wisdom of later
times. Were this book a simple record of fact, we have Job in a
position far more trying than that of Saul after his defeat on Gilboa;
but it is an ideal prophetic writing, a Divine poem, and the faith it
is designed to commend saves the man from interfering by any deed of
his with the will of God.

We are prepared for the vehement controversy that follows and the
sustained appeal of the sufferer to that Power which has laid upon him
such a weight of agony. When he breaks into passionate cries and seems
to be falling away from all trust, we do not despair of him nor of the
cause he represents. The intensity with which he longs for death is
actually a sign and measure of the strong life that throbs within him,
which yet will be led out into light and freedom and come to peace as
it were in the very clash of revolt.



VII.

_THE THINGS ELIPHAZ HAD SEEN._

ELIPHAZ SPEAKS. CHAPS. iv., v.


The ideas of sin and suffering against which the poem of Job was
written come now dramatically into view. The belief of the three
friends had always been that God, as righteous Governor of human life,
gives felicity in proportion to obedience and appoints trouble in
exact measure of disobedience. Job himself, indeed, must have held the
same creed. We may imagine that while he was prosperous his friends
had often spoken with him on this very point. They had congratulated
him often on the wealth and happiness he enjoyed as an evidence of the
great favour of the Almighty. In conversation they had remarked on
case after case which seemed to prove, beyond the shadow of doubt,
that if men reject God affliction and disaster invariably follow.
Their idea of the scheme of things was very simple, and, on the whole,
it had never come into serious questioning. Of course human justice,
even when rudely administered, and the practice of private revenge
helped to fulfil their theory of Divine government. If any serious
crime was committed, those friendly to the injured person took up his
cause and pursued the wrong-doer to inflict retribution upon him. His
dwelling was perhaps burned and his flocks dispersed, he himself
driven into a kind of exile. The administration of law was rude, yet
the unwritten code of the desert made the evil-doer suffer and allowed
the man of good character to enjoy life if he could. These facts went
to sustain the belief that God was always regulating a man's happiness
by his deserts. And beyond this, apart altogether from what was done
by men, not a few accidents and calamities appeared to show Divine
judgment against wrong. Then, as now, it might be said that avenging
forces lurk in the lightning, the storm, the pestilence, forces which
are directed against transgressors and cannot be evaded. Men would
say, Yes, though one hide his crimes, though he escape for long the
condemnation and punishment of his fellows, yet the hand of God will
find him: and the prediction seemed always to be verified. Perhaps the
stroke did not fall at once. Months might pass; years might pass; but
the time came when they could affirm, Now righteousness has overtaken
the offender; his crime is rewarded; his pride is brought low. And if,
as happened occasionally, the flocks of a man who was in good
reputation died of murrain, and his crops were blighted by the
terrible hot wind of the desert, they could always say, Ah! we did not
know all about him. No doubt if we could look into his private life we
should see why this has befallen. So the barbarians of the island of
Melita, when Paul had been shipwrecked there, seeing a viper fasten on
his hand, said, "No doubt this is a murderer whom, though he hath
escaped from the sea, yet justice suffereth not to live."

Thoughts like these were in the minds of the three friends of Job, very
confounding indeed, for they had never expected to shake their heads
over him. They accordingly deserve credit for true sympathy, inasmuch as
they refrained from saying anything that might hurt him. His grief was
great, and it might be due to remorse. His unparalleled afflictions put
him, as it were, in sanctuary from taunts or even questionings. He has
done wrong, he has not been what we thought him, they said to
themselves, but he is drinking to the bitter dregs a cup of retribution.

But when Job opened his mouth and spoke, their sympathy was dashed with
pious horror. They had never in all their lives heard such words. He
seemed to prove himself far worse than they could have imagined. He
ought to have been meek and submissive. Some flaw there must have been:
what was it? He should have confessed his sin instead of cursing life
and reflecting on God. Their own silent suspicion, indeed, is the chief
cause of his despair; but this they do not understand. Amazed they hear
him; outraged, they take up the challenge he offers. One after another
the three men reason with Job, from almost the same point of view,
suggesting first and then insisting that he should acknowledge fault and
humble himself under the hand of a just and holy God.

Now, here is the motive of the long controversy which is the main
subject of the poem. And, in tracing it, we are to see Job, although
racked by pain and distraught by grief--sadly at disadvantage because he
seems to be a living example of the truth of their ideas--rousing
himself to the defence of his integrity and contending for that as the
only grip he has of God. Advance after advance is made by the three, who
gradually become more dogmatic as the controversy proceeds. Defence
after defence is made by Job, who is driven to think himself challenged
not only by his friends, but sometimes also by God Himself through them.

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar agree in the opinion that Job has done
evil and is suffering for it. The language they use and the arguments
they bring forward are much alike. Yet a difference will be found in
their way of speaking, and a vaguely suggested difference of
character. Eliphaz gives us an impression of age and authority. When
Job has ended his complaint, Eliphaz regards him with a disturbed and
offended look. "How pitiful!" he seems to say; but also, "How
dreadful, how unaccountable!" He desires to win Job to a right view of
things by kindly counsel; but he talks pompously, and preaches too
much from the high moral bench. Bildad, again, is a dry and composed
person. He is less the man of experience than of tradition. He does
not speak of discoveries made in the course of his own observation;
but he has stored the sayings of the wise and reflected upon them.
When a thing is cleverly said he is satisfied, and he cannot
understand why his impressive statements should fail to convince and
convert. He is a gentleman, like Eliphaz, and uses courtesy. At first
he refrains from wounding Job's feelings. Yet behind his politeness is
the sense of superior wisdom--the wisdom of ages, and his own. He is
certainly a harder man than Eliphaz. Lastly, Zophar is a blunt man
with a decidedly rough, dictatorial style. He is impatient of the
waste of words on a matter so plain, and prides himself on coming to
the point. It is he who ventures to say definitely: "Know therefore
that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth,"--a
cruel speech from any point of view. He is not so eloquent as Eliphaz,
he has no air of a prophet. Compared with Bildad he is less
argumentative. With all his sympathy--and he, too, is a friend--he
shows an exasperation which he justifies by his zeal for the honour of
God. The differences are delicate, but real, and evident even to our
late criticism. In the author's day the characters would probably seem
more distinctly contrasted than they appear to us. Still, it must be
owned, each holds virtually the same position. One prevailing school
of thought is represented and in each figure attacked.

It is not difficult to imagine three speakers differing far more from
each other. For example, instead of Bildad we might have had a Persian
full of the Zoroastrian ideas of two great powers, the Good Spirit,
Ahuramazda, and the Evil Spirit, Ahriman. Such a one might have
maintained that Job had given himself to the Evil Spirit, or that his
revolt against providence would bring him under that destructive power
and work his ruin. And then, instead of Zophar, one might have been
set forward who maintained that good and evil make no difference, that
all things come alike to all, that there is no God who cares for
righteousness among men; assailing Job's faith in a more dangerous
way. But the writer has no such view of making a striking drama. His
circle of vision is deliberately chosen. It is only what might appear
to be true he allows his characters to advance. One hears the
breathings of the same dogmatism in the three voices. All is said for
the ordinary belief that can be said. And three different men reason
with Job that it may be understood how popular, how deeply rooted is
the notion which the whole book is meant to criticise and disprove.
The dramatising is vague, not at all of our sharp, modern kind like
that of Ibsen, throwing each figure into vivid contrast with every
other. All the author's concern is to give full play to the theory
which holds the ground and to show its incompatibility with the facts
of human life, so that it may perish of its own hollowness.

Nevertheless the first address to Job is eloquent and poetically
beautiful. No rude arguer is Eliphaz but one of the golden-mouthed,
mistaken in creed but not in heart, a man whom Job might well cherish
as a friend.

I. The first part of his speech extends to the eleventh verse. With
the respect due to sorrow, putting aside the dismay caused by Job's
wild language, he asks, "If one essay to commune with thee, wilt thou
be grieved?" It seems unpardonable to add to the sufferer's misery by
saying what he has in his mind; and yet--he cannot refrain. "Who can
withhold himself from speaking?" The state of Job is such that there
must be thorough and very serious communication. Eliphaz reminds him
of what he had been--an instructor of the ignorant, one who
strengthened the weak, upheld the falling, confirmed the feeble. Was
he not once so confident of himself, so resolute and helpful that
fainting men found him a bulwark against despair? Should he have
changed so completely? Should one like him take to fruitless wailings
and complaints? "Now it cometh upon thee, and thou faintest; it
toucheth thee, and thou art confounded." Eliphaz does not mean to
taunt. It is in sorrow that he speaks, pointing out the contrast
between what was and is. Where is the strong faith of former days?
There is need for it, and Job ought to have it as his stay. "Is not
thy piety thy confidence? Thy hope, is it not the integrity of thy
ways?" Why does he not look back and take courage? Pious fear of God,
if he allows himself to be guided by it, will not fail to lead him
again into the light.

It is a friendly and sincere effort to make the champion of God serve
himself of his own faith. The undercurrent of doubt is not allowed to
appear. Eliphaz makes it a wonder that Job had dropped his claim on
the Most High; and he proceeds in a tone of expostulation, amazed that
a man who knew the way of the Almighty should fall into the miserable
weakness of the worst evil-doer. Poetically, yet firmly, the idea is
introduced:--

      "_Bethink thee now, who ever, being innocent, perished,
       And where have the upright been destroyed?
       As I have seen, they who plough iniquity
       And sow disaster reap the same.
       By the wrath of God they perish,
       By the storm of His wrath they are undone.
       Roaring of the lion, voice of the growling lion,
       Teeth of the young lions are broken;
       The old lion perisheth for lack of prey,
       The whelps of the lioness are scattered._"

First among the things Eliphaz has seen is the fate of those violent
evil-doers who plough iniquity and sow disaster. But Job has not been
like them and therefore has no need to fear the harvest of perdition.
He is among those who are not finally cut off. In the tenth and
eleventh verses the dispersion of a den of lions is the symbol of the
fate of those who are hot in wickedness. As in some cave of the
mountains an old lion and lioness with their whelps dwell securely,
issuing forth at their will to seize the prey and make night dreadful
with their growling, so those evil-doers flourish for a time in
hateful and malignant strength. But as on a sudden the hunters,
finding the lions' retreat, kill and scatter them, young and old, so
the coalition of wicked men is broken up. The rapacity of wild desert
tribes appears to be reflected in the figure here used. Eliphaz may be
referring to some incident which had actually occurred.

II. In the second division of his address he endeavours to bring home to
Job a needed moral lesson by detailing a vision he once had and the
oracle which came with it. The account of the apparition is couched in
stately and impressive language. That chilling sense of fear which
sometimes mingles with our dreams in the dead of night, the sensation of
a presence that cannot be realised, something awful breathing over the
face and making the flesh creep, an imagined voice falling solemnly on
the ear,--all are vividly described. In the recollection of Eliphaz the
circumstances of the vision are very clear, and the finest poetic skill
is used in giving the whole solemn dream full justice and effect.

      "_Now a word was secretly brought me,
       Mine ear caught the whisper thereof;
       In thoughts from visions of the night,
       When deep sleep falls upon men,
       A terror came on me, and trembling
       Which thrilled my bones to the marrow.
       Then a breath passed before my face,
       The hairs of my body rose erect.
       It stood still--its appearance I trace not.
       An image is before mine eyes.
       There was silence, and I heard a voice--
       Shall man beside Eloah be righteous?
       Or beside his Maker shall man be clean?_"

We are made to feel here how extraordinary the vision appeared to
Eliphaz, and, at the same time, how far short he comes of the seer's
gift. For what is this apparition? Nothing but a vague creation of the
dreaming mind. And what is the message? No new revelation, no
discovery of an inspired soul. After all, only a fact quite familiar
to pious thought. The dream oracle has been generally supposed to
continue to the end of the chapter. But the question as to the
righteousness of man and his cleanness beside God seems to be the
whole of it, and the rest is Eliphaz's comment or meditation upon it,
his "thoughts from visions of the night."

As to the oracle itself: while the words may certainly bear
translating so as to imply a direct comparison between the
righteousness of man and the righteousness of God, this is not
required by the purpose of the writer, as Dr. A. B. Davidson has
shown. In the form of a question it is impressively announced that
with or beside the High God no weak man is righteous, no strong man
pure; and this is sufficient, for the aim of Eliphaz is to show that
troubles may justly come on Job, as on others, because all are by
nature imperfect. No doubt the oracle might transcend the scope of the
argument. Still the question has not been raised by Job's criticism of
providence, whether he reckons himself more just than God; and apart
from that any comparison seems unnecessary, meeting no mood of human
revolt of which Eliphaz has ever heard. The oracle, then, is
practically of the nature of a truism, and, as such, agrees with the
dream vision and the impalpable ghost, a dim presentation by the mind
to itself of what a visitor from the higher world might be.

Shall any created being, inheritor of human defects, stand beside
Eloah, clean in His sight? Impossible. For, however sincere and
earnest any one may be toward God and in the service of men, he cannot
pass the fallibility and imperfection of the creature. The thought
thus solemnly announced, Eliphaz proceeds to amplify in a prophetic
strain, which, however, does not rise above the level of good poetry.

"Behold, He putteth no trust in His servants." Nothing that the best
of them have to do is committed entirely to them; the supervision of
Eloah is always maintained that their defects may not mar His purpose.
"His angels He chargeth with error." Even the heavenly spirits, if we
are to trust Eliphaz, go astray; they are under a law of discipline
and holy correction. In the Supreme Light they are judged and often
found wanting. To credit this to a Divine oracle would be somewhat
disconcerting to ordinary theological ideas. But the argument is clear
enough,--If even the angelic servants of God require the constant
supervision of His wisdom and their faults need His correction, much
more do men whose bodies are "houses of clay, whose foundation is in
the dust, who are crushed before the moth"--that is, the moth which
breeds corrupting worms. "From morning to evening they are
destroyed"--in a single day their vigour and beauty pass into decay.

"Without observance they perish for ever," says Eliphaz. Clearly this
is not a word of Divine prophecy. It would place man beneath the level
of moral judgment, as a mere earth-creature whose life and death are
of no account even to God. Men go their way when a comrade falls, and
soon forget. True enough. But "One higher than the highest regardeth."
The stupidity or insensibility of most men to spiritual things is in
contrast to the attention and judgment of God.

The description of man's life on earth, its brevity and dissolution,
on account of which he can never exalt himself as just and clean
beside God, ends with words that may be translated thus:--

      "_Is not their cord torn asunder in them?
       They shall die, and not in wisdom._"

Here the tearing up of the tent cord or the breaking of the bow-string
is an image of the snapping of that chain of vital functions, the
"silver cord," on which the bodily life depends.

The argument of Eliphaz, so far, has been, first, that Job, as a
pious man, should have kept his confidence in God, because he was not
like those who plough iniquity and sow disaster and have no hope in
Divine mercy; next, that before the Most High all are more or less
unrighteous and impure, so that if Job suffers for defect, he is no
exception, his afflictions are not to be wondered at. And this carries
the further thought that he ought to be conscious of fault and humble
himself under the Divine hand. Just at this point Eliphaz comes at
last within sight of the right way to find Job's heart and conscience.
The corrective discipline which all need was safe ground to take with
one who could not have denied in the last resort that he, too, had

                    "Sins of will,
      Defects of doubt and taints of blood."

This strain of argument, however, closes, Eliphaz having much in his
mind which has not found expression and is of serious import.

III. The speaker sees that Job is impatient of the sufferings which
make life appear useless to him. But suppose he appealed to the
saints--holy ones, or angels--to take his part, would that be of any
use? In his cry from the depth he had shown resentment and hasty
passion. These do not insure, they do not deserve help. The "holy
ones" would not respond to a man so unreasonable and indignant. On the
contrary, "resentment slayeth the foolish man, passion killeth the
silly." What Job had said in his outcry only tended to bring on him
the fatal stroke of God. Having caught at this idea, Eliphaz proceeds
in a manner rather surprising. He has been shocked by Job's bitter
words. The horror he felt returns upon him, and he falls into a very
singular and inconsiderate strain of remark. He does not, indeed,
identify his old friend with the foolish man whose destruction he
proceeds to paint. But an instance has occurred to him--a bit of his
large experience--of one who behaved in a godless, irrational way and
suffered for it; and for Job's warning, because he needs to take home
the lesson of the catastrophe, Eliphaz details the story. Forgetting
the circumstances of his friend, utterly forgetting that the man lying
before him has lost all his children and that robbers have swallowed
his substance, absorbed in his own reminiscence to the exclusion of
every other thought, Eliphaz goes deliberately through a whole roll of
disasters so like Job's that every word is a poisoned arrow:--

      "_Plead then: will any one answer thee;
       And to which of the holy ones wilt thou turn?
       Nay, resentment killeth the fool,
       And hasty indignation slayeth the silly.
       I myself have seen a godless fool take root;
       Yet straightway I cursed his habitation:--
       His children are far from succour,
       They are crushed in the gate without deliverer:
       While the hungry eats up his harvest
       And snatches it even out of the thorns,
       And the snare gapes for their substance._"

The desolation he saw come suddenly, even when the impious man had
just taken root as founder of a family, Eliphaz declares to be a curse
from the Most High; and he describes it with much force. Upon the
children of the household disaster falls at the gate or place of
judgment; there is no one to plead for them, because the father is
marked for the vengeance of God. Predatory tribes from the desert
devour first the crops in the remoter fields, and then those protected
by the thorn hedge near the homestead. The man had been an oppressor;
now those he had oppressed are under no restraint, and all he has is
swallowed up without redress.

So much for the third attempt to convict Job and bring him to
confession. It is a bolt shot apparently at a venture, yet it strikes
where it must wound to the quick. Here, however, made aware, perhaps by
a look of anguish or a sudden gesture, that he has gone too far, Eliphaz
draws back. To the general dogma that affliction is the lot of every
human being he returns, that the sting may be taken out of his words:--

      "_For disaster cometh not forth from the dust,
       And out of the ground trouble springeth not;
       But man is born unto trouble
       As the sparks fly upward._"

By this vague piece of moralising, which sheds no light on anything,
Eliphaz betrays himself. He shows that he is not anxious to get at the
root of the matter. The whole subject of pain and calamity is external
to him, not a part of his own experience. He would speak very
differently if he were himself deprived of all his possessions and
laid low in trouble. As it is he can turn glibly from one thought to
another, as if it mattered not which fits the case. In fact, as he
advances and retreats we discover that he is feeling his way, aiming
first at one thing, then at another, in the hope that this or that
random arrow may hit the mark. No man is just beside God. Job is like
the rest, crushed before the moth. Job has spoken passionately, in
wild resentment. Is he then among the foolish whose habitation is
cursed? But again, lest that should not be true, the speaker falls
back on the common lot of men, born to trouble--why, God alone can
tell. Afterwards he makes another suggestion. Is not God He who
frustrates the devices of the crafty and confounds the cunning, so
that they grope in the blaze of noon as if it were night? If the other
explanations did not apply to Job's condition, perhaps this would. At
all events something might be said by way of answer that would give an
inkling of the truth. At last the comparatively kind and vague
explanation is offered, that Job suffers from the chastening of the
Lord, who, though He afflicts, is also ready to heal. Glancing at all
possibilities which occur to him, Eliphaz leaves the afflicted man to
accept that which happens to come home.

IV. Eloquence, literary skill, sincerity, mark the close of this
address. It is the argument of a man who is anxious to bring his
friend to a right frame of mind so that his latter days may be peace.
"As for me," he says, hinting what Job should do, "I would turn to
God, and set my expectation upon the Highest." Then he proceeds to
give his thoughts on Divine providence. Unsearchable, wonderful are
the doings of God. He is the Rain-giver for the thirsty fields and
desert pastures. Among men, too, He makes manifest His power, exalting
those who are lowly, and restoring the joy of the mourners. Crafty
men, who plot to make their own way, oppose His sovereign power in
vain. They are stricken as if with blindness. Out of their hand the
helpless are delivered, and hope is restored to the feeble. Has Job
been crafty? Has he been in secret a plotter against the peace of men?
Is it for this reason God has cast him down? Let him repent, and he
shall yet be saved. For

      "_Happy is the man whom Eloah correcteth,
       Therefore spurn not thou the chastening of Shaddai.
       For He maketh sore and bindeth up;
       He smiteth, but His hands make whole.
       In six straits He will deliver thee;
       In seven also shall not evil touch thee.
       In famine He will rescue thee from death,
       And in war from the power of the sword.
       When the tongue smiteth thou shalt be hid;
       Nor shalt thou fear when desolation cometh.
       At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh;
       And of the beasts of the earth shalt not be afraid.
       For with the stones of the field shall be thy covenant;
       With thee shall the beasts of the field be at peace.
       So shalt thou find that thy tent is secure,
       And surveying thy homestead thou shalt miss nothing.
       Thou shalt find that thy seed are many,
       And thy offspring like the grass of the earth;
       Thou shalt come to thy grave with white hair,
       As a ripe shock of corn is carried home in its season.
       Behold! This we have searched out: thus it is.
       Hear it, and, thou, consider it for thyself!_"

Fine, indeed, as dramatic poetry; but is it not, as reasoning,
incoherent? The author does not mean it to be convincing. He who is
chastened and receives the chastening may not be saved in those six
troubles, yea seven. There is more of dream than fact. Eliphaz is
apparently right in everything, as Dillmann says; but right only on
the surface. _He has seen_--that they who plough iniquity and sow
disaster reap the same. _He has seen_--a vision of the night, and
received a message; a sign of God's favour that almost made him a
prophet. _He has seen_--a fool or impious man taking root, but was not
deceived; he knew what would be the end, and took upon him to curse
judicially the doomed homestead. _He has seen_--the crafty confounded.
_He has seen_--the man whom God corrected, who received his
chastisement with submission, rescued and restored to honour. "Lo,
this we have searched out," he says; "it is even thus." But the piety
and orthodoxy of the good Eliphaz do not save him from blunders at
every turn. And to the clearing of Job's position he offers no
suggestion of value. What does he say to throw light on the condition
of a believing, earnest servant of the Almighty who is _always_ poor,
_always_ afflicted, who meets disappointment after disappointment, and
is pursued by sorrow and disaster even to the grave? The religion of
Eliphaz is made for well-to-do people like himself, and such only. If
it were true that, because all are sinful before God, affliction and
pain are punishments of sin, and a man is happy in receiving this
Divine correction, why is Eliphaz himself not lying like Job upon a
heap of ashes, racked with the torment of disease? Good orthodox
prosperous man, he thinks himself a prophet, but he is none. Were he
tried like Job he would be as unreasonable and passionate, as wild in
his declamation against life, as eager for death.

Useless in religion is all mere talk that only skims the surface,
however often the terms of it may be repeated, however widely they
find acceptance. The creed that breaks down at any point is no creed
for a rational being. Infidelity in our day is very much the
consequence of crude notions about God that contradict each other,
notions of the atonement, of the meaning of suffering, of the future
life, that are incoherent, childish, of no practical weight. People
think they have a firm grasp of the truth; but when circumstances
occur which are at variance with their preconceived ideas, they turn
away from religion, or their religion makes the facts of life appear
worse for them. It is the result of insufficient thought. Research
must go deeper, must return with new zeal to the study of Scripture
and the life of Christ. God's revelation in providence and
Christianity is one. It has a profound coherency, the stamp and
evidence of its truth. The rigidity of natural law has its meaning for
us in our study of the spiritual life.



VIII.

_MEN FALSE: GOD OVERBEARING._

JOB SPEAKS. CHAPS. vi., vii.


Worst to endure of all things is the grief that preys on a man's own
heart because no channel outside self is provided for the hot stream
of thought. Now that Eliphaz has spoken, Job has something to arouse
him, at least to resentment. The strength of his mind revives as he
finds himself called to a battle of words. And how energetic he is!
The long address of Eliphaz we saw to be incoherent, without the
backbone of any clear conviction, turning hither and thither in the
hope of making some way or other a happy hit. But as soon as Job
begins to speak there is coherency, strong thought running through the
variety of expression, the anxiety for instruction, the sense of
bewilderment and trouble. We feel at once that we are in contact with
a mind no half-truths can satisfy, that will go with whatever
difficulty to the very bottom of the matter.

Supreme mark of a healthy nature, this. People are apt to praise a mind
at peace, moving composedly from thought to thought, content "to enjoy
the things which others understand," not distressed by moral questions.
But minds enjoying such peace are only to be praised if the philosophy
of life has been searched out and tried, and the great trust in God
which resolves all doubt has been found. While life and providence,
one's own history and the history of the world present what appear to be
contradictions, problems that baffle and disturb the soul, how can a
healthy mind be at rest? Our intellectual powers are not given simply
that we may enjoy; they are given that we may understand. A mind hungers
for knowledge, as a body for food, and cannot be satisfied unless the
reason and the truth of things are seen. You may object that some are
not capable of understanding, that indeed Divine providence, the great
purposes of God, lie so far and so high beyond the ordinary human range
as to be incomprehensible to most of us. Of what use, then, is
revelation? Is it given merely to bewilder us, to lead us on in a quest
which at the last must leave many of the searchers unsatisfied, without
light or hope? If so, the Bible mocks us, the prophets were deceivers,
even Christ Himself is found no Light of the world, but a dreamer who
spoke of that which can never be realised. Not thus do I begin in doubt,
and end in doubt. There are things beyond me; but exact or final
knowledge of these is not necessary. Within my range and reach through
nature and religion, through the Bible and the Son of God, are the
principles I need to satisfy my soul's hunger. And in every healthy mind
there will be desire for truth which, often baffled, will continue till
understanding comes.

And here we join issue with the agnostic, who denies this vital demand
of the soul. Our thought dwelling on life and all its varied
experience--sorrow and fear, misery and hope, love threatened by death
yet unquenchable, the exultation of duty, the baffling of ambition,
unforeseen peril and unexpected deliverance--our thought, I say,
dealing with these elements of life, will not rest in the notion that
all is due to chance or to blind forces, that evolution can never be
intelligently followed. The modern atheist or agnostic falls into the
very error for which he used to reprove faith when he contemptuously
bids us get rid of the hope of understanding the world and the Power
directing it, when he invites us to remember our limitations and
occupy ourselves with things within our range. Religion used to be
taunted with crippling man's faculties and denying full play to his
mental activity. Scientific unbelief does so now. It restricts us to
the seen and temporal, and, if consistent, ought to refuse all ideals
and all desires for a "perfect" state. The modern sage, intent on the
study of material things and their changes, confining himself to what
can be seen, heard, touched, or by instruments analysed, may have
nothing but scorn or, say, pity for one who cries out of trouble--

      "Have I sinned? Yet, what have I done unto Thee,
           O Thou Watcher of men?
       Why hast Thou set me as Thy stumbling-block,
           So that I am a burden to myself?
       And why wilt Thou not pardon my transgression,
           And cause my sin to pass away?"

But the man whose soul is eager in the search for reality must
endeavour to wrest from Heaven itself the secret of his
dissatisfaction with the real, his conflict with the real, and why he
must so often suffer from the very forces that sustain his life. Yes,
the passion of the soul continues. It protests against darkness, and
therefore against materialism. Conscious mind presses toward an origin
of thought. Soul must find a Divine Eternal Soul. Where nature opens
ascending ways to the reason in its quest; where prophets and sages
have cut paths here and there through the forest of mystery; where the
brave and true testify of a light they have seen and invite us to
follow; where One stands high and radiant above the cross on which He
suffered and declares Himself the Resurrection and the Life,--there
men will advance, feeling themselves inspired to maintain the search
for that Eternal Truth without the hope of which all our life here is
a wearisome pageant, a troubled dream, a bitter slavery.

In his reply to Eliphaz, Job first takes hold of the charge of
impatience and hasty indignation made in the opening of the fifth
chapter. He is quite aware that his words were rash when he cursed his
day and cried impatiently for death. In accusing him of rebellious
passion, Eliphaz had shot the only arrow that went home; and now Job,
conscientious here, pulls out the arrow to show it and the wound.
"Oh," he cries, "that my hasty passion were duly weighed, and my
misery were laid in the balance against it! For then would it, my
misery, be found heavier than the sand of the seas: therefore have my
words been rash." He is almost deprecatory. Yes: he will admit the
impatience and vehemence with which he spoke. But then, had Eliphaz
duly considered his state, the weight of his trouble causing a
physical sense of indescribable oppression? Let his friends look at
him again, a man prostrated with sore disease and grief, dying slowly
in the leper's exile.

      "_The arrows of the Almighty are within me,
       The poison whereof my spirit drinketh up.
       The terrors of God beleaguer me._"

We need not fall into the mistake of supposing that it is only the
pain of his disease which makes Job's misery so heavy. Rather is it
that his troubles have come from God; they are "the arrows of the
Almighty." Mere suffering and loss, even to the extremity of death, he
could have borne without a murmur. But he had thought God to be his
friend. Why on a sudden have those darts been launched against him by
the hand he trusted? What does the Almighty mean? The evil-doer who
suffers knows why he is afflicted. The martyr enduring for conscience'
sake has his support in the truth to which he bears witness, the holy
cause for which he dies. Job has no explanation, no support. He cannot
understand providence. The God with whom he supposed himself to be at
peace suddenly becomes an angry incomprehensible Power, blighting and
destroying His servant's life. Existence poisoned, the couch of ashes
encompassed with terrors, is it any wonder that passionate words break
from his lips? A cry is the last power left to him.

So it is with many. The seeming needlessness of their sufferings, the
impossibility of tracing these to any cause in their past history, in a
word, the mystery of the pain confounds the mind, and adds to anguish
and desolation an unspeakable horror of darkness. Sometimes the very
thing guarded against is that which happens; a man's best intelligence
appears confuted by destiny or chance. Why has he amongst the many been
chosen for this? Do all things come alike to all, righteous and wicked?
The problem becomes terribly acute in the case of earnest God-fearing
men and women who have not yet found the real theory of suffering.
Endurance for others does not always explain. All cannot be rested on
that. Nor unless we speak falsely for God will it avail to say, These
afflictions have fallen on us for our sins. For even if the conscience
does not give the lie to that assertion, as Job's conscience did, the
question demands a clear answer why the penitent should suffer, those
who believe, to whom God imputes no iniquity. If it is for our
transgressions we suffer, either our own faith and religion are vain, or
God does not forgive excepting in form, and the law of punishment
retains its force. We have here the serious difficulty that legal
fictions seem to hold their ground even in the dealings of the Most High
with those who trust Him. Many are in the direst trouble still for the
same reason as Job, and might use his very words. Taught to believe
that suffering is invariably connected with wrong-doing and is always in
proportion to it, they cannot find in their past life any great
transgressions for which they should be racked with constant pain or
kept in grinding penury and disappointment. Moreover, they had imagined
that through the mediation of Christ their sins were expiated and their
guilt blotted out. What strange error is there in the creed or in the
world? Have they never believed? Has God turned against them? So they
inquire in the darkness.

The truth, however, as shown in a previous chapter, is that suffering
has no proportion to the guilt of sin, but is related in the scheme of
Divine providence to life in this world, its movement, discipline, and
perfecting in the individual and the race. Afflictions, pains, and
griefs are appointed to the best as well as the worst, because all
need to be tried and urged on from imperfect faith and spirituality to
vigour, constancy, and courage of soul. The principle is not clearly
stated in the Book of Job, but underlies it, as truth must underlie
all genuine criticism and every faithful picture of human life. The
inspiration of the poem is so to present the facts of human experience
that the real answer alone can satisfy. And in the speech we are now
considering some imperfect and mistaken views are swept so completely
aside that their survival is almost unaccountable.

Beginning with the fifth verse we have a series of questions somewhat
difficult to interpret:--

      "_Doth the wild ass bray when he hath grass?
       Or loweth the ox over his fodder?
       Can that be eaten which is unsavoury, without salt?
       Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?
       My soul refuseth to touch them;
       They are to me as mouldy bread._"

By some these questions are supposed to describe sarcastically the
savourless words of Eliphaz, his "solemn and impertinent prosing."
This, however, would break the continuity of the thought. Another view
makes the reference to be to Job's afflictions, which he is supposed
to compare to insipid and loathsome food. But it seems quite unnatural
to take this as the meaning. Such pain and grief and loss as he had
undergone were certainly not like the white of an egg. But he has
already spoken wildly, unreasonably, and he now feels himself to be on
the point of breaking out afresh in similar impatient language. Now,
the wild ass does not complain when it has grass, nor the ox when it
has fodder; so, if his mind were supplied with necessary explanations
of the sore troubles he is enduring, he would not be impatient, he
would not complain. His soul hungers to know the reasons of the
calamities that darken his life. Nothing that has been said helps him.
Every suggestion presented to his mind is either trifling and vain,
without the salt of wisdom, like the white of an egg, or offensive,
disagreeable. Ruthlessly sincere, he will not pretend to be satisfied
when he is not. His soul refuses to touch the offered explanations and
reasons. Verily, they are like mouldy bread to him. It is his own
impatience, his loud cries and inquiries, he desires to account for;
he does not attack Eliphaz with sarcasm, but defends himself.

At this point there is a brief halt in the speech. As if after a
pause, due to a sharp sting of pain, Job exclaims: "Oh that God would
please to destroy me!" He had felt the paroxysm approaching; he had
endeavoured to restrain himself, but the torture drives him, as
before, to cry for death. Again and again in the course of his
speeches sudden turns of this kind occur, points at which the dramatic
feeling of the writer comes out. He will have us remember the terrible
disease and keep continually in mind the setting of the thoughts. Job
had roused himself in beginning his reply, and, for a little,
eagerness had overcome pain. But now he falls back, mastered by cruel
sickness which appears to be unto death. Then he speaks:--

      "_Oh that I might have my request,
       That God would give me the thing I long for,
       Even that God would be pleased to crush me,
       That He would loose His hand and tear me off;
       And I should yet have comfort,
       I should even exult amidst unsparing pain,
       For I have not denied the words of the Holy One._"

The longing for death which now returns on Job is not so passionate as
before; but his cry is quite as urgent and unqualified. As we have
already seen, no motion towards suicide is at any point of the drama
attributed to him. He does not, like Shakespeare's Hamlet, whose
position is in some respects very similar, question with himself,

      "Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
       The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
       Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
       And by opposing end them?"

Nor may we say that Job is deterred from the act of self-destruction
by Hamlet's thought, "The dread of something after death" that

        "makes us rather bear those ills we have
      Than fly to others that we know not of."

Job has the fear and faith of God still, and not even the pressure of
"unsparing pain" can move him to take into his own hands the ending of
that torment God bids him bear. He is too pious even to dream of it. A
true Oriental, with strong belief that the will of God must be done, he
could die without a murmur, in more than stoical courage; but a suicide
he cannot be. And indeed the Bible, telling us for the most part of men
of healthy mind, has few suicides to record. Saul, Zimri, Ahithophel,
Judas, break away thus from dishonour and doom; but these are all who,
in impatience and cowardice, turn against God's decree of life.

Here, then, the strong religious feeling of the writer obliges him to
reject that which the poets of the world have used to give the strongest
effect to their work. From the Greek dramatists, through Shakespeare to
Browning, the drama is full of that quarrel with life which flies to
suicide. In this great play, as we may well call it, of Semitic faith
and genius, the ideas are masterly, the hold of universal truth is
sublime. Perhaps the author was not fully aware of all he suggests, but
he feels that suicide serves no end: it settles nothing; and his problem
must be settled. Suicide is an attempt at evasion in a sphere where
evasion is impossible. God and the soul have a controversy together, and
the controversy must be worked out to an issue.

Job has not cursed God nor denied his words. With this clear
conscience he is not afraid to die; yet, to keep it, he must wait on
the decision of the Almighty--that it would please God to crush him,
or tear him off like a branch from the tree of life. The prospect of
death, if it were granted by God, would revive him for the last moment
of endurance. He would leap up to meet the stroke, God's stroke, the
pledge that God was kind to him after all.

      "Where he stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form,
           Yet the strong man must go:
       For the journey is done and the summit attained,
           And the barriers fall,
       Though a battle's to fight ere the guerdon be gained,
           The reward of it all....
       I would hate that death bandaged my eyes, and forbore,
           And bade me creep past."

According to Eliphaz there was but one way for a sufferer. If Job
would bow humbly in acknowledgment of guilt, and seek God in
penitence, then recovery would come; the hand that smote would heal
and set him on high; all the joy and vigour of life would be renewed,
and after another long course of prosperity, he should come to his
grave at last as a shock of corn is carried home in its season.
Recalling this glib promise, Job puts it from him as altogether
incongruous with his state. He is a leper; he is _dying_.

      "_What is my strength that I should wait,
       And what my term that I should be patient?
       Is my strength the strength of stones?
       Is my flesh brass?
       Is not my help within me gone,
       And energy quite driven from me?_"

Why, his condition is hopeless. What can he look for but death? Speak
to him of a new term; it was adding mockery to despair. But he would
die still true to God, and therefore he seeks the end of conflict. If
he were to live on he could not be sure of himself, especially when,
with failing strength, he had to endure the nausea and stings of
disease. As yet he can face death as a chief should.

       *       *       *       *       *

The second part of the address begins at the fourteenth verse of chap.
vi. Here Job rouses himself anew, and this time to assail his friends.
The language of their spokesman had been addressed to him from a
height of assumed moral superiority, and this had stirred in Job a
resentment quite natural. No doubt the three friends showed
friendliness. He could not forget the long journey they had made to
bring him comfort. But when he bethought him how in his prosperity he
had often entertained these men, held high discourse with them on the
ways of God, opened his heart and showed them all his life, he
marvelled that now they could fail of the thing he most
wanted--understanding. The knowledge they had of him should have made
suspicion impossible, for they had the testimony of his whole life.
The author is not unfair to his champions of orthodoxy. They fail
where all such have a way of failing. If their victim in the poem
presses on to stinging sarcasm and at last oversteps the bounds of
fair criticism, one need not wonder. He is not intended as a type of
the meek, self-depreciating person who lets slander pass without a
protest. If they have treated him badly, he will tell them to their
faces what he thinks. Their want of justice might cause a weak man to
slip and lose himself.

      "_Pity from his friend is due to the despairing,
       Lest he forsake the fear of the Almighty:
       But my brethren have deceived as a torrent,
       Like the streams of the ravine, that pass away,
       That become blackish with ice,
       In which the snow is dissolved.
       What time they wax warm they vanish,
       When it is hot they are dried up out of their place.
       The caravans turn aside,
       They go up into the desert and are perishing.
       The caravans of Tema look out,
       The merchants of Sheba hope for them.
       They were ashamed because they had trusted,
       They came up to them and blushed.
       Even so, now are ye nought._"

The poetical genius of the writer overflows here. The allegory is
beautiful, the wit keen, the knowledge abundant; yet, in a sense, we
have to pardon the interposition. Job is not quite in the mood to
represent his disappointment by such an elaborate picture. He would
naturally seek a sharper mode of expression. Still, the passage must
not be judged by our modern dramatic rules. This is the earliest
example of the philosophic story, and elaborate word-pictures are part
of the literature of the piece. We accept the pleasure of following a
description which Job must be supposed to have painted in melancholy
humour.

The scene is in the desert, several days' journey from the Jauf, that
valley already identified as the region in which Job lived. Beyond the
Nefood to the west towers the Jebel Tobeyk, a high ridge covered in
winter with deep snow, the melting of which fills the ravines with
roaring streams. Caravans are coming across the desert from Tema,
which lies seven days' journey to the south of the Jauf, and from
Sheba still farther in the same direction. They are on the march in
early summer and, falling short of water, turn aside westward to one
of the ravines where a stream is expected to be still flowing. But,
alas for the vain hope! In the wadi is nothing but stones and dry
sand, mocking the thirst of man and beast. Even so, says Job to his
friends, ye are treacherous; ye are nothing. I looked for the
refreshing water of sympathy, but ye are empty ravines, dry sand. In
my days of prosperity you gushed with friendliness. Now, when I
thirst, ye have not even pity. "Ye see a terror, and are afraid." I am
terribly stricken. You fear that if you sympathised with me, you might
provoke the anger of God.

From this point he turns upon them with reproach. Had he asked them
for anything, gifts out of their herds or treasure, aid in recovering
his property? They knew he had requested no such service. But again
and again Eliphaz had made the suggestion that he was suffering as a
wrong-doer. Would they tell him then, straightforwardly, how and when
he had transgressed? "How forcible are words of uprightness," words
that go right to a point; but as for their reproving, what did it come
to? They had caught at his complaint. Men of experience should know
that the talk of a desperate man is for the wind, to be blown away and
forgotten, not to be laid hold of captiously. And here from sarcasm he
passes to invective. Their temper, he tells them, is so hard and
unfeeling that they are fit to cast lots over the orphan and bargain
over a friend. They would be guilty even of selling for a slave a poor
fatherless child cast on their charity. "Be pleased to look on me," he
cries; "I surely will not lie to your face. Return, let not wrong be
done. Go back over my life. Let there be no unfairness. Still is my
cause just." They were bound to admit that he was as able to
distinguish right from wrong as they were. If that were not granted,
then his whole life went for nothing, and their friendship also.

In this vivid eager expostulation there is at least much of human
nature. It abounds in natural touches common to all time and in shrewd
ironic perception. The sarcasms of Job bear not only upon his
friends, but also upon our lives. The words of men who are sorely
tossed with trouble, aye even their deeds, are to be judged with full
allowance for circumstances. A man driven back inch by inch in a fight
with the world, irritated by defeat, thwarted in his plans, missing
his calculations, how easy is it to criticise him from the standpoint
of a successful career, high repute, a good balance at the banker's!
The hasty words of one who is in sore distress, due possibly to his
own ignorance and carelessness, how easy to reckon them against him,
find in them abundant proof that he is an unbeliever and a knave, and
so pass on to offer in the temple the Pharisee's prayer! But, easy and
natural, it is base. The author of our poem does well to lay the lash
of his inspired scorn upon such a temper. He who stores in memory the
quick words of a sufferer and brings them up by and by to prove him
deserving of all his troubles, such a man would cast lots over the
orphan. It is no unfair charge. Oh for humane feeling, gentle truth,
self-searching fear of falsehood! It is so easy to be hard and pious.

       *       *       *       *       *

Beginning another strophe Job turns from his friends, from would-be
wise assertions and innuendoes, to find, if he can, a philosophy of
human life, then to reflect once more in sorrow on his state, and
finally to wrestle in urgent entreaty with the Most High. The seventh
chapter, in which we trace this line of thought, increases in pathos
as it proceeds and rises to the climax of a most daring demand which
is not blasphemous because it is entirely frank, profoundly earnest.

The friends of Job have wondered at his sufferings. He himself has
tried to find the reason of them. Now he seeks it again in a survey of
man's life:--

      "_Hath not man war service on earth?
       And as the days of an hireling are not his?_"

The thought of necessity is coming over Job, that man is not his own
master; that a Power he cannot resist appoints his task, whether of
action or endurance, to fight in the hot battle or to suffer wearily.
And there is truth in the conception; only it is a truth which is
inspiring or depressing as the ultimate Power is found in noble
character or mindless force. In the time of prosperity this thought of
an inexorable decree would have caused no perplexity to Job, and his
judgment would have been that the Irresistible is wise and kind. But
now, because the shadow has fallen, all appears in gloomy colour, and
man's life a bitter servitude. As a slave, panting for the shade,
longing to have his work over, Job considers man. During months of
vanity and nights of weariness he waits, long nights made dreary with
pain, through the slow hours of which he tosses to and fro in misery.
His flesh is clothed with worms and an earthy crust, his skin hardens
and breaks out. His days are flimsier than a web (ver. 6), and draw to a
close without hope. The wretchedness masters him, and he cries to God.

      "_O remember, a breath is my life;
       Never again will mine eye see good._"

Does the Almighty consider how little time is left to him? Surely a
gleam might break before all grows dark! Out of sight he will be soon,
yea, out of the sight of God Himself, like a cloud that melts away.
His place will be down in Sheol, the region of mere existence, not of
life, where a man's being dissolves in shadows and dreams. God must
know this is coming to Job. Yet in anguish, ere he die, he will
remonstrate with his Maker: "I will not curb my mouth, I will make my
complaint in the bitterness of my soul."

Striking indeed is the remonstrance that follows. A struggle against
that belief in grim fate which has so injured Oriental character gives
vehemence to his appeal; for God must not be lost. His mind is
represented as going abroad to find in nature what is most
ungovernable and may be supposed to require most surveillance and
restraint. By change after change, stroke after stroke, his power has
been curbed; till at last, in abject impotence, he lies, a wreck upon
the wayside. Nor is he allowed the last solace of nature _in
extremis_; he is not unconscious; he cannot sleep away his misery. By
night tormenting dreams haunt him, and visions make as it were a
terrible wall against him. He exists on sufferance, perpetually
chafed. With all this in his consciousness, he asks,--

      "_Am I a sea, or a sea-monster,
       That thou keepest watch over me?_"

In a daring figure he imagines the Most High who sets a bound to the sea
exercising the same restraint over him, or barring his way as if he were
some huge monster of the deep. A certain grim humour characterises the
picture. His friends have denounced his impetuosity. Is it as fierce in
God's sight? Can his rage be so wild? Strange indeed is the restraint
put on one conscious of having sought to serve God and his age. In
self-pity, with an inward sense of the absurdity of the notion, he
fancies the Almighty fencing his squalid couch with the horrible dreams
and spectres of delirium, barring his way as if he were a raging flood.
"I loathe life," he cries; "I would not live always. Let me alone, for
my days are a vapour." Do not pain me and hem me in with Thy terrors
that allow no freedom, no hope, nothing but a weary sense of impotence.
And then his expostulation becomes even bolder.

"What is man," asks a psalmist, "that Thou art mindful of him, and the
son of man, that Thou visitest him?" With amazement God's thought of so
puny and insignificant a being is observed. But Job, marking in like
manner the littleness of man, turns the question in another way:--

      "_What is man that Thou magnifiest him,
       And settest Thine heart upon him?
       That Thou visitest him every morning,
       And triest him every moment?_"

Has the Almighty no greater thing to engage Him that He presses hard on
the slight personality of man? Might he not be let alone for a little?
Might the watchful eye not be turned away from him even for a moment?

And finally, coming to the supposition that he may have transgressed
and brought himself under the judgment of the Most High, he even dares
to ask why that should be:--

      "_Have I sinned? Yet what have I done unto Thee,
       O Thou Watcher of men?
       Why hast Thou set me as Thy butt,
       So that I am a burden to myself?
       And why wilt Thou not pardon my transgression,
       And cause my sin to pass away?_"

How can his sin have injured God? Far above man the Almighty dwells
and reigns. No shock of human revolt can affect His throne. Strange is
it that a man, even if he has committed some fault or neglected some
duty, should be like a block of wood or stone before the feet of the
Most High, till bruised and broken he cares no more for existence. If
iniquity has been done, cannot the Great God forgive it, pass it by?
That would be more like the Great God. Yes; soon Job would be down in
the dust of death. The Almighty would find then that he had gone too
far. "Thou shalt seek me, but I shall not be."

More daring words were never put by a pious man into the mouth of one
represented as pious; and the whole passage shows how daring piety may
be. The inspired writer of this book knows God too well, honours Him
too profoundly to be afraid. The Eternal Father does not watch keenly
for the offences of the creatures He has made. May a man not be frank
with God and say out what is in his heart? Surely he may. But he must
be entirely earnest. No one playing with life, with duty, with truth,
or with doubt may expostulate thus with his Maker.

There is indeed an aspect of our little life in which sin may appear too
pitiful, too impotent for God to search out. "As for man, his days are
as grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth." Only when we see
that infinite Justice is involved in the minute infractions of justice,
that it must redress the iniquity done by feeble hands and vindicate the
ideal we crave for yet so often infringe; only when we see this and
realise therewith the greatness of our being, made for justice and the
ideal, for moral conflict and victory; only, in short, when we know
responsibility, do we stand aghast at sin and comprehend the meaning of
judgment. Job is learning here the wisdom and holiness of God which
stand correlative to His grace and our responsibility. By way of trial
and pain and these sore battles with doubt he is entering into the
fulness of the heritage of spiritual knowledge and power.



IX.

_VENTURESOME THEOLOGY._

BILDAD SPEAKS. CHAP. viii.


The first attempt to meet Job has been made by one who relies on his
own experience and takes pleasure in recounting the things which he
has seen. Bildad of Shuach, on the other hand, is a man who holds to
the wisdom of the fathers and supports himself at all times with their
answers to the questions of life. Vain to him is the reasoning of one
who sees all as through coloured glass, everything of this tint or
that, according to his state or notions for the time being. The
personal impression counts for nothing with Bildad. He finds no
authority there. In him we have the catholic theologian opposing
individualism. Unfortunately he fails in the power most needed, of
distinguishing chaff from grain. Back to antiquity, back to the
fathers, say some; but, although they profess the excellent temper of
reverence, there is no guarantee that they will not select the follies
of the past instead of its wisdom to admire. Everything depends upon
the man, the individual, after all, whether he has an open mind, a
preference if not a passion for great ideas. There are those who go
back to the apostles and find only dogmatism, instead of the glorious
breadth of Divine poetry and hope. Yea, some go to the Light of the
World, and report as their discovery some pragmatical scheme, some
weak arrangement of details, a bondage or a futility. Bildad is not
one of these. He is intelligent and well-informed, an able man, as we
say; but he has no sympathy with new ideas that burst the old
wine-skins of tradition, no sympathy with daring words that throw
doubt on old orthodoxies. You can fancy his pious horror when the rude
hand of Job seemed to rend the sacred garments of established truth.
It would have been like him to turn away and leave to fate and
judgment a man so venturesome.

With the instinct of the highest and noblest thought, utterly removed
from all impiety, the writer has shown his inspiration in leading Job
to a climax of impassioned inquiry as one who wrestles in the
swellings of Jordan with the angel of Jehovah. Now he brings forward
Bildad speaking cold words from a mind quite unable to understand the
crisis. This is a man who firmly believed himself possessed of
authority and insight. When Job added entreaty to entreaty, demand to
demand, Bildad would feel as if his ears were deceiving him, for what
he heard seemed to be an impious assault on the justice of the Most
High, an attempt to convict the Infinitely Righteous of
unrighteousness. He burns to speak; and Job has no sooner sunk down
exhausted than he begins:--

      "_How long wilt thou speak these things?
       A mighty wind, forsooth, are the words of thy mouth.
       God:--will He pervert judgment?
       Almighty God:--will He pervert righteousness?
       If thy children sinned against Him,
       And He cast them away into the hand of their rebellion;
       If thou wilt seek unto God,
       And unto the Almighty wilt make entreaty;
       If spotless and upright thou art,
       Surely now He would awake for thee
       And make prosperous thy righteous habitation.
       So that thy beginning shall prove small
       And thy latter end exceedingly great._"

How far wrong Bildad is may be seen in this, that he dangles before
Job the hope of greater worldly prosperity. The children must have
sinned, for they have perished. Yet Job himself may possibly be
innocent. If he is, then a simple entreaty to God will insure His
renewed favour and help. Job is required to seek wealth and greatness
again as a pledge of his own uprightness. But the whole difficulty
lies in the fact that, being upright, he has been plunged into
poverty, desolation, and a living death. He desires to know the
reason of what has occurred. Apart altogether from the restoration of
his prosperity and health, he would know what God means. Bildad does
not see this in the least. Himself a prosperous man, devoted to the
doctrine that opulence is the proof of religious acceptance and
security, he has nothing for Job but the advice to get God to prove
him righteous by giving him back his goods. There is a taunt in
Bildad's speech. He privately believes that there has been sin, and
that only by way of repentance good can come again. Since his friend
is so obstinate let him try to regain his prosperity and fail. Bildad
is lavish in promises, extravagant indeed. He can only be acquitted of
a sinister meaning in his large prediction if we judge that he reckons
God to be under a debt to a faithful servant whom He had unwittingly,
while He was not observing, allowed to be overtaken by disaster.

Next the speaker parades his learning, the wisdom he had gathered from
the past:--

      "_Inquire, I pray thee, of the bygone age,
       And attend to the research of their fathers.
       (For we are but of yesterday and know nothing;
       A shadow, indeed, are our days upon the earth)--
       Shall not they teach thee and tell thee,
       Bring forth words from their heart?_"

The man of to-day is nothing, a poor creature. Only by the proved
wisdom of the long ages can end come to controversy. Let Job listen,
then, and be convinced.

Now it must be owned there is not simply an air of truth but truth
itself in what Bildad proceeds to say in the very picturesque passage
that follows. Truths, however, may be taken hold of in a wrong way to
establish false conclusions; and in this way Job's interlocutor errs
with not a few of his painstaking successors. The rush or papyrus of
the river-side cannot grow without mire; the reed-grass needs
moisture. If the water fails they wither. So are the paths of all that
forget God. Yes: if you take it aright, what can be more impressively
certain? The hope of a godless man perishes. His confidence is cut
off; it is as if he trusted in a spider's web. Even his house, however
strongly built, shall not support him. The man who has abandoned God
must come to this--that every earthly stay shall snap asunder, every
expectation fade. There shall be nothing between him and despair. His
strength, his wisdom, his inheritance, his possessions piled together
in abundance, how can they avail when the demand is urged by Divine
justice--What hast thou done with thy life? This, however, is not at
all in Bildad's mind. He is not thinking of the prosperity of the soul
and exultation in God, but of outward success, that a man should
spread his visible existence like a green bay tree. Beyond that
visible existence he cannot stretch thought or reasoning. His school,
generally, believed in God much after the manner of English
eighteenth-century deists, standing on the earth, looking over the
life of man here, and demanding in the present world the vindication
of providence. The position is realistic, the good of life solely
mundane. If one is brought low who flourished in luxuriance and sent
forth his shoots over the garden and was rooted near the spring, his
poverty is his destruction; he is destroyed because somehow the law of
life, that is of prosperity, has been transgressed, and the God of
success punishes the fault. We are made to feel that beneath the
promise of returning honour and joy with which Bildad closes there is
an _if_. "God will not cast away a perfect man." Is Job perfect? Then
his mouth will be filled with laughter, and his haters shall be
clothed with shame. That issue is problematical. And yet, on the
whole, doubt is kept well in the background, and the final word of
cheer is made as generous and hopeful as circumstances will allow.
Bildad means to leave the impression on Job's mind that the wisdom of
the ancients as applied to his case is reassuring.

But one sentence of his speech, that in which (ver. 4) he implies the
belief that Job's children had sinned and been "cast away into the
hand of their rebellion," shows the cold, relentless side of his
orthodoxy, the logic, not unknown still, which presses to its point
over the whole human race. Bildad meant, it appears, to shift from Job
the burden of his children's fate. The catastrophe which overtook them
might have seemed to be one of the arrows of judgment aimed at the
father. Job himself may have had great perplexity as well as keen
distress whenever he thought of his sons and daughters. Now Bildad is
throwing on them the guilt which he believes to have been so terribly
punished, even to the extremity of irremediable death. But there is no
enlightenment in the suggestion. Rather does it add to the
difficulties of the case. The sons and daughters whom Job loved, over
whom he watched with such religious care lest they should renounce God
in their hearts--were they condemned by the Most High? A man of the
old world, accustomed to think of himself as standing in God's stead
to his household, Job cannot receive this. Thought having been once
stirred to its depths, he is resentful now against a doctrine that may
never before have been questioned. Is there, then, no fatherhood in
the Almighty, no magnanimity such as Job himself would have shown? If
so, then the spirit would fail before Him, and the souls which He has
made (Isaiah lvii. 16). The dogmatist with his wisdom of the ages
drops in the by-going one of his commonplaces of theological thought.
It is a coal of fire in the heart of the sufferer.

Those who attempt to explain God's ways for edification and comfort need
to be very simple and genuine in their feeling with men, their effort on
behalf of God. Every one who believes and thinks has something in his
spiritual experience worth recounting, and may help an afflicted brother
by retracing his own history. But to make a creed learned by rote the
basis of consolation is perilous. The aspect it takes to those under
trial will often surprise the best-meaning consoler. A point is
emphasised by the keen mind of sorrow, and, like Elijah's cloud, it soon
sweeps over the whole sky, a storm of doubt and dismay.



X.

_THE THOUGHT OF A DAYSMAN._

JOB SPEAKS. CHAPS. ix., x.


It is with an infinitely sad restatement of what God has been made to
appear to him by Bildad's speech that Job begins his reply. Yes, yes; it
is so. How can man be just before such a God? You tell me my children
are overwhelmed with destruction for their sins. You tell me that I, who
am not quite dead as yet, may have new prosperity if I put myself into
right relations with God. But how can that be? There is no uprightness,
no dutifulness, no pious obedience, no sacrifice that will satisfy Him.
I did my utmost; yet God has condemned me. And if He is what you say,
His condemnation is unanswerable. He has such wisdom in devising
accusations and in maintaining them against feeble man, that hope there
can be none for any human being. To answer one of the thousand charges
God can bring, if He will contend with man, is impossible. The
earthquakes are signs of His indignation, removing mountains, shaking
the earth out of her place. He is able to quench the light of the sun
and moon, and to seal up the stars. What is man beside the omnipotence
of Him who alone stretched out the heavens, whose march is on the huge
waves of the ocean, who is the Creator of the constellations' the Bear,
the Giant, the Pleiades, and the chambers or spaces of the southern sky?
It is the play of irresistible power Job traces around him, and the
Divine mind or will is inscrutable.

      "_Lo, He goeth by me and I see Him not:
       He passeth on, and I perceive Him not.
       Behold, He seizeth. Who will stay Him?
       Who will say to Him, What doest Thou?_"

Step by step the thought here advances into that dreadful imagination
of God's unrighteousness which must issue in revolt or in despair.
Job, turning against the bitter logic of tradition, appears for the
time to plunge into impiety. Sincere earnest thinker as he is, he
falls into a strain we are almost compelled to call false and
blasphemous. Bildad and Eliphaz seem to be saints, Job a rebel
against God. The Almighty, he says, is like a lion that seizes the
prey and cannot be hindered from devouring. He is a wrathful tyrant
under whom the helpers of Rahab, those powers that according to some
nature myth sustain the dragon of the sea in its conflict with heaven,
stoop and give way. Shall Job essay to answer Him? It is vain. He
cannot. To choose words in such a controversy would be of no avail.
Even one right in his cause would be overborne by tyrannical
omnipotence. He would have no resource but to supplicate for mercy
like a detected malefactor. Once Job may have thought that an appeal
to justice would be heard, that his trust in righteousness was well
founded. He is falling away from that belief now. This being whose
despotic power has been set in his view has no sense of man's right.
He cares nothing for man.

What is God? How does He appear in the light of the sufferings of Job?

      "_He breaketh me with a tempest,
       Increaseth my wounds without cause.
       If you speak of the strength of the mighty,
                     'Behold Me,' saith He;
       If of judgment--'Who will appoint Me a time?'_"

No one, that is, can call God to account. The temper of the Almighty
appears to Job to be such that man must needs give up all controversy.
In his heart Job is convinced still that he has wrought no evil. But
he will not say so. He will anticipate the wilful condemnation of the
Almighty. God would assail his life. Job replies in fierce revolt,
"Assail it, take it away, I care not, for I despise it. Whether one
is righteous or evil, it is all the same. God destroys the perfect and
the wicked" (ver. 22).

Now, are we to explain away this language? If not, how shall we defend
the writer who has put it into the mouth of one still the hero of the
book, still appearing as a friend of God? To many in our day, as of old,
religion is so dull and lifeless, their desire for the friendship of God
so lukewarm, that the passion of the words of Job is incomprehensible to
them. His courage of despair belongs to a range of feeling they never
entered, never dreamt of entering. The calculating world is their home,
and in its frigid atmosphere there is no possibility of that keen
striving for spiritual life which fills the soul as with fire. To those
who deny sin and pooh-pooh anxiety about the soul, the book may well
appear an old-world dream, a Hebrew allegory rather than the history of
a man. But the language of Job is no outburst of lawlessness; it springs
out of deep and serious thought.

It is difficult to find an exact modern parallel here; but we have not
to go far back for one who was driven like Job by false theology into
bewilderment, something like unreason. In his "Grace Abounding," John
Bunyan reveals the depths of fear into which hard arguments and
misinterpretations of Scripture often plunged him, when he should have
been rejoicing in the liberty of a child of God. The case of Bunyan
is, in a sense, very different from that of Job. Yet both are urged
almost to despair of God; and Bunyan, realising this point of
likeness, again and again uses words put into Job's mouth. Doubts and
suspicions are suggested by his reading, or by sermons which he hears,
and he regards their occurrence to his mind as a proof of his
wickedness. In one place he says: "Now I thought surely I am possessed
of the devil: at other times again I thought I should be bereft of my
wits; for, instead of lauding and magnifying God with others, if I
have but heard Him spoken of, presently some most horrible
blasphemous thought or other would bolt out of my heart against Him,
so that whether I did think that God was, or again did think there was
no such thing, no love, nor peace, nor gracious disposition could I
feel within me." Bunyan had a vivid imagination. He was haunted by
strange cravings for the spiritually adventurous. What would it be to
sin the sin that is unto death? "In so strong a measure," he says,
"was this temptation upon me, that often I have been ready to clap my
hands under my chin to keep my mouth from opening." The idea that he
should "sell and part with Christ" was one that terribly afflicted
him; and, "at last," he says, "after much striving, I felt this
thought pass through my heart, Let Him go if He will.... After this,
nothing for two years together would abide with me but damnation and
the expectation of damnation. This thought had passed my heart--God
hath let me go, and I am fallen. Oh, thought I, that it was with me as
in months past, as in the days when God preserved me."

The Book of Job helps us to understand Bunyan and those terrors of his
that amaze our composed generation. Given a man like Job or like
Bunyan, to whom religion is everything, who must feel sure of Divine
justice, truth, and mercy, he will pass far beyond the measured
emotions and phrases of those who are more than half content with the
world and themselves. The writer here, whose own stages of thought are
recorded, and Bunyan, who with rare force and sincerity retraces the
way of his life, are men of splendid character and virtue. Titans of
the religious life, they are stricken with anguish and bound with iron
fetters to the rock of pain for the sake of universal humanity. They
are a wonder to the worldling, they speak in terms the smooth
professor of religion shudders at. But their endurance, their vehement
resolution, break the falsehoods of the time and enter into the
redemption of the race.

The strain of Job's complaint increases in bitterness. He seems to see
omnipotent injustice everywhere. If a scourge (ver. 23), such as
lightning, accident or disease, slayeth suddenly, there seems to be
nothing but mockery of the innocent. God looks down on the wreck of
human hope from the calm sky after the thunderstorm, in the evening
sunlight that gilds the desert grave. And in the world of men the
wicked have their way. God veils the face of the judge so that he is
blinded to the equity of the cause. Thus, after the arguments of his
friends, Job is compelled to see wrong everywhere, and to say that it
is the doing of God. The strophe ends with the abrupt fierce
demand,--If not, who then is it?

The short passage from the twenty-fifth verse to the end of chap. ix.
returns sadly to the strain of personal weakness and entreaty. Swiftly
Job's days go by, more swiftly than a runner, in so far as he sees no
good. Or they are like the reed-skiffs on the river, or the darting
eagle. To forget his pain is impossible. He cannot put on an appearance
of serenity or hope. God is keeping him bound as a transgressor. "I
shall be condemned whatever I do. Why then do I weary myself in vain?"
Looking at his discoloured body, covered with the grime of disease, he
finds it a sign of God's detestation. But if he could wash it with snow,
that is, to snowy whiteness, if he could purify those blackened limbs
with lye, the renewal would go no further. God would plunge him again
into the mire; his own clothes would abhor him.

And now there is a change of tone. His mind, revolting from its own
conclusion, turns toward the thought of reconciliation. While as yet
he speaks of it as an impossibility there comes to him a sorrowful
regret, a vague dream or reflection in place of that fierce rebellion
which discoloured the whole world and made it appear an arena of
injustice. With that he cannot pretend to satisfy himself. Again his
humanity stirs in him:--

      "_For He is not a man, as I, that I should answer Him,
       That we should come together in judgment.
       There is no daysman between us
       That might lay his hand upon us both.
       Let Him take away His rod from me,
       And let not His terror overawe me;
       Then would I speak and not fear Him:
       For I am not in such case in myself._"

If he could only speak with God as a man speaks with his friend the
shadows might be cleared away. The real God, not unreasonable, not
unrighteous nor despotic, here begins to appear; and in default of
personal converse, and of a daysman, or arbiter, who might lay
reconciling hands upon both and bring them together, Job cries for an
interval of strength and freedom, that without fear and anguish he may
himself express the matter at stake. The idea of a daysman, although
the possibility of such a friendly helper is denied, is a new mark of
boldness in the thought of the drama. In that one word the inspired
writer strikes the note of a Divine purpose which he does not yet
foresee. We must not say that here we have the prediction of a
Redeemer at once God and man. The author has no such affirmation to
make. But very remarkably the desires of Job are led forth in that
direction in which the advent and work of Christ have fulfilled the
decree of grace. There can be no doubt of the inspiration of a writer
who thus strikes into the current of the Divine will and revelation.
Not obscurely is it implied in this Book of Job that, however earnest
man may be in religion, however upright and faithful (for all this Job
was), there are mysteries of fear and sorrow connected with his life
in this world which can be solved only by One who brings the light of
eternity into the range of time, who is at once "very God and very
man," whose overcoming demands and encourages our faith.

Now, the wistful cry of Job--"There is no daysman between
us"--breaking from the depths of an experience to which the best as
well as the worst are exposed in this life, an experience which cannot
in either case be justified or accounted for unless by the fact of
immortality, is, let us say, as presented here, a purely human cry.
Man who "cannot be God's exile," bound always to seek understanding of
the will and character of God, finds himself in the midst of sudden
calamity and extreme pain, face to face with death. The darkness that
shrouds his whole existence he longs to see dispelled or shot through
with beams of clear revealing light. What shall we say of it? If such
a desire, arising in the inmost mind, had no correspondence whatever
to fact, there would be falsehood at the heart of things. The very
shape the desire takes--for a Mediator who should be acquainted
equally with God and man, sympathetic toward the creature, knowing the
mind of the Creator--cannot be a chance thing. It is the fruit of a
Divine necessity inwrought with the constitution and life of the human
soul. We are pointed to an irrefragable argument; but the thought
meanwhile does not follow it. Immortality waits for a revelation.

       *       *       *       *       *

Job has prayed for rest. It does not come. Another attack of pain makes
a pause in his speech, and with the tenth chapter begins a long address
to the Most High, not fierce as before, but sorrowful, subdued.

      "_My soul is weary of my life.
       I will give free course to my complaint;
       I will speak in bitterness of my soul._"

It is scarcely possible to touch the threnody that follows without
marring its pathetic and profound beauty. There is an exquisite
dignity of restraint and frankness in this appeal to the Creator. He
is an Artist whose fine work is in peril, and that from His own
seeming carelessness of it, or more dreadful to conceive, His
resolution to destroy it.

First the cry is, "Do not condemn me. Is it good unto Thee that Thou
shouldest despise the work of Thine hands?" It is marvellous to Job
that he should be scorned as worthless, while at the same time God
seems to shine on the counsel of the wicked. How can that, O Thou Most
High, be in harmony with Thy nature? He puts a supposition, which even
in stating it he must refuse, "Hast Thou eyes of flesh? or seest Thou
as man seeth?" A jealous man, clothed with a little brief authority,
might probe into the misdeeds of a fellow-creature. But God cannot do
so. His majesty forbids; and especially since He knows, for one thing,
that Job is not guilty, and, for another thing, that no one can escape
His hands. Men often lay hold of the innocent, and torture them to
discover imputed crimes. The supposition that God acts like a despot
or the servant of a despot is made only to be cast aside. But he goes
back on his appeal to God as Creator, and bethinks him of that tender
fashioning of the body which seems an argument for as tender a care
of the soul and the spirit-life. Much of power and lovingkindness goes
to the perfecting of the body and the development of the physical life
out of weakness and embryonic form. Can He who has so wrought, who has
added favour and apparent love, have been concealing all the time a
design of mockery? Even in creating, had God the purpose of making His
creature a mere plaything for the self-will of Omnipotence?

      "_Yet these things Thou didst hide in Thine heart._"

These things--the desolate home, the outcast life, the leprosy. Job
uses a strange word: "I _know_ that this was with Thee." His
conclusion is stated roughly, that nothing can matter in dealing with
such a Creator. The insistence of the friends on the hope of
forgiveness, Job's own consciousness of integrity go for nothing.

      "_Were I to sin Thou wouldst mark me,
       And Thou wouldst not acquit me of iniquity.
       Were I wicked, woe unto me;
       Were I righteous, yet should I not lift up my head._"

The supreme Power of the world has taken an aspect not of unreasoning
force, but of determined ill-will to man. The only safety seems to be in
lying quiet so as not to excite against him the activity of this awful
God who hunts like a lion and delights in marvels of wasteful strength.
It appears that, having been once roused, the Divine Enemy will not
cease to persecute. New witnesses, new causes of indignation would be
found; a changing host of troubles would follow up the attack.

I have ventured to interpret the whole address in terms of
supposition, as a theory Job flings out in the utter darkness that
surrounds him. He does not adopt it. To imagine that he really
believes this, or that the writer of the book intended to put forward
such a theory as even approximately true, is quite impossible. And
yet, when one thinks of it, perhaps impossible is too strong a word.
The doctrine of the sovereignty of God is a fundamental truth; but it
has been so conceived and wrought with as to lead many reasoners into
a dream of cruelty and irresponsible force not unlike that which
haunts the mind of Job. Something of the kind has been argued for with
no little earnestness by men who were religiously endeavouring to
explain the Bible and professed to believe in the love of God to the
world. For example: the annihilation of the wicked is denied by one
for the good reason that God has a profound reverence for being or
existence, so that he who is once possessed of will must exist for
ever; but from this the writer goes on to maintain that the wicked are
useful to God as the material on which His justice operates, that
indeed they have been created solely for everlasting punishment in
order that through them the justice of the Almighty may be clearly
seen. Against this very kind of theology Job is in revolt. In the
light even of his world it was a creed of darkness. That God hates
wrong-doing, that everything selfish, vindictive, cruel, unclean,
false, shall be driven before Him--who can doubt? That according to
His decree sin brings its punishment yielding the wages of death--who
can doubt? But to represent Him who has made us all, and must have
foreseen our sin, as without any kind of responsibility for us,
dashing in pieces the machines He has made because they do not serve
His purpose, though He knew even in making them that they would
not--what a hideous falsehood is this; it can justify God only at the
expense of undeifying Him.

One thing this Book of Job teaches, that we are not to go against our
own sincere reason nor our sense of justice and truth in order to
square facts with any scheme or any theory. Religious teaching and
thought must affirm nothing that is not entirely frank, purely just,
and such as we could, in the last resort, apply out and out to
ourselves. Shall man be more just than God, more generous than God,
more faithful than God? Perish the thought, and every system that
maintains so false a theory and tries to force it on the human mind!
Nevertheless, let there be no falling into the opposite error; from
that, too, frankness will preserve us. No sincere man, attentive to
the realities of the world and the awful ordinances of nature, can
suspect the Universal Power of indifference to evil, of any design to
leave law without sanction. We do not escape at one point; God is our
Father; righteousness is vindicated, and so is faith.

As the colloquies proceed, the impression is gradually made that the
writer of this book is wrestling with that study which more and more
engages the intellect of man--What is the real? How does it stand
related to the ideal, thought of as righteousness, as beauty, as
truth? How does it stand related to God, sovereign and holy? The
opening of the book might have led straight to the theory that the
real, the present world charged with sin, disaster, and death, is not
of the Divine order, therefore is of a Devil. But the disappearance of
Satan throws aside any such idea of dualism, and pledges the writer to
find solution, if he find it at all, in one will, one purpose, one
Divine event. On Job himself the burden and the effort descend in his
conflict with the real as disaster, enigma, impending death, false
judgment, established theology and schemes of explanation. The ideal
evades him, is lost between the rising wave and the lowering sky. In
the whole horizon he sees no clear open space where it can unfold the
day. But it remains in his heart; and in the night-sky it waits where
the great constellations shine in their dazzling purity and eternal
calm, brooding silent over the world as from immeasurable distance far
withdrawn. Even from that distance God sends forth and will accomplish
a design. Meanwhile the man stretches his hands in vain from the
shadowed earth to those keen lights, ever so remote and cold.

      "_Show me wherefore Thou strivest with me.
       Is it pleasant to Thee that Thou should'st oppress,
       That Thou should'st despise the work of Thy hands
       And shine upon the counsel of the wicked?
       Hast Thou eyes of flesh?
       Or seest Thou as man seeth?
       Thy days--are they as the days of man?
       Thy years--are they as man's days,
       That Thou inquirest after fault of mine,
       And searchest after my sin,
       Though Thou knowest that I am not wicked,
       And none can deliver from Thy hand?
       Thine hands have made and fashioned me
       Together round about; and Thou dost destroy me._"
                                               (_Chap. x._ 2-8.)



XI.

_A FRESH ATTEMPT TO CONVICT._

ZOPHAR SPEAKS. CHAP. xi.


The third and presumably youngest of the three friends of Job now
takes up the argument somewhat in the same strain as the others. With
no wish to be unfair to Zophar we are somewhat prepossessed against
him from the outset; and the writer must mean us to be so, since he
makes him attack Job as an empty babbler:--

      "_Shall not the multitude of words be answered?
       And shall a man of lips be justified?
       Shall thy boastings make people silent,
       So that thou mayest mock on, none putting thee to shame?_"

True it was, Job had used vehement speech. Yet it is a most insulting
suggestion that he meant little but irreligious bluster. The special
note of Zophar comes out in his rebuke of Job for the mockery, that is,
sceptical talk, in which he had indulged. Persons who merely rehearse
opinions are usually the most dogmatic and take most upon them. Nobody
reckons himself more able to detect error in doctrine, nobody denounces
rationalism and infidelity with greater confidence, than the man whose
creed is formal, who never applied his mind directly to the problems of
faith, and has but a moderate amount of mind to apply. Zophar, indeed,
is a man of considerable intelligence; but he betrays himself. To him
Job's words have been wearisome. He may have tried to understand the
matter, but he has caught only a general impression that, in the face of
what appears to him clearest evidence, Job denies being any way amenable
to justice. He had dared to say to God, "Thou knowest that I am not
wicked." What? God can afflict a man whom He knows to be righteous! It
is a doctrine as profane as it is novel. Eliphaz and Bildad supposed
that they had to deal with a man unwilling to humble himself in the way
of acknowledging sins hitherto concealed. By pressure of one kind or
another they hoped to get Job to realise his secret transgression. But
Zophar has noted the whole tendency of his argument to be heretical.
"Thou sayest, My doctrine is pure." And what is that doctrine? Why, that
thou wast clean in the eyes of God, that God has smitten thee without
cause. Dost thou mean, O Job! to accuse the Most High of acting in that
manner? Oh that God would speak and open His lips against thee! Thou
hast expressed a desire to state thy case to Him. The result would be
very different from thy expectation.

Now, beneath any mistaken view held by sincere persons there is almost
always a sort of foundation of truth; and they have at least as much
logic as satisfies themselves. Job's friends are religious men; they do
not consciously build on lies. One and all they are convinced that God
is invariable in His treatment of men, never afflicting the innocent,
always dealing out judgment in the precise measure of a man's sin. That
belief is the basis of their creed. They could not worship a God less
than absolutely just. Beginning the religious life with this faith they
have clung to it all along. After thirty or forty years' experience they
are still confident that their principle explains the prosperity and
affliction, the circumstances of all human beings. But have they never
seen anything that did not harmonise with this view of providence? Have
they not seen the good die in youth, and those whose hearts are dry as
summer dust burn to their sockets? Have they not seen vile schemes
prosper, and the schemers enjoy their ill-gotten power for years? It is
strange the old faith has not been shaken at least. But no! They come to
the case of Job as firmly convinced as ever that the Ruler of the world
shows His justice by dispensing joy and suffering in proportion to men's
good and evil deeds, that whenever trouble falls on any one some sin
must have been committed which deserved precisely this kind and quantity
of suffering.

Trying to get at the source of the belief we must confess ourselves
partly at a loss. One writer suggests that there may have been in the
earlier and simpler conditions of society a closer correspondence
between wrong-doing and suffering than is to be seen nowadays. There
may be something in this. But life is not governed differently at
different epochs, and the theory is hardly proved by what we know of
the ancient world. No doubt in the history of the Hebrews, which lies
behind the faith attributed to the friends of Job, a connection may be
traced between their wrong-doing _as a nation_ and their suffering _as
a nation_. When they fell away from faith in God their obedience
languished, their vigour failed, the end of their existence being lost
sight of, and so they became the prey of enemies. But this did not
apply to individuals. The good suffered along with the careless and
wicked in seasons of national calamity. And the history of the people
of Israel would support such a view of the Divine government so long
only as national transgression and its punishment were alone taken
into account. Now, however, the distinction between the nation and the
individual has clearly emerged. The sin of a community can no longer
explain satisfactorily the sufferings of a member of the community,
faithful among the unbelieving.

But the theory seems to have been made out rather by the following
course of argument. Always in the administration of law and the
exercise of paternal authority, transgression has been visited with
pain and deprivation of privilege. The father whose son has disobeyed
him inflicts pain, and, if he is a judicious father, makes the pain
proportionate to the offence. The ruler, through his judges and
officers, punishes transgression according to some orderly code.
Malefactors are deprived of liberty; they are fined or scourged, or,
in the last resort, executed. Now, having in this way built up a
system of law which inflicts punishment with more or less justice in
proportion to the offence imputed, men take for granted that what they
do imperfectly is done perfectly by God. They take for granted that
the calamities and troubles He appoints are ordained according to the
same principle, with precisely the same design, as penalty is
inflicted by a father, a chief, or a king. The reasoning is
contradicted in many ways, but they disregard the difficulties. If
this is not the truth, what other explanation is to be found? The
desire for happiness is keen; pain seems the worst of evils: and they
fail to see that endurance can be the means of good. Feeling
themselves bound to maintain the perfect righteousness of God they
affirm the only theory of suffering that seems to agree with it.

Now, Zophar, like the others full of this theory, admits that Job may
have failed to see his transgression. But in that case the sufferer is
unable to distinguish right from wrong. Indeed, his whole contention
seems to Zophar to show ignorance. If God were to speak and reveal the
secrets of His holy wisdom, twice as deep, twice as penetrating as Job
supposes, the sins he has denied would be brought home to him. He
would know that God requires less of him than his iniquity deserves.
Zophar hints, what is very true, that our judgment of our own conduct
is imperfect. How can we trace the real nature of our actions, or know
how they look to the sublime wisdom of the Most High? Job appears to
have forgotten all this. He refuses to allow fault in himself. But God
knows better.

Here is a cunning argument to fortify the general position. It could
always be said of a case which presented difficulties that, while the
sufferer seemed innocent, yet the wisdom of God, "twofold in
understanding" (ver. 6) as compared with that of man, perceived guilt
and ordained the punishment. But the argument proved too much, for
Zophar's own health and comfort contradicted his dogma. He took for
granted that the twofold wisdom of the Almighty found nothing wrong in
him. It was a naïve piece of forgetfulness. Could he assert that his
life had no flaw? Hardly. But then, why is he in honour? How had he
been able to come riding on his camel, attended by his servants, to
sit in judgment on Job? Plainly, on an argument like his, no man could
ever be in comfort or pleasure, for human nature is always defective,
always in more or less of sin. Repentance never overtakes the future.
Therefore God who deals with man on a broad basis could never treat
him save as a sinner, to be kept in pain and deprivation. If suffering
is the penalty of sin we ought all, notwithstanding the atonement of
Christ, to be suffering the pain of the hour for the defect of the
hour, since "all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God." At
this rate man's life--again despite the atonement--would be continued
trial and sentence. From all which it is evident that the world is
governed on another plan than that which satisfied Job's friends.

Zophar rises to eloquence in declaring the unsearchableness of Divine
wisdom.

      "_Canst thou find the depths of Eloah?
       Canst thou reach to the end of Shaddai?
       Heights of heaven! What canst thou do?
       Deeper than Sheol! What canst thou know?
       The measure thereof is longer than the earth,
       Broader is it than the sea._"

Here is fine poetry; but with an attempt at theology the speaker goes
astray, for he conceives God as doing what he himself wishes to do,
namely, prove Job a sinner. The Divine greatness is invoked that a
narrow scheme of thought may be justified. If God pass by, if He
arrest, if He hold assize, who can hinder Him? Supreme wisdom and
infinite power admit no questioning, no resistance. God knoweth vain
or wicked men at a glance. One look and all is plain to Him. Empty man
will be wise in these matters "when a wild ass's colt is born a man."

Turning from this, as if in recollection that he has to treat Job with
friendliness, Zophar closes like the other two with a promise. If Job
will put away sin, his life shall be established again, his misery
forgotten or remembered as a torrent of spring when the heat of summer
comes.

      "_Thou shalt forget thy misery;
       Remember it as waters that have passed by;
       And thy life shall rise brighter than noonday;
       And if darkness fall, it shall be as the morning.
       Thou shalt then have confidence because there is hope;
       Yea, look around and take rest in safety,
       Also lie down and none shall affray thee,
       And many shall make suit unto thee.
       But the eyes of the wicked fail;
       For them no way of escape.
       And their hope is to breathe out the spirit._"

Rhetoric and logic are used in promises given freely by all the
speakers. But not one of them has any comfort for his friend while the
affliction lasts. The author does not allow one of them to say, God is
thy friend, God is thy portion--now; He still cares for thee. In some
of the psalms a higher note is heard: "There be many that say, Who will
shew us any good? LORD, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon
us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their
corn and their wine increased." The friends of Job are full of pious
intentions, yet they state a most unspiritual creed, the foundation of
it laid in corn and wine. Peace of conscience and quiet confidence in
God are not what they go by. Hence the sufferer finds no support in them
or their promises. They will not help him to live one day, nor sustain
him in dying. For it is the light of God's countenance he desires to
see. He is only mocked and exasperated by their arguments; and in the
course of his own eager thought the revelation comes like a star of hope
rising on the midnight of his soul.

Though Zophar fails like the other two, he is not to be called a mere
echo. It is incorrect to say that, while Eliphaz is a kind of prophet
and Bildad a sage, Zophar is a commonplace man without ideas. On the
contrary, he is a thinker, something of a philosopher, although, of
course, greatly restricted by his narrow creed. He is stringent,
bitter indeed. But he has the merit of seeing a certain force in Job's
contention which he does not fairly meet. It is a fresh suggestion
that the answer must lie in the depth of that penetrating wisdom of
the Most High, compared to which man's wisdom is vain. Then, his
description of the return of blessedness and prosperity, when one
examines it, is found distinctly in advance of Eliphaz's picture in
moral colouring and gravity of treatment. We must not fail to notice,
moreover, that Zophar speaks of the omniscience of God more than of
His omnipotence; and the closing verse describes the end of the wicked
not as the result of a supernatural stroke or a sudden calamity, but
as a process of natural and spiritual decay.

The closing words of Zophar's speech point to the finality of death, and
bear the meaning that if Job were to die now of his disease the whole
question of his character would be closed. It is important to note this,
because it enters into Job's mind and affects his expressions of desire.
Never again does he cry for release as before. If he names death it is
as a sorrowful fate he must meet or a power he will defy. He advances to
one point after another of reasserted energy, to the resolution that,
whatever death may do, either in the underworld or beyond it he will
wait for vindication or assert his right.



XII.

_BEYOND FACT AND FEAR TO GOD._

JOB SPEAKS. CHAPS. xii.-xiv.


Zophar excites in Job's mind great irritation, which must not be set
down altogether to the fact that he is the third to speak. In some
respects he has made the best attack from the old position, pressing
most upon the conscience of Job. He has also used a curt positive tone
in setting out the method and principle of Divine government and the
judgment he has formed of his friend's state. Job is accordingly the
more impatient, if not disconcerted. Zophar had spoken of the want of
understanding Job had shown, and the penetrating wisdom of God which
at a glance convicts men of iniquity. His tone provoked resentment.
Who is this that claims to have solved the enigmas of providence, to
have gone into the depths of wisdom? Does he know any more, he
himself, than the wild ass's colt?

And Job begins with stringent irony--

      "_No doubt but ye are the people,
       And wisdom shall die with you._"

The secrets of thought, of revelation itself are yours. No doubt the
world waited to be taught till you were born. Do you not think so?
But, after all, I also have a share of understanding, I am not quite
so void of intellect as you seem to fancy. Besides, who knoweth not
such things as ye speak? Are they new? I had supposed them to be
commonplaces. Yea, if you recall what I said, you will find that with
a little more vigour than yours I made the same declarations.

      "_A laughing-stock to his neighbours am I,
       I who called upon Eloah and He answered me,--
       A laughing-stock, the righteous and perfect man._"

Job sees or thinks he sees that his misery makes him an object of
contempt to men who once gave him the credit of far greater wisdom and
goodness than their own. They are bringing out old notions, which are
utterly useless, to explain the ways of God; they assume the place of
teachers; they are far better, far wiser now than he. It is more than
flesh can bear.

As he looks at his own diseased body and feels again his weakness, the
cruelty of the conventional judgment stings him. "In the thought of
him that is at ease there is for misfortune scorn; it awaiteth them
that slip with the foot." Perhaps Job was mistaken, but it is too
often true that the man who fails in a social sense is the man
suspected. Evil things are found in him when he is covered with the
dust of misfortune, things which no one dreamed of before. Flatterers
become critics and judges. They find that he has a bad heart or that
he is a fool.

But if those very good and wise friends of Job are astonished at
anything previously said, they shall be more astonished. The facts
which their account of Divine providence very carefully avoided as
inconvenient Job will blurt out. They have stated and restated, with
utmost complacency, their threadbare theory of the government of God.
Let them look now abroad on the world and see what actually goes on,
blinking no facts.

The tents of robbers prosper. Out in the desert there are troops of
bandits who are never overtaken by justice; and they that provoke God
are secure, who carry a god in their hand, whose sword and the
reckless daring with which they use it make them to all appearance
safe in villainy. These are the things to be accounted for; and,
accounting for them, Job launches into a most emphatic argument to
prove all that is done in the world strangely and inexplicably to be
the doing of God. As to that he will allow no question. His friends
shall know that he is sound on this head. And let them provide the
defence of Divine righteousness after he has spoken.

Here, however, it is necessary to consider in what way the limitations
of Hebrew thought must have been felt by one who, turning from the
popular creed, sought a view more in harmony with fact. Now-a-days the
word _nature_ is often made to stand for a force or combination of
forces conceived of as either entirely or partially independent of
God. Tennyson makes the distinction when he speaks of man

      "Who trusted God was love indeed
         And love creation's final law,
         Though nature, red in tooth and claw
       With ravin, shrieked against the creed"

and again when he asks--

      "Are God and nature then at strife
         That nature lends such evil dreams,
         So careful of the type she seems,
       So careless of the single life?"

Now to this question, perplexing enough on the face of it when we
consider what suffering there is in the creation, how the waves of
life seem to beat and break themselves age after age on the rocks of
death, the answer in its first stage is that God and nature cannot be
at strife. They are not apart; there is but one universe, therefore
one Cause. One Omnipotent there is whose will is done, whose character
is shown in all we see and all we cannot see, the issues of endless
strife, the long results of perennial evolution. But then comes the
question, What is His character, of what spirit is He who alone rules,
who sends after the calm the fierce storm, after the beauty of life
the corruption of death? And one may say the struggle between Bible
religion and modern science is on this very field.

Cold heartless power, say some; no Father, but an impersonal Will to
which men are nothing, human joy and love nothing, to which the fair
blossom is no more than the clod, and the holy prayer no better than
the vile sneer. On this, faith arises to the struggle. Faith warm and
hopeful takes reason into counsel, searches the springs of existence,
goes forth into the future and forecasts the end, that it may affirm
and reaffirm against all denial that One Omnipotent reigns who is
all-loving, the Father of infinite mercy. Here is the arena; here the
conflict rages and will rage for many a day. And to him will belong
the laurels of the age who, with the Bible in one hand and the
instruments of science in the other, effects the reconciliation of
faith with fact. Tennyson came with the questions of our day. He
passes and has not given a satisfactory answer. Carlyle has gone with
the "Everlasting Yea and No" beating through his oracles. Even
Browning, a later athlete, did not find complete reason for faith.

      "From Thy will stream the worlds, life, and nature, Thy dread
               sabaoth."

Now return to Job. He considers nature; he believes in God; he stands
firmly on the conviction that all is of God. Hebrew faith held this,
and was not limited in holding it, for it is the fact. But we cannot
wonder that providence disconcerted him, since the reconciliation of
"merciless" nature and the merciful God is not even yet wrought out.
Notwithstanding the revelation of Christ, many still find themselves
in darkness just when light is most urgently craved. Willing to
believe, they yet lean to a dualism which makes God Himself appear in
conflict with the scheme of things, thwarted now and now repentant,
gracious in design but not always in effect. Now the limitation of the
Hebrew was this, that to his idea the infinite power of God was not
balanced by infinite mercy, that is, by regard to the whole work of
His hands. In one stormy dash after another Job is made to attempt
this barrier. At moments he is lifted beyond it, and sees the great
universe filled with Divine care that equals power; for the present,
however, he distinguishes between merciful intent and merciless, and
ascribes both to God.

What does he say? God is in the deceived and in the deceiver; they are
both products of nature, that is, creatures of God. He increaseth the
nations and destroyeth them. Cities arise and become populous. The
great metropolis is filled with its myriads, "among whom are six-score
thousand that cannot discern between their right hand and their left."
The city shall fulfil its cycle and perish. It is God. Searching for
reconciliation Job looks the facts of human existence right in the
face, and he sees a confusion, the whole enigma which lies in the
constitution of the world and of the soul. Observe how his thought
moves. The beasts, the fowls of the air, the fishes of the sea, all
living beings everywhere, not self-created, with no power to shape or
resist their destiny, bear witness to the almightiness of God. In His
hand is the lower creation; in His hand also, rising higher, is the
breath of all mankind. Absolute, universal is that power, dispensing
life and death as it broods over the ages. Men have sought to
understand the ways of the Great Being. The ear trieth words as the
mouth tasteth meat. Is there wisdom with the ancient, those who live
long, as Bildad says? Yes: but with God are wisdom _and strength_; not
penetration only, but power. He discerns and does. He demolishes, and
there is no rebuilding. Man is imprisoned, shut up by misfortune, by
disease. It is God's decree, and there is no opening till He allows.
At His will the waters are dried up; at His will they pour in torrents
over the earth. And so amongst men there are currents of evil and good
flowing through lives, here in the liar and cheat, there in the victim
of knavery; here in the counsellors whose plans come to nothing, there
in the judges whose sagacity is changed to folly; and all these
currents and cross-currents, making life a bewildering maze, have
their beginning in the will of God, who seems to take pleasure in
doing what is strange and baffling. Kings take men captive; the bonds
of the captives are loosed, and the kings themselves are bound. What
are princes and priests, what are the mighty to Him? What is the
speech of the eloquent? Where is the understanding of the aged when He
spreads confusion? Deep as in the very gloom of the grave the
ambitious may hide their schemes; the flux of events brings them out
to judgment, one cannot foresee how. Nations are raised up and
destroyed; the chiefs of the people are made to fear like children.
Trusted leaders wander in a wilderness; they grope in midnight gloom;
they stagger like the drunken. Behold, says Job, all this I have seen.
This is God's doing. And with this great God he would speak; he, a
man, would have things out with the Lord of all (chap. xiii. 3).

This impetuous passage, full of revolution, disaster, vast mutations,
a phantasmagoria of human struggle and defeat, while it supplies a
note of time and gives a distinct clue to the writer's position as an
Israelite, is remarkable for the faith that survives its apparent
pessimism. Others have surveyed the world and the history of change,
and have protested with their last voice against the cruelty that
seemed to rule. As for any God, they could never trust one whose will
and power were to be found alike in the craft of the deceiver and the
misery of the victim, in the baffling of sincere thought and the
overthrow of the honest with the vile. But Job trusts on. Beneath
every enigma, he looks for reason; beyond every disaster, to a Divine
end. The voices of men have come between him and the voice of the
Supreme. Personal disaster has come between him and his sense of God.
His thought is not free. If it were, he would catch the reconciling
word, his soul would hear the music of eternity. "I would reason with
God." He clings to God-given reason as his instrument of discovery.

       *       *       *       *       *

Very bold is this whole position, and very reverent also, if you will
think of it; far more honouring to God than any attempt of the friends
who, as Job says, appear to hold the Almighty no better than a petty
chief, so insecure in His position that He must be grateful to any one
who will justify His deeds. "Poor God, with nobody to help Him." Job
uses all his irony in exposing the folly of such a religion, the
impertinence of presenting it to him as a solution and a help. In
short, he tells them, they are pious quacks, and, as he will have none
of them for his part, he thinks God will not either. The author is at
the very heart of religion here. The word of reproof and correction,
the plea for providence must go straight to the reason of man, or it
is of no use. The word of the Lord must be a two-edged sword of truth,
piercing to the dividing asunder even of soul and spirit. That is to
say, into the centre of energy the truth must be driven which kills
the spirit of rebellion, so that the will of man, set free, may come
into conscious and passionate accord with the will of God. But
reconciliation is impossible unless each will deal in the utmost
sincerity with truth, realising the facts of existence, the nature of
the soul and the great necessities of its discipline. To be true in
theology we must not accept what seems to be true, nor speak
forensically, but affirm what we have proved in our own life and
gathered in utmost effort from Scripture and from nature. Men inherit
opinions as they used to inherit garments, or devise them, like
clothes of a new fashion, and from within the folds they speak, not as
men but as priests, what is the right thing according to a received
theory. It will not do. Even of old time a man like the author of Job
turned contemptuously from school-made explanations and sought a
living word. In our age the number of those whose fever can be lulled
with a working theory of religion and a judicious arrangement of the
universe is rapidly becoming small. Theology is being driven to look
the facts of life full in the face. If the world has learned anything
from modern science, it is the habit of rigorous research and the
justification of free inquiry, and the lesson will never be unlearned.

To take one error of theology. All men are concluded equally under God's
wrath and curse; then the proofs of the malediction are found in
trouble, fear and pain. But what comes of this teaching? Out in the
world, with facts forcing themselves on consciousness, the scheme is
found hollow. All are not in trouble and pain. Those who are afflicted
and disappointed are often sincere Christians. A theory of deferred
judgment and happiness is made for escape; it does not, however, in the
least enable one to comprehend how, if pain and trouble be the
consequences of sin, they should not be distributed rightly from the
first. A universal moral order cannot begin in a manner so doubtful, so
very difficult for the wayfaring man to read as he goes. To hold that it
can is to turn religion into an occultism which at every point bewilders
the simple mind. The theory is one which tends to blunt the sense of sin
in those who are prosperous, and to beget that confident Pharisaism
which is the curse of church-life. On the other hand, the "sacrificed
classes," contrasting their own moral character with that of the
frivolous and fleshly rich, are forced to throw over a theology which
binds together sin and suffering, and to deny a God whose equity is so
far to seek. And yet, again, in the recoil from all this men invent
wersh schemes of bland good-will and comfort, which have simply nothing
to do with the facts of life, no basis in the world as we know it, no
sense of the rigour of Divine love. So Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar remain
with us and confuse theology until some think it lost in unreason.

      "_But ye are patchers of lies,
       Physicians of nought are ye all.
       Oh that ye would only keep silence,
       And it should be your wisdom._" (_chap. xiii._ 4, 5).

Job sets them down with a current proverb--"Even a fool, when he
holdeth his peace, is counted wise." He begs them to be silent. They
shall now hear his rebuke.

      "_On behalf of God will ye speak wrong?
       And for Him will ye speak deceit?
       Will ye be partisans for Him?
       Or for God will ye contend?_"

Job finds them guilty of speaking falsely as special pleaders for God in
two respects. They insist that he has offended God, but they cannot
point to one sin which he has committed. On the other hand, they affirm
positively that God will restore prosperity if confession is made. But
in this too they play the part of advocates without warrant. They show
great presumption in daring to pledge the Almighty to a course in
accordance with their idea of justice. The issue might be what they
predict; it might not. They are venturing on ground to which their
knowledge does not extend. They think their presumption justified
because it is for religion's sake. Job administers a sound rebuke, and
it extends to our own time. Special pleaders for God's sovereign and
unconditional right and for His illimitable good-nature, alike have
warning here. What justification have men in affirming that God will
work out His problems in detail according to their views? He has given
to us the power to apprehend the great principles of His working. He has
revealed much in nature, providence, and Scripture, and in Christ; but
there is the "hiding of His power," "His path is in the mighty waters,
and His judgments are not known." Christ has said, "It is not for you to
know times and seasons which the Father hath set within His own
authority." There are certainties of our consciousness, facts of the
world and of revelation from which we can argue. Where these confirm, we
may dogmatise, and the dogma will strike home. But no piety, no desire
to vindicate the Almighty or to convict and convert the sinner, can
justify any man in passing beyond the certainty which God has given him
to that unknown which lies far above human ken.

      "_He will surely correct you
       If in secret ye are partial.
       Shall not His majesty terrify you,
       And His dread fall upon you?_" (_chap. xiii._ 10, 11).

The Book of Job, while it brands insincerity and loose reasoning,
justifies all honest and reverent research. Here, as in the teaching of
our Lord, the real heretic is he who is false to his own reason and
conscience, to the truth of things as God gives him to apprehend it,
who, in short, makes believe to any extent in the sphere of religion.
And it is upon this man the terror of the Divine majesty is to fall.

We saw how Bildad established himself on the wisdom of the ancients.
Recalling this, Job flings contempt on his traditional sayings.

      "_Your remembrances are proverbs of ashes,
       Your defences, defences of dust._"

Did they mean to smite him with those proverbs as with stones? They
were ashes. Did they intrench themselves from the assaults of reason
behind old suppositions? Their ramparts were mere dust. Once more he
bids them hold their peace, and let him alone that he may speak out
all that is in his mind. It is, he knows, at the hazard of his life he
goes forward; but he will. The case in which he is can have no remedy
excepting by an appeal to God, and that final appeal he will make.

Now the proper beginning of this appeal is in the twenty-third verse,
with the words: "How many are mine iniquities and my sins?" But before
Job reaches it he expresses his sense of the danger and difficulty
under which he lies, interweaving with the statement of these a
marvellous confidence in the result of what he is about to do.
Referring to the declarations of his friends as to the danger that yet
threatens if he will not confess sin, he uses a proverbial expression
for hazard of life.

      "_Why do I take my flesh in my teeth,
       And put my life in my hand?_"

Why do I incur this danger, do you say? Never mind. It is not your
affair. For bare existence I care nothing. To escape with mere
consciousness for a while is no object to me, as I now am. With my
life in my hand I hasten to God.

      "_Lo! He will slay me: I will not delay--
       Yet my ways will I maintain before Him_" (_chap. xiii._ 15).

The old Version here, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him," is
inaccurate. Still it is not far from expressing the brave purpose of
the man--prostrate before God, yet resolved to cling to the justice of
the case as he apprehends it, assured that this will not only be
excused by God, but will bring about his acquittal or salvation. To
grovel in the dust, confessing himself a miserable sinner more than
worthy of all the sufferings he has undergone, while in his heart he
has the consciousness of being upright and faithful--this would not
commend him to the Judge of all the earth. It would be a mockery of
truth and righteousness, therefore of God Himself. On the other hand,
to maintain his integrity which God gave him, to go on maintaining it
at the hazard of all, is his only course, his only safety.

      "_This also shall be my salvation,
       For a godless man shall not live before Him._"

The fine moral instinct of Job, giving courage to his theology,
declares that God demands "truth in the inward parts" and truth in
speech--that man "consists in truth"--that "if he betrays truth he
betrays himself," which is a crime against his Maker. No man is so
much in danger of separating himself from God and losing everything as
he who acts or speaks against conviction.

Job has declared his hazard, that he is lying helpless before Almighty
Power which may in a moment crush him. He has also expressed his faith,
that approaching God in the courage of truth he will not be rejected,
that absolute sincerity will alone give him a claim on the Infinitely
True. Now turning to his friends as if in new defiance, he says:--

      "_Hear diligently my speech,
       And my explanation with your ears.
       Behold now, I have ordered my cause;
       I know that I shall be justified.
       Who is he that will contend with me?
       For then would I hold my peace and expire._"

That is to say, he has reviewed his life once more, he has considered
all possibilities of transgression, and yet his contention remains. So
much does he build upon his claim on God that, if any one could now
convict him, his heart would fail, life would no more be worth living;
the foundation of hope destroyed, conflict would be at an end.

But with his plea to God still in view he expresses once more his
sense of the disadvantage under which he lies. The pressure of the
Divine hand is upon him still, a sore enervating terror which bears
upon his soul. Would God but give him respite for a little from the
pain and the fear, then he would be ready either to answer the summons
of the Judge or make his own demand for vindication.

       *       *       *       *       *

We may suppose an interval of release from pain or at least a pause of
expectancy, and then, in verse twenty-third, Job begins his cry. The
language is less vehement than we have heard. It has more of the
pathos of weak human life. He is one with that race of thinking,
feeling, suffering creatures who are tossed about on the waves of
existence, driven before the winds of change like autumn leaves. It is
the plea of human feebleness and mortality we hear, and then, as the
"still sad music" touches the lowest note of wailing, there mingles
with it the strain of hope.

      "_How many are mine iniquities and sins?
       Make me to know my transgression and my sin._"

We are not to understand here that Job confesses great transgressions,
nor, contrariwise, that he denies infirmity and error in himself.
There are no doubt failures of his youth which remain in memory, sins
of desire, errors of ignorance, mistakes in conduct such as the best
men fall into. These he does not deny. But righteousness and happiness
have been represented as a profit and loss account, and therefore Job
wishes to hear from God a statement in exact form of all he has done
amiss or failed to do, so that he may be able to see the relation
between fault and suffering, his faults and his sufferings, if such
relation there be. It appears that God is counting him an enemy (ver.
24). He would like to have the reason for that. So far as he knows
himself he has sought to obey and honour the Almighty. Certainly there
has never been in his heart any conscious desire to resist the will of
Eloah. Is it then for transgressions unwittingly committed that he now
suffers--for sins he did not intend or know of? God is just. It is
surely a part of His justice to make a sufferer aware why such
terrible afflictions befal him.

And then--is it worth while for the Almighty to be so hard on a poor
weak mortal?

      "_Wilt thou scare a driven leaf--
       Wilt thou pursue the dry stubble--
       That thou writest bitter judgments against me,
       And makest me to possess the faults of my youth,
       And puttest my feet in the stocks,
       And watchest all my paths,
       And drawest a line about the soles of my feet--
       One who as a rotten thing is consuming,
       As a garment that is moth-eaten?_"

The sense of rigid restraint and pitiable decay was perhaps never
expressed with so fit and vivid imagery. So far it is personal. Then
begins a general lamentation regarding the sad fleeting life of man.
His own prosperity, which passed as a dream, has become to Job a type
of the brief vain existence of the race tried at every moment by
inexorable Divine judgment; and the low mournful words of the Arabian
chief have echoed ever since in the language of sorrow and loss.

      "_Man that is born of woman,
       Of few days is he and full of trouble.
       Like the flower he springs up and withers;
       Like a shadow he flees and stays not.
       Is it on such a one Thou hast fixed Thine eye?
       Bringest Thou me into Thy judgment?
       Oh that the clean might come out of the unclean!
       But there is not one._"

Human frailty is both of the body and of the soul; and it is
universal. The nativity of men forbids their purity. Well does God
know the weakness of His creatures; and why then does He expect of
them, if indeed He expects, a pureness that can stand the test of His
searching? Job cannot be free from the common infirmity of mortals. He
is born of woman. But why then is he chased with inquiry, haunted and
scared by a righteousness he cannot satisfy? Should not the Great God
be forbearing with a man?

      "_Since his days are determined,
       The number of his moons with Thee,
       And Thou hast set him bounds not to be passed;
       Look Thou away from him, that he may rest,
       At least fulfil as a hireling his day._"

Man's life being so short, his death so sure and soon, seeing he is
like a hireling in the world, might he not be allowed a little rest?
might he not, as one who has fulfilled his day's work, be let go for a
little repose ere he die? That certain death, it weighs upon him now,
pressing down his thought.

      "_For even a tree hath hope;
       If it be hewn down it will sprout anew,
       The young shoot thereof will not fail.
       If in the earth its root wax old,
       Or in the ground its stock should die,
       Yet at the scent of water it will spring,
       And shoot forth boughs like a new plant.
       But a man: he dies and is cut off;
       Yea, when men die, they are gone.
       Ebbs away the water from the sea,
       And the stream decays and dries:
       So when men have lain down they rise not;
       Till the heavens vanish they never awake,
       Nor are they roused from their sleep._"

No arguments, no promises can break this deep gloom and silence into
which the life of man passes. Once Job had sought death; now a desire
has grown within him, and with it recoil from Sheol. To meet God, to
obtain his own justification and the clearing of Divine righteousness,
to have the problem of life explained--the hope of this makes life
precious. Is he to lie down and rise no more while the skies endure? Is
no voice to reach him from the heavenly justice he has always confided
in? The very thought is confounding. If he were now to desire death it
would mean that he had given up all faith, that justice, truth, and even
the Divine name of Eloah had ceased to have any value for him.

       *       *       *       *       *

We are to behold the rise of a new hope, like a star in the firmament
of his thought. Whence does it spring?

The religion of the Book of Job, as already shown, is, in respect of
form, a natural religion; that is to say, the ideas are not derived
from the Hebrew Scriptures. The writer does not refer to the
legislation of Moses and the great words of prophets. The expression
"As the Lord said unto Moses" does not occur in this book, nor any
equivalent. It is through nature and the human consciousness that the
religious beliefs of the poem appear to have come into shape. Yet two
facts are to be kept fully in view.

The first is that even a natural religion must not be supposed to be a
thing of man's invention, with no origin further than his dreams. We
must not declare all religious ideas outside those of Israel to be
mere fictions of the human fancy or happy guesses at truth. The
religion of Teman may have owed some of its great thoughts to Israel.
But, apart from that, a basis of Divine revelation is always laid
wherever men think and live. In every land the heart of man has borne
witness to God. Reverent thought, dwelling on justice, truth, mercy,
and all virtues found in the range of experience and consciousness,
came through them to the idea of God. Every one who made an induction
as to the Great Unseen Being, his mind open to the facts of nature and
his own moral constitution, was in a sense a prophet. As far as they
went, the reality and value of religious ideas, so reached, are
acknowledged by Bible writers themselves. "The invisible things of God
from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived
through the things that are made, even His everlasting power and
divinity." God has always been revealing Himself to men.

"Natural religion" we say: and yet, since God is always revealing
Himself and has made all men more or less capable of apprehending the
revelation, even the natural is supernatural. Take the religion of
Egypt, or of Chaldæa, or of Persia. You may contrast any one of these
with the religion of Israel; you may call the one natural, the other
revealed. But the Persian speaking of the Great Good Spirit or the
Chaldæan worshipping a supreme Lord must have had some kind of
revelation; and his sense of it, not clear indeed, far enough below
that of Moses or Isaiah, was yet a forth-reaching towards the same
light as now shines for us.

Next we must keep it in view that Job does not appear as a thinker
building on himself alone, depending on his own religious experience.
Centuries and ages of thought are behind these beliefs which are
ascribed to him, even the ideas which seem to start up freshly as the
result of original discovery. Imagine a man thinking for himself about
Divine things in that far-away Arabian past. His mind, to begin with, is
not a blank. His father has instructed him. There is a faith that has
come down from many generations. He has found words in use which hold in
them religious ideas, discoveries, perceptions of Divine reality, caught
and fixed ages before. When he learned language the products of
evolution, not only psychical, but intellectual and spiritual, became
his. Eloah, the lofty one, the righteousness of Eloah, the word of
Eloah, Eloah as Creator, as Watcher of men, Eloah as wise, unsearchable
in wisdom, as strong, infinitely mighty,--these are ideas he has not
struck out for himself, but inherited. Clearly then a new thought,
springing from these, comes as a supernatural communication and has
behind it ages of spiritual evolution. It is new, but has its root in
the old; it is natural, but originates in the over-nature.

Now the primitive religion of the Semites, the race to which Job
belonged, to which also the Hebrews belonged, has been of late carefully
studied; and with regard to it certain things have been established that
bear on the new hope we are to find struck out by the Man of Uz.

In the early morning of religious thought among those Semites it was
universally believed that the members of a family or tribe, united by
blood-relationship to each other, were also related in the same way to
their God. He was their father, the invisible head and source of their
community, on whom they had a claim so long as they pleased him. His
interest in them was secured by the sacrificial meal which he was
invited and believed to share with them. If he had been offended, the
sacrificial offering was the means of recovering his favour; and
communion with him in those meals and sacrifices was the inheritance
of all who claimed the kinship of that clan or tribe. With the
clearing of spiritual vision this belief took a new form in the minds
of the more thoughtful. The idea of communion remained and the
necessity of it to the life of the worshipper was felt even more
strongly when the kinship of the God with his subject family was, for
the few at least, no longer an affair of physical descent and
blood-relationship, but of spiritual origin and attachment. And when
faith rose from the tribal god to the idea of the Heaven-Father, the
one Creator and King, communion with Him was felt to be in the highest
sense a vital necessity. Here is found the religion of Job. A main
element of it was communion with Eloah, an ethical kinship with Him,
no arbitrary or merely physical relation, but of the spirit. That is
to say, Job has at the heart of his creed the truth as to man's
origin and nature. The author of the book is a Hebrew; his own faith
is that of the people from whom we have the Book of Genesis; but he
treats here of man's relation to God from the ethnic side, such as may
be taken now by a reasoner treating of spiritual evolution.

Communion with Eloah had been Job's life, and with it had been
associated his many years of wealth, dignity, and influence. Lest his
children should fall from it and lose their most precious inheritance,
he used to bring the periodical offerings. But at length his own
communion was interrupted. The sense of being at one with Eloah, if
not lost, became dull and faint. It is for the restoration of his very
life--not as we might think of religious feeling, but of actual spirit
energy--he is now concerned. It is this that underlies his desire for
God to speak with him, his demand for an opportunity of pleading his
cause. Some might expect that he would ask his friends to offer
sacrifice on his behalf. But he makes no such request. The crisis has
come in a region higher than sacrifice, where observances are of no
use. Thought only can reach it; the discovery of reconciling truth
alone can satisfy. Sacrifices which for the old world sustained the
relation with God could no more for Job restore the intimacy of the
spiritual Lord. With a passion for this fellowship keener than ever,
since he now more distinctly realises what it is, a fear blends in the
heart of the man. Death will be upon him soon. Severed from God he
will fall away into the privation of that world where is neither
praise nor service, knowledge nor device. Yet the truth which lies at
the heart of his religion does not yield. Leaning all upon it, he
finds it strong, elastic. He sees at least a possibility of
reconciliation; for how can the way back to God ever be quite closed?

What difficulty there was in his effort we know. To the common thought
of the time when this book was written, say that of Hezekiah, the
state of the dead was not extinction indeed, but an existence of
extreme tenuity and feebleness. In Sheol there was nothing active. The
hollow ghost of the man was conceived of as neither hoping nor
fearing, neither originating nor receiving impressions. Yet Job dares
to anticipate that even in Sheol a set time of remembrance will be
ordained for him and he shall hear the thrilling call of God. As it
approaches this climax the poem flashes and glows with prophetic fire.

      "_Oh that Thou would'st hide me in Sheol,
       That Thou would'st keep me secret until Thy wrath be past,
       That Thou would'st appoint a set time, and remember me!
       If a (strong) man die, shall he live?
       All the days of my appointed time would I wait
       Till my release came.
       Thou would'st call, I would answer Thee;
       Thou would'st have a desire to the work of Thy hands._"

Not easily can we now realise the extraordinary step forward made in
thought when the anticipation was thrown out of spiritual life going
on beyond death ("would I wait"), retaining intellectual potency in
that region otherwise dark and void to the human imagination ("I would
answer Thee"). From both the human side and the Divine the poet has
advanced a magnificent intuition, a springing arch into which he is
unable to fit the keystone--the spiritual body; for He only could do
this who long afterwards came to be Himself the Resurrection and the
Life. But when this poem of Job had been given to the world a new
thought was implanted in the soul of the race, a new hope that should
fight against the darkness of Sheol till that morning when the sunrise
fell upon an empty sepulchre, and one standing in the light asked of
sorrowful men, Why seek ye the living among the dead?

"Thou would'st have a desire to the work of Thy hands." What a
philosophy of Divine care underlies the words! They come with a force
Job seems hardly to realise. Is there a High One who makes men in His
own image, capable of fine achievement, and then casts them away in
discontent or loathing? The voice of the poet rings in a passionate
key because he rises to a thought practically new to the human mind.
He has broken through barriers both of faith and doubt into the light
of his hope and stands trembling on the verge of another world. "One
must have had a keen perception of the profound relation between the
creature and his Maker in the past to be able to give utterance to
such an imaginative expectation respecting the future."

But the wrath of God still appears to rest upon Job's life; still He
seems to keep in reserve, sealed up, unrevealed, some record of
transgressions for which He has condemned His servant. From the height
of hope Job falls away into an abject sense of the decay and misery to
which man is brought by the continued rigour of Eloah's examination.
As with shocks of earthquake mountains are broken, and waters by
constant flowing wash down the soil and the plants rooted in it, so
human life is wasted by the Divine severity. In the world the children
whom a man loved are exalted or brought low, but he knows nothing of
it. His flesh corrupts in the grave and his soul in Sheol languishes.

      "_Thou destroyest the hope of man.
       Thou ever prevailest against him, and he passeth;
       Thou changest his countenance and sendest him away._"

The real is at this point so grim and insistent as to shut off the
ideal and confine thought again to its own range. The energy of the
prophetic mind is overborne, and unintelligible fact surrounds and
presses hard the struggling personality.



THE SECOND COLLOQUY.



XIII.

_THE TRADITION OF A PURE RACE._

ELIPHAZ SPEAKS. CHAP. xv.


The first colloquy has made clear severance between the old Theology
and the facts of human life. No positive reconciliation is effected as
yet between reality and faith, no new reading of Divine providence has
been offered. The author allows the friends on the one hand, Job on
the other, to seek the end of controversy just as men in their
circumstances would in real life have sought it. Unable to penetrate
behind the veil the one side clings obstinately to the ancestral
faith, on the other side the persecuted sufferer strains after a hope
of vindication apart from any return of health and prosperity, which
he dares not expect. One of the conditions of the problem is the
certainty of death. Before death, repentance and restoration,--say the
friends. Death immediate, therefore should God hear me, vindicate
me,--says Job. In desperation he breaks through to the hope that
God's wrath will pass even though his scared and harrowed life be
driven into Sheol. For a moment he sees the light; then it seems to
expire. To the orthodox friends any such thought is a kind of
blasphemy. They believe in the nullity of the state beyond death.
There is no wisdom nor hope in the grave. "The dead know not anything,
neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is
forgotten"--even by God. "As well their love, as their hatred and
their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for
ever in anything that is done under the sun" (Eccles. ix. 5, 6). On
the mind of Job this dark shadow falls and hides the star of his hope.
To pass away under the reprobation of men and of God, to suffer the
final stroke and be lost for ever in the deep darkness;--anticipating
this, how can he do otherwise than make a desperate fight for his own
consciousness of right and for God's intervention while yet any breath
is left in him? He persists in this. The friends do not approach him
one step in thought; instead of being moved by his pathetic entreaties
they draw back into more bigoted judgment.

In opening the new circle of debate Eliphaz might be expected to yield
a little, to admit something in the claim of the sufferer, granting at
least for the sake of argument that his case is hard. But the writer
wishes to show the rigour and determination of the old creed, or
rather of the men who preach it. He will not allow them one sign of
_rapprochement_. In the same order as before the three advance their
theory, making no attempt to explain the facts of human existence to
which their attention has been called. Between the first and the
second round there is, indeed, a change of position, but in the line
of greater hardness. The change is thus marked. Each of the three,
differing _toto cœlo_ from Job's view of his case, had introduced an
encouraging promise. Eliphaz had spoken of six troubles, yea seven,
from which one should be delivered if he accepted the chastening of
the Lord. Bildad affirmed

      "_Behold, God will not cast away the perfect:
       He will yet fill thy mouth with laughter
       And thy lips with shouting._"

Zophar had said that if Job would put away iniquity he should be led
into fearless calm.

      "_Thou shall be steadfast and not fear,
       For thou shalt forget thy misery;
       Remember it as waters that are passed by._"

That is a note of the first series of arguments; we hear nothing of it
in the second. One after another drives home a stern, uncompromising
judgment.

       *       *       *       *       *

The dramatic art of the author has introduced several touches into the
second speech of Eliphaz which maintain the personality. For example,
the formula "I have seen" is carried on from the former address where
it repeatedly occurs, and is now used quite incidentally, therefore
with all the more effect. Again the "crafty" are spoken of in both
addresses with contempt and aversion, neither of the other
interlocutors of Job nor Job himself using the word. The thought of
chap. xv. 15 is also the same as that ventured upon in chap. iv. 18, a
return to the oracle which gave Eliphaz his claim to be a prophet.
Meanwhile he adopts from Bildad the appeal to ancient belief in
support of his position; but he has an original way of enforcing this
appeal. As a pure Temanite he is animated by the pride of race and
claims more for his progenitors than could be allowed to a Shuchite or
Naamathite, more, certainly, than could be allowed to one who dwelt
among worshippers of the sun and moon. As a whole the thought of
Eliphaz remains what it was, but more closely brought to a point. He
does not wander now in search of possible explanations. He fancies
that Job has convicted himself and that little remains but to show
most definitely the fate he seems bent on provoking. It will be a
kindness to impress this on his mind.

The first part of the address, extending to verse 13, is an
expostulation with Job, whom in irony he calls "wise." Should a wise
man use empty unprofitable talk, filling his bosom, as it were, with
the east wind, peculiarly blustering and arid? Yet what Job says is
not only unprofitable, it is profane.

      "_Thou doest away with piety
       And hinderest devotion before God.
       For thine iniquity instructs thy mouth,
       And thou choosest the tongue of the crafty.
       Thine own mouth condemneth thee; not I;
       Thine own lips testify against thee._"

Eliphaz is thoroughly sincere. Some of the expressions used by his
friend must have seemed to him to strike at the root of reverence.
Which were they? One was the affirmation that tents of robbers prosper
and they that provoke God are secure; another the daring statement
that the deceived and the deceiver are both God's; again the confident
defence of his own life: "Behold now I have ordered my cause, I know
that I am righteous; who is he that will contend with me?" and once
more his demand why God harassed him, a driven leaf, treating him with
oppressive cruelty. Things like these were very offensive to a mind
surcharged with veneration and occupied with a single idea of Divine
government. From the first convinced that gross fault or arrogant
self-will had brought down the malediction of God, Eliphaz could not
but think that Job's iniquity was "teaching his mouth" (coming out in
his speech, forcing him to profane expressions), and that he was
choosing the tongue of the crafty. It seemed that he was trying to
throw dust in their eyes. With the cunning and shiftiness of a man who
hoped to carry off his evil-doing, he had talked of maintaining his
ways before God and being vindicated in that region where, as every
one knew, recovery was impossible. The ground of all certainty and
belief was shaken by those vehement words. Eliphaz felt that piety was
done away and devotion hindered, he could scarcely breathe a prayer in
this atmosphere foul with scepticism and blasphemy.

The writer means us to enter into the feelings of this man, to think
with him, for the time, sympathetically. It is no moral fault to be
over-jealous for the Almighty, although it is a misconception of man's
place and duty, as Elijah learned in the wilderness, when, having
claimed to be the only believer left, he was told there were seven
thousand that never bowed the knee to Baal. The speaker has this
justification, that he does not assume office as advocate for God. His
religion is part of him, his feeling of shock and disturbance quite
natural. Blind to the unfairness of the situation he does not consider
the incivility of joining with two others to break down one sick
bereaved man, to scare a driven leaf. This is accidental. Controversy
begun, a pious man is bound to carry on, as long as may be necessary,
the argument which is to save a soul.

Nevertheless, being human, he mingles a tone of sarcasm as he proceeds.

      "_The first man wast thou born?
       Or wast thou made before the hills?
       Did'st thou hearken in the conclave of God?
       And dost thou keep the wisdom to thyself?_"

Job had accused his friends of speaking unrighteously for God and
respecting His person. This pricked. Instead of replying in soft words
as he claims to have been doing hitherto ("Are the consolations of God
too small for thee and a word that dealt tenderly with thee?"),
Eliphaz takes to the sarcastic proverb. The author reserves dramatic
gravity and passion for Job, as a rule, and marks the others by
varying tones of intellectual hardness, of current raillery. Eliphaz
now is permitted to show more of the self-defender than the defender
of faith. The result is a loss of dignity.

      "_What knowest thou that we know not?
       What understandest thou that is not in us?_"

After all it is man's reason against man's reason. The answer will
only come in the judgment of the Highest.

      "_With us is he who is both grey-haired and very old,
       Older in days than thy father._"


Not Eliphaz himself surely. That would be to claim too great
antiquity. Besides, it seems a little wanting in sense. More probably
there is reference to some aged rabbi, such as every community loved
to boast of, the Nestor of the clan, full of ancient wisdom. Eliphaz
really believes that to be old is to be near the fountain of truth.
There was an origin of faith and pure life. The fathers were nearer
that holy source; and wisdom meant going back as far as possible up
the stream. To insist on this was to place a real barrier in the way
of Job's self-defence. He would scarcely deny it as the theory of
religion. What then of his individual protest, his philosophy of the
hour and of his own wishes? The conflict is presented here with much
subtlety, a standing controversy in human thought. Fixed principles
there must be; personal research, experience and passion there are,
new with every new age. How settle the antithesis? The Catholic
doctrine has not yet been struck out that will fuse in one commanding
law the immemorial convictions of the race and the widening visions of
the living soul. The agitation of the church to-day is caused by the
presence within her of Eliphaz and Job--Eliphaz standing for the
fathers and their faith, Job passing through a fever-crisis of
experience and finding no remedy in the old interpretations. The
church is apt to say, Here is moral disease, sin; we have nothing for
that but rebuke and aversion. Is it wonderful that the tried life,
conscious of integrity, rises in indignant revolt? The taunt of sin,
scepticism, rationalism or self-will is too ready a weapon, a sword
worn always by the side or carried in the hand. Within the House of
God men should not go armed, as if brethren in Christ might be
expected to prove traitors.

The question of the eleventh verse--"Are the consolations of God too
small for thee?"--is intended to cover the whole of the arguments
already used by the friends and is arrogant enough as implying a
Divine commission exercised by them. "The word that dealt tenderly
with thee," says Eliphaz; but Job has his own idea of the tenderness
and seems to convey it by an expressive gesture or glance which
provokes a retort almost angry from the speaker,--

      "_Why doth thine heart carry thee away,
       And why do thine eyes wink,
       That thou turnest thy breathing against God,
       And sendest words out of thy mouth?_"

We may understand a brief emphatic word of repudiation not unmixed with
contempt and, at the same time, not easy to lay hold of. Eliphaz now
feels that he may properly insist on the wickedness of man--painfully
illustrated in Job himself--and depict the certain fate of him who
defies the Almighty and trusts in his own "vanity." The passage is from
first to last repetition, but has new colour of the quasi-prophetic kind
and a certain force and eloquence that give it fresh interest.

Formerly Eliphaz had said, "Shall man be just beside God? Behold He
putteth no trust in His servants, and His angels He chargeth with
folly." Now, with a keener emphasis, and adopting Job's own confession
that man born of woman is impure, he asserts the doctrine of
creaturely imperfection and human corruption.

      "_Eloah trusteth not in His holy ones,
       And the heavens are not pure in His sight;
       How much less the abominable and corrupt,
       Man, who drinketh iniquity as water!_"

First is set forth the refusal of God to put confidence in the holiest
creature,--a touch, as it were, of suspicion in the Divine rule. A
statement of the holiness of God otherwise very impressive is marred by
this too anthropomorphic suggestion. Why, is not the opposite true, that
the Creator puts wonderful trust not only in saints but in sinners? He
trusts men with life, with the care of the little children whom He
loves, with the use in no small degree of His creation, the powers and
resources of a world. True, there is a reservation. At no point is the
creature allowed to rule. Saint and sinner, man and angel are alike
under law and observation. None of them can be other than servants, none
of them can ever speak the final word or do the last thing in any cause.
Eliphaz therefore is dealing with a large truth, one never to be
forgotten or disallowed. Yet he fails to make right use of it, for his
second point, that of the total corruption of human nature, ought to
imply that God does not trust man at all. The logic is bad and the
doctrine will hardly square with the reference to human wisdom and to
wise persons holding the secret of God of whom Eliphaz goes on to speak.
Against him two lines of reasoning are evident. Abominable, gone sour or
putrid, to whom evil is a necessary of existence like water--if man be
that, his Creator ought surely to sweep him away and be done with him.
But since, on the other hand, God maintains the life of human beings and
honours them with no small confidence, it would seem that man, sinful as
he is, bad as he often is, does not lie under the contempt of his Maker,
is not set beyond a service of hope. In short, Eliphaz sees only what he
chooses to see. His statements are devout and striking, but too rigid
for the manifoldness of life. He makes it felt, even while he speaks,
that he himself in some way stands apart from the race he judges so
hardly. So far as the inspiration of this book goes, it is against the
doctrine of total corruption as put into the mouth of Eliphaz. He
intends a final and crushing assault on the position taken up by Job;
but his mind is prejudiced, and the man he condemns is God's approved
servant, who, in the end, will have to pray for Eliphaz that he may not
be dealt with after his folly. Quotation of the words of Eliphaz in
proof of total depravity is a grave error. The race is sinful; all men
sin, inherit sinful tendencies and yield to them: who does not confess
it? But,--all men abominable and corrupt, drinking iniquity as
water,--that is untrue at any rate of the very person Eliphaz engages to
convict.

It is remarkable that there is not a single word of personal
confession in any speech made by the friends. They are concerned
merely to state a creed supposed to be honouring to God, a full
justification from their point of view of His dealings with men. The
sovereignty of God must be vindicated by attributing this entire
vileness to man, stripping the creature of every claim on the
consideration of his Maker. The great evangelical teachers have not so
driven home their reasoning. Augustine began with the evil in his own
heart and reasoned to the world, and Jonathan Edwards in the same way
began with himself. "My wickedness," he says, "has long appeared to me
perfectly ineffable and, swallowing up all thought and imagination,
like an infinite deluge or mountains over my head. I know not how to
express better what my sins appear to me to be than by heaping
infinite on infinite and multiplying infinite by infinite." Here is no
Eliphaz arguing from misfortune to sinfulness; and indeed by that line
it is impossible ever to arrive at evangelical poverty of spirit.

Passing to his final contention here the speaker introduces it with a
special claim to attention. Again it is what "he has seen" he will
declare, what indeed all wise men have seen from time immemorial.

      "_I will inform thee: hear me;
       And what I have seen I will declare:
       Things which wise men have told,
       From their fathers, and have not hid,
       To whom alone the land was given,
       And no stranger passed in their midst._"

There is the pride. He has a peculiar inheritance of unsophisticated
wisdom. The pure Temanite race has dwelt always in the same land, and
foreigners have not mixed with it. With it, therefore, is a religion
not perverted by alien elements or the adoption of sceptical ideas
from passing strangers. The plea is distinctively Arabic and may be
illustrated by the self-complacent dogmatism of the Wahhābees of
Ri'ad, whom Mr. Palgrave found enjoying their own uncorrupted
orthodoxy. "In central Nejed society presents an element pervading it
from its highest to its lowest grades. Not only as a Wahhābee but
equally as a Nejdean the native of 'Aared and Yemāmah differs, and
that widely, from his fellow-Arab of Shomer and Kaseem, nay, of Woshem
and Sedeyr. The cause of this difference is much more ancient than the
epoch of the great Wahhābee, and must be sought first and foremost in
the pedigree itself. The descent claimed by the indigenous Arabs of
this region is from the family of Tameen, a name peculiar to these
lands.... Now Benoo-Tameem have been in all ages distinguished from
other Arabs by strongly drawn lines of character, the object of the
exaggerated praise and of the biting satire of native poets. Good or
bad, these characteristics, described some thousand years ago, are
identical with the portrait of their real or pretended descendants....
Simplicity is natural to the men of 'Aared and Yemāmah, independent of
Wahhābee puritanism and the vigour of its code." ("Central Arabia,"
pp. 272, 273.) To this people Nejed is holy, Damascus through which
Christians and other infidels go is a lax disreputable place. They
maintain a strict Mohammedanism from age to age. In their view, as in
that of Eliphaz, the land belongs to the wise people who have the
heavenly treasure and do not entertain strangers as guides of thought.
Infallibility is a very old and very abiding cult.

Eliphaz drags back his hearers to the penal visitation of the wicked,
his favourite dogma. Once more it is affirmed that for one who
transgresses the law of God there is nothing but misery, fear and
pain. Though he has a great following he lives in terror of the
destroyer; he knows that calamity will one day overtake him, and from
it there will be no deliverance. Then he will have to wander in search
of bread, his eyes perhaps put out by his enemy. So trouble and
anguish make him afraid even in his great day. There is here not a
suggestion that conscience troubles him. His whole agitation is from
fear of pain and loss. No single touch in the picture gives the idea
that this man has any sense of sin.

How does Eliphaz distinguish or imagine the Almighty distinguishing
between men in general, who are all bad and offensive in their
badness, and this particular "wicked man"? Distinction there must be.
What is it? One must assume, for the reasoner is no fool, that the
settled temper and habit of a life are meant. Revolt against God,
proud opposition to His will and law, these are the wickedness. It is
no mere stagnant pool of corruption, but a force running against the
Almighty. Very well: Eliphaz has not only made a true distinction, but
apparently stated for once a true conclusion. Such a man will indeed
be likely to suffer for his arrogance in this life, although it does
not hold that he will be haunted by fears of coming doom. But
analysing the details of the wicked life in vers. 25-28, we find
incoherency. The question is why he suffers and is afraid.

      "_Because he stretched out his hand against God,
       And bade defiance to the Almighty;
       He ran upon Him with a neck
       Upon the thick bosses of His bucklers;
       Because he covered his face with his fatness
       And made collops of fat on his flanks;
       And he dwelt in tabooed cities,
       In houses which no man ought to inhabit,
       Destined to become heaps._"

Eliphaz has narrowed down the whole contention, so that he may carry it
triumphantly and bring Job to admit, at least in this case, the law of
sin and retribution. It is fair to suppose that he is not presenting
Job's case, but an argument, rather, in abstract theology, designed to
strengthen his own general position. The author, however, by side lights
on the reasoning shows where it fails. The account of calamity and
judgment, true as it might be in the main of God-defiant lives running
headlong against the laws of heaven and earth, is confused by the other
element of wickedness--"Because he hath covered his face with his
fatness," etc. The recoil of a refined man of pure race from one of
gross sensual appetite is scarcely a fit parallel to the aversion of God
from man stubbornly and insolently rebellious. Further, the
superstitious belief that one was unpardonable who made his dwelling in
cities under the curse of God (literally, cities _cut off_ or
_tabooed_), while it might be sincerely put forward by Eliphaz, made
another flaw in his reasoning. Any one in constant terror of judgment
would have been the last to take up his abode in such accursed
habitations. The argument is strong only in picturesque assertion.

The latter end of the wicked man and his futile attempts to found a
family or clan are presented at the close of the address. He shall not
become rich; that felicity is reserved for the servants of God. No
plentiful produce shall weigh down the branches of his olives and
vines, nor shall he ever rid himself of misfortune. As by a flame or
hot breath from the mouth of God his harvest and himself shall be
carried away. The vanity or mischief he sows shall return to him in
vanity or trouble; and before his time, while life should be still
fresh, the full measure of his reward shall be paid to him. The branch
withered and dry, unripe grapes and the infertile flowers of the olive
falling to the ground point to the want of children or their early
death; for "the company of the godless shall be barren." The tents of
injustice or bribery, left desolate, shall be burned. The only fruit
of the doomed life shall be iniquity.

One hesitates to accuse Eliphaz of inaccuracy. Yet the shedding of the
petals of the olive is not in itself a sign of infertility; and
although this tree, like others, often blossoms without producing
fruit, yet it is the constant emblem of productiveness. The vine,
again, may have shed its unripe grapes in Teman; but usually they
wither. It may be feared that Eliphaz has fallen into the popular
speaker's trick of snatching at illustrations from "something supposed
to be science." His contention is partly sound in its foundation, but
fails like his analogies; and the controversy, when he leaves off, is
advanced not a single step.



XIV.

'_MY WITNESS IN HEAVEN._'

JOB SPEAKS. CHAPS. xvi., xvii.


If it were comforting to be told of misery and misfortune, to hear the
doom of insolent evil-doers described again and again in varying
terms, then Job should have been comforted. But his friends had lost
sight of their errand, and he had to recall them to it.

      "_I have heard many such things:
       Afflictive comforters are ye all.
       Shall vain words have an end?_"

He would have them consider that perpetual harping on one string is but
a sober accomplishment! Returning one after another to the wicked man,
the godless sinner, crafty, froward, sensual, overbearing, and his
certain fate of disaster and extinction, they are at once obstinately
ungracious and to Job's mind pitifully inept. He is indisposed to argue
afresh with them, but he cannot refrain from expressing his sorrow and
indeed his indignation that they have offered him a stone for bread.
Excusing themselves they had blamed him for his indifference to the
"consolations of God." All he had been aware of was their "joining words
together" against him with much shaking of the head. Was that Divine
consolation? Anything, it seemed, was good enough for him, a man under
the stroke of God. Perhaps he is a little unfair to his comforters. They
cannot drop their creed in order to assuage his grief. In a sense it
would have been easy to murmur soothing inanities.

      "One writes that 'Other friends remain,'
         That 'Loss is common to the race'--
         And common is the commonplace,
       And vacant chaff well meant for grain.

      "That loss is common would not make
         My own less bitter, rather more:
         Too common! Never morning wore
       To evening, but some heart did break."

Even so: the courteous superficial talk of men who said, Friend, you are
only accidentally afflicted; there is no stroke of God in this: wait a
little till the shadows pass, and meanwhile let us cheer you by stories
of old times:--such talk would have served Job even less than the
serious attempt of the friends to settle the problem. It is therefore
with somewhat inconsiderate irony he blames them for not giving what, if
they had offered it, he would have rejected with scorn.

      "_I also could speak like you;
       If your soul were in my soul's stead,
       I could join words together against you,
       And shake my head at you;
       I could strengthen you with my mouth,
       And the solace of my lips should assuage your grief._"

The passage is throughout ironical. No change of tone occurs in verse 5,
as the opening word _But_ in the English version is intended to imply.
Job means, of course, that such consolation as they were offering he
never would have offered them. It would be easy, but abhorrent.

So far in sad sarcasm; and then, the sense of desolation falling too
heavily on his mind for banter or remonstrance, he returns to his
complaint. What is he among men? What is he in himself? What is he
before God? Alone, stricken, the object of fierce assault and galling
reproach. After a pause of sorrowful thought he resumes the attempt to
express his woes, a final protest before his lips are silent in death.
He cannot hope that speaking will relieve his sorrow or mitigate his
pain. He would prefer to bear on

      "In all the silent manliness of grief."

But as yet the appeal he has made to God remains unanswered, for aught
he knows unheard. It appears therefore his duty to his own reputation
and his faith that he endeavour yet again to break the obstinate
doubts of his integrity which still estrange from him those who were
his friends. He uses indeed language that will not commend his case
but tend to confirm every suspicion. Were he wise in the world's way
he would refrain from repeating his complaint against God. Rather
would he speak of his misery as a simple fact of experience and strive
to argue himself into submission. This line he has not taken and never
takes. It is present to his own mind that the hand of God is against
him. Whether men will join him by-and-by in an appeal from God to God
he cannot tell. But once more all that he sees or seems to see he
will declare. Every step may bring him into more painful isolation,
yet he will proclaim his wrong.

      "_Certainly, now, He hath wearied me out.
       Thou hast made desolate my company;
       Thou hast taken hold of me,
       And it is a witness against me;
       And my leanness riseth up against me
       Bearing witness to my face._"

He is exhausted; he has come to the last stage. The circle of his
family and friends in which he once stood enjoying the love and esteem
of all--where is it now? That hold of life is gone. Then, as if in
sheer malice, God has plucked health from him, and doing so, left a
charge of unworthiness. By the sore disease the Divine hand grasps
him, keeps him down. The emaciation of his body bears witness against
him as an object of wrath. Yes; God is his enemy, and how terrible an
enemy! He is like a savage lion that tears with his teeth and glares
as if in act to devour. With God, men also, in their degree, persecute
and assail him. People from the city have come out to gaze upon him.
Word has gone round that he is being crushed by the Almighty for proud
defiance and blasphemy. Men who once trembled before him have smitten
him upon the cheek reproachfully. They gather in groups to jeer at
him. He is delivered into their hands.

But it is God, not men, of whose strange work he has most bitterly to
speak. Words almost fail him to express what his Almighty Foe has done.

      "_I was at ease, and He brake me asunder;
       Yea he hath taken me by the neck
       And dashed me to pieces:
       He hath also set me as His butt,
       His arrows compass me round about,
       He cleaveth my reins asunder and spareth not,
       He poureth my gall on the ground;
       He breaketh me with breach upon breach,
       He runneth upon me like a giant._"

Figure after figure expresses the sense of persecution by one full of
resource who cannot be resisted. Job declares himself to be physically
bruised and broken. The stings and sores of his disease are like arrows
shot from every side that rankle in his flesh. He is like a fortress
beleaguered and stormed by some irresistible enemy. His strength humbled
to the dust, his eyes foul with weeping, the eyelids swollen so that he
cannot see, he lies abased and helpless, stricken to the very heart. But
not in the chastened mood of one who has done evil and is now brought to
contrite submission. That is as far from him as ever. The whole account
is of persecution, undeserved. He suffers, but protests still that there
is no violence in his hands, also his prayer is pure. Let neither God
nor man think he is concealing sin and making appeal craftily. Sincere
he is in every word.

       *       *       *       *       *

At this point, where Job's impassioned language might be expected to
lead to a fresh outburst against heaven and earth, one of the most
dramatic turns in the thought of the sufferer brings it suddenly to a
minor harmony with the creation and the Creator. His excitement is
intense. Spiritual eagerness approaches the highest point. He invokes
the earth to help him and the mountain echoes. He protests that his
claim of integrity has its witness and must be acknowledged.

For this new and most pathetic effort to reach a benignant fidelity in
God which all his cries have not yet stirred, the former speeches have
made preparation. Rising from the thought that it was all one to God
whether he lived or died since the perfect and the wicked are alike
destroyed, bewailing the want of a daysman between him and the Most
High, Job in the tenth chapter touched the thought that his Maker
could not despise the work of His own hands. Again, in chapter xiv.,
the possibility of redemption from Sheol gladdened him for a little.
Now, under the shadow of imminent death, he abandons the hope of
deliverance from the under-world. Immediately, if at all, his
vindication must come. And it exists, written on the breast of earth,
open to the heavens, somewhere in clear words before the Highest. Not
vainly did the speaker in his days of past felicity serve God with all
his heart. The God he then worshipped heard his prayers, accepted his
offerings, made him glad with a friendship that was no empty dream.
Somewhere his Divine Friend lives still, observes still his tears and
agonies and cries. Those enemies about him taunting him with sins he
never committed, this horrible malady bearing him down into
death;--God knows of these, knows them to be cruel and undeserved. He
cries to that God, Eloah of the Elohim, Higher than the highest.

      "_O Earth, cover not my blood,
       And let my cry have no resting-place!
       Even now, lo! my witness is in heaven,
       And He that voucheth for me is on high.
       My friends scorn me:
       Mine eye sheds tears unto God--
       That he would right a man against God,
       And a son of man against his friend._"

Now--in the present stage of being, before those years expire that
lead him to the grave--Job entreats the vindication which exists in
the records of heaven. As a son of man he pleads, not as one who has
any peculiar claim, but simply as a creature of the Almighty; and he
pleads for the first time with tears. The fact that earth, too, is
besought to help him must not be overlooked. There is a touch of wide
and wistful emotion, a sense that Eloah must regard the witness of His
world. The thought has its colour from a very old feeling; it takes us
back to primæval faith, and the dumb longing before faith.

Is there in any sense a deeper depth in the faithfulness of God, a
higher heaven, more difficult to penetrate, of Divine benignity? Job
is making a bold effort to break that barrier we have already found to
exist in Hebrew thought between God as revealed by nature and
providence and God as vindicator of the individual life. The man has
that in his own heart which vouches for his life, though calamity and
disease impeach him. And in the heart of God also there must be a
witness to His faithful servant, although, meanwhile, something
interferes with the testimony God could bear. Job's appeal is to the
sun beyond the rolling clouds to shine. It is there; God is faithful
and true. It will shine. But let it shine _now_! Human life is brief
and delay will be disastrous. Pathetic cry--a struggle against what in
ordinary life is the inexorable. How many have gone the way whence
they shall not return, unheard apparently, unvindicated, hidden in
calumny and shame! And yet Job was right. The Maker has regard to the
work of His hands.

The philosophy of Job's appeal is this, that beneath all seeming discord
there is one clear note. The universe is one and belongs to One, from
the highest heaven to the deepest pit. Nature, providence,--what are
they but the veil behind which the One Supreme is hidden, the veil
God's own hands have wrought? We see the Divine in the folds of the
veil, the marvellous pictures of the arras. Yet behind is He who weaves
the changing forms, iridescent with colours of heaven, dark with
unutterable mystery. Man is now in the shadow of the veil, now in the
light of it, self-pitying, exultant, in despair, in ecstasy. He would
pass the barrier. It will not yield at his will. It is no veil now, but
a wall of adamant. Yet faith on this side answers to truth beyond; of
this the soul is assured. The cry is for God to unravel the enigmas of
His own providence, to unfold the principle of His discipline, to make
clear what is perplexing to the mind and conscience of His thinking,
suffering creature. None but He who weaves the web can withdraw it, and
let the light of eternity shine on the tangles of time. From God the
Concealer to God the Revealer, from God who hides Himself to God who is
Light, in whom is no darkness at all, we appeal. To pray on--that is
man's high privilege, man's spiritual life.

So the passage we have read is a splendid utterance of the wayworn
travelling soul conscious of sublime possibilities,--shall we not say,
certainties? Job is God-inspired in his cry, not profane, not mad, but
prophetic. For God is a bold dealer with men, and He likes bold sons.
The impeachment we almost shuddered to hear is not abominable to Him
because it is the truth of a soul. The claim that God is man's witness
is the true courage of faith: it is sincere, and it is justified.

The demand for immediate vindication still urged is inseparable from
the circumstances.

      "_For when a few years are come
       I shall go the way whence I shall not return.
       My spirit is consumed, my days extinct;
       The grave is ready for me.
       Surely there are mockeries with me
       And mine eyes lodgeth in their provocation.
       Provide a pledge now; be surely for me with Thyself.
       Who is there that will strike hands with me?_"

Moving towards the under-world, the fire of his spirit burning low
because of his disease, his body preparing its own grave, the bystanders
flouting him with mockeries under a sense of which his eyes remain
closed in weary endurance, he has need for one to undertake for him, to
give him a pledge of redemption. But who is there excepting God to whom
he can appeal? What other friend is left? Who else would be surety for
one so forlorn? Against disease and fate, against the seeming wreck of
hope and life, will not God Himself stand up for His servant? As for the
men his friends, his enemies, the Divine suretyship for Job will recoil
upon them and their cruel taunts. Their hearts are "hid from
understanding," unable to grasp the truth of the case; "Therefore Thou
shalt not exalt them"--that is, Thou shalt bring them low. Yes, when God
redeems His pledge, declares openly that He has undertaken for His
servant, the proverb shall be fulfilled--"He that giveth his fellows for
a prey, even the eyes of his children shall fail." It is a proverb of
the old way of thinking and carries a kind of imprecation. Job forgets
himself in using it. Yet how, otherwise, is the justice of God to be
invoked against those who pervert judgment and will not receive the
sincere defence of a dying man?

      "_I am even made a byeword of the populace;
       I am become one in whose face they spit:
       Mine eye also fails by reason of sorrow._"

This is apparently parenthetical--and then Job returns to the result of
the intervention of his Divine Friend. One reason why God should become
his surety is the pitiable state he is in. But another reason is the new
impetus that will be given to religion, the awakening of good men out of
their despondency, the reassurance of those who are pure in heart, the
growth of spiritual strength in the faithful and true. A fresh light
thrown on providence shall indeed startle and revive the world.

      "_Upright men shall be amazed at this,
       And the innocent shall rouse himself against the godless.
       And the righteous shall keep his way,
       And he that hath clean hands wax stronger and stronger._"

With this hope, that his life is to be rescued from darkness and the
faith of the good re-established by the fulfilment of God's suretyship,
Job comforts himself for a little--but only for a little, a moment of
strength, during which he has courage to dismiss his friends:--

      "_But as for you all, turn ye, and go;
       For I shall not find a wise man among you._"

They have forfeited all claim to his attention. Their continued
discussion of the ways of God will only aggravate his pain. Let them
take their departure then and leave him in peace.

The final passage of the speech referring to a hope present to Job's
mind has been variously interpreted. It is generally supposed that the
reference is to the promise held out by the friends that repentance
will bring him relief from trouble and new prosperity. But this is
long ago dismissed. It seems clear that _my hope_, an expression twice
used, cannot refer to one pressed upon Job but never accepted. It must
denote either the hope that God would after Job's death lay aside His
anger and forgive, or the hope that God would strike hands with him
and undertake his case against all adverse forces and circumstances.
If this be the meaning, the course of thought in the last strophe,
from verse 11 onward, is the following,--Life is running to a low ebb
with me, all I had once in my heart to do is arrested, brought to an
end; so gloomy are my thoughts that they set night for day, the light
is near unto darkness. If I wait till death come and Sheol be my
habitation and my body is given to corruption, where then shall my
hope of vindication be? As for the fulfilment of my trust in God, who
shall see it? The effort once made to maintain hope even in the face
of death is not forgotten. But he questions now whether it has the
least ground in fact. The sense of bodily decay masters his brave
prevision of a deliverance from Sheol. His mind needs yet another
strain put upon it before it shall rise to the magnificent
assertion--Without my flesh I shall see God. The tides of trust ebb
and flow. There is here a low ebb. The next advance will mark the
springtide of resolute belief.

      "_If I wait till Sheol is my house;
       Till I have spread my couch in darkness:
       If I shall have said to corruption, My father art thou,
       To the worm, My mother and my sister--
       Where then were my hope?
       As for my hope, who shall see it?
       It shall go down to the bars of Sheol,
       When once there is rest in the dust._"

How strenuous is the thought that has to fight with the grave and
corruption! The body in its emaciation and decay, doomed to be the
prey of worms, appears to drag with it into the nether darkness the
eager life of the spirit. Those who have the Christian outlook to
another life may measure by the oppression Job has to endure the value
of that revelation of immortality which is the gift of Christ.

Not in error, not in unbelief, did a man like Job fight with grim
death, strive to keep it at bay till his character was cleared. There
was no acknowledged doctrine of the future to found upon. Of sheer
necessity each burdened soul had to seek its own Apocalypse. He who
had suffered with bleeding heart a lifelong sacrifice, he who had
striven to free his fellow-slaves and sank at last overborne by
tyrannous power, the brave defeated, the good betrayed, those who
sought through heathen beliefs and those who found in revealed
religion the promises of God--all alike stood in sorrowful ignorance
before inexorable death, beheld the shadows of the under-world and
singly battled for hope amidst the deepening gloom. The sense of the
overwhelming disaster of death to one whose life and religion are
scornfully condemned is not ascribed to Job as a peculiar trial,
rarely mingling with human experience. The writer of the book has
himself felt it and has seen the shadow of it on many a face. "Where,"
as one asks, "were the tears of God as He thrust back into eternal
stillness the hands stretched out to Him in dying faith?"

There was a religion which gave large and elaborate answer to the
questions of mortality. The wide intelligence of the author of Job can
hardly have missed the creed and ceremonial of Egypt; he cannot have
failed to remember its "Book of the Dead." His own work, throughout,
is at once a parallel and a contrast to that old vision of future life
and Divine judgment. It has been affirmed that some of the forms of
expression, especially in the nineteenth chapter, have their source in
the Egyptian scripture, and that the "Book of the Dead" is full of
spiritual aspirations which give it a striking resemblance to the
Book of Job. Now, undoubtedly, the correspondence is remarkable and
will bear examination. The soul comes before Osiris, who holds the
shepherd's crook and the penal scourge. Thoth (or Logos) breathes new
spirit into the embalmed body, and the dead pleads for himself before
the assessors--"Hail to thee, great Lord of Justice. I arrive near
thee. I am one of those consecrated to thee on the earth. I reach the
land of eternity. I rejoin the eternal country. Living is he who
dwelleth in darkness; all his grandeurs live." The dead is in fact not
dead, he is recreated; _the mouth of no worm shall devour him_. At the
close of the "Book of the Dead" it is written, the departed "shall be
among the gods; his flesh and bones shall be healthy as one who is not
dead. He shall shine as a star for ever and ever. He seeth God with
his flesh." The defence of the soul in claiming beatitude is this: "I
have committed no revenge in act or in heart, no excesses in love. I
have injured no one with lies. I have driven away no beggars,
committed no treacheries, caused no tears. I have not taken another's
property, nor ruined another, nor destroyed the laws of righteousness.
I have not aroused contests, nor neglected the Creator of my soul. I
have not disturbed the joy of others. I have not passed by the
oppressed, sinning against my Creator, or the Lord, or the heavenly
powers.... I am pure, pure."[2]

There are many evident resemblances which have been already studied
and would repay further attention; but the questions occur, how far
the author of the Book of Job refused Egyptian influences, and why,
in the face of a solution of his problem apparently thrust upon him
with the authority of ages, he yet exerted himself to find a solution
of his own, meanwhile throwing his hero into the hopelessness of one
to whom death as a physical fact is final, compelled to forego the
expectation of a daysman who should affirm his righteousness before
the Lord of all. The "Book of the Dead" was, for one thing, identified
with polytheism, with idolatry and a priestly system; and a thinker
whose belief was entirely monotheistic, whose mind turned decisively
from ritual, whose interests were widely humane, was not likely to
accept as a revelation the promises of Egyptian priests to their
aristocratic patrons, or to seek light from the mysteries of Isis and
Osiris. Throughout his book our author is advancing to a conclusion
altogether apart from the ideas of Egyptian faith regarding the trust
of the soul. But chiefly his mind seems to have been repelled by the
excessive care given to the dead body, with the consequent
materialising of religion. Life to him meant so much that he needed a
far more spiritual basis for its continuance than could be found in
the preservation of the worn-out frame. With rare and unsurpassed
endeavour he was straining beyond time and sense after a vision of
life in the union of man's spirit with its Maker, and that Divine
constancy in which alone faith could have acceptance and repose. No
thought of maintaining himself in existence by having his body
embalmed is ever expressed by Job. The author seems to scorn that
childish dream of continuance. Death means decay, corruption. This
doom passed on the body the stricken life must endure, and the soul
must stay itself upon the righteousness and grace of God.

FOOTNOTE:

[2] See Renouf's Hibbert Lecture, also "The Unknown God," by C.
Loring Brace.



XV.

_A SCHEME OF WORLD-RULE._

BILDAD SPEAKS. CHAP. xviii.


Composed in the orderly parallelism of the finished _mashal_, this
speech of Bildad stands out in its strength and subtlety and, no less,
in its cruel rigour quite distinct among those addressed to Job. It is
the most trenchant attack the sufferer has to bear. The law of
retribution is stated in a hard collected tone which seems to leave no
room for doubt. The force that overbears and kills is presented rather
as fate or destiny than as moral government. No attempt is made to
describe the character of the man on whom punishment falls. We hear
nothing of proud defiance or the crime of settling in habitations
under the Divine curse. Bildad ventures no definitions that may not
fit Job's case. He labels a man godless, and then, with a dogged
relish, follows his entanglement in the net of disaster. All he says
is general, abstract; nevertheless, the whole of it is calculated to
pierce the armour of Job's supposed presumption. It is not to be borne
longer that against all wisdom and certainty this man, plainly set
among the objects of wrath, should go on defending himself as if the
judgment of men and God went for nothing.

With singular inconsistency the wicked man is spoken of as one who for
some time prospers in the world. He has a settlement from which he is
ejected, a family that perishes, a name of some repute which he loses.
Bildad begins by admitting what he afterwards denies, that a man of evil
life may have success. It is indeed only for a time, and perhaps the
idea is that he becomes wicked as he becomes rich and strong. Yet if the
effect of prosperity is to make a man proud and cruel and so bring him
at once into snares and pitfalls according to a rigorous natural
law--how then can worldly success be the reward of virtue? Bildad is
nearer the mark with description than with reasoning. It is as though he
said to Job, Doubtless you were a good man once; you were my friend and
a servant of God; but I very much fear that prosperity has done you
harm. It is clear that, as a godless man, you are now driven from light
into darkness, that fear and death wait for you. The speaker does not
see that he is overturning his own scheme of world-rule.

There is bitterness here, the personal feeling of one who has a view
to enforce. Does the man before him think he is of such account that
the Almighty will intervene to become surety for him and justify his
self-righteousness? It is necessary that Job shall not even seem to
get the best of the argument. No bystander shall say his novel
heresies appear to have a colour of truth. The speaker is accordingly
very unlike what he was in his first address. The show of politeness
and friendship is laid aside. We see the temper of a mind fed on
traditional views of truth, bound in the fetters of self-satisfied
incompetence. In his admirable exposition of this part of the book
Dr. Cox cites various Arabic proverbs of long standing which are
embodied, one way or other, in Bildad's speech. It is a cold creed
which builds on this wisdom of the world. He who can use grim sayings
against others is apt to think himself superior to their frailties, in
no danger of the penalties he threatens. And the speech of Bildad is
irritating just because everything is omitted which might give a hinge
or loop to Job's criticism.

Nowhere is the skill of the author better shown than in making these
protagonists of Job say false things plausibly and effectively. His
resources are marvellous. After the first circle of speeches the lines
of opposition to Job marked out by the tenor of the controversy might
seem to admit no more or very little fresh argument. Yet this address
is as graphic and picturesque as those before it. The full strength of
the opposition is thrown into those sentences piling threat on threat
with such apparent truth. The reason is that the crisis approaches. By
Bildad's attack the sufferer is to be roused to his loftiest
effort,--that prophetic word which is in one sense the _raison d'être_
of the book. One may say the work done here is for all time. The
manifesto of humanity against rabbinism, of the plain man's faith
against hard theology, is set beside the most specious arguments for a
rule dividing men into good and bad, simply as they appear to be happy
or unfortunate.

Bildad opens the attack by charging Job with hunting for words--an
accusation of a general kind apparently referring to the strong
expressions he had used in describing his sufferings at the hand of
God and from the criticism of men. He then calls Job to understand
his own errors, that he may be in a position to receive the truth.
Perverting and exaggerating the language of Job, he demands why the
friends should be counted as beasts and unclean, and why they should
be so branded by a man who was in revolt against providence.

      "_Why are we counted as beasts,
       As unclean even in your sight?
       Thou that tearest thyself in thine anger--
       For thy sake shall the earth be forsaken,
       And the rock be moved from its place?_"

Ewald's interpretation here brings out the force of the questions.
"Does this madman who complained that God's wrath tore him, but who,
on the contrary, sufficiently betrays his own bad conscience by
tearing himself in his anger, really demand that on his account, that
he may be justified, the earth shall be made desolate (since really,
if God Himself should pervert justice, order, and peace, the blessings
of the happy occupation of the earth could not subsist)? Does he also
hope that what is firmest, the Divine order of the world, should be
removed from its place? Oh, the fool, who in his own perversity and
confusion rebels against the everlasting order of the universe!" All
is settled from time immemorial by the laws of providence. Without
more discussion Bildad reaffirms what the unchangeable decree, as he
knows it, certainly is.

      "_Nevertheless the light of the wicked shall be put out,
       And the gleam of his fire shall not shine.
       The light shall fade in his tent,
       And his lamp over him shall be put out,
       The steps of his strength shall be straitened,
       And his own counsel shall cast him down.
       For into a net his own feet urge him,
       And he walketh over the toils.
       A snare seizeth him by the heel,
       And a noose holdeth him fast:
       In the ground its loop is hidden,
       And its mesh in the path._"

By reiteration, by a play on words the fact as it appears to Bildad is
made very clear--that for the wicked man the world is full of perils,
deliberately prepared as snares for wild animals are set by the
hunter. The general proposition is that the light of his prosperity is
an accident. It shall soon be put out and his home be given to
desolation. This comes to pass first by a restraint put on his
movements. The sense of some inimical power observing him, pursuing
him, compels him to move carefully and no longer with the free stride
of security. Then in the narrow range to which he is confined he is
caught again and again by the snares and meshes set for him by
invisible hands. His best devices for his own safety bring him into
peril. In the open country and in the narrow path alike he is seized
and held fast. More and more closely the adverse power confines him,
bearing upon his freedom and his life till his superstitious fears are
kindled. Terrors confound him now on every side and suddenly presented
startle him to his feet. This once strong man becomes weak; he who had
abundance knows what it is to hunger. And death is now plainly in his
cup. Destruction, a hateful figure, is constantly at his side,
appearing as disease which attacks the body. It is leprosy, the very
disease Job is suffering.

      "_It devoureth the members of his skin,
       Devoureth his members, even the firstborn of death.
       He is plucked from the tent of his confidence,
       And he is brought to the king of terrors._"


The personification of death here is natural, and many parallels to
the figure are easily found. Horror of death is a mark of strong
healthy life, especially among those who see beyond only some dark
Sheol of dreary hopeless existence. The "firstborn of death" is the
frightful black leprosy, and it has that figurative name as possessing
more than other diseases that power to corrupt the body which death
itself fully exercises.

This cold prediction of the death of the godless from the very malady
that has attacked Job is cruel indeed, especially from the lips of one
who formerly promised health and felicity in this world as the result
of penitence. We may say that Bildad has found it his duty to preach
the terrors of God, and the duty appears congenial to him, for he
describes with insistence and ornament the end of the godless. But he
should have deferred this terrible homily till he had clear proof of
Job's wickedness. Bildad says things in the zeal of his spirit against
the godless which he will afterwards bitterly regret.

Having brought the victim of destiny to the grave, the speaker has yet
more to say. There were consequences that extended beyond a man's own
suffering and extinction. His family, his name, all that was desired
of remembrance in this world would be denied to the evil-doer. In the
universe, as Bildad sees it, there is no room for repentance or hope
even to the children of the man against whom the decree of fate has
gone forth.

      "_They shall dwell in his tent that are none of his:
       Brimstone shall be showered on his habitation;
       His roots shall be dried up beneath,
       And above his branches shall wither;
       His memory shall perish from the land,
       And he shall have no name in the earth--
       It shall be driven from light into darkness,
       And chased out of the world._"

The habitation of the sinner shall either pass into the hand of utter
strangers or be covered with brimstone and made accursed. The roots of
his family or clan, those who still survive of an older generation,
and the branches above--children or grandchildren, as in verse
19--shall wither away. So his memory shall perish, alike in the land
where he dwelt and abroad in other regions. His name shall go into
oblivion, chased with aversion and disgust out of the world. Such,
says Bildad, is the fate of the wicked. Job saw fit to speak of men
being astonished at the vindication he was to enjoy when God appeared
for him. But the surprise would be of a different kind. At the utter
destruction of the wicked man and his seed, his homestead and memory,
they of the west would be astonished and they of the east affrighted.

As logical as many another scheme since offered to the world, a moral
scheme also, this of Bildad is at once determined and incoherent. He
has no doubt, no hesitation in presenting it. Were he the moral
governor, there would be no mercy for sinners who refused to be
convicted of sin in his way and according to his law of judgment. He
would lay snares for them, hunt them down, snatch at every argument
against them. In his view that is the only way to overcome
unregenerate hearts and convince them of guilt. In order to save a man
he would destroy him. To make him penitent and holy he would attack
his whole right to live. Of the humane temper Bildad has almost none.



XVI.

"_MY REDEEMER LIVETH._"

JOB SPEAKS. CHAP. xix.


With simple strong art sustained by exuberant eloquence the author has
now thrown his hero upon our sympathies, blending a strain of
expectancy with tender emotion. In shame and pain, sick almost to
death, baffled in his attempts to overcome the seeming indifference of
Heaven, the sufferer lies broken and dejected. Bildad's last address
describing the fate of the godless man has been deliberately planned
to strike at Job under cover of a general statement of the method of
retribution. The pictures of one seized by the "firstborn of death,"
of the lightless and desolate habitation, the withered branches and
decaying remembrance of the wicked, are plainly designed to reflect
Job's present state and forecast his coming doom. At first the effect
is almost overwhelming. The judgment of men is turned backward and
like the forces of nature and providence has become relentless. The
united pressure on a mind weakened by the body's malady goes far to
induce despair. Meanwhile the sufferer must endure the burden not only
of his personal calamities and the alienation of all human
friendships, but also of a false opinion with which he has to grapple
as much for the sake of mankind as for his own. He represents the
seekers after the true God and true religion in an age of darkness,
aware of doubts other men do not admit, labouring after a hope of
which the world feels no need. The immeasurable weight this lays on
the soul is to many unknown. Some few there are, as Carlyle says, and
Job appears one of them, who "have to realise a worship for
themselves, or live unworshipping. In dim forecastings, wrestles
within them the 'Divine Idea of the World,' yet will nowhere visibly
reveal itself. The Godlike has vanished from the world; and they, by
the strong cry of their soul's agony, like true wonder-workers, must
again evoke its presence.... The doom of the Old has long been
pronounced, and irrevocable; the Old has passed away; but, alas, the
New appears not in its stead, the Time is still in pangs of travail
with the New. Man has walked by the light of conflagrations and amid
the sound of falling cities; and now there is darkness, and long
watching till it be morning. The voice of the faithful can but
exclaim: 'As yet struggles the twelfth hour of the night: birds of
darkness are on the wing, spectres uproar, the dead walk, the living
dream. Thou, Eternal Providence, wilt cause the day to dawn.'"

As in the twelfth hour of the night, the voices of men sounding hollow
and strange to him, the author of the Book of Job found himself.
Current ideas about God would have stifled his thought if he had not
realised his danger and the world's danger and thrown himself forward,
breaking through, even with defiance and passion, to make a way for
reason to the daylight of God. Limiting and darkening statements he
took up as they were presented to him over and over again; he tracked
them to their sources in ignorance, pedantry, hardness of temper. He
insisted that the one thing for a man is resolute clearness of mind,
openness to the teaching of God, to the correction of the Almighty, to
that truth of the whole world which alone corresponds to faith.
Believing that the ultimate satisfying object of faith will disclose
itself at last to every pure seeker, each in his degree, he began his
quest and courageously pursued it, never allowing hope to wander where
reason dared not follow, checking himself on the very brink of
alluring speculation by a deliberate _reconnaissance_ of the facts of
life and the limitations of knowledge. Nowhere more clearly than in
this speech of Job does the courageous truthfulness of the author show
itself. He seems to find his oracle, and then with a sigh return to
the path of sober reality because as yet verification of the sublime
idea is beyond his power. The vision appears and is fixed in a vivid
picture--marking the highest flight of his inspiration--that those who
follow may have it before them, to be examined, tried, perhaps
approved in the long run. But for himself, or at any rate for his
hero, one who has to find his faith through the natural world and its
revelations of Divine faithfulness, the bounds within which absolute
certainty existed for the human mind at that time are accepted
unflinchingly. The hope remains; but assurance is sought on a lower
level, where the Divine order visible in the universe sheds light on
the moral life of man.

That inspiration should thus work within bounds, conscious of itself,
yet restrained by human ignorance, may be questioned. The apprehension
of transcendent truth not yet proved by argument, the authoritative
statement of such truth for the guidance and confirmation of faith,
lastly, complete independence of ordinary criticism--are not these the
functions and qualities of inspiration? And yet, here, the inspired
man, with insight fresh and marvellous, declines to allow his hero or
any thinker repose in the very hope which is the chief fruit of his
inspiration, leaving it as something thrown out, requiring to be
tested and verified; and meanwhile he takes his stand as a prophet on
those nearer, in a sense more common, yet withal sustaining principles
that are within the range of the ordinary mind. Such we shall find to
be the explanation of the speeches of the Almighty and their absolute
silence regarding the future redemption. Such also may be said to be
the reason of the epilogue, apparently so inconsistent with the scope
of the poem. On firm ground the writer takes his stand--ground which
no thinker of his time could declare to be hollow. The thorough
saneness of his mind, shown in this final decision, gives all the more
life to the flashes of prediction and the Divine intuitions which leap
out of the dark sky hanging low over the suffering man.

       *       *       *       *       *

The speech of Bildad in chap. xviii., under cover of an account of
invariable law was really a dream of special providence. He believed
that the Divine King, who, as Christ teaches, "maketh His sun to rise on
the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust,"
really singles out the wicked for peculiar treatment corresponding to
their iniquity. It is in one sense the sign of vigorous faith to
attribute action of this kind to God, and Job himself in his repeated
appeals to the unseen Vindicator shows the same conception of
providence. Should not One intent on righteousness break through the
barriers of ordinary law when doubt is cast on His equity and care?
Pardonable to Job, whose case is altogether exceptional, the notion is
one the author sees it necessary to hold in check. There is no Theophany
of the kind Job desires. On the contrary his very craving for special
intervention adds to his anxiety. Because it is not granted he affirms
that God has perverted his right; and when at last the voice of the
Almighty is heard, it is to recall the doubter from his personal desires
to the contemplation of the vast universe as revealing a wide and wise
fidelity. This undernote of the author's purpose, while it serves to
guide us in the interpretation of Job's complaints, is not allowed to
rise into the dominant. Yet it rebukes those who think the great Divine
laws have not been framed to meet their case, who rest their faith not
on what God does always and is in Himself, but on what they believe He
does sometimes and especially for them. The thoughts of the Lord are
very deep. Our lives float upon them like skiffs upon an unfathomable
ocean of power and fatherly care.

Of the treatment he receives from men Job complains, yet not because
they are the means of his overthrow.

      "_How long will ye vex my soul
       And crush me utterly with sayings?
       These ten times have ye reproached me;
       Ye are not ashamed that ye condemn me.
       And be it verily that I have erred,
       Mine error remaineth to myself.
       Will ye, indeed, exult against me
       And reproach me with my disgrace?
       Know now that God hath wronged me
       And compassed me about with His net._"

Why should his friends be so persistent in charging him with offence? He
has not wronged them. If he has erred, he himself is the sufferer. It is
not for them to take part against him. Their exultation is of a kind
they have no right to indulge, for they have not brought him to the
misery in which he lies. Bildad spoke of the snare in which the wicked
is caught. His tone in that passage could not have been more complacent
if he himself claimed the honour of bringing retribution on the godless.
But it is God, says Job, who hath compassed me with His net.

      "_Behold, of wrong I cry, but I am not heard;
       I cry for help, but there is no judgment._"

Day after day, night after night, pains and fears increase: death
draws nearer. He cannot move out of the net of misery. As one
neglected, outlawed, he has to bear his inexplicable doom, his way
fenced in so that he cannot pass, darkness thrown over his world by
the hand of God.

Plunging thus anew into a statement of his hopeless condition as one
discrowned, dishonoured, a broken man, the speaker has in view all
along the hard human judgment which numbers him with the godless. He
would melt the hearts of his relentless critics by pleading that their
enmity is out of place. If the Almighty is his enemy and has brought
him near to the dust of death, why should men persecute him as God?
Might they not have pity? There is indeed resentment against
providence in his mind; but the anxious craving for human sympathy
reacts on his language and makes it far less fierce and bitter than
in previous speeches. Grief rather than revolt is now his mood.

      "_He hath stripped me of my glory
       And taken my crown from my head.
       He hath broken me down on every side,
       Uprooted my hope like a tree.
       He hath also kindled his wrath against me
       And counted me among His adversaries.
       His troops come on together
       And cast up their way against me
       And encamp around my tent._"

So far the Divine indignation has gone. Will his friends not think of
it? Will they not look upon him with less of hardness and contempt
though he may have sinned? A man in a hostile universe, a feeble man,
stricken with disease, unable to help himself, the heavens frowning
upon him--why should they harden their hearts?

And yet, see how his brethren have dealt with him! Mark how those who
were his friends stand apart, Eliphaz and the rest, behind them others
who once claimed kinship with him. How do they look? Their faces are
clouded. They must be on God's side against Job. Yea, God Himself has
moved them to this.

      "_He hath put my brethren far from me,
       And my confidants are wholly estranged from me.
       My kinsfolk have failed
       And my familiar friends have forgotten me.
       They that dwell in my house and my maids count me for a stranger;
       I am an alien in their sight.
       I call my servant and he gives me no answer,
       I must entreat him with my mouth.
       My breath is offensive to my wife,
       And my ill savour to the sons of my body.
       Even young children despise me;
       If I would arise they speak against me.
       My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh,
       And I am escaped with the skin of my teeth._"

The picture is one of abject humiliation. He is rejected by all who
once loved him, forced to entreat his servants, become offensive to
his wife and grandsons; jeered at even by children of the place. The
case appears to us unnatural and shows the almost fiendish hardness of
the Oriental world; that is to say, if the account is not coloured for
dramatic purposes. The intention is to represent the extremity of
Job's wretchedness, the lowest depth to which he is reduced. The fire
of his spirit is almost quenched by shame and desolation. He shows the
days of his misery in the strongest shadow in order to compel, if
possible, the sympathy so persistently withheld.

      "_Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends,
       For the hand of God hath touched me.
       Why do ye persecute me as God,
       And are not satisfied with my flesh?_"


Now we understand the purpose of the long description of his pain,
both that which God has inflicted and that caused by the alienation
and contempt of men. Into his soul the prediction of Bildad has
entered, that he will share the fate of the wicked whose memory
perishes from the earth, whose name is driven from light into darkness
and chased out of the world. Is it to be so with him? That were indeed
a final disaster. To bring his friends to some sense of what all this
means to him--this is what he struggles after. It is not even the pity
of it that is the chief point, although through that he seeks to gain
his end. But if God is not to interpose, if his last hour is coming
without a sign of heaven's relenting, he would at least have men stand
beside him, take his words to heart, believe them possibly true, hand
down for his memorial the claim he has made of integrity. Surely,
surely he shall not be thought of by the next generation as Job the
proud defiant evil-doer laid low by the judgments of an offended
God--brought to shame as one who deserved to be counted amongst the
offscourings of the earth. It is enough that God has persecuted him,
that God is slaying him--let not men take it upon them to do so to the
last. Before he dies let one at least say, Job, my friend, perhaps you
are sincere, perhaps you are misjudged.

Urgent is the appeal. It is in vain. Not a hand is stretched out, not
one grim face relaxes. The man has made his last attempt. He is now
like a pressed animal between the hunter and the chasm. And why is the
author so rigorous in his picture of the friends? It is made to all
appearance quite inhuman, and cannot be so without design. By means of
this inhumanity Job is flung once for all upon his need of God from
whom he had almost turned away to man. The poet knows that not in man
is the help of the soul, that not in the sympathy of man, not in the
remembrance of man, not in the care or even love of man as a passing
tenant of earth can the labouring heart put its confidence. From the
human judgment Job turned to God at first. From the Divine silence he
had well-nigh turned back to human pity. He finds what other sufferers
have found, that the silence is allowed to extend beneath him, between
him and his fellows, in order that he may finally and effectually
direct his hope and faith above himself, above the creaturely race, to
Him from whom all came, in whose will and love alone the spirit of man
has its life, its hope. Yes, God is bringing home to Himself the man
whom He has approved for approval. The way is strange to the feet of
Job, as it often is to the weary half-blinded pilgrim. But it is the
one way to fulfil and transcend our longings. Neither corporate
sympathy nor posthumous immortality can ever stand to a thinking soul
instead of the true firm judgment of its life that waits within the
knowledge of God. If He is not for us, the epitaphs and memoirs of
time avail nothing. Man's place is in the eternal order or he does
indeed cry out of wrong and is not heard.

From men to the written book, from men to the graven rock, more
enduring, more public than the book--will this provide what is still
unfound?

      "_Oh that now my words were written,
       That they were inscribed in a book;
       That with an iron stylus and with lead
       They were graven in the rock for ever._"

As one accustomed to the uses of wealth Job speaks. He thinks first of a
parchment in which his story and his claim may be carefully written and
preserved. But he sees at once how perishable that would be and passes
to a form of memorial such as great men employed. He imagines a cliff in
the desert with a monumental inscription bearing that once he, the Emeer
of Uz, lived and suffered, was thrown from prosperity, was accused by
men, was worn by disease, but died maintaining that all this befel him
unjustly, that he had done no wrong to God or man. It would stand there
in the way of the caravans of Tema for succeeding generations to read.
It would stand there till the ages had run their course. Kings represent
on rocks their wars and triumphs. As one of royal dignity Job would use
the same means of continuing his protest and his name.

Yet, so far as his life is concerned, what good,--the story spread
northward to Damascus, but he, Job, lost in Sheol? His protest is
against forms of death; his claim is for life. There is no life in the
sculptured stone. Baffled again he halts midway. His foot on a
crumbling point, there must be yet one spring for safety and refuge.

Who has not felt, looking at the records of the past, inscriptions on
tablets, rocks and temples, the wistful throb of antiquity in those
anxious legacies of a world of men too well aware of man's
forgetfulness? "Whoever alters the work of my hand," says the
conqueror called Sargon, "destroys my constructions, pulls down the
walls which I have raised--may Asshur, Ninêb, Ramân and the great gods
who dwell there pluck his name and seed from the land and let him sit
bound at the feet of his foe." Invocation of the gods in this manner
was the only resource of him who in that far past feared oblivion and
knew that there was need to fear. But to a higher God, in words of
broken eloquence, Job is made to commit his cause, seeing beyond the
perishable world the imperishable remembrance of the Almighty. So a
Hebrew poet breathed into the wandering air of the desert that brave
hope which afterwards, far beyond his thought, was in Israel to be
fulfilled. Had he been exiled from Galilee? In Galilee was to be heard
the voice that told of immortality and redemption.

       *       *       *       *       *

We must go back in the book to find the beginning of the hope now
seized. Already Job has been looking forth beyond the region of this
little life. What has he seen?

First and always, Eloah. That name and what it represents do not fail
him. He has had terrible experiences, and all of them must have been
appointed by Eloah. But the name is venerable still, and despite all
difficulties he clings to the idea that righteousness goes with power
and wisdom. The power bewilders--the wisdom plans inconceivable
things--but beyond there is righteousness.

Next. He has seen a gleam of light across the darkness of the grave,
through the gloom of the under-world. A man going down thither,--his
body to moulder into dust, his spirit to wander a shadow in a prison
of shadows,--may not remain there. God is almighty--He has the key of
Sheol--a star has shown for a little, giving hope that out of the
under-world life may be recovered. It is seen that Eloah, the Maker,
must have a desire to the work of His hands. What does that not mean?

Again. It has been borne upon his mind that the record of a good life
abides and is with the All-seeing. What is done cannot be undone. The
wasting of the flesh cannot waste that Divine knowledge. The eternal
history cannot be effaced. Spiritual life is lived before Eloah who
guards the right of a man. Men scorn Job; but with tears he has prayed
to Eloah to right his cause, and that prayer cannot be in vain.

A just prayer cannot be in vain because God is ever just. From this
point thought mounts upward. Eloah for ever faithful--Eloah able to
open the gate of Sheol--not angry for ever--Eloah keeping the tablet
of every life, indifferent to no point of right,--these are the steps
of progress in Job's thought and hope. And these are the gain of his
trial. In his prosperous time none of these things had been before
him. He had known the joy of God but not the secret, the peace not the
righteousness. Yet he is not aware how much he has gained. He is
coming half unconsciously to an inheritance prepared for him in
wisdom and in love by Eloah in whom he trusts. A man needs for life
more than he himself can either sow or ripen.

And now, hear Job. Whether the rock shall be graven or not he cannot
tell. Does it matter? He sees far beyond that inscribed cliff in the
desert. He sees what alone can satisfy the spirit that has learned to
live.

      "'Tis life whereof our nerves are scant,
       Oh life not death, for which we pant;
       More life, and fuller, that I want."

Not dimly this great truth flashes through the web of broken
ejaculation, panting thought.

      "_But I know it: my Redeemer liveth;
       And afterward on the dust He will stand up;
       And after my skin they destroy, even this,
       And without my flesh shall I see Eloah,
       Whom I shall see_ FOR ME,
       _And mine eyes shall behold and not the stranger--
       My reins are consumed in my bosom_."

The Goël or Redeemer pledged to him by eternal justice is yet to
arise, a living Remembrancer and Vindicator from all wrong and
dishonour. On the dust that covers death He will arise when the day
comes. The diseases that prey on the perishing body shall have done
their work. In the grave the flesh shall have passed into decay; but
the spirit that has borne shall behold Him. Not for the passing
stranger shall be the vindication, but for Job himself. All that has
been so confounding shall be explained, for the Most High is the Goël;
He has the care of His suffering servant in His own hand and will not
fail to issue it in clear satisfying judgment.

For the inspired writer of these words, declaring the faith which had
sprung up within him; for us also who desire to share his faith and to
be assured of the future vindication, three barriers stand in the way,
and these have successively to be passed.

First is the difficulty of believing that the Most High need trouble
Himself to disentangle all the rights from the wrongs in human life. Is
humanity of such importance in the universe? God is very high; human
affairs may be of little consequence to His eternal majesty. Is not this
earth on which we dwell one of the smaller of the planets that revolve
about the sun? Is not our sun one amongst a myriad, many of them far
transcending it in size and splendour? Can we demand or even feel
hopeful that the Eternal Lord shall adjust the disordered equities of
our little state and appear for the right which has been obscured in the
small affairs of time? A century is long to us; but our ages are
"moments in the being of the eternal silence." Can it matter to the
universe moving through perpetual cycles of evolution, new races and
phases of creaturely life arising and running their course--can it
matter that one race should pass away having simply contributed its
struggle and desire to the far-off result? Conceivably, in the design of
a wise and good Creator, this might be a destiny for a race of beings to
subserve. How do we know it is not ours?

This difficulty has grown. It stands now in the way of all religion,
even of the Christian faith. God is among the immensities and
eternities; evolution breaks in wave after wave; we are but one. How
can we assure our hearts that the inexterminable longing for equity
shall have fulfilment?

Next there is the difficulty which belongs to the individual life. To
enjoy the hope, feel the certainty to which Job reached forth, you or
I must make the bold assumption that our personal controversies are
of eternal importance. One is obscure; his life has moved in a very
narrow circle. He has done little, he knows little. His sorrows have
been keen, but they are brief and limited. He has been held down,
scorned, afflicted. But after all why should God care? To adjust the
affairs of nations, to bring out the world's history in righteousness
may be God's concern. But suppose a man lives bravely, bears
patiently, preserves his life from evil, though he have to suffer and
even go down in darkness, may not the end of the righteous King be
gained by the weight his life casts into the scale of faith and
virtue? Should not the man be satisfied with this result of his energy
and look for nothing more? Does eternal righteousness demand anything
more on behalf of a man? Included in this is the question whether the
disputes between men, the small ignorances, egotisms, clashing of
wills, need a final assize. Are they not trifling and transient? Can
we affirm that in these is involved an element of justice which it
concerns our Maker to establish before the worlds?

The third barrier is not less than the others to modern thought. How
is our life to be preserved or revived, so that personally and
consciously we shall have our share in the clearing up of the human
story and be gladdened by the "Well done, good and faithful servant"
of the Judge? That verdict is entirely personal; but how may the
faithful servant live to hear it? Death appears inexorable. Despite
the resurrection of Christ, despite the words He has spoken, "I am the
resurrection and the life," even to Christians the vision is often
clouded, the survival of consciousness hard to believe in. How did the
author of Job pass this barrier--in thought, or in hope? Are we
content to pass it only in hope?

I answer all these questions together. And the answer lies in the very
existence of the idea of justice, our knowledge of justice, our desire
for it, the fragmentariness of our history till right has been done to
us by others, by us to others, by man to God, and God to man--the full
right, whatever that may involve.

Whence came our sense of justice? We can only say, From Him who made
us. He gave us such a nature as cannot be satisfied nor find rest till
an ideal of justice, that is of acted truth, is framed in our human
life and everything possible done to realise it. Upon this acted truth
all depends, and till it is reached we are in suspense. Deep in the
mind of man lies that need. Yet it is always a hunger. More and more
it unsettles him, keeps him in unrest, turning from scheme to scheme
of ethic and society. He is ever making compromises, waiting for
evolutions; but nature knows no compromises and gives him no clue save
in present fact. Is it possible that He who made us will not overpass
our poor best, will not sweep aside the shifts and evasions current in
our imperfect economy? The passion for righteousness comes from him;
it is a ray of Himself. The soul of the good man craving perfect
holiness and toiling for it in himself, in others, can it be greater
than God, more strenuous, more subtle than the Divine evolution that
gave him birth, the Divine Father of his spirit? Impossible in
thought, impossible in fact.

No. Justice there is in every matter. Surely science has taught us
very little if it has not banished the notion that the _small_ means
the _unimportant_, that minute things are of no moment in evolution.
For many years past science has been constructing for us the great
argument of universal physical fidelity, universal weaving of the
small details into the vast evolutionary design. The microscopist, the
biologist, the chemist, the astronomer, each and all are engaged in
building up this argument, forcing the confession that the universe is
one of inconceivably small things ordered throughout by law. Finish
and care would seem to be given everywhere to minutiæ as though, that
being done, the great would certainly evolve. Further, science even
when dealing with material things emphasises the importance of mind.
The truthfulness of nature at any point in the physical range is a
truthfulness of the Overnature to the mind of man, a correlation
established between physical and spiritual existence. Wherever order
and care are brought into view there is an exaltation of the human
reason which perceives and relates. All would be thrown into confusion
if the fidelity recognised by the mind did not extend to the mind
itself, if the sanity and development of the mind were not included in
the order of the universe. For the psychological student this is
established, and the working of evolutionary law is being traced in
the obscure phenomena of consciousness, sub-consciousness and habit.

Is it of importance that each of the gases shall have laws of
diffusion and combination, shall act according to those laws,
unvaryingly affecting vegetable and animal life? Unless those laws
wrought in constancy or equity at every moment all would be confusion.
Is it of importance that the bird, using its wings, shall be able to
soar into the atmosphere; that the wings adapted for flight shall find
an atmosphere in which their exercise produces movement? Here again is
an equity which enters into the very constitution of the cosmos, which
must be a form of the one supreme law of the cosmos. Once more, is it
of importance that the thinker shall find sequences and relations,
when once established, a sound basis for prediction and discovery,
that he shall be able to trust himself on lines of research and feel
certain that, at every point, for the instrument of inquiry there is
answering verity? Without this correspondence man would have no real
place in evolution, he would flutter an aimless unrelated
sensitiveness through a storm of physical incidents.

Advance to the most important facts of mind, the moral ideas which
enter into every department of thought, the inductions through which
we find our place in another range than the physical. Does the
fidelity already traced now cease? Is man at this point beyond the law
of faithfulness, beyond the invariable correlation of environment with
faculty? Does he now come to a region which he cannot choose but
enter, where, however, the cosmos fails him, the beating wing cannot
rise, the inquiring mind reaches no verity, and the consciousness does
flutter an inexplicable thing through dreams and illusions? A man has
it in his nature to seek justice. Peace for him there is none unless
he does what is right and can believe that right will be done. With
this high conviction in his mind he is opposed, as in this Book of
Job, by false men, overthrown by calamity, covered with harsh
judgment. Death approaches and he has to pass away from a world that
seems to have failed him. Shall he never see his right nor God's
righteousness? Shall he never come to his own as a man of good will
and high resolve? Has he been true to a cosmos which after all is
treacherous, to a rule of virtue which has no authority and no issue?
He believes in a Lord of infinite justice and truth; that his life,
small as it is, cannot be apart from the pervading law of equity. Is
that his dream? Then any moment the whole system of the universe may
collapse like a bubble blown upon a marsh.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now let us clearly understand the point and value of the argument. It is
not that a man who has served God here and suffered here must have a
joyful immortality. What man is faithful enough to make such a claim?
But the principle is that God must vindicate His righteousness in
dealing with the man He has made, the man He has called to trust Him. It
matters not who the man is, how obscure his life has been, he has this
claim on God, that to him the eternal righteousness ought to be made
clear. Job cries for his own justification; but the doubt about God
involved in the slur cast upon his own integrity is what rankles in his
heart; from that he rises in triumphant protest and daring hope. He must
live till God clears up the matter. If he dies he must revive to have it
all made clear. And observe, if it were only that ignorant men cast
doubt on providence, the resurrection and personal redemption of the
believer would not be necessary. God is not responsible for the foolish
things men say, and we could not look for resurrection because our
fellow-creatures misrepresent God. But Job feels that God Himself has
caused the perplexity. God sent the flash of lightning, the storm, the
dreadful disease; it is God who by many strange things in human
experience seems to give cause for doubt. From God in nature, God in
disease, God in the earthquake and the thunderstorm, God whose way is in
the sea and His path in the mighty waters--from this God, Job cries in
hope, in moral conviction, to God the Vindicator, the eternally
righteous One, Author of nature and Friend of man.

This life may terminate before the full revelation of right is made; it
may leave the good in darkness and the evil flaunting in pride; the
believer may go down in shame and the atheist have the last word.
Therefore a future life with judgment in full must vindicate our
Creator; and every personality involved in the problems of time must go
forward to the opening of the seals and the fulfilment of the things
that are written in the volumes of God. This evolution being for the
earlier stage and discipline of life, it works out nothing, completes
nothing. What it does is to furnish the awaking spirit with material of
thought, opportunity for endeavour, the elements of life; with trial,
temptation, stimulus, and restraint. No one who lives to any purpose or
thinks with any sincerity can miss in the course of his life one hour at
least in which he shares the tragical contest and adds the cry of his
own soul to that of Job, his own hope to that of ages that are gone,
straining to see the Goël who undertakes for every servant of God.

      "_I know it: my Redeemer liveth,
       And afterward on the dust He will stand up;
       And without my flesh I shall see Eloah._"

By slow cycles of change the vast scheme of Divine providence draws
toward a glorious consummation. The believer waits for it, seeing One
who has gone before him and will come after him, the Alpha and Omega of
all life. The fulness of time will at length arrive, the time
foreordained by God, foretold by Christ, when the throne shall be set,
the judgment shall be given, and the æons of manifestation shall begin.

And who in that day shall be the sons of God? Which of us can say that
he knows himself worthy of immortality? How imperfect is the noblest
human life, how often it falls away into the folly and evil of the
world! We need one to deliver us from the imperfection that gives to
all we are and do the character of evanescence, to set us free from
our entanglements and bring us into liberty. We are poor erring
creatures. Only if there is a Divine purpose of grace that extends to
the unworthy and the frail, only if there is redemption for the
earthly, only if a Divine Saviour has undertaken to justify our
existence as moral beings, can we look hopefully into the future. Job
looked for a Redeemer who would bring to light a righteousness he
claimed to possess. But our Redeemer must be able to awaken in us the
love of a righteousness we alone could never see and to clothe us in a
holiness we could never of ourselves attain. The problem of justice in
human life will be solved because our race has a Redeemer whose
judgment when it falls will fall in tenderest mercy, who bore our
injustice for our sakes and will vindicate for us that transcendent
righteousness which is for ever one with love.



XVII.

_IGNORANT CRITICISM OF LIFE._

ZOPHAR SPEAKS. CHAP. xx.


The great saying that quickens our faith and carries thought into a
higher world conveyed no Divine meaning to the man from Naamah. The
author must have intended to pour scorn on the hide-bound intelligence
and rude bigotry of Zophar, to show him dwarfed by self-content and
zeal not according to knowledge. When Job affirmed his sublime
confidence in a Divine Vindicator, Zophar caught only at the idea of
an avenger. What is this notion of a Goël on whose support a condemned
man dares to count, who shall do judgment for him? And his resentment
was increased by the closing words of Job:--

      "_If ye say, How may we pursue him?
       And that the cause of the matter is in me--
       Then beware of the sword!
       For hot are the punishments of the sword,
       That ye may know there is judgment._"

If they went on declaring that the root of the matter, that is, the
real cause of his affliction, was to be found in his own bad life, let
them beware the avenging sword of Divine justice. He certainly
implies that his Goël may become their enemy if they continue to
persecute him with false charges. To Zophar the suggestion is
intolerable. With no little irritation and anger he begins:--

      "_For this do my thoughts answer me,
       And by reason of this there is haste in me--
       I hear the reproof which puts me to shame,
       And the spirit of my understanding gives me answer._"

He speaks more hotly than in his first address, because his pride is
touched, and that prevents him from distinguishing between a warning
and a personal threat. To a Zophar every man is blind who does not see
as he sees, and every word offensive that bids him take pause.
Believers of his kind have always liked to appropriate the defence of
truth, and they have seldom done anything but harm. Conceive the
dulness and obstinacy of one who heard an inspired utterance
altogether new to human thought, and straightway turned in resentment
on the man from whom it came. He is an example of the bigot in the
presence of genius, a little uncomfortable, a good deal affronted,
very sure that he knows the mind of God, and very determined to have
the last word. Such were the Scribes and Pharisees of our Lord's time,
most religious persons and zealous for what they considered sound
doctrine. His light shone in darkness, and their darkness comprehended
it not; they did Him to death with an accusation of impiety and
blasphemy--"He made Himself the Son of God," they said.

Zophar's whole speech is a fresh example of the dogmatic hardness the
writer was assailing, the closure of the mind and the stiffening of
thought. One might not unjustly accuse this speaker of neglecting the
moral difference between the profane whose triumph and joy he declares
to be short, and the good man whose career is full of years and
honour. We may almost say that to him outward success is the only mark
of inward grace, and that prosperous hypocrisy would be mistaken by
him for the most beautiful piety. His whole creed about providence and
retribution is such that he is on the way to utter confusion of mind.
Why, he has said to himself that Job is a wicked and false man--Job
whose striking characteristic is outspoken truthfulness, whose
integrity is the pride of his Divine Master. And if Zophar once
accepts it as indisputable that Job is neither good nor sincere, what
will the end be for himself? With more and more assurance he will
judge from a man's prosperity that he is righteous, and from his
afflictions that he is a reprobate. He will twist and torture facts of
life and modes of thought, till the worship of property will become
his real cult, and to him the poor will of necessity seem worthless.
This is just what happened in Israel. It is just what slovenly
interpretation of the Bible and providence has brought many to in our
own time. Side by side with a doctrine of self-sacrifice incredible
and mischievous, there is a doctrine of the earthly reward of
godliness--religion profitable for the life that now is, in the way of
filling the pockets and conducting to eminent seats--an absurd and
hurtful doctrine, for ever being taught in one form if not another,
and applied all along the line of human life. An honest, virtuous man,
is he sure to find a good place in our society? The rich broker or
manufacturer, because he washes, dresses, and has twenty servants to
wait upon him, is he therefore a fine soul? Nobody will say so. Yet
Christianity is so little understood in some quarters, is so much
associated with the error of Zophar, that within the church a score
are of his opinion for one who is in Job's perplexity. Outside, the
proportion is much the same. The moral ideas and philanthropies of our
generation are perverted by the notion that no one is succeeding as a
man unless he is making money and rising in the social scale. So,
independence of mind, freedom, integrity, and the courage by which
they are secured, are made of comparatively little account.

It will be said that if things were rightly ordered, Christian ideas
prevailing in business, in legislation and social intercourse, the best
people would certainly be in the highest places and have the best of
life, and that, meanwhile, the improvement of the world depends on some
approximation to this state of affairs. That is to say, spiritual power
and character must come into visible union with the resources of the
earth and possession of its good things, otherwise there will be no
moral progress. Divine providence, we are told, works after that manner;
and the reasoning is plausible enough to require close attention. There
has always been peril for religion in association with external power
and prestige--and the peril of religion is the peril of progress. Will
spiritual ideas ever urge those whose lives they rule to seek with any
solicitude the gifts of time? Will they not, on the other hand,
increasingly, as they ought, draw the desires of the best away from what
is immediate, earthly, and in all the lower senses personal? To put it
in a word, must not the man of spiritual mind always be a prophet, that
is, a critic of human life in its relations to the present world? Will
there come a time in the history of the race when the criticism of the
prophet shall no longer be needed and his mantle will fall from him?
That can only be when all the Lord's people are prophets, when
everywhere the earthly is counted as nothing in view of the heavenly,
when men will seek continually a new revelation of good, and the
criticism of Christ shall be so acknowledged that no one shall need to
repeat after Him, "How can ye believe which receive honour one of
another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?" By heavenly
means alone shall heavenly ends be secured, and the keen pursuit of
earthly good will never bring the race of men into the paradise where
Christ reigns. Outward magnificence is neither a symbol nor an ally of
spiritual power. It hinders instead of aiding the soul in the quest of
what is eternally excellent, touching the sensuous, not the divine, in
man. Christ is still, as in the days of His flesh, utterly indifferent
to the means by which power and distinction are gained in the world. The
spread of His ideas, the manifestation of His Godhead, the coming of His
Kingdom, depend not the least on the countenance of the great and the
impression produced on rude minds by the shows of wealth. The first task
of His gospel everywhere is to correct the barbaric tastes of men; and
the highest and best in a spiritual age will be, as He was, thinkers,
seers of truth, lovers of God and man, lowly in heart and life. These
will express the penetrating criticism that shall move the world.

       *       *       *       *       *

Zophar discourses of one who is openly unjust and rapacious. He is
candid enough to admit that, for a time, the schemes and daring of the
wicked may succeed, but affirms that, though his head may "reach to
the clouds," it is only that he may be cast down.

      "_Knowest thou not this from of old,
       Since man was placed upon earth,
       That the triumphing of the wicked is short,
       And the joy of the godless but for a moment?
       Though his excellency ascend to heaven,
       And his head reach to the clouds,
       Yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung:
       They who saw him shall say, Where is he?
       Like a dream he shall flee, no more to be found,
       Yea, he shall be chased away like a night-vision._"

As a certainty, based on facts quite evident since the beginning of
human history, Zophar presents anew the overthrow of the evil-doer. He
is sure that the wicked does not keep his prosperity through a long
life. Such a thing has never occurred in the range of human
experience. The godless man is allowed, no doubt, to lift himself up
for a time; but his day is short. Indeed he is great for a moment
only, and that in appearance. He never actually possesses the good
things of earth, but only seems to possess them. Then in the hour of
judgment he passes like a dream and perishes for ever. The affirmation
is precisely that which has been made again and again; and with some
curiosity we scan the words of Zophar to learn what addition he makes
to the scheme so often pressed.

Sooth to say, there is no reasoning, nothing but affirmation. He
discusses no doubtful case, enters into no careful discrimination of the
virtuous who enjoy from the godless who perish, makes no attempt to
explain the temporary success granted to the wicked. The man he
describes is one who has acquired wealth by unlawful means, who conceals
his wickedness, rolling it like a sweet morsel under his tongue. We are
told further that he has oppressed and neglected the poor and violently
taken away a house, and he has so behaved himself that all the miserable
watch for his downfall with hungry eyes. But these charges, virtually
of avarice, rapacity, and inhumanity, are far from definite, far from
categorical. Not without reason would any man have so bad a reputation,
and if deserved it would ensure the combination against him of all
right-minded people. But men may be evil-hearted and inhuman who are not
rapacious; they may be vile and yet not given to avarice. And Zophar's
account of the ruin of the profane, though he makes it a Divine act,
pictures the rising of society against one whose conduct is no longer
endurable--a robber chief, the tyrant of a valley. His argument fails in
this, that though the history of the proud evil-doer's destruction were
perfectly true to fact, it would apply to a very few only amongst the
population,--one in ten thousand,--leaving the justice of Divine
providence in greater doubt than ever, because the avarice and
selfishness of smaller men are not shown to have corresponding
punishment, are not indeed so much as considered. Zophar describes one
whose bold and flagrant iniquity rouses the resentment of those not
particularly honest themselves, not religious, nor even humane, but
merely aware of their own danger from his violent rapacity. A man,
however, may be avaricious who is not strong, may have the will to prey
on others but not the power. The real distinction, therefore, of
Zophar's criminal is his success in doing what many of those he
oppresses and despoils would do if they were able, and the picturesque
passage leaves no deep moral impression. We read it and seem to feel
that the overthrow of this evil-doer is one of the rare and happy
instances of poetical justice which sometimes occur in real life, but
not so frequently as to make a man draw back in the act of oppressing a
poor dependant or robbing a helpless widow.

In an sincerity Zophar speaks, with righteous indignation against the
man whose ruin he paints, persuaded that he is following, step for
step, the march of Divine judgment. His eye kindles, his voice rings
with poetic exultation.

      "_He hath swallowed down riches; he shall vomit them again:
       God shall cast them out of his belly.
       He shall suck the poison of asps;
       The viper's tongue shall slay him.
       He shall not look upon the rivers,
       The flowing streams of honey and butter.
       That which he toiled for shall he restore,
       And shall not swallow it down;
       Not according to the wealth he has gotten
       Shall he have enjoyment....
       There was nothing left that he devoured not;
       Therefore his prosperity shall not abide.
       In his richest abundance he shall be in straits;
       The hand of every miserable one shall come upon him.
       When he is about to fill his belly
       God shall cast the fury of His wrath upon him
       And rain upon him his food._"

He has succeeded for a time, concealing or fortifying himself among
the mountains. He has store of silver and gold and garments taken by
violence, of cattle and sheep captured in the plain. But the district
is roused. Little by little he is driven back into the uninhabited
desert. His supplies are cut off and he is brought to extremity. His
food becomes to him as the gall of asps. With all his ill-gotten
wealth he is in straits, for he is hunted from place to place. Not for
him now the luxury of the green oasis and the coolness of flowing
streams. He is an outlaw, in constant danger of discovery. His
children wander to places where they are not known and beg for bread.
Reduced to abject fear, he restores the goods he had taken by
violence, trying to buy off the enmity of his pursuers. Then come the
last skirmish, the clash of weapons, ignominious death.

      "_He shall flee from the iron weapon,
       And the bow of brass shall pierce him through.
       He draweth it forth; it cometh out of his body:
       Yea, the glittering shaft cometh out of his gall.
       Terrors are upon him,
       All darkness is laid up for his treasures;
       A fire not blown shall consume him,
       It shall devour him that is left in his tent.
       The heaven shall reveal his iniquity,
       And the earth shall rise against him.
       The increase of his house shall depart,
       Be washed away in the day of His wrath.
       This is the lot of a wicked man from God,
       And the heritage appointed to him by God._"

Vain is resistance when he is brought to bay by his enemies. A moment
of overwhelming terror, and he is gone. His tent blazes up and is
consumed, as if the breath of God made hot the avenging flame. Within
it his wife and children perish. Heaven seems to have called for his
destruction and earth to have obeyed the summons. So the craft and
strength of the free-booter, living on the flocks and harvests of
industrious people, are measured vainly against the indignation of
God, who has ordained the doom of wickedness.

A powerful word-picture. Yet if Zophar and the rest taught such a
doctrine of retribution, and, put to it, could find no other; if they
were in the way of saying, "This is the lot of a wicked man from God,"
how far away must Divine judgment have seemed from ordinary life,
from the falsehoods daily spoken, the hard words and blows dealt to
the slave, the jealousies and selfishnesses of the harem. Under the
pretext of showing the righteous Judge, Zophar makes it impossible, or
next to impossible, to realise His presence and authority. Men must be
stirred up on God's behalf or His judicial anger will not be felt.

It is however when we apply the picture to the case of Job that we see
its falsehood. Against the facts of his career Zophar's account of
Divine judgment stands out as flat heresy, a foul slander charged on
the providence of God. For he means that Job wore in his own
settlement the hypocritical dress of piety and benevolence and must
have elsewhere made brigandage his trade, that his servants who died
by the sword of Chaldæans and Sabeans and the fire of heaven had been
his army of rievers, that the cause of his ruin was heaven's
intolerance and earth's detestation of so vile a life. Zophar
describes poetic justice, and reasons back from it to Job. Now it
becomes flagrant injustice against God and man. We cannot argue from
what sometimes is to what must be. Although Zophar had taken in hand
to convict one really and unmistakably a miscreant, truth alone would
have served the cause of righteousness. But he assumes, conjectures,
and is immeasurably unjust and cruel to his friend.



XVIII.

_ARE THE WAYS OF THE LORD EQUAL?_

JOB SPEAKS. CHAP. xxi.


With less of personal distress and a more collected mind than before
Job begins a reply to Zophar. His brave hope of vindication has
fortified his soul and is not without effect upon his bodily state.
The quietness of tone in this final address of the second colloquy
contrasts with his former agitation and the growing eagerness of the
friends to convict him of wrong. True, he has still to speak of facts
of human life troublous and inscrutable. Where they lie he must look,
and terror seizes him, as if he moved on the edge of chaos. It is,
however, no longer his own controversy with God that disquiets him.
For the time he is able to leave that to the day of revelation. But
seeing a vaster field in which righteousness must be revealed, he
compels himself, as it were, to face the difficulties which are
encountered in that survey. The friends have throughout the colloquy
presented in varying pictures the offensiveness of the wicked man and
his sure destruction. Job, extending his view over the field they have
professed to search, sees the facts in another light. While his
statement is in the way of a direct negative to Zophar's theory, he
has to point out what seems dreadful injustice in the providence of
God. He is not however, drawn anew into the tone of revolt.

The opening words are as usual expostulatory, but with a ring of
vigour. Job sets the arguments of his friends aside and the only
demand he makes now is for their attention.

      "_Hear diligently my speech,
       And let that be your consolations.
       Suffer me that I may speak;
       And after I have spoken, mock on.
       As for me, is my complaint of man?
       And why should I not be impatient?_"

What he has said hitherto has had little effect upon them; what he is to
say may have none. But he will speak; and afterwards, if Zophar finds
that he can maintain his theory, why, he must keep to it and mock on. At
present the speaker is in the mood of disdaining false judgment. He
quite understands the conclusion come to by the friends. They have
succeeded in wounding him time after time. But what presses upon his
mind is the state of the world as it really is. Another impatience than
of human falsehood urges him to speak. He has returned upon the riddle
of life he gave Zophar to read--why the tents of robbers prosper and
they that provoke God are secure (chap. xii. 6). Suppose the three let
him alone for a while and consider the question largely, in its whole
scope. They shall consider it, for, certainly, the robber chief may be
seen here and there in full swing of success, with his children about
him, gaily enjoying the fruit of sin, and as fearless as if the Almighty
were his special protector. Here is something that needs clearing up. Is
it not enough to make a strong man shake?

      "_Mark me, and be astonished,
       And lay the hand upon the mouth.
       Even while I remember I am troubled,
       And trembling taketh hold of my flesh--
       Wherefore do the wicked live,
       Become old, yea, wax mighty in power?
       Their seed is settled with them in their sight,
       And their offspring before their eyes;
       Their houses are in peace, without fear,
       And the rod of God is not upon them....
       They send forth their little ones like a flock,
       And their children dance;
       They sing to the timbrel and lute,
       And rejoice at the sound of the pipe.
       They spend their days in ease,
       And in a moment go down to Sheol.
       Yet they said to God, Depart from us,
       For we desire not to know Thy ways.
       What is Shaddai that we should serve Him?
       And what profit should we have if we pray unto Him?_"

Contrast the picture here with those which Bildad and Zophar
painted--and where lies the truth? Sufficiently on Job's side to make
one who is profoundly interested in the question of Divine
righteousness stand appalled. There was an error of judgment
inseparable from that early stage of human education in which vigour
and the gains of vigour counted for more than goodness and the gains
of goodness, and this error clouding the thought of Job made him
tremble for his faith. Is nature God's? Does God arrange the affairs
of this world? Why then, under His rule, can the godless have
enjoyment, and those who deride the Almighty feast on the fat things
of His earth? Job has sent into the future a single penetrating look.
He has seen the possibility of vindication, but not the certainty of
retribution. The underworld into which the evil-doer descends in a
moment, without protracted misery, appears to Job no hell of torment.
It is a region of reduced, incomplete existence, not of penalty. The
very clearness with which he saw vindication for himself, that is,
for the good man, makes it needful to see the wrong-doer judged and
openly condemned. Where then shall this be done? The writer, with all
his genius, could only throw one vivid gleam beyond the present. He
could not frame a new idea of Sheol, nor, passing its cloud confines,
reach the thought of personality continuing in acute sensations either
of joy or pain. The ungodly ought to feel the heavy hand of Divine
justice in the present state of being. But he does not. Nature makes
room for him and his children, for their gay dances and life-long
hilarity. Heaven does not frown. "The wicked live, become old, yea,
wax mighty in power; their houses are in peace, without fear."

From the climax of chap. xix. the speeches of Job seem to fall away
instead of advancing. The author had one brilliant journey into the
unseen, but the peak he reached could not be made a new point of
departure. Knowledge he did not possess was now required. He saw
before him a pathless ocean where no man had shown the way, and
inspiration seems to have failed him. His power lay in remarkably keen
analysis and criticism of known theological positions and in glowing
poetic sense. His inspiration working through these persuaded him that
everywhere God is the Holy and True. It is scarcely to be supposed
that condemnation of the evil could have seemed to him of less
importance than vindication of the good. Our conclusion therefore must
be that a firm advance into the other life was not for genius like
his, nor for human genius at its highest. One more than man must speak
of the great judgment and what lies beyond.

Clearly Job sees the unsolved enigma of the godless man's prosperous
life, states it, and stands trembling. Regarding it what have other
thinkers said? "If the law of all creation were justice," says John
Stuart Mill, "and the Creator omnipotent, then in whatever amount
suffering and happiness might be dispensed to the world, each person's
share of them would be exactly proportioned to that person's good or
evil deeds; no human being would have a worse lot than another without
worse deserts; accident or favouritism would have no part in such a
world, but every human life would be the playing out of a drama
constructed like a perfect moral tale. No one is able to blind himself
to the fact that the world we live in is totally different from this."
Emerson, again, facing this problem, repudiates the doctrine that
judgment is not executed in this world. He affirms that there is a
fallacy in the concession that the bad are successful, that justice is
not done now. "Every ingenuous and aspiring soul," he says, "leaves the
doctrine behind him in his own experience; and all men feel sometimes
the falsehood which they cannot demonstrate." His theory is that there
is balance or compensation everywhere. "Life invests itself with
inevitable conditions, which the unwise seek to dodge, which one and
another brags that he does not know, that they do not touch him;--but
the brag is on his lips, the conditions are in his soul. If he escapes
them in one part, they attack him in another more vital part.... The
ingenuity of man has always been dedicated to the solution of one
problem,--how to detach the sensual sweet, the sensual strong, the
sensual bright, from the moral sweet, the moral deep, the moral fair;
that is, again, to contrive to cut clean off this upper surface so thin
as to leave it bottomless; to get a _one end_, without an _other
end_.... This dividing and detaching is steadily counteracted. Pleasure
is taken out of pleasant things, profit out of profitable things, power
out of strong things, so soon as we seek to separate them from the
whole. We can no more halve things and get the sensual good, by itself,
than we can get an inside that shall have no outside, or a light without
a shadow.... For everything you have missed, you have gained something
else, and for everything you gain you lose something. If the gatherer
gathers too much, nature takes out of the man what she puts into his
chest; swells the estate but kills the owner.... We feel defrauded of
the retribution due to evil acts, because the criminal adheres to his
vice and contumacy, and does not come to a crisis or judgment anywhere
in visible nature. There is no stunning confutation of his nonsense
before men and angels. Has he therefore outwitted the law? Inasmuch as
he carries the malignity and the lie with him, he so far deceases from
nature. In some manner there will be a demonstration of the wrong to the
understanding also; but, should we not see it, this deadly deduction
makes square the account."[3] The argument reaches far beneath that
superficial condemnation of the order of providence which disfigures Mr.
Mill's essay on Nature. So far as it goes, it illuminates the present
stage of human existence. The light, however, is not sufficient, for we
cannot consent to the theory that in an ideal scheme, a perfect or
eternal state, he who would have holiness must sacrifice power, and he
who would be true must be content to be despised. There is, we cannot
doubt, a higher law; for this does not in any sense apply to the life of
God Himself. In the discipline which prepares for liberty, there must be
restraints and limitations, gain--that is, development--by renunciation;
earthly ends must be subordinated to spiritual; sacrifices must be made.
But the present state does not exhaust the possibilities of development
nor close the history of man. There is a kingdom out of which shall be
taken all things that offend. To Emerson's compensations must be added
the compensation of Heaven. Still he lifts the problem out of the deep
darkness which troubled Job.

And with respect to the high position and success bad men are allowed to
enjoy, another writer, Bushnell, well points out that permission of
their opulence and power by God aids the development of moral ideas. "It
is simply letting society and man be what they are, to show what they
are." The retributive stroke, swift and visible, is not needed to
declare this. "If one is hard upon the poor, harsh to children, he
makes, or may, a very great discovery of himself. What is in him is
mirrored forth by his acts, and distinctly mirrored in them.... If he is
unjust, passionate, severe, revengeful, jealous, dishonest, and
supremely selfish, he is in just that scale of society or social
relationship that brings him out to himself.... Evil is scarcely to be
known as evil till it takes the condition of authority. We do not
understand it till we see what kind of god it will make, and by what
sort of rule it will manage its empire.... Just here all the merit of
God's plan, as regards the permission of power in the hands of wicked
men, will be found to hinge; namely, on the fact that evil is not only
revealed in its baleful presence and agency, but the peoples and ages
are put heaving against it and struggling after deliverance from it."[4]
It was, we say, Job's difficulty that against the new conception of
Divine righteousness which he sought the early idea stood opposed that
life meant vigour mainly in the earthly range. During a long period of
the world's history this belief was dominant, and virtue signified the
strength of man's arm, his courage in conflict, rather than his truth in
judgment and his purity of heart. The outward gains corresponding to
that early virtue were the proof of the worth of life. And even when the
moral qualities began to be esteemed, and a man was partly measured by
the quality of his soul, still the tests of outward success and the
gains of the inferior virtue continued to be applied to his life. Hence
the perturbation of Job and, to some extent, the false judgment of
providence quoted from a modern writer.

But the chapter we are considering shows, if we rightly interpret the
obscure 16th verse, that the author tried to get beyond the merely
sensuous and earthly reckoning. Those prospered who denied the authority
of God and put aside religion with the rudest scepticism. There was no
good in prayer, they said; it brought no gain. The Almighty was nothing
to them. Without thought of His commands they sought their profit and
their pleasure, and found all they desired. Looking steadfastly at their
life, Job sees its hollowness, and abruptly exclaims:--

      "_Ha! their good is not in their hand:
       The counsel of the wicked be far from me!_"

Good! was that good which they grasped--their abundance, their
treasure? Were they to be called blessed because their children danced
to the lute and the pipe and they enjoyed the best earth could
provide? The real good of life was not theirs. They had not God; they
had not the exultation of trusting and serving Him; they had not the
good conscience towards God and man which is the crown of life. The
man lying in disease and shame would not exchange his lot for theirs.

But Job must argue still against his friends' belief that the wicked
are visited with the judgment of the Most High in the loss of their
earthly possessions. "The triumphing of the wicked is short," said
Zophar, "and the joy of the godless but for a moment." Is it so?

      "_How often is the lamp of the wicked put out?
       That their calamity cometh upon them?
       That God distributeth sorrows in His anger?
       That they are as stubble before the wind,
       And as chaff that the storm carrieth away?_"

One in a thousand, Job may admit, has the light extinguished in his
tent and is swept out of the world. But is it the rule or the
exception that such visible judgment falls even on the robber chief?
The first psalm has it that the wicked are "like the chaff which the
wind driveth away." The words of that chant may have been in the mind
of the author. If so, he disputes the doctrine. And further he rejects
with contempt the idea that though a transgressor himself lives long
and enjoys to the end, his children after him may bear his punishment.

      "_Ye say, God layeth up his iniquity for his children.
       Let Him recompense it unto himself, that he may know it.
       Let his own eyes see his destruction,
       And let him drink of the wrath of Shaddai.
       For what pleasure hath he in his house after him,
       When the number of his moons is cut off in the midst?_"

The righteousness Job is in quest of will not be satisfied with
visitation of the iniquities of the fathers upon the children. He will
not accept the proverb which Ezekiel afterwards repudiated, "The fathers
have eaten sour grapes, the children's teeth are set on edge." He
demands that the ways of God shall be equal, that the soul that sinneth
shall bear its punishment. Is it anything to a wicked man that his
children are scattered and have to beg their bread when he has passed
away? A man grossly selfish would not be vexed by the affliction of his
family even if, down in Sheol, he could know of it. What Zophar has to
prove is that every man who has lived a godless life is made to drink
the cup of Shaddai's indignation. Though he trembles in sight of the
truth, Job will press it on those who argue falsely for God.

And with the sense of the inscrutable purposes of the Most High
burdening his soul he proceeds--

      "_Shall any teach God knowledge?
       Seeing He judgeth those that are high?_"

Easy was it to insist that thus or thus Divine providence ordained. But
the order of things established by God is not to be forced into harmony
with a human scheme of judgment. He who rules in the heights of heaven
knows how to deal with men on earth; and for them to teach Him knowledge
is at once arrogant and absurd. The facts are evident, must be accepted
and reckoned with in all submission; especially must his friends
consider the fact of death, how death comes, and they will then find
themselves unable to declare the law of the Divine government.

As yet, even to Job, though he has gazed beyond death, its mystery is
oppressive; and he is right in urging that mystery upon his friends to
convict them of ignorance and presumption. Distinctions they affirm
to lie between the good and the wicked are not made by God in
appointing the hour of death. One is called away in his strong and
lusty manhood; another lingers till his becomes bitter and all the
bodily functions are impaired. "Alike they lie down in the dust and
the worms cover them." The thought is full of suggestion; but Job
presses on, returning for a moment to the false charges against
himself that he may bring a final argument to bear on his accusers.

      "_Behold, I know your thoughts,
       And the devices ye wrongfully imagine against me.
       For ye say, Where is the house of the prince?
       And, Where the tents in which the wicked dwelt?
       Have ye not asked them that go by the way?
       And do ye not regard their tokens--
       That the wicked is spared in the day of destruction,
       That they are led forth in the day of wrath?_"

So far from being overwhelmed in calamity the evil doer is considered,
saved as by an unseen hand. Whose hand? My house is wasted, my
habitations are desolate, I am in extremity, ready to die. True: but
those who go up and down the land would teach you to look for a
different end to my career if I had been the proud transgressor you
wrongly assume me to have been. I would have found a way of safety
when the storm-clouds gathered and the fire of heaven burned. My
prosperity would scarcely have been interrupted. If I had been what
you say, not one of you would have dared to charge me with crimes
against men or impiety towards God. You would have been trembling now
before me. The power of an unscrupulous man is not easily broken. He
faces fate, braves and overcomes the judgment of society.

And society accepts his estimate of himself, counts him happy,--pays
him honour at his death. The scene at his funeral confutes the
specious interpretation of providence that has been so often used as a
weapon against Job. Perhaps Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar know something
of obsequies paid to a prosperous tyrant, so powerful that they dared
not deny him homage even when he lay on his bier. Who shall repay the
evil-doer what he hath done?

      "_Yea, he is borne to the grave,
       And they keep watch over his tomb;
       The clods of the valley are sweet to him,
       And all men draw after him,
       As without number they go before him._"

It is the gathering of a country-side, the tumultuous procession, a
vast disorderly crowd before the bier, a multitude after it surging
along to the place of tombs. And there, in nature's greenest heart,
where the clods of the valley are sweet, they make his grave--and
there as over the dust of one of the honourable of the earth they keep
watch. Too true is the picture. Power begets fear and fear enforces
respect. With tears and lamentations the Arabs went, with all the
trappings of formal grief moderns may be seen in crowds following the
corpse of one who had neither a fine soul nor a good heart, nothing
but money and success to commend him to his fellow-men.

       *       *       *       *       *

So the writer ends the second act of the drama, and the controversy
remains much where it was. The meaning of calamity, the nature of the
Divine government of the world are not extracted. This only is made
clear, that the opinion maintained by the three friends cannot stand. It
is not true that joy and wealth are the rewards of virtuous life. It is
not always the case that the evil-doer is overcome by temporal disaster.
It is true that to good and bad alike death is appointed, and together
they lie down in the dust. It is true that even then the good man's
grave may be forsaken in the desert, while the impious may have a
stately sepulchre. A new way is made for human thought in the exposure
of the old illusions and the opening up of the facts of existence.
Hebrew religion has a fresh point of departure, a clearer view of the
nature and end of all things. The thought of the world receives a
spiritual germ; there is a making ready for Him who said, "A man's life
consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth," and
"What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his
life?" When we know what the earthly cannot do for us we are prepared
for the gospel of the spiritual and for the living word.

FOOTNOTES:

[3] Emerson, Essay III. "Compensation."

[4] Bushnell, "Moral Uses of Dark Things."



THE THIRD COLLOQUY.



XIX.

_DOGMATIC AND MORAL ERROR._

ELIPHAZ SPEAKS. CHAP. xxii.


The second colloquy has practically exhausted the subject of debate
between Job and his friends. The three have really nothing more to say
in the way of argument or awful example. It is only Eliphaz who tries
to clinch the matter by directly accusing Job of base and cowardly
offences. Bildad recites what may be called a short ode, and Zophar,
if he speaks at all, simply repeats himself as one determined if
possible to have the last word.

And why this third round? While it has definite marks of its own and
the closing speeches of Job are important as exhibiting his state of
mind, another motive seems to be required. And the following may be
suggested. A last indignity offered, last words of hard judgment
spoken, Job enters upon a long review of his life, with the sense of
being victorious in argument, yet with sorrow rather than exultation
because his prayers are still unanswered; and during all this time the
appearance of the Almighty is deferred. The impression of protracted
delay deepens through the two hundred and twenty sentences of the
third colloquy in which, one may say, all the resources of poetry are
exhausted. A tragic sense of the silence God keeps is felt to hang
over the drama, as it hangs over human life. A man vainly strives to
repel the calumnies that almost break his heart. His accusers advance
from innuendo to insolence. He seeks in the way of earnest thought
escape from their false reasoning; he appeals from men to God, from
God in nature and providence to God in supreme and glorious
righteousness behind the veil of sense and time. Unheard apparently by
the Almighty, he goes back upon his life and rehearses the proofs of
his purity, generosity, and faith; but the shadow remains. It is the
trial of human patience and the evidence that neither a man's judgment
of his own life nor the judgment expressed by other men can be final.
God must decide, and for His decision men must wait. The author has
felt in his own history this delay of heavenly judgment, and he brings
it out in his drama. He has also seen that on this side death there
can be no final reading of the judgment of God on a human life. We
wait for God; He comes in a prophetic utterance which all must
reverently accept; yet the declaration is in general terms. When at
last the Almighty speaks from the storm the righteous man and his
accusers alike have to acknowledge ignorance and error; there is an
end of self-defence and of condemnation by men, but no absolute
determination of the controversy. "The vision is for the appointed
time, and it hasteth toward the end, and shall not lie: though it
tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not delay.
Behold, his soul is puffed up, it is not upright in him: but the just
shall live by his faith" (Hab. ii. 3, 4).

       *       *       *       *       *

Eliphaz begins with a singular question, which he is moved to state by
the whole tenor of Job's reasoning and particularly by his hope that God
would become his Redeemer. "_Can a man be profitable unto God?_" Not
quite knowing what he asks, meaning simply to check the boldness of
Job's hope, he advances to the brink of an abyss of doubt. You Job, he
seems to say, a mere mortal creature, afflicted enough surely to know
your own insignificance, how can you build yourself up in the notion
that God is interested in your righteousness? You think God believes in
you and will justify you. How ignorant you must be if you really suppose
your goodness of any consequence to the Almighty, if you imagine that by
making your ways perfect, that is, claiming an integrity which man
cannot possess, you will render any service to the Most High. Man is too
small a creature to be of any advantage to God. Man's respect,
faithfulness, and devotion are essentially of no profit to Him.

One must say that Eliphaz opens a question of the greatest interest
both in theology or the knowledge of God, and in religion or the right
feelings of man toward God. If man as the highest energy, the finest
blossoming and most articulate voice of the creation, is of no
consequence to his Creator, if it makes no difference to the
perfection or complacency of God in Himself whether man serves the end
of his being or not, whether man does or fails to do the right he was
made to love; if it is for man's sake only that the way of life is
provided for him and the privilege of prayer given him,--then our
glorifying of God is not a reality but a mere form of speech. The only
conclusion possible would be that even when we serve God earnestly in
love and sacrifice we are in point of fact serving ourselves. If one
wrestles with evil, clings to the truth, renounces all for
righteousness' sake, it is well for him. If he is hard-hearted and
base, his life will decay and perish. But, in either case, the eternal
calm, the ineffable completeness of the Divine nature are unaffected.
Yea, though all men and all intelligent beings were overwhelmed in
eternal ruin the Creator's glory would remain the same, like a
full-orbed sun shining over a desolate universe.

               ..."We are such stuff
      As dreams are made of, and our little life
      Is rounded by a sleep."

Eliphaz thinks it is for man's sake alone God has created him,
surrounded him with means of enjoyment and progress, given him truth
and religion, and laid on him the responsibilities that dignify his
existence. But what comes then of the contention that, because Job has
sinned, desolation and disease have come to him from the Almighty? If
man's righteousness is of no account to God, why should his
transgressions be punished? Creating men for their own sake, a
beneficent Maker would not lay upon them duties the neglect of which
through ignorance must needs work their ruin. We know from the opening
scenes of the book that the Almighty took pleasure in His servant. We
see Him trying Job's fidelity for the vindication of His own creative
power and heavenly grace against the scepticism of such as the
Adversary. Is a faithful servant not profitable to one whom he
earnestly serves? Is it all the same to God whether we receive His
truth or reject His covenant? Then the urgency of Christ's redemptive
work is a fiction. Satan is not only correct in regard to Job but has
stated the sole philosophy of human life. We are to fear and serve God
for what we get; and our notions of doing bravely in the great warfare
on behalf of God's kingdom are the fancies of men who dream.

      "_Can a man be profitable unto God?
       Surely he that is wise is profitable to himself.
       Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that thou art righteous?
       Or is it gain to Him that thou makest thy ways perfect?
       Is it for thy fear of Him that He reproveth thee,
       That He entereth with thee into judgment?_"

Regarding this what are we to say? That it is false, an ignorant attempt
to exalt God at the expense of man, to depreciate righteousness in the
human range for the sake of maintaining the perfection and
self-sufficiency of God. But the virtues of man, love, fidelity, truth,
purity, justice, are not his own. The power of them in human life is a
portion of the Divine energy, for they are communicated and sustained by
the Divine Spirit. Were the righteousness, love, and faith instilled
into the human mind to fail of their result, were they, instead of
growing and yielding fruit, to decay and die, it would be waste of
Divine power; the moral cosmos would be relapsing into a chaotic state.
If we affirm that the obedience and redemption of man do not profit the
Most High, then this world and the inhabitants of it have been called
into existence by the Creator in grim jest, and He is simply amusing
Himself with our hazardous game.

With the same view of the absolute sovereignty of God in creation and
providence on which Eliphaz founds in this passage, Jonathan Edwards
sees the necessity of escaping the conclusion to which these verses
point. He argues that God's delight in the emanations of His fulness
in the work of creation shows "His delight in the infinite fulness of
good there is in Himself and the supreme respect and regard He has for
Himself." An objector may say, he proceeds, "If it could be supposed
that God needed anything; or that the goodness of His creatures could
extend to Him; or that they could be profitable to Him, it might be
fit that God should make Himself and His own interest His highest and
last end in creating the world. But seeing that God is above all need
and all capacity of being added to and advanced, made better and
happier in any respect; to what purpose should God make Himself His
end, or seek to advance Himself in any respect by any of His works?"
The answer is--"God may delight with true and great pleasure in
beholding that beauty which is an image and communication of His own
beauty, an expression and manifestation of His own loveliness. And
this is so far from being an instance of His happiness not being in
and from Himself, that it is an evidence that He is happy in Himself,
or delights and has pleasure in His own beauty." Nor does this argue
any dependence of God on the creature for happiness. "Though He has
real pleasure in the creature's holiness and happiness; yet this is
not properly any pleasure which He receives from the creature. For
these things are what He gives the creature."[5] Here to a certain
extent the reasoning is cogent and meets the difficulty of Eliphaz;
and at present it is not necessary to enter into the other difficulty
which has to be faced when the Divine reprobation of sinful life needs
explanation. It is sufficient to say that this is a question even more
perplexing to those who hold with Eliphaz than to those who take the
other view. If man for God's glory has been allowed a real part in the
service of eternal righteousness, his failure to do the part of which
he is capable, to which he is called, must involve his condemnation.
So far as his will enters into the matter he is rightly held
accountable, and must suffer for neglect.

Passing to the next part of Eliphaz's address we find it equally
astray for another reason. He asks "_Is not thy wickedness great?_"
and proceeds to recount a list of crimes which appear to have been
charged against Job in the base gossip of ill-doing people.

      "_Is not thy wickedness great,
       And no limit to thy iniquities?
       For thou hast taken pledges of thy brother for nought,
       And stripped the naked of their clothing.
       Thou hast not given water to the weary,
       And thou hast withholden bread from the famished.
       The man of might--his is the earth;
       And he that is in honour dwelt therein.
       Thou hast sent widows away empty,
       And the arms of the orphans have been broken._"

The worst here affirmed against Job is that he has overborne the
righteous claims of widows and orphans. Bildad and Zophar made a
mistake in alleging that he had been a robber and a freebooter. Yet is
it less unfriendly to give ear to the cruel slanders of those who in
Job's day of prosperity had not obtained from him all they desired and
are now ready with their complaints? No doubt the offences specified
are such as might have been committed by a man in Job's position and
excused as within his right. To take a pledge for debt was no uncommon
thing. When water was scarce, to withhold it even from the weary was
no extraordinary baseness. Vambéry tells us that on the steppes he has
seen father and son fighting almost to the death for the dregs of a
skin of water. Eliphaz, however, a good man, counts it no more than
duty to share this necessary of life with any fainting traveller, even
if the wells are dry and the skins are nearly empty. He also makes it
a crime to keep back corn in the year of famine. He says truly that
the man of might, doing such things, acts disgracefully. But there was
no proof that Job had been guilty of this kind of inhumanity, and the
gross perversion of justice to which Eliphaz condescends recoils on
himself. It does not always happen so within our knowledge. Pious
slander gathered up and retailed frequently succeeds. An Eliphaz
endeavours to make good his opinion by showing providence to be for
it; he keeps the ear open to any report that will confirm what is
already believed; and the circulating of such a report may destroy the
usefulness of a life, the usefulness which is denied.

Take a broader view of the same controversy. Is there no exaggeration
in the charges thundered sometimes against poor human nature? Is it
not often thought a pious duty to extort confession of sins men never
dreamed of committing, so that they may be driven to a repentance that
shakes life to its centre and almost unhinges the reason? With
conviction of error, unbelief, and disobedience the new life must
begin. Yet religion is made unreal by the attempt to force on the
conscience and to extort from the lips an acknowledgment of crimes
which were never intended and are perhaps far apart from the whole
drift of the character. The truthfulness of John the Baptist's
preaching was very marked. He did not deal with imaginary sins. And
when our Lord spoke of the duties and errors of men either in
discourse or parable, He never exaggerated. The sins He condemned were
all intelligible to the reason of those addressed, such as the
conscience was bound to own, must recognise as evil things,
dishonouring to the Almighty.

Having declared Job's imaginary crimes, Eliphaz exclaims, "_Therefore
snares are round about thee and sudden fear troubleth thee_." With the
whole weight of assumed moral superiority he bears down upon the
sufferer. He takes upon him to interpret providence, and every word is
false. Job has clung to God as his Friend. Eliphaz denies him the
right, cuts him off as a rebel from the grace of the King. Truly, it
may be said, religion is never in greater danger than when it is
upheld by hard and ignorant zeal like this.

Then, in the passage beginning at the twelfth verse, the attempt is
made to show Job how he had fallen into the sins he is alleged to have
committed.

      "_Is not God in the height of heaven?
       And behold the cope of the stars how high they are!
       And thou saidst--What doth God know?
       Can He judge through thick darkness?
       Thick clouds are a covering to Him that He seeth not;
       And He walketh on the round of heaven._"

Job imagined that God whose dwelling-place is beyond the clouds and the
stars could not see what he did. To accuse him thus is to pile offence
upon injustice, for the knowledge of God has been his continual desire.

Finally, before Eliphaz ends the accusation, he identifies Job's frame
of mind with the proud indifference of those whom the deluge swept away.
Job had talked of the prosperity and happiness of men who had not God in
all their thoughts. Was he forgetting that dreadful calamity?

      "_Wilt thou keep the old way
       Which wicked men have trodden?
       Who were snatched away before their time,
       Whose foundation was poured out as a stream:
       Who said to God, Depart from us;
       And what can the Almighty do unto us?
       Yet He filled their houses with good things:
       But the counsel of the wicked is far from me!_"

One who chose to go on in the way of transgressors would share their
fate; and in the day of his disaster as of theirs the righteous should
be glad and the innocent break into scornful laughter.

So Eliphaz closes, finding it difficult to make out his case, yet
bound as he supposes to do his utmost for religion by showing the law
of the vengeance of God. And, this done, he pleads and promises once
more in the finest passage that falls from his lips:--

      "_Acquaint now thyself with Him and be at peace:
       Thereby good shall come unto thee.
       Receive, I pray thee, instruction from His mouth,
       And lay up His words in thy heart.
       If thou return to Shaddai, thou shalt be built up;
       If thou put iniquity far from thy tents:
       And lay thy treasure in the dust,
       And among the stones of the streams the gold of Ophir;
       Then shall Shaddai be thy treasure
       And silver in plenty unto thee._"

At last there seems to be a strain of spirituality. "Acquaint now
thyself with God and be at peace." Reconciliation by faith and
obedience is the theme. Eliphaz is ignorant of much; yet the greatness
and majesty of God, the supreme power which must be propitiated occupy
his thoughts, and he does what he can to lead his friend out of the
storm into a harbour of safety. Though even in this strophe there
mingles a taint of sinister reflection, it is yet far in advance of
anything Job has received in the way of consolation. Admirable in
itself is the picture of the restoration of a reconciled life from
which unrighteousness is put far away. He seems indeed to have learned
something at last from Job. Now he speaks of one who in his desire for
the favour and friendship of the Most High sacrifices earthly
treasure, flings away silver and gold as worthless. No doubt it is
ill-gotten wealth to which he refers, treasure that has a curse upon
it. Nevertheless one is happy to find him separating so clearly
between earthly riches and heavenly treasure, advising the sacrifice
of the lower for what is infinitely higher. There is even yet hope of
Eliphaz, that he may come to have a spiritual vision of the favour and
friendship of the Almighty. In all he says here by way of promise
there is not a word of renewed temporal prosperity. Returning to
Shaddai in obedience Job will pray and have his prayer answered. Vows
he has made in the time of trouble shall be redeemed, for the desired
aid shall come. Beyond this there shall be, in the daily life, a
strength, decision, and freedom previously unknown. "_Thou shalt
decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee._" The man who
is at length in the right way of life, with God for his ally, shall
form his plans and be able to carry them out.

      "_When they cast down, thou shalt say, Uplifting!
       And the humble person He shall save.
       He will deliver the man not innocent;
       Yea he shall be delivered through the cleanness of thine hands._"

True, in the future experience of Job there may be disappointment and
trouble. Eliphaz cannot but see that the ill-will of the rabble may
continue long, and perhaps he is doubtful of the temper of his own
friends. But God will help His servant who returns to humble
obedience. And having been himself tried Job will intercede for those
in distress, perhaps on account of their sin, and his intercession
will prevail with God.

Put aside the thought that all this is said to Job, and it is surely a
counsel of wisdom. To the proud and self-righteous it shows the way
of renewal. Away with the treasures, the lust of the eyes, the pride
of life, that keep the soul from its salvation. Let the Divine love be
precious to thee and the Divine statutes thy joy. Power to deal with
life, to overcome difficulties, to serve thy generation shall then be
thine. Standing securely in God's grace thou shalt help the weary and
heavy laden. Yet Eliphaz cannot give the secret of spiritual peace. He
does not really know the trouble at the heart of human life. We need
for our Guide One who has borne the burden of a sorrow which had
nothing to do with the loss of worldly treasure but with the unrest
perpetually gnawing at the heart of humanity, who "bore our sin in His
own body unto the tree" and led captivity captive. What the old world
could not know is made clear to eyes that have seen the cross against
the falling night and a risen Christ in the fresh Easter morning.

FOOTNOTE:

[5] Jonathan Edwards, "Dissertation concerning the End for which God
created the World," Section IV.



XX.

_WHERE IS ELOAH?_

JOB SPEAKS. CHAPS. xxiii., xxiv.


The obscure couplet with which Job begins appears to involve some
reference to his whole condition alike of body and mind.

      "_Again, to-day, my plaint, my rebellion!
       The hand upon me is heavier than my groanings._"

I must speak of my trouble and you will count it rebellion. Yet, if I
moan and sigh, my pain and weariness are more than excuse. The crisis
of faith is with him, a protracted misery, and hope hangs trembling in
the balance. The false accusations of Eliphaz are in his mind; but
they provoke only a feeling of weary discontent. What men say does not
trouble him much. He is troubled because of that which God refuses to
do or say. Many indeed are the afflictions of the righteous. But every
case like his own obscures the providence of God. Job does not
entirely deny the contention of his friends that unless suffering
comes as a punishment of sin there is no reason for it. Hence, even
though he maintains with strong conviction that the good are often
poor and afflicted while the wicked prosper, yet he does not thereby
clear up the matter. He must admit to himself that he is condemned by
the events of life. And against the testimony of outward circumstance
he makes appeal in the audience chamber of the King.

Has the Most High forgotten to be righteous for a time? When the
generous and true are brought into sore straits, is the great Friend
of truth neglecting His task as Governor of the world? That would
indeed plunge life into profound darkness. And it seems to be even so.
Job seeks deliverance from this mystery which has emerged in his own
experience. He would lay his cause before Him who alone can explain.

      "_Oh that I knew where I might find Him,
       That I might come even to His seat!
       I would order my cause before Him,
       And fill my mouth with arguments.
       I would know the words which He would answer me,
       And understand what He would say unto me._"

Present to Job's mind here is the thought that he is under
condemnation, and along with this the conviction that his trial is not
over. It is natural that his mind should hover between these ideas,
holding strongly to the hope that judgment, if already passed, will be
revised when the facts are fully known.

Now this course of thought is altogether in the darkness. But what are
the principles unknown to Job, through ignorance of which he has to
languish in doubt? Partly, as we long ago saw, the explanation lies in
the use of trial and affliction as the means of deepening spiritual
life. They give gravity and therewith the possibility of power to our
existence. Even yet Job has not realised that one always kept in the
primrose path, untouched by the keen air of "misfortune," although he
had, to begin, a pious disposition and a blameless record, would be
worth little in the end to God or to mankind. And the necessity for
the discipline of affliction and disappointment, even as it explains
the smaller troubles, explains also the greatest. Let ill be heaped on
ill, disaster on disaster, disease on bereavement, misery on sorrow,
while stage by stage the life goes down into deeper circles of gloom
and pain, it may acquire, it will acquire, if faith and faithfulness
towards God remain, massiveness, strength and dignity for the highest
spiritual service.

But there is another principle, not yet considered, which enters into
the problem and still more lightens up the valley of experience which to
Job appeared so dark. The poem touches the fringe of this principle
again and again, but never states it. The author saw that men were born
to trouble. He made Job suffer more because he had his integrity to
maintain than if he had been guilty of transgressions by acknowledging
which he might have pacified his friends. The burden lay heavily upon
Job because he was a conscientious man, a true man, and could not accept
any make-believe in religion. But just where another step would have
carried him into the light of blessed acquiescence in the will of God,
the power failed, he could not advance. Perhaps the genuineness and
simplicity of his character would have been impaired if he had thought
of it, and we like him better because he did not. The truth, however, is
that Job was suffering for others, that he was, by the grace of God, a
martyr, and so far forth in the spirit and position of that suffering
Servant of Jehovah of whom we read in the prophecies of Isaiah.

The righteous sufferers, the martyrs, what are they? Always the
vanguard of humanity. Where they go and the prints of their bleeding
feet are left, there is the way of improvement, of civilisation, of
religion. The most successful man, preacher or journalist or
statesman, is popularly supposed to be leading the world in the right
path. Where the crowd goes shouting after him, is that not the way of
advance? Do not believe it. Look for a teacher, a journalist, a
statesman who is not so successful as he might be, because he will, at
all hazards, be true. The Christian world does not yet know the best
in life, thought and morality for the best. He who sacrifices
position and esteem to righteousness, he who will not bow down to the
great idol at the sound of sackbut and psaltery, observe where that
man is going, try to understand what he has in his mind. Those who
under defeat or neglect remain steadfast in faith have the secrets we
need to know. To the ranks even of the afflicted and broken the author
of Job turned for an example of witness-bearing to high ideas and the
faith in God which brings salvation. But he wrought in the shadow, and
his hero is unconscious of his high calling. Had Job seen the
principles of Divine providence which made him a helper of human
faith, we should not now hear him cry for an opportunity of pleading
his cause before God.

      "_Would He contend with me in His mighty power?
       Nay, but He would give heed to me.
       Then an upright man would reason with Him;
       So should I get free for ever from my Judge._"

It is in a sense startling to hear this confident expectation of
acquittal at the bar of God. The common notion is that the only part
possible to man in his natural state is to fear the judgment to come
and dread the hour that shall bring him to the Divine tribunal. From
the ordinary point of view the language of Job here is dangerous, if
not profane. He longs to meet the Judge; he believes that he could so
state his case that the Judge would listen and be convinced. The
Almighty would not contend with him any longer as his powerful
antagonist, but would pronounce him innocent and set him at liberty
for ever. Can mortal man vindicate himself before the bar of the Most
High? Is not every one condemned by the law of nature and of
conscience, much more by Him who knoweth all things? And yet this man
who believes he would be acquitted by the great King has already been
declared "perfect and upright, one that feareth God and escheweth
evil." Take the declaration of the Almighty Himself in the opening
scenes of the book, and Job is found what he claims to be. Under the
influence of that Divine grace which the sincere and upright may enjoy
he has been a faithful servant and has earned the approbation of his
Judge. It is by faith he is made righteous. Religion and love of the
Divine law have been his guides; he has followed them; and what one
has done may not others do? Our book is concerned not so much with the
corruption of human nature, as with the vindication of the grace of
God given to human nature. Corrupt and vile as humanity often is,
imperfect and spiritually ignorant as it always is, the writer of this
book is not engaged with that view. He directs attention to the
virtuous and honourable elements and shows God's new creation in which
He may take delight.

We shall indeed find that after the Almighty has spoken out of the
storm, Job says, "I repudiate my words and repent in dust and ashes."
So he appears to come at last to the confession which, from one point
of view, he ought to have made at the first. But those words of
penitence imply no acknowledgment of iniquity after all. They are
confession of ignorant judgment. Job admits with sorrow that he has
ventured too far in his attempt to understand the ways of the
Almighty, that he has spoken without knowledge of the universal
providence he had vainly sought to fathom.

The author's intention plainly is to justify Job in his desire for the
opportunity of pleading his cause, that is, to justify the claim of
the human reason to comprehend. It is not an offence to him that much
of the Divine working is profoundly difficult to interpret. He
acknowledges in humility that God is greater than man, that there are
secrets with the Almighty which the human mind cannot penetrate. But
so far as suffering and sorrow are appointed to a man and enter into
his life, he is considered to have the right of inquiry regarding
them, an inherent claim on God to explain them. This may be held the
error of the author which he himself has to confess when he comes to
the Divine interlocution. There he seems to allow the majesty of the
Omnipotent to silence the questions of human reason. But this is
really a confession that his own knowledge does not suffice, that he
shares the ignorance of Job as well as his cry for light. The universe
is vaster than he or any of the Old Testament age could even imagine.
The destinies of man form part of a Divine order extending through the
immeasurable spaces and the developments of eternal ages.

       *       *       *       *       *

Once more Job perceives or seems to perceive that access to the
presence of the Judge is denied. The sense of condemnation shuts him
in like prison walls and he finds no way to the audience chamber. The
bright sun moves calmly from east to west; the gleaming stars, the
cold moon in their turn glide silently over the vault of heaven. Is
not God on high? Yet man sees no form, hears no sound.

      "Speak to Him thou, for He hears, and spirit with spirit can meet;
       Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet."

But Job is not able to conceive a spiritual presence without shape or
voice.

      "_Behold, I go forward, but He is not there;
       And backward, but I cannot perceive Him:
       On the left hand where He doth work, but I behold Him not:
       He hideth Himself on the right hand that I cannot see Him._"

Nature, thou hast taught this man by thy light and thy darkness, thy
glorious sun and thy storms, the clear-shining after rain, the sprouting
corn and the clusters of the vine, by the power of man's will and the
daring love and justice of man's heart. In all thou hast been a
revealer. But thou hidest whom thou dost reveal. To cover in thought the
multiplicity of thy energies in earth and sky and sea, in fowl and brute
and man, in storm and sunshine, in reason, in imagination, in will and
love and hope;--to attach these one by one to the idea of a Being
almighty, infinite, eternal, and so to _conceive_ this God of the
universe--it is, we may say, a superhuman task. Job breaks down in the
effort to realise the great God. I look behind me, into the past. There
are the footprints of Eloah when He passed by. In the silence an echo of
His step may be heard; but God is not there. On the right hand, away
beyond the hills that shut in the horizon, on the left hand where the
way leads to Damascus and the distant north--not there can I see His
form; nor out yonder where day breaks in the east. And when I travel
forward in imagination, I who said that my Redeemer shall stand upon the
earth, when I strive to conceive His form, still, in utter human
incapacity, I fail. "Verily, Thou art a God that hidest Thyself."

And yet, Job's conviction of his own uprightness, is it not God's
witness to his spirit? Can he not be content with that? To have such a
testimony is to have the very verdict he desires. Well does Boethius,
a writer of the old world though he belonged to the Christian age,
press beyond Job where he writes: "He is always Almighty, because He
always wills good and never any evil. He is always equally gracious.
By His Divine power He is everywhere present. The Eternal and Almighty
always sits on the throne of His power. Thence He is able to see all,
and renders to every one with justice, according to his works.
Therefore it is not in vain that we have hope in God; for He changes
not as we do. But pray ye to Him humbly, for He is very bountiful and
very merciful. Hate and fly from evil as ye best may. Love virtues and
follow them. Ye have great need that ye always do well, for ye always
in the presence of the Eternal and Almighty God do all that ye do. He
beholds it all, and He will recompense it all."[6]

Amiel, on the other hand, would fain apply to Job a reflection which
has occurred to himself in one of the moods that come to a man
disappointed, impatient of his own limitations. In his journal, under
date January 29th, 1866, he writes: "It is but our secret self-love
which is set upon this favour from on high; such may be our desire,
but such is not the will of God. We are to be exercised, humbled,
tried and tormented to the end. It is our patience which is the
touchstone of our virtue. To bear with life even when illusion and
hope are gone; to accept this position of perpetual war, while at the
same time loving only peace; to stay patiently in the world, even when
it repels us as a place of low company and seems to us a mere arena of
bad passions; to remain faithful to one's own faith without breaking
with the followers of false gods; to make no attempt to escape from
the human hospital, long-suffering and patient as Job upon his
dunghill;--this is duty."[7] An evil mood prompts Amiel to write thus.
A thousand times rather would one hear him crying like Job on the
great Judge and Redeemer and complaining that the Goël hides Himself.
It is not in bare self-love or self-pity Job seeks acquittal at the
bar of God; but in the defence of conscience, the spiritual treasure
of mankind and our very life. No doubt his own personal justification
bulks largely with Job, for he has strong individuality. He will not
be overborne. He stands at bay against his three friends and the
unseen adversary. But he loves integrity, the virtue, first; and for
himself he cares as the representative of that which the Spirit of God
gives to faithful men. He may cry, therefore, he may defend himself,
he may complain; and God will not cast him off.

      "_For He knoweth the way that I take;
       If He tried me, I should come forth as gold.
       My foot hath held fast to His steps,
       His way have I kept, and not turned aside.
       I have not gone back from the commandments of His lips;
       I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my needful
                food._"

Bravely, not in mere vaunt he speaks, and it is good to hear him still
able to make such a claim. Why do we not also hold fast to the garment
of our Divine Friend? Why do we not realise and exhibit the resolute
godliness that anticipates judgment: "If He tried me, I should come
forth as gold"? The psalmists of Israel stood thus on their faith; and
not in vain, surely, has Christ called us to be like our Father who is
in heaven.

       *       *       *       *       *

But again from brave affirmation Job falls back exhausted.

      "Oh thou Hereafter! on whose shore I stand--
       Waiting each toppling moment to engulf me,
       What am I? Say thou Present! say thou Past
       Ye three wise children of Eternity!--
       A life?--A death?--and an immortal?--All?
       Is this the threefold mystery of man?
       The lower, darker Trinity of earth?
       It is vain to ask. Nought answers me--not God.
       The air grows thick and dark. The sky comes down.
       The sun draws round him streaky clouds--like God
       Gleaning up wrath. Hope hath leapt off my heart,
       Like a false sibyl, fear-smote, from her seat,
       And overturned it."[8]

So, as Bailey makes his Festus speak, might Job have spoken here. For
now it seems to him that to call on God is fruitless. Eloah is of one
mind. His will is steadfast, immovable. Death is in the cup and death
will come. On this God has determined. Nor is it in Job's case alone so
sore a doom is performed by the Almighty. Many such things are with Him.
The waves of trouble roll up from the deep dark sea and go over the head
of the sufferer. He lies faint and desolate once more. The light fades,
and with a deep sigh because he ever came to life he shuts his lips.

Natural religion ends always with a sigh. The sense of God found in
the order of the universe, the dim vision of God which comes in
conscience, moral life and duty, in fear and hope and love, in the
longing for justice and truth--these avail much; but they leave us at
the end desiring something they cannot give. The Unknown God whom men
ignorantly worshipped had to be revealed by the life and truth and
power of the Man Christ Jesus. Not without this revelation, which is
above and beyond nature, can our eager quest end in satisfying
knowledge. In Christ alone the righteousness that justifies, the love
that compassionates, the wisdom that enlightens are brought into the
range of our experience and communicated through reason to faith.

       *       *       *       *       *

In chap. xxiv. there is a development of the reasoning contained in
Job's reply to Zophar in the second colloquy, and there is also a
closer examination of the nature and results of evil-doing than has
yet been attempted. In the course of his acute and careful
discrimination Job allows something to his friends' side of the
argument, but all the more emphasises the series of vivid touches by
which the prosperous tyrant is represented. He modifies to some extent
his opinion previously expressed that all goes well with the wicked.
He finds that certain classes of miscreants do come to confusion, and
he separates these from the others, at the same time separating
himself beyond question from the oppressor on this side and the
murderer and adulterer on that. Accepting the limits of discussion
chosen by the friends he exhausts the matter between himself and them.
By the distinctions now made and the choice offered, Job arrests
personal accusation, and of that we hear no more.

Continuing the idea of a Divine assize which has governed his thought
throughout this reply, Job asks why it should not be held openly from
time to time in the world's history.

      "_Why are times not set by the Almighty?
       And why do not they who know Him see His days?_"

Emerson says the world is full of judgment-days; Job thinks it is not,
but ought to be. Passing from his own desire to have access to the bar
of God and plead there, he now thinks of an open court, a public
vindication of God's rule. The Great Assize is never proclaimed. Ages go
by; the Righteous One never appears. All things continue as they were
from the beginning of the creation. Men struggling, sinning, suffering,
doubt or deny the existence of a moral Ruler. They ask, Who ever saw
this God? If He exists, He is so separate from the world by His own
choice that there is no need to consider Him. In pride or in sorrow men
raise the question. But _no God_ means no justice, no truth, no
penetration of the real by the ideal; and thought cannot rest there.

With great vigour and large knowledge of the world the writer makes
Job point out the facts of human violence and crime, of human
condonation and punishment. Look at the oppressors and those who
cringe under them, the despots never brought to justice, but on the
contrary growing in power through the fear and misery of their serfs.
Already we have seen how perilous it is to speak falsely for God. Now
we see, on the other hand, that whoever speaks truly of the facts of
human experience prepares the way for a true knowledge of God. Those
who have been looking in vain for indications of Divine justice and
grace are to learn that not in deliverance from the poverty and
trouble of this world but in some other way they must realise God's
redemption. The writer of the book is seeking after that kingdom which
is not meat and drink nor long life and happiness, but righteousness
and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Observe first, says Job, the base and cruel men who remove landmarks
and claim as their own a neighbour's heritage, who drive into their
pastures flocks that are not theirs, who even take away the one ass of
the fatherless and the one ox the widow has for ploughing her scanty
fields, who thus with a high hand overbear all the defenceless people
within their reach. Zophar had charged Job with similar crimes, and no
direct reply was given to the accusation. Now, speaking strongly of
the iniquity of such deeds, Job makes his accusers feel their
injustice towards him. There are men who do such things. I have seen
them, wondered at them, been amazed that they were not struck down by
the hand of God. My distress is that I cannot understand how to
reconcile their immunity from punishment with my faith in Him whom I
have served and trusted as my Friend.

The next picture, from the fifth to the eighth verse, shows in
contrast to the tyrant's pride and cruelty the lot of those who suffer
at his hands. Deprived of their land and their flocks, herding
together in common danger and misery like wild asses, they have to
seek for their food such roots and wild fruits as can be found here
and there in the wilderness. Half enslaved now by the man who took
away their land they are driven to the task of harvesting his fodder
and gathering the gleanings of his grapes. Naked they lie in the
field, huddling together for warmth, and out among the hills they are
wet with the impetuous rains, crouching in vain under the ledges of
the rock for shelter.

Worse things too are done, greater sufferings than these have to be
endured. Men there are who pluck the fatherless child from the
mother's breast, claiming the poor little life as a pledge. Miserable
debtors, faint with hunger, have to carry the oppressor's sheaves of
corn. They have to grind at the oil-presses, and with never a cluster
to slake their thirst tread the grapes in the hot sun. Nor is it only
in the country cruelties are practised. Perhaps in Egypt the writer
has seen what he makes Job describe, the misery of city life. In the
city the dying groan uncared for, and the soul of the wounded crieth
out. Universal are the scenes of social iniquity. The world is full of
injustice. And to Job the sting of it all is that "_God regardeth not
the wrong._"

Men talk nowadays as if the penury and distress prevalent in our large
towns proved the churches to be unworthy of their name and place. It may
be so. If this can be proved, let it be proved; and if the institution
called The Church cannot justify its existence and its Christianity
where it should do so by freeing the poor from oppression and securing
their rights to the weak, then let it go to the wall. But here is Job
carrying the accusation a stage farther, carrying it, with what may
appear blasphemous audacity, to the throne of God. He has no church to
blame, for there is no church. Or, he himself represents what church
there is. And as a witness for God, what does he find to be his portion?
Behold him, where many a servant of Divine righteousness has been in
past times and is now, down in the depths, poorest of the poor,
bereaved, diseased, scorned, misunderstood, hopeless. Why is there
suffering? Why are there many in our cities outcasts of society, such as
society is? Job's case is a partial explanation; and here the church is
not to blame. Pariahs of society, we say. If society consists to any
great extent of oppressors who are enjoying wealth unjustly gained, one
is not so sure that there is any need to pity those who are excluded
from society. Am I trying to make out that it may be well there are
oppressors, because oppression is not the worst thing for a brave soul?
No: I am only using the logic of the Book of Job in justifying Divine
providence. The church is criticised and by many in these days
condemned as worthless because it is not banishing poverty. Perhaps it
might be more in the way of duty and more likely to succeed if it sought
to banish excessive wealth. Are we of the twentieth Christian century to
hold still by the error of Eliphaz and the rest of Job's friends? Are we
to imagine that those whom the gospel blesses it must of necessity
enrich, so that in their turn they may be tempted to act the Pharisee?
Let us be sure God knows how to govern His world. Let us not doubt His
justice because many are very poor who have been guilty of no crimes and
many very rich who have been distinguished by no virtues. It is our
mistake to think that all would be well if no bitter cries were heard in
the midnight streets and every one were secured against penury. While
the church is partly to blame for the state of things, the salvation of
society will not be found in any earthly socialism. On that side lies a
slough as deep as the other from which it professes to save. The large
Divine justice and humanity which the world needs are those which Christ
alone has taught, Christ to whom property was only something to deal
with on the way to spiritual good,--humility, holiness, love and faith.

The emphatic "_These_" with which verse 13 begins must be taken as
referring to the murderer and adulterer immediately to be described.
Quite distinct from the strong oppressors who maintain themselves in
high position are these cowardly miscreants who "rebel against the
light" (ver. 13), who "in the dark dig through houses" and "know not the
light" (ver. 16), to whom "the morning is as the shadow of death," whose
"portion is cursed in the earth." The passage contains Job's admission
that there are vile transgressors of human and Divine law whose
unrighteousness is broken as a tree (ver. 20). Without giving up his
main contention as to high-handed wickedness prospering in the world he
can admit this; nay, asserting it he strengthens his position against
the arguments of his friends. The murderer who rising towards daybreak
waylays and kills the poor and needy for the sake of their scanty
belongings, the adulterer who waits for the twilight, disguising his
face, and the thief who in the dark digs through the clay wall of a
house--these do find the punishment of their treacherous and disgusting
crimes in this life. The coward who is guilty of such sin is loathed
even by the mother who bore him and has to skulk in by-ways, familiar
with the terrors of the shadow of death, daring not to turn in the way
of the vineyards to enjoy their fruit. The description of these
reprobates ends with the twenty-first verse, and then there is a return
to the "mighty" and the Divine support they appear to enjoy.

The interpretation of verses 18-21 which makes them "either actually
in part the work of a popular hand, or a parody after the popular
manner by Job himself," has no sufficient ground. To affirm that the
passage is introduced ironically and that verse 22 resumes the real
history of the murderer, the adulterer, and the thief is to neglect
the distinction between those "who rebel against the light" and the
mighty who live in the eye of God. The natural interpretation is that
which makes the whole a serious argument against the creed of the
friends. In their eagerness to convict Job they have failed to
distinguish between men whose base crimes bring them under social
reprobation and the proud oppressors who prosper through very
arrogance. Regarding these the fact still holds that apparently they
are under the protection of Heaven.

      "_Yet He sustaineth the mighty by His power,
       They rise up though they despaired of life.
       He giveth them to be safe, and they are upheld,
       And His eyes are upon their ways.
       They rise high: in a moment they are not;
       They are brought low, like all others gathered in,
       And cut off as the tops of corn.
       If not--who then will make me a liar,
       And to nothing bring my speech?_"

Is the daring right-defying evil-doer wasted by disease, preyed upon
by terror? Not so. When he appears to have been crushed, suddenly he
starts up again in new vigour, and when he dies, it is not prematurely
but in the ripeness of full age. With this reaffirmation of the
mystery of God's dealings Job challenges his friends. They have his
final judgment. The victory he gains is that of one who will be true
at all hazards. Perhaps in the background of his thought is the vision
of a redemption not only of his own life but of all those broken by
the injustice and cruelty of this earth.

FOOTNOTES:

[6] "Consolation of Philosophy," chap. xlii.

[7] Mrs. Ward's translation, p. 116.

[8] "Festus," edition 1864, p. 503.



XXI.

_THE DOMINION AND THE BRIGHTNESS._

BILDAD SPEAKS. CHAP. XXV.


The argument of the last chapter proceeded entirely on the general
aspect of the question whether the evil are punished in proportion to
their crimes. Job has met his friends so far as to place them in a great
difficulty. They cannot assail him now as a sort of infidel. And yet
what he has granted does not yield the main ground. They cannot deny his
contrast between the two classes of evil-doers nor refuse to admit that
the strong oppressor has a different fate from the mean adulterer or
thief. Bildad therefore confines himself to two general principles, that
God is the supreme administrator of justice and that no man is clean. He
will not now affirm that Job has been a tyrant to the poor. He dares not
call him a murderer or a housebreaker. A snare has been laid for him who
spoke much of snares, and seeing it he is on his guard.

      "_Dominion and fear are with Him;
       He maketh peace in His high places
       Is there any number of His armies?
       And on whom doth not His light shine?
       How then can man be just with God?
       Or how can he of woman born be clean?
       Behold, even the moon hath no brightness,
       And the stars are not pure in His sight.
       How much less man that is a worm,
       And the son of man, the worm!_"

The brief ode has a certain dignity raising it above the level of
Bildad's previous utterances. He desires to show that Job has been too
bold in his criticism of providence. God has sole dominion and claims
universal adoration. Where He dwells in the lofty place of
unapproachable glory His presence and rule create peace. He is the
Lord of innumerable armies (the stars and their inhabitants perhaps),
and His light fills the breadth of interminable space, revealing and
illuminating every life. Upon this assertion of the majesty of God is
based the idea of His holiness. Before so great and glorious a Being
how can man be righteous? The universality of His power and the
brightness of his presence stand in contrast to the narrow range of
human energy and the darkness of the human mind. Behold, says Bildad,
the moon is eclipsed by a glance of the great Creator and the stars
are cast into shadow by His effulgence; and how shall man whose body
is of the earth earthy claim any cleanness of soul? He is like the
worm; his kinship is with corruption; his place is in the dust like
the creeping things of which he becomes the prey.

The representation of God in His exaltation and gory has a tone of
impressive piety which redeems Bildad from any suspicion of insolence
at this point. He is including himself and his friends among those
whose lives appear impure in the sight of Heaven. He is showing that
successfully as Job may repel the charges brought against him, there
is at all events one general condemnation in which with all men he
must allow himself to be involved. Is he not a feeble ignorant man
whose will being finite must be imperfect? On the one hand is the
pious exaltation of God, on the other the pious abasement of man.

It is, however, easy to see that Bildad is still bound to a creed of
the superficial kind without moral depth or spiritual force. The ideas
are those of a nature religion in which the one God is a supreme Baal
or Master, monopolising all splendour, His purity that of the fire or
the light. We are shown the Lord of the visible universe whose
dwelling is in the high heavens, whose representative is the bright
sun from the light of which nothing is hidden. It is easy to point to
this splendid apparition and, contrasting man with the great
fire-force, the perennial fountain of light, to say--How dark, how
puny, how imperfect is man. The brilliance of an Arabian sky through
which the sun marches in unobstructed glory seems in complete contrast
to the darkness of human life. Yet, is it fair, is it competent to
argue thus? Is anything established as to the moral quality of man
because he cannot shine like the sun or even with the lesser light of
moon or stars? One may allow a hint of strong thought in the
suggestion that boundless majesty and power are necessary to perfect
virtue, that the Almighty alone can be entirely pure. But Bildad
cannot be said to grasp this idea. If it gleams before his mind, the
faint flash passes unrecognised. He has not wisdom enough to work out
such a thought. And it is nature that according to his argument really
condemns man. Job is bidden look up to the sun and moon and stars and
know himself immeasurably less pure than they.

But the truth stands untouched that man whose body is doomed to
corruption, man who labours after the right, with the heat of moral
energy in his heart, moves on a far higher plane as a servant of God
than any fiery orb which pours its light through boundless space. We
find ignorance of man and therefore of his Maker in Bildad's speech. He
does not understand the dignity of the human mind in its straining after
righteousness. "With limitless duration, with boundless space and number
without end, Nature does at least what she can to translate into visible
form the wealth of the creative formula. By the vastness of the abysses
into which she penetrates in the effort, the unsuccessful effort, to
house and contain the eternal thought we may measure the greatness of
the Divine mind. For as soon as this mind goes out of itself and seeks
to explain itself, the effort at utterance heaps universe upon universe
during myriads of centuries, and still it is not expressed and the great
oration must go on for ever and ever." The inanimate universe majestic,
ruled by eternal law, cannot represent the moral qualities of the Divine
mind, and the attempt to convict a thinking man, whose soul is bent on
truth and purity, by the splendour of that light which dazzles his eye,
comes to nothing.

The commonplaces of pious thought fall stale and flat in a controversy
like the present. Bildad does not realise wherein the right of man in
the universe consists. He is trying in vain to instruct one who sees
that moral desire and struggle are the conditions of human greatness,
who will not be overborne by material splendours nor convicted by the
accident of death.



XXII.

_THE OUTSKIRTS OF HIS WAYS._

JOB SPEAKS. CHAPS. xxvi., xxvii.


Beginning his reply Job is full of scorn and sarcasm.

      "_How hast thou helped one without power!
       How hast thou saved the strengthless arm!
       How hast thou counselled one void of knowledge,
       And plentifully declared the thing that is known!_"

Well indeed hast thou spoken, O man of singular intelligence. I am
very weak, my arm is powerless. What reassurance, what generous help
thou hast provided! I, doubtless, know nothing, and thou hast showered
illumination on my darkness.--His irony is bitter. Bildad appears
almost contemptible. "_To whom hast thou uttered words?_" Is it thy
mission to instruct me? "_And whose spirit came forth from thee?_"
Dost thou claim Divine inspiration? Job is rancorous; and we are
scarcely intended by the writer to justify him. Yet it is galling
indeed to hear that calm repetition of the most ordinary ideas when
the controversy has been carried into the deep waters of thought. Job
desired bread and is offered a stone.

But since Bildad has chosen to descant upon the greatness and imperial
power of God, the subject shall be continued. He shall be taken into
the abyss beneath, where faith recognises the Divine presence, and to
the heights above that he may learn how little of the dominion of God
lies within the range of a mind like his, or indeed of mortal sense.

First there is a vivid glance at that mysterious under-world where the
shades or spirits of the departed survive in a dim vague existence.

      "_The shades are shaken
       Beneath the waters and their inhabitants.
       Sheol is naked before Him,
       And Abaddon hath no covering._"

Bildad has spoken of the lofty place where God makes peace. But that
same God has the sovereignty also of the nether world. Under the bed
of the ocean and those subterranean waters that flow beneath the solid
ground where, in the impenetrable darkness, poor shadows of their
former selves, those who lived once on earth congregate age after
age--there the power of the Almighty is revealed. He does not always
exert His will in order to create tranquility. Down in Sheol the
_refaim_ are agitated. And nothing is hid from His eye. Abaddon, the
devouring abyss, is naked before Him.

Let us distinguish here between the imagery and the underlying
thought, the inspired vision of the writer and the form in which Job
is made to present it. These notions about Sheol as a dark cavern
below earth and ocean to which the spirits of the dead are supposed to
descend are the common beliefs of the age. They represent opinion, not
reality. But there is a new flash of inspiration in the thought that
God reigns over the abode of the dead, that even if men escape
punishment here, the judgments of the Almighty may reach them there.
This is the writer's prophetic insight into fact; and he properly
assigns the thought to his hero who, already almost at the point of
death, has been straining as it were to see what lies beyond the
gloomy gate. The poetry is infused with the spirit of inquiry into
God's government of the present and the future. Set beside other
passages both in the Old and New Testaments this is found continuous
with higher revelations, even with the testimony of Christ when He
says that God is Lord not of the dead but of the living.

From Sheol, the under-world, Job points to the northern heavens ablaze
with stars. God, he says, stretches that wonderful dome over empty
space--the immovable polar star probably appearing to mark the point of
suspension. The earth, again, hangs in space on nothing, even this solid
earth on which men live and build their cities. The writer is of course
ignorant of what modern science teaches, but he has caught the fact
which no modern knowledge can deprive of its marvellous character. Then
the gathering in immense volumes of watery vapour, how strange is that,
the filmy clouds holding rains that deluge a continent, yet not rent
asunder. One who is wonderful in counsel must indeed have ordered this
universe; but His throne, the radiant seat of His everlasting dominion,
He shutteth in with clouds; it is never seen.

      "_A bound He hath set on the face of the waters,
       On the confines of light and darkness.
       The pillars of heaven tremble
       And are astonished at His rebuke.
       He stilleth the sea with His power;
       And by His understanding He smites through Rahab:
       By His breath the heavens are made bright;
       His hand pierceth the fleeing serpent.
       Lo, these are the outskirts of His ways,
       And what a whisper is that which we hear of Him!
       But the thunder of His powers who can apprehend?_"

At the confines of light and darkness God sets a boundary, the visible
horizon, the ocean being supposed to girdle the earth on every side.
The pillars of heaven are the mountains, which might be seen in
various directions apparently supporting the sky. With awe men looked
upon them, with greater awe felt them sometimes shaken by mysterious
throbs as if at God's rebuke. From these the poet passes to the sea,
the great storm waves that roll upon the shore. God smites through
Rahab, subdues the fierce sea--represented as a raging monster. Here,
as in the succeeding verse where the fleeing serpent is spoken of,
reference is made to nature-myths current in the East. The old ideas
of heathen imagination are used simply in a poetical way. Job does not
believe in a dragon of the sea, but it suits him to speak of the
stormy ocean-current under this figure so as to give vividness to his
picture of Divine power. God quells the wild waves; His breath as a
soft wind clears away the storm clouds and the blue sky is seen again.
The hand of God pierces the fleeing serpent, the long track of angry
clouds borne swiftly across the face of the heavens.

The closing words of the chapter are a testimony to the Divine
greatness, negative in form yet in effect more eloquent than all the
rest. It is but the outskirts of the ways of God we see, a whisper of
Him we hear. The full thunder falls not on our ears. He who sits on
the throne which is for ever shrouded in clouds and darkness is the
Creator of the visible universe but always separate from it. He
reveals Himself in what we see and hear, yet the glory, the majesty
remain concealed. The sun is not God, nor the storm, nor the clear
shining after rain. The writer is still true to the principle of never
making nature equal to God. Even where the religion is in form a
nature religion, separateness is fully maintained. The phenomena of
the universe are but faint adumbrations of the Divine life. Bildad may
come short of the full clearness of belief, but Job has it. The great
circle of existence the eye is able to include is but the skirt of
that garment by which the Almighty is seen.

The question may be asked, What place has this poetical tribute to the
majesty of God in the argument of the book? Viewed simply as an effort
to outdo and correct the utterance of Bildad the speech is not fully
explained. We ask further what is meant to be in Job's mind at this
particular point in the discussion; whether he is secretly complaining
that power and dominion so wide are not manifested in executing justice
on earth, or, on the other hand, comforting himself with the thought
that judgment will yet return to righteousness and the Most High be
proved the All-just? The inquiry has special importance because, looking
forward in the book, we find that when the voice of God is heard from
the storm it proclaims His matchless power and incomparable wisdom.

At present it must suffice to say that Job is now made to come very
near his final discovery that complete reliance upon Eloah is not
simply the fate but the privilege of man. Fully to understand Divine
providence is impossible, but it can be seen that One who is supreme
in power and infinite in wisdom, responsible always to Himself for the
exercise of His power, should have the complete confidence of His
creatures. Of this truth Job lays hold; by strenuous thought he has
forced his way almost through the tangled forest, and he is a type of
man at his best on the natural plane. The world waited for the clear
light which solves the difficulties of faith. While once and again a
flash came before Christ, He brought the abiding revelation, the
dayspring from on high which giveth light to them that sit in darkness
and the shadow of death.

       *       *       *       *       *

According to his manner Job turns now from a subject which may be
described as speculative to his own position and experience. The
earlier part of chap. xxvii. is an earnest declaration in the strain
he has always maintained. As vehemently as ever he renews his claim to
integrity, emphasizing it with a solemn adjuration.

      "_As God liveth who hath taken away my right,
       And the Almighty who hath embittered my soul;
       (For still my life is whole in me,
       And the breath of the High God in my nostrils),
       My lips do not speak iniquity,
       Nor does my tongue utter deceit.
       Far be it from me to justify you;
       Till I die I will not remove my integrity from me.
       My righteousness I hold fast, and let it not go;
       My heart reproacheth not any of my days._"

This is in the old tone of confident self-defence. God has taken away
his right, denied him the outward signs of innocence, the opportunity
of pleading his cause. Yet, as a believer, he swears by the life of
God that he is a true man, a righteous man. Whatever betides he will
not fall from that conviction and claim. And let no one say that pain
has impaired his reason, that now if never before he is speaking
deliriously. No: his life is whole in him; God-given life is his, and
with the consciousness of it he speaks, not ignorant of what is a
man's duty, not with a lie in his right hand, but with absolute
sincerity. He will not justify his accusers, for that would be to deny
righteousness, the very rock which alone is firm beneath his feet.
Knowing what is a man's obligation to his fellow-men and to God he
will repeat his self-defence. He goes back upon his past, he reviews
his days. Upon none of them can his conscience fix the accusation of
deliberate baseness or rebellion against God.

Having affirmed his sincerity Job proceeds to show what would be the
result of deceit and hypocrisy at so solemn a crisis of his life. The
underlying idea seems to be that of communion with the Most High, the
spiritual fellowship necessary to man's inner life. He could not speak
falsely without separating himself from God and therefore from hope.
As yet he is not rejected; the consciousness of truth remains with
him, and through that he is in touch at least with Eloah. No voice
from on high answers him; yet this Divine principle of life remains in
his soul. Shall he renounce it?

      "_Let mine enemy be as the wicked,
       And he that riseth against me as the unrighteous._"

If I have aught to do with a wicked man such as I am now to describe,
one who would pretend to pure and godly life while he had behaved in
impious defiance of righteousness, if I have to do with such a man,
let it be as an enemy.

      "_For what is the hope of the godless whom He cutteth off,
       When God taketh his soul?
       Will God hear his cry
       When trouble cometh upon him?
       Will he delight himself in the Almighty
       And call upon Eloah at all times?_"

The topic is access to God by prayer, that sense of security which
depends on the Divine friendship. There comes one moment at least, there
may be many, in which earthly possessions are seen to be worthless and
the help to the Almighty is alone to any avail. In order to enjoy hope
at such a time a man must habitually live with God in sincere obedience.
The godless man previously described, the thief, the adulterer whose
whole life is a cowardly lie, is cut off from the Almighty. He finds no
resource in the Divine friendship. To call upon God always is no
privilege of his; he has lost it by neglect and revolt. Job speaks of
the case of such a man as in contrast to his own. Although his own
prayers remain apparently unanswered he has a reserve of faith and hope.
Before God he can still assure himself as the servant of His
righteousness, in fellowship with Him who is eternally true. The address
closes with these words of retrospection (vv. 11, 12):--

      "_I would teach you concerning the hand of God,
       That which is with Shaddai would I not conceal.
       Behold, all ye yourselves have seen it;
       Why then are ye become altogether vain?_"

At this point begins a passage which creates great difficulty. It is
ascribed to Job, but is entirely out of harmony with all he has said.
May we accept the conjecture that it is the missing third speech of
Zophar, erroneously incorporated with the "parable" of Job? Do the
contents warrant this departure from the received text?

All along Job's contention has been that though an evil-doer could
have no fellowship with God, no joy in God, yet such a man might
succeed in his schemes, amass wealth, live in glory, go down to his
grave in peace. Yea, he might be laid in a stately tomb and the very
clods of the valley might be sweet to him. Job has not affirmed this
to be always the history of one who defies the Divine law. But he has
said that often it is; and the deep darkness in which he himself lies
is not caused so much by his calamity and disease as by the doubt
forced upon him whether the Most High does rule in steadfast justice
on this earth. How comes it, he has cried again and again, that the
wicked prosper and the good are often reduced to poverty and sorrow?

Now does the passage from the twelfth verse onwards correspond with
this strain of thought? It describes the fate of the wicked oppressor
in strong language--defeat, desolation, terror, rejection by God,
rejection by men. His children are multiplied only for the sword. Sons
die and widows are left disconsolate. His treasures, his garments
shall not be for his delight; the innocent shall enjoy his substance.
His sudden death shall be in shame and agony, and men shall clap their
hands at him and hiss him out of his place. Clearly, if Job is the
speaker, he must be giving up all he has hitherto contended for,
admitting that his friends have argued truly, that after all judgment
does fall in this world upon arrogant men. The motive of the whole
controversy would be lost if Job yielded this point. It is not as if
the passage ran, This or that may take place, this or that may befall
the evil-doer. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar never present more strongly
their own view than that view is presented here. Nor can it be said
that the writer may be preparing for the confession Job makes after
the Almighty has spoken from the storm. When he gives way then, it is
only to the extent of withdrawing his doubts of the wisdom and justice
of the Divine rule.

The suggestion that Job is here reciting the statements of his friends
cannot be entertained. To read "Why are ye altogether vain, _saying_,
This is the portion of the wicked man from God," is incompatible with
the long and detailed account of the oppressor's overthrow and
punishment. There would be no point or force in mere recapitulation
without the slightest irony or caricature. The passage is in grim
earnest. On the other hand, to imagine that Job is modifying his
former language is, as Dr. A. B. Davidson shows, equally out of the
question. With his own sons and daughters lying in their graves, his
own riches dispersed, would he be likely to say--"_If his children be
multiplied it is for the sword_"? and

      "_Though he heap up silver as the dust,
      And prepare raiment as the clay;
      He may prepare it, but the just shall put it on
      And the innocent shall divide the silver_"?

Against supposing this to be Zophar's third speech the arguments drawn
from the brevity of Bildad's last utterance and the exhaustion of the
subjects of debate have little weight, and there are distinct points
of resemblance between the passage under consideration and Zophar's
former addresses. Assuming it to be his, it is seen to begin precisely
where he left off;--only he adopts the distinction Job has pointed out
and confines himself now to "oppressors." His last speech closed with
the sentence: "This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the
heritage appointed unto him by God." He begins here (ver. 13): "This
is the portion of a wicked man with God, and the heritage of
oppressors which they receive from the Almighty." Again, without
verbal identity, the expressions "God shall cast the fierceness of His
wrath upon him" (chap. xx. 23), and "God shall hurl upon him and not
spare" (chap. xxvii. 21), show the same style of representation, as
also do the following: "Terrors are upon him.... His goods shall flow
away in the day of his wrath" (chap. xx. 25, 28), and "Terrors
overtake him like waters" (chap. xxvii. 20). Other similarities may be
easily traced; and on the whole it seems by far the best explanation
of an otherwise incomprehensible passage to suppose that here Zophar
is holding doggedly to opinions which the other two friends have
renounced. Job could not have spoken the passage, and there is no
reason for considering it to be an interpolation by a later hand.



XXIII.

_CHORAL INTERLUDE._

CHAP. xxviii.


The controversy at length closed, the poet breaks into a chant of the
quest of Wisdom. It can hardly be supposed to have been uttered or
sung by Job. But if we may go so far as to imagine a chorus after the
manner of the Greek dramas, this ode would fitly come as a choral
descant reflecting on the vain attempts made alike by Job and by his
friends to penetrate the secrets of Divine providence. How poor and
unsatisfying is all that has been said. To fathom the purposes of the
Most High, to trace through the dark shadows and entanglements of
human life that unerring righteousness with which all events are
ordered and overruled--how far was this above the sagacity of the
speakers. Now and again true things have been said, now and again
glimpses of that vindication of the good which should compensate for
all their sufferings have brightened the controversy. But the
reconciliation has not been found. The purposes of the Most High
remain untraced. The poet is fully aware of this, aware even that on
the ground of argument he is unable to work out the problem which he
has opened. With an undertone of wistful sadness, remembering passages
of his country's poetry that ran in too joyous a strain, as if wisdom
lay within the range of human ken, he suspends the action of the drama
for a little to interpose this cry of limitation and unrest. There is
no complaint that God keeps in his own hand sublime secrets of Design.
What is man that he should be discontented with his place and power?
It is enough for him that the Great God rules in righteous
sovereignty, gives him laws of conduct to be obeyed in reverence,
shows him the evil he is to avoid, the good he is to follow. "The
things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." Those who have a
world to explore and use, the Almighty to adore and trust, if they
must seek after the secret of existence and ever feel themselves
baffled in the endeavour, may still live nobly, bear patiently, find
blessed life within the limit God has set.

First the industry of man is depicted, that search for the hidden
things of the earth which is significant alike of the craving and
ingenuity of the human mind.

      "_Surely there is a mine for silver
       And a place for gold which they refine.
       Iron is taken out of the earth,
       And copper is molten out of the stone.
       Man setteth an end to darkness,
       And searcheth, to the furthest bound,
       The stones of darkness and deathful gloom.
       He breaks a shaft away from where men dwell;
       They are forgotten of the foot;
       Afar from men they hang and swing to and fro._"

The poet has seen, perhaps in Idumæa or in Midian where mines of
copper and gold were wrought by the Egyptians, the various operations
here described. Digging or quarrying, driving tunnels horizontally
into the hills or sinking shafts in the valleys, letting themselves
down by ropes from the edge of a cliff to reach the vein, then,
suspended in mid air, hewing at the ore, the miners variously ply
their craft. Away in remote gorges of the hills the pits they have dug
remain abandoned, forgotten. The long winding passages they make seem
to track to the utmost limit the stones of darkness, stones that are
black with the richness of the ore.

On the earth's surface men till their fields, but the hidden treasures
that lie below are more valuable than the harvest of maize or wheat.

      "_As for the earth, out of it cometh bread;
       And from beneath it is turned up as by fire.
       The stones thereof are the place of sapphires,
       And it hath dust of gold._"

The reference to fire as an agent in turning up the earth appears to
mark a volcanic district, but sapphires and gold are found either in
alluvial soil or associated with gneiss and quartz. Perhaps the fire
was that used by the miners to split refractory rock. And the cunning
of man is seen in this, that he carries into the very heart of the
mountains a path which no vulture or falcon ever saw, which the proud
beasts and fierce lions have not trodden.

      "_He puts forth his hand upon the flinty rock,
       He overturneth mountains by the roots._"

Slowly indeed as compared with modern work of the kind, yet surely,
where those earnest toilers desired a way, excavations went on and
tunnels were formed with wedge and hammer and pickaxe. The skill of
man in providing tools and devising methods, and his patience and
assiduity made him master of the very mountains. And when he had found
the ore he could extract its precious metal and gems.

      "_He cutteth out channels among the rocks;
       And his eye seeth every precious thing.
       He bindeth the streams that they trickle not;
       And the hidden thing brings he forth to light._"


For washing his ore when it has been crushed he needs supplies of
water, and to this end makes long aqueducts. In Idumæa a whole range
of reservoirs may still be seen, by means of which even in the dry
season the work of gold-washing might be carried on without
interruption. No particle of the precious metal escaped the quick eye
of the practised miner. And again, if water began to percolate into
his shaft or tunnel, he had skill to bind the streams that his search
might not be hindered.

Such then is man's skill, such are his perseverance and success in the
quest of things he counts valuable--iron for his tools, copper to
fashion into vessels, gold and silver to adorn the crowns of kings,
sapphires to gleam upon their raiment. And if in the depths of earth
or anywhere the secrets of life could be reached, men of eager
adventurous spirit would sooner or later find them out.

It is to be noticed that, in the account given here of the search
after hidden things, attention is confined to mining operations. And
this may appear strange, the general subject being the quest of
wisdom, that is understanding of the principles and methods by which
the Divine government of the world is carried on. There was in those
days a method of research, widely practised, to which some allusion
might have been expected--the so-called art of astrology. The
Chaldæans had for centuries observed the stars, chronicled their
apparent movements, measured the distances of the planets from each
other in their unexplained progress through the constellations. On
this survey of the heavens was built up a whole code of rules for
predicting events. The stars which culminated at the time of any one's
birth, the planets visible when an undertaking was begun, were
supposed to indicate prosperity or disaster. The author of the Book of
Job could not be ignorant of this art. Why does he not mention it? Why
does he not point out that by watching the stars man seeks in vain to
penetrate Divine secrets? And the reply would seem to be that keeping
absolute silence in regard to astrology he meant to refuse it as a
method of inquiry. Patient, eager labour among the rocks and stones is
the type of fruitful endeavour. Astrology is not in any way useful;
nothing is reached by that method of questioning nature.

The poet proceeds:--

      "_Where shall wisdom be found,
       And where is the place of understanding?
       Man knoweth not the way thereof,
       Neither is it to be found in the land of the living.
       The deep saith, It is not in me;
       And the sea saith, It is not with me._"

The whole range of the physical cosmos, whether open to the
examination of man or beyond his reach, is here declared incapable of
supplying the clue to that underlying idea by which the course of
things is ordered. The land of the living is the surface of the earth
which men inhabit. The deep is the under-world. Neither there nor in
the sea is the great secret to be found. As for its price, however
earnestly men may desire to possess themselves of it, no treasures are
of any use it is not to be bought in any market.

      "_Never is wisdom got for gold,
       Nor for its price can silver be told.
       For the gold of Ophir it may not be won,
       The onyx rare or the sapphire stone.
       Gold is no measure and glass no hire,
       Jewels of gold twice fined by fire.
       Coral and crystal tell in vain,
       Pearls of the deep for wisdom's gain.
       Topaz of Cush avails thee nought,
       Nor with gold of glory is it bought._"

While wisdom is thus of value incommensurate with all else men count
precious and rare, it is equally beyond the reach of all other forms
of mundane life. The birds that soar high into the atmosphere see
nothing of it, nor does any creature that wanders far into
uninhabitable wilds. Abaddon and Death indeed, the devouring abyss and
that silent world which seems to gather and keep all secrets, have
heard a rumour of it. Beyond the range of mortal sense some hint there
may be of a Divine plan governing the mutations of existence, the
fulfilment of which will throw light on the underworld where the
spirits of the departed wait in age-long night. But death has no
knowledge any more than life. Wisdom is God's prerogative, His
activities are His own to order and fulfil.

      "_God understandeth the way thereof,
       And He knoweth the place thereof.
       For He looketh to the ends of the earth,
       And seeth under the whole heaven,
       Making weight for the winds;
       And He meteth out the waters by measure.
       When He made a decree for the rain,
       And a way for the lightning of thunder,
       Then did He see it and number it,
       He established it, yea, and searched it out._"

The evolution, as we should say, of the order of nature gives fixed
and visible embodiment to the wisdom of God. We must conclude,
therefore, that the poet indicates the complete idea of the world as a
cosmos governed by subtle all-pervading law for moral ends. The
creation of the visible universe is assumed to begin, and with the
created before Him God sees its capacities, determines the use to
which its forces are to be put, the relation all things are to have to
each other, to the life of man and to His own glory. But the hokhma or
understanding of this remains for ever beyond the discovery of the
human intellect. Man knoweth not the way thereof. The forces of earth
and air and sea and the deep that lieth under do not reveal the secret
of their working; they are but instruments. And the end of all is not
to be found in Sheol, in the silent world of the dead. God Himself is
the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last.

Yet man has his life and his law. Though intellectual understanding of
his world and destiny may fail however earnestly he pursues the quest,
he should obtain the knowledge that comes by reverence and obedience.
He can adore God, he can distinguish good from evil and seek what is
right and true. There lies his hokhma, there, says the poet, it must
continue to lie.

      "_And unto man He said,
       Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
       And to depart from evil is understanding._"

The conclusion lays a hush upon man's thought--but leaves it with a
doctrine of God and faith reaching above the limitations of time and
sense. Reverence for the Divine will not fully known, the pursuit of
holiness, fear of the Unseen God are no agnosticism, they are the true
springs of religious life.



XXIV.

_AS A PRINCE BEFORE THE KING._

JOB SPEAKS. CHAPS. xxix.-xxxi.


From the pain and desolation to which he has become inured as a
pitiable second state of existence, Job looks back to the years of
prosperity and health which in long succession he once enjoyed. This
parable or review of the past ends his contention. Honour and
blessedness are apparently denied him for ever. With what has been he
compares his present misery and proceeds to a bold and noble
vindication of his character alike from secret and from flagrant sins.

In the whole circle of Job's lamentations this chant is perhaps the most
affecting. The language is very beautiful, in the finest style of the
poet, and the minor cadences of the music are such as many of us can
sympathise with. When the years of youth go by and strength wanes, the
Eden we once dwelt in seems passing fair. Of those beyond middle life
there are few who do not set their early memories in sharp contrast to
the ways they now travel, looking back to a happy valley and long bright
summers that are left behind. And even in opening manhood and womanhood
the troubles of life often fall, as we may think, prematurely, coming
between the mind and the remembered joy of burdenless existence.

      "How changed are they!--how changed am I!
         The early spring of life is gone,
       Gone is each youthful vanity,--
         But what with years, oh what is won?

      "I know not--but while standing now
         Where opened first the heart of youth,
       I recollect how high would glow
         Its thoughts of Glory, Faith, and Truth--

      "How full it was of good and great,
         How true to heaven, how warm to men.
       Alas! I scarce forbear to hate
         The colder breast I bring again."

First in the years past Job sees by the light of memory the
blessedness he had when the Almighty was felt to be his preserver and
his strength. Though now God appears to have become an enemy he will
not deny that once he had a very different experience. Then nature was
friendly, no harm came to him; he was not afraid of the pestilence
that walketh in darkness nor the destruction that wasteth at noon-day,
for the Almighty was his refuge and fortress. To refuse this tribute
of gratitude is far from the mind of Job, and the expression of it is
a sign that now at length he is come to a better mind. He seems on the
way fully to recover his trust.

The elements of his former happiness are recounted in detail. God
watched over him with constant care, the lamp of Divine love shone on
high and lighted up the darkness, so that even in the night he could
travel by a way he knew not and feel secure. Days of strength and
pleasure were those when the secret of God, the sense of intimate
fellowship with God, was on his tent, when his children were about
him, that beautiful band of sons and daughters who were his pride.
Then his steps were bathed in abundance, butter provided by
innumerable kine, rivers of oil which seemed to flow from the rock,
where terrace above terrace the olives grew luxuriantly and yielded
their fruit without fail.

Chiefly Job remembers with gratitude to God the esteem in which he was
held by all about him. Nature was friendly and not less friendly were
men. When he went into the city and took his seat in the "broad place"
within the gate, he was acknowledged chief of the council and court of
judgment. The young men withdrew and stood aside, yea the elders,
already seated in the place of assembly, stood up to receive him as
their superior in position and wisdom. Discussion was suspended that
he might hear and decide. And the reasons for this respect are given.
In the society thus with idyllic touches represented, two qualities
were highly esteemed--regard for the poor and wisdom in counsel. Then,
as now, the problem of poverty caused great concern to the elders of
cities. Though the population of an Arabian town could not be great,
there were many widows and fatherless children, families reduced to
beggary by disease or the failure of their poor means of livelihood,
blind and lame persons utterly dependent on charity, besides wandering
strangers and the vagrants of the desert. By his princely munificence
to these Job had earned the gratitude of the whole region. Need was
met, poverty relieved, justice done in every case. He recounts what he
did, not in boastfulness, but as one who rejoiced in the ability God
had given him to aid suffering fellow-creatures. Those were indeed
royal times for the generous-hearted man. Full of public spirit, his
ear and hand always open, giving freely out of his abundance, he
commended himself to the affectionate regard of the whole valley. The
ready way of almsgiving was that alone by which relief was provided
for the destitute, and Job was never appealed to in vain.

      "_The ear that heard me blessed me,
       The eye that saw bare witness to me,
       Because I delivered the poor that cried,
       And the fatherless who had no helper.
       The blessing of him that was ready to die came upon me,
       And I caused the widow's heart to sing with joy._"

So far Job rejoices in the recollection of what he had been able to do
for the distressed and needy in those days when the lamp of God shone
over him. He proceeds to speak of his service as magistrate or judge.

      "_I put on righteousness and it indued itself with me,
       My justice was as a robe and a diadem;
       I was eyes to the blind,
       And feet was I to the lame._"

With righteousness in his heart so that all he said and did revealed
it and wearing judgment as a turban, he sat and administered justice
among the people. Those who had lost their sight and were unable to
find the men that had wronged them came to him and he was as eyes to
them, following up every clue to the crime that had been committed.
The lame who could not pursue their enemies appealed to him and he
took up their cause. The poor, suffering under oppression, found him a
protector, a father. Yea, "_the cause of him that I knew not I
searched out_." On behalf of total strangers as well as of neighbours
he set in motion the machinery of justice.

      "_And I brake the jaws of the wicked
       And plucked the spoil from his teeth._"

None were so formidable, so daring and lion-like, but he faced them,
brought them to judgment and compelled them to give up what they had
taken by fraud and violence.

In those days, Job confesses, he had the dream that as he was
prosperous, powerful, helpful to others by the grace of God, so he
would continue. Why should any trouble fall on one who used power
conscientiously for his neighbours? Would not Eloah sustain the man
who was as a god to others?

      "_Then I said, I shall die in my nest,
       And I shall multiply my days as the Phœnix;
       My root shall spread out by the waters,
       And the dew shall be all night on my branch;
       My glory shall be fresh in me,
       And my bow shall be renewed in my hand._"

A fine touch of the dream-life which ran on from year to year, bright
and blessed as if it would flow for ever. Death and disaster were far
away. He would renew his life like the Phœnix, attain to the age of
the antediluvian fathers, and have his glory or life strong in him for
uncounted years. So illusion flattered him, the very image he uses
pointing to the futility of the hope.

The closing strophe of the chapter proceeds with even stronger touch
and more abundant colour to represent his dignity. Men listened to him
and waited. Like a refreshing rain upon thirsty ground--and how
thirsty the desert could be!--his counsel fell on their ears. He
smiled upon them when they had no confidence, laughed away their
trouble, the light of his countenance never dimmed by their
apprehensions. Even when all about him were in dismay his hearty
hopeful outlook was unclouded. Trusting God, he knew his own strength
and gave freely of it.

      "_I chose out their way, and sat as a chief,
       And dwelt as a king in the crowd,
       As one that comforteth the mourners._"

Looked up to with this great esteem, acknowledged leader in virtue of
his overflowing goodness and cheerfulness, he seemed to make sunshine
for the whole community. Such was the past. All that had been, is gone
apparently for ever.

       *       *       *       *       *

How inexpressibly strange that power so splendid, mental, physical and
moral strength used in the service of less favoured men should be
destroyed by Eloah! It is like blotting out the sun from heaven and
leaving a world in darkness. And most strange of all is the way in
which low men assist the ruin that has been wrought.

The thirtieth chapter begins with this. Job is derided by the miserable
and base whose fathers he would have disdained to set with the dogs of
his flock. He paints these people, gaunt with hunger and vice, herding
in the wilderness where alone they are suffered to exist, plucking
mallows or salt-wort among the bushes and digging up the roots of broom
for food. Men hunted them into the desert, crying after them as thieves,
and they dwelt in the clefts of the wadies, in caves and amongst rocks.
Like wild asses they brayed in the scrub and flung themselves down among
the nettles. Children they were of fools, base-born, men who had
dishonoured their humanity and been whipped out of the land. Such are
they whose song and by-word Job is now become. These, even these abhor
him and spit in his face. He makes the contrast deep and dreadful as to
his own experience and the moral confusion that has followed Eloah's
strange work. For good there is evil, for light and order there is
darkness. Does God desire this, ordain it?

One is inclined to ask whether the abounding compassion and humaneness
of the Book of Job fails at this point. These wretched creatures who
make their lair like wild beasts among the nettles, outcasts, branded as
thieves, a wandering base-born race, are still men. Their fathers may
have fallen into the vices of abject poverty. But why should Job say
that he would have disdained to set them with the dogs of his flock? In
a previous speech (chap. xxiv.) he described victims of oppression who
had no covering in the cold and were drenched with the rain of the
mountains, clinging to the rock for shelter; and of them he spoke
gently, sympathetically. But here he seems to go beyond compassion.

Perhaps one might say the tone he takes now is pardonable, or almost
pardonable, because these wretched beings, whom he may have treated
kindly once, have seized the occasion of his misery and disease to
insult him to his face. While the words appear hard, the uselessness
of the pariah may be the main point. Yet a little of the pride of
birth clings to Job. In this respect he is not perfect; here his
prosperous life needs a check. The Almighty must speak to him out of
the tempest that he may feel himself and find "the blessedness of
being little."

These outcasts throw off all restraint and behave with disgraceful
rudeness in his presence.

      "_Upon my right hand rise the low brood,
       They push away my feet,
       And cast up against me their ways of destruction;
       They mar my path,
       And force on my calamity--
       They who have no helper.
       They come in as through a wide breach,
       In the desolation they roll themselves upon me._"

The various images, of a besieging army, of those who wantonly break
up paths made with difficulty, of a breach in the embankment of a
river, are to show that Job is now accounted one of the meanest, whom
any man may treat with indignity. He was once the idol of the
populace; "now none so poor to do him reverence." And this persecution
by base men is only a sign of deeper abasement. As a horde of terrors
sent by God he feels the reproaches and sorrows of his state.

      "_Terrors are turned upon me;
       They chase away mine honour as the wind,
       And my welfare passeth as a cloud.
       And now my soul is poured out in me
       The days of affliction have taken hold upon me._"

Thought shifts naturally to the awful disease which has caused his
body to swell and to become black as with dust and ashes. And this
leads him to his final vehement complaint against Eloah. How can He so
abase and destroy His servant?

      "_I cry unto Thee and Thou dost not hear me;
       I stand up, and Thou lookest at me.
       Thou art turned to be cruel unto me:
       With the might of Thine hand Thou persecutest me.
       Thou liftest me up to the wind, Thou causest me to ride on it;
       And Thou dissolvest me in the storm.
       For I know that Thou wilt bring me to death,
       And to the house appointed for all living.
       Yet in overthrow doth not one stretch out his hand?
       In destruction, doth he not because of this utter a cry?_"

Standing up in his wretchedness he is fully visible to the Divine eye,
still no prayer moves Eloah the terrible from His purpose. It seems to
be finally appointed that in dishonour Job shall die. Yet, destined to
this fate, his hope a mockery, shall he not stretch out his hand, cry
aloud as life falls to the grave in ruin? How differently is God
treating him from the way in which he treated those who were in trouble!
He is asking in vain that pity which he himself had often shown. Why
should this be? How can it be, and Eloah remain the Just and Living One?
Pained without and within, unable to refrain from crying out when people
gather about him, a brother to jackals whose howlings are heard all
night, a companion to the grieving ostrich, his bones burned by raging
fever, his harp turned to wailing and his lute into the voice of them
that weep, he can scarce believe himself the same man that once walked
in honour and gladness in the sight of earth and heaven.

Thus the full measure of complaint is again poured out, unchecked by
thought that dignity of life comes more with suffering patiently
endured than with pleasure. Job does not know that out of trouble like
his a man may rise more human, more noble, his harp furnished with new
strings of deeper feeling, a finer light of sympathy shining in his
soul. Consistently, throughout, the author keeps this thought in the
background, showing hopeless sorrow, affliction, unrelieved by any
sense of spiritual gain, pressing with heaviest and most weary weight
upon a good man's life. The only help Job has is the consciousness of
virtue, and that does not check his complaint. The antinomies of life,
the past as compared with the present, Divine favour exchanged for
cruel persecution, well-doing followed by most grievous pain and
dishonour, are to stand at the last full in view. Then He who has
justice in His keeping shall appear. God Himself shall declare and
claim His supremacy and His design.

       *       *       *       *       *

This purpose of the author achieved, the last passage of Job's
address--chap. xxxi.--rings bold and clear like the chant of a victor,
not serene indeed in the presence of death, for this is not the Hebrew
temper and cannot be ascribed by the writer to his hero, yet with firm
ground beneath his feet, a clear conscience of truth lighting up his
soul. The language is that of an innocent man before his accusers and
his judge, yea of a prince in presence of the King. Out of the
darkness into which he has been cast by false arguments and
accusations, out of the trouble into which his own doubt has brought
him, Job seems to rise with a new sense of moral strength and even of
restored physical power. No more in reckless challenge of heaven and
earth to do their worst, but with a fine strain of earnest desire to
be clear with men and God, he takes up and denies one by one every
possible charge of secret and open sin. Is the language he uses more
emphatic than any man has a right to employ? If he speaks the truth,
why should his words be thought too bold? The Almighty Judge desires
no man falsely to accuse himself, will have no man leave an unfounded
suspicion resting upon his character. It is not evangelical meekness
to plead guilty to sins never committed. Job feels it part of his
integrity to maintain his integrity; and here he vindicates himself
not in general terms but in detail, with a decision which cannot be
mistaken. Afterwards, when the Almighty has spoken, he acknowledges
the ignorance and error which have entered into his judgment, making
the confession we must all make even after years of faith.

I. From the taint of lustful and base desire he first clears himself.
He has been pure in life, innocent even of wandering looks which might
have drawn him into uncleanness. He has made a covenant with his eyes
and kept it. Sin of this kind, he knew, always brings retribution, and
no indulgence of his ever caused sorrow and dishonour. Regarding the
particular form of evil in question he asks:--

      "_For what is the portion from God above,
       And the heritage of the Almighty from on high?
       Is it not calamity to the unrighteous,
       And disaster to them that work iniquity?_"

Grouped along with this "lust of the flesh" is the "lust of the eyes,"
covetous desire. The itching palm to which money clings, false dealing
for the sake of gain, crafty intrigues for the acquisition of a plot
of ground or some animal--such things were far from him. He claims to
be weighed in a strict balance, and pledges himself that as to this
he will not be found wanting. So thoroughly is he occupied with this
defence that he speaks as if still able to sow a crop and look for the
harvest. He would expect to have the produce snatched from his hand if
the vanity of greed and getting had led him astray. Returning then to
the more offensive suspicion that he had laid wait treacherously at
his neighbour's door, he uses the most vigorous words to show at once
his detestation of such offence and the result he believes it always
to have. It is an enormity, a nefarious thing to be punished by the
judges. More than that, it is a fire that consumes to Abaddon, wasting
a man's strength and substance so that they are swallowed as by the
devouring abyss. As to this, Job's reading of life is perfectly sound.
Wherever society exists at all, custom and justice are made to bear as
heavily as possible on those who invade the foundation of society and
the rights of other men. Yet the keenness with which immorality of the
particular kind is watched fans the flame of lust. Nature appears to
be engaged against itself; it may be charged with the offence, it
certainly joins in bringing the punishment.

II. Another possible imputation was that as a master or employer he
had been harsh to his underlings. Common enough it was for those in
power to treat their dependants with cruelty. Servants were often
slaves; their rights as men and women were denied. Regarding this, the
words put into the mouth of Job are finely humane, even prophetic:--

      "_If I despised the cause of my man-servant or maid
       When they contended with me ...
       What then shall I do when God riseth up?
       And when He visiteth what shall I answer Him?
       Did not He that made me in the womb make him?
       And did not One fashion us in the womb?_"

The rights of those who toiled for him were sacred, not as created by
any human law which for so many hours' service might compel so much
stipulated hire, but as conferred by God. Job's servants were men and
women with an indefeasible claim to just and considerate treatment. It
was accidental, so to speak, that Job was rich and they poor, that he
was master and they under him. Their bodies were fashioned like his,
their minds had the same capacity of thought, of emotion, of pleasure
and pain. At this point there is no hardness of tone or pride of birth
and place. These are well-doing people to whom as head of the clan Job
stands in place of a father.

And his principle, to treat them as their inheritance of the same life
from the same Creator gave them a right to be dealt with, is prophetic,
setting forth the duties of all who have power to those who toil for
them. Men are often used like beasts of burden. No tyranny on earth is
so hateful as many employers, driving on their huge concerns at the
utmost speed, dare to exercise through representatives or underlings.
The simple patriarchal life which brought employer and employed into
direct personal relations knew little of the antagonism of class
interests and the bitterness of feeling which often menaces revolution.
None of this will cease till simplicity be resumed and the customs which
keep men in touch with each other, even though they fail to acknowledge
themselves members of the one family of God. When the servant who has
done his best is, after years of exhausting labour, dismissed without a
hearing by some subordinate set there to consider what are called the
"interests" of the employer--is the latter free from blame? The question
of Job, "What then shall _I_ do when God riseth up, and when He visiteth
what shall I answer Him?" strikes a note of equity and brotherliness
many so-called Christians seem never to have heard.

III. To the poor, the widow, the fatherless, the perishing, Job next
refers. Beyond the circle of his own servants there were needy persons
whom he had been charged with neglecting and even oppressing. He has
already made ample defence under this head. If he has lifted his hand
against the fatherless, having good reason to presume that the judges
would be on his side--then may his shoulder fall from the
shoulder-blade and his arm from the collar-bone. Calamity from God was
a terror to Job, and recognising the glorious authority which enforces
the law of brotherly help he could not have lived in proud enjoyment
and selfish contempt.

IV. Next he repudiates the idolatry of wealth and the sin of adoring
the creature instead of the Creator. Rich as he was, he can affirm
that he never thought too much of his wealth, nor secretly vaunted
himself in what he had gathered. His fields brought forth plentifully,
but he never said to his soul, Thou hast much goods laid up for many
years, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. He was but a
steward, holding all at the will of God. Not as if abundance of
possessions could give him any real worth, but with constant gratitude
to his Divine Friend, he used the world as not abusing it.

And for his religion: true to those spiritual ideas which raised him
far above superstition and idolatry, even when the rising sun seemed
to claim homage as a fit emblem of the unseen Creator, or when the
full moon shining in a clear sky seemed a very goddess of purity and
peace, he had never, as others were wont to do, carried his hand to
his lips. He had seen the worship of Baal and Ishtar, and there might
have come to him, as to whole nations, the impulses of wonder, of
delight, of religious reverence. But he can fearlessly say that he
never yielded to the temptation to adore anything in heaven or earth.
It would have been to deny Eloah the Supreme. Dr. Davidson reminds us
here of a legend embodied in the Koran for the purpose of impressing
the lesson that worship should be paid to the Lord of all creatures,
"whose shall be the kingdom on the day whereon the trumpet shall be
sounded." The Almighty says: "Thus did We show unto Abraham the
kingdom of heaven and earth, that he might become of those who firmly
believe. And when the night overshadowed him he saw a star, and he
said, This is my Lord; but when it set he said, I like not those that
set. And when he saw the moon rising he said, This is my Lord; but
when he saw it set he said, Verily, if my Lord direct me not, I shall
become one of the people who go astray. And when he saw the rising sun
he said, This is my Lord; this is the greatest; but when it set he
said, O my people, verily I am clear of that which ye associate with
God; I direct my face unto Him who hath created the heavens and the
earth." Thus from very early times to that of Mohammed monotheism was
in conflict with the form of idolatry that naturally allured the
inhabitants of Arabia. Job confesses the attraction, denies the sin.
He speaks as if the laws of his people were strongly against
sun-worship, whatever might be done elsewhere.

V. He proceeds to declare that he has never rejoiced over a fallen
enemy nor sought the life of any one with a curse. He distinguishes
himself very sharply from those who in the common Oriental way dealt
curses without great provocation, and those even who kept them for
deadly enemies. So far was this rancorous spirit from him that friends
and enemies alike were welcome to his hospitality and help. Verse 31
means that his servants could boast of being unable to find a single
stranger who had not sat at his table. Their business was to furnish
it every day with guests. Nor will Job allow that after the manner of
men he skilfully covered transgressions. "If, guilty of some base
thing, I concealed it, as men often do, because I was afraid of losing
caste, afraid lest the great families would despise me...." Such a
thought or fear never presented itself to him. He could not thus have
lived a double life. All had been above-board, in the clear light of
day, ruled by one law.

In connection with this it is that he comes with princely appeal to
the King.

      "_Oh that I had one to hear me!--
       Behold my signature--let the Almighty answer me.
       And oh that I had my Opponents charge!
       Surely I would carry it on my shoulder,
       I would bind it unto me as a crown.
       I would declare unto Him the number of my steps,
       As a prince would I go near unto Him._"

The words are to be defended only on the ground that the Eloah to whom a
challenge is here addressed is God misunderstood, God charged falsely
with making unfounded accusations against His servant and punishing him
as a criminal. The Almighty has not been doing so. The vicious reasoning
of the friends, the mistaken creed of the age make it appear as if He
had. Men say to Job, You suffer because God has found evil in you. He
is requiting you according to your iniquity. They maintain that for no
other reason could calamities have come upon him. So God is made to
appear as the man's adversary; and Job is forced to the demonstration
that he has been unjustly condemned. "Behold my signature," he says: I
state my innocence; I set to my mark; I stand by my claim: I can do
nothing else. Let the Almighty prove me at fault. God, you say, has a
book in which His charges against me are written out. I wish I had that
book! I would fasten it upon my shoulder as a badge of honour; yea, I
would wear it as a crown. I would show Eloah all I have done, every step
I have taken through life by day and night. I would evade nothing. In
the assurance of integrity I would go to the King; as a prince I would
stand in His presence. There face to face with Him whom I know to be
just and righteous I would justify myself as His servant, faithful in
His house.

Is it audacity, impiety? The writer of the book does not mean it to be
so understood. There is not the slightest hint that he gives up his
hero. Every claim made is true. Yet there is ignorance of God, and
that ignorance puts Job in fault so far. He does not know God's action
though he knows his own. He ought to reason from the misunderstanding
of himself and see that he may fail to understand Eloah. When he
begins to see this he will believe that his sufferings have complete
justification in the purpose of the Most High.

The ignorance of Job represents the ignorance of the old world.
Notwithstanding the tenor of his prologue the writer is without a
theory of human affliction applicable to every case, or even to the
experience of Job. He can only say and repeat, God is supremely wise
and righteous, and for the glory of His wisdom and righteousness He
ordains all that befalls men. The problem is not solved till we see
Christ, the Captain of our salvation, made perfect by suffering, and
know that our earthly affliction "which is for the moment worketh for
us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory."

The last verses of the chapter may seem out of place. Job speaks as a
landowner who has not encroached on the fields of others but honestly
acquired his estate, and as a farmer who has tilled it well. This
seems a trifling matter compared with others that have been
considered. Yet, as a kind of afterthought, completing the review of
his life, the detail is natural.

      "_If my land cry out against me,
       And the furrows thereof weep together,
       If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money,
       Or have caused the owners to lose their life:
       Let thistles grow instead of wheat
       And cockle instead of barley.
           The words of Job are ended._"

A farmer of the right kind would have great shame if poor crops or wet
furrows cried against him, or if he could otherwise be accused of
treating the land ill. The touch is realistic and forcible.

Still it is plain at the close that the character of Job is idealised.
Much may be received as matter of veritable history; but on the whole
the life is too fine, pure, saintly for even an extraordinary man. The
picture is clearly typical. And it is so for the best reason. An
actual life would not have set the problem fully in view. The
writer's aim is to rouse thought by throwing the contradictions of
human experience so vividly upon a prepared canvas that all may see.
Why do the righteous suffer? What does the Almighty mean? The urgent
questions of the race are made as insistent as art and passion, ideal
truth and sincerity, can make them. Job lying in the grime of misery
yet claiming his innocence as a prince before the Eternal King,
demands on behalf of humanity the vindication of providence, the
meaning of the world scheme.



ELIHU INTERVENES.



XXV.

_POST-EXILIC WISDOM._

CHAPS. xxxii.-xxxiv.


A personage hitherto unnamed in the course of the drama now assumes
the place of critic and judge between Job and his friends. Elihu, son
of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, appears suddenly and as
suddenly disappears. The implication is that he has been present
during the whole of the colloquies, and that, having patiently waited
his time, he expresses the judgment he has slowly formed on arguments
to which he has given close attention.

It is significant that both Elihu and his representations are ignored in
the winding up of the action. The address of the Almighty from the storm
does not take him into account and seems to follow directly on the
close of Job's defence. It is a very obvious criticism, therefore, that
the long discourse of Elihu may be an interpolation or an
afterthought--a fresh attempt by the author or by some later writer to
correct errors into which Job and his friends are supposed to have
fallen and to throw new light on the matter of discussion. The textual
indications are all in favour of this view. The style of the language
appears to belong to a later time than the other parts of the book. But
to reject the address as unworthy of a place in the poem would be too
summary. Elihu indeed assumes the air of the superior person from the
first, so that one is not engaged in his favour. Yet there is an honest,
reverent and thoughtful contribution to the subject. In some points this
speaker comes nearer the truth than Job or any of his friends, although
the address as a whole is beneath the rest of the book in respect of
matter and argument, and still more in poetical feeling and expression.

It is suggested by M. Renan that the original author, taking up his
work again after a long interval, at a period in his life when he had
lost his verve and his style, may have added this fragment with the
idea of completing the poem. There are strong reasons against such an
explanation. For one thing there seems to be a misconception where, at
the outset, Elihu is made to assume that Job and his friends are very
old. The earlier part of the poem by no means affirms this. Job,
though we call him a patriarch, was not necessarily far advanced in
life, and Zophar appears considerably younger. Again the contention in
the eighth verse--"There is a spirit in man, and the breath of the
Almighty giveth them understanding"--seems to be the justification a
later writer would think it needful to introduce. He acknowledges the
Divine gift of the original poet and adding his criticism claims for
Elihu, that is, for himself, the lucidity God bestows on every calm
and reverent student of His ways. This is considerably different from
anything we find in the addresses of the other speakers. It seems to
show that the question of inspiration had arisen and passed through
some discussion. But the rest of the book is written without any
consciousness, or at all events any admission of such a question.

Elihu appears to represent the new "wisdom" which came to Hebrew
thinkers in the period of the exile; and there are certain opinions
embodied in his address which must have been formed during an exile
that brought many Jews to honour. The reading of affliction given is
one following the discovery that the general sinfulness of a nation
may entail chastisement on men who have not personally been guilty of
great sin, yet are sharers in the common neglect of religion and pride
of heart, and further that this chastisement may be the means of great
profit to those who suffer. It would be harsh to say the tone is that
of a mind which has caught the trick of "voluntary humility," of
pietistic self-abasement. Yet there are traces of such a tendency, the
beginning of a religious strain opposed to legal self-righteousness,
running, however, very readily to excess and formalism. Elihu,
accordingly, appears to stand on the verge of a descent from the
robust moral vigour of the original author towards that low ground in
which false views of man's nature hinder the free activity of faith.

The note struck by the Book of Job had stirred eager thought in the
time of the exile. Just as in the Middle Ages of European history the
Divine Comedy of Dante was made a special study, and chairs were
founded in universities for its exposition, so less formally the drama
of Job was made the subject of inquiry and speculation. We suppose
then that among the many who wrote on the poem, one acting for a
circle of thinkers incorporated their views in the text. He could not
do so otherwise than by bringing a new speaker on the stage. To add
anything to what Eliphaz or Bildad or Job had said would have
prevented the free expression of new opinion. Nor could he without
disrespect have inserted the criticism after the words of Jehovah.
Selecting as the only proper point of interpolation the close of the
debate between Job and the friends, the scribe introduced the Elihu
portion as a review of the whole scope of the book, and may indeed
have subtly intended to assail as entirely heterodox the
presupposition of Job's integrity and the Almighty's approval of his
servant. That being his purpose, he had to veil it in order to keep
the discourse of Elihu in line with the place assigned to him in the
dramatic movement. The contents of the prologue and epilogue and the
utterance of the Almighty from the storm affect, throughout, the added
discourse. But to secure the unity of the poem the writer makes Elihu
speak like one occupying the same ground as Eliphaz and the others,
that of a thinker ignorant of the original motive of the drama; and
this is accomplished with no small skill. The assumption is that
reverent thought may throw new light, far more light than the
original author possessed, on the case as it stood during the
colloquies. Elihu avoids assailing the conception of the prologue that
Job is a perfect and upright man approved by God. He takes the state
of the sufferer as he finds it, and inquires how and why it is, what
is the remedy. There are pedantries and obscurities in the discourse,
yet the author must not be denied the merit of a careful and
successful attempt to adapt his character to the place he occupies in
the drama. Beyond this, and the admission that something additional is
said on the subject of Divine discipline, it is needless to go in
justifying Elihu's appearance. One can only remark with wonder in
passing that Elihu should ever have been declared the Angel Jehovah,
or a personification of the Son of God.

The narrative verses which introduce the new speaker state that his
wrath was kindled against Job because he justified himself rather than
God, and against the three friends because they had condemned Job and
yet found no answer to his arguments. The mood is that of a critic
rather hot, somewhat too confident that he knows, beginning a task
that requires much penetration and wisdom. But the opening sentences
of the speech of Elihu betray the need the writer felt to justify
himself in making his bold venture.

      "_I am young and ye are very old;
       Wherefore I held back and durst not show my knowledge.
       I thought, Days should speak,
       And the multitude of years teach wisdom.
       Still, there is a spirit in man,
       And the breath of the Almighty giveth them understanding.
       Not the great in years are wise,
       Nor do the aged understand what is right.
       Therefore I say: Hearken to me;
       I also will show my opinion._"

These verses are a defence of the new writer's boldness in adding to a
poem that has come down from a previous age. He is confident in his
judgment, yet realises the necessity of commending it to the hearers.
He claims that inspiration which belongs to every reverent
conscientious inquirer. On this footing he affirms a right to express
his opinion, and the right cannot be denied.

Elihu has been disappointed with the speeches of Job's friends. He has
listened for their reasons, observed how they cast about for arguments
and theories; but no one said anything convincing. It is an offence to
this speaker that men who had so good a case against their friend made
so little of it. The intelligence of Elihu is therefore from the first
committed to the hypothesis that Job is in the wrong. Obviously the
writer places his spokesman in a position which the epilogue condemns;
and if we assume this to have been deliberately done a subtle verdict
against the scope of the poem must have been intended. May it not be
surmised that this implied comment or criticism gave the interpolated
discourse value in the eyes of many? Originally the poem appeared
somewhat dangerous, out of the line of orthodoxy. It may have become
more acceptable to Hebrew thought when this caveat against bold
assumptions of human perfectibility and the right of man in presence
of his Maker had been incorporated with the text.

Elihu tells the friends that they are not to say, We have found wisdom
in Job, unexpected wisdom which the Almighty alone is able to vanquish.
They are not to excuse themselves nor exaggerate the difficulties of the
situation by entertaining such an opinion. Elihu is confident that he
can overcome Job in reasoning. As if speaking to himself he describes
the perplexity of the friends and states his intention.

      "_They were amazed, they answered no more;
       They had not a word to say.
       And shall I wait because they speak not,
       Because they stand still and answer no more?
       I also will answer my part,
       I also will show my opinion._"

His convictions become stronger and more urgent. He must open his lips
and answer. And he will use no flattery. Neither the age nor the
greatness of the men he is addressing shall keep him from speaking his
mind. If he were insincere he would bring on himself the judgment of
God. "My Maker would soon take me away." Here again the second
writer's self-defence colours the words put into Elihu's mouth.
Reverence for the genius of the poet whose work he is supplementing
does not prevent a greater reverence for his own views.

       *       *       *       *       *

The general exordium closes with the thirty-second chapter, and in the
thirty-third Elihu, addressing Job by name, enters on a new
vindication of his right to intervene. His claim is still that of
straightforwardness, sincerity. He is to express what he knows without
any other motive than to throw light on the matter in hand. He feels
himself, moreover, to be guided by the Divine Spirit. The breath of
the Almighty has given him life; and on this ground he considers
himself entitled to enter the discussion and ask of Job what answer
he can give. This is done with dramatic feeling. The life he enjoys is
not only physical vigour as contrasted with Job's diseased and infirm
state, but also intellectual strength, the power of God-given reason.
Yet, as if he might seem to claim too much, he hastens to explain that
he is quite on Job's level nevertheless.

      "_Behold, I am before God even as thou art;
       I also am formed out of the clay.
       Lo, my terror shall not make thee afraid,
       Neither shall my pressure be heavy upon thee_.

Elihu is no great personage, no heaven-sent prophet whose oracles must
be received without question. He is not terrible like God, but a man
formed out of the clay. The dramatising appears overdone at this
point, and can only be explained by the desire of the writer to keep
on good terms with those who already reverenced the original poet and
regarded his work as sacred. What is now to be said to Job is spoken
with knowledge and conviction, yet without pretension to more than the
wisdom of the holy. There is, however, a covert attack on the original
author as having made too much of the terror of the Almighty, the
constant pain and anxiety that bore down Job's spirit. No excuse of
the kind is to be allowed for the failure of Job to justify himself.
He did not _because he could not_. The fact was, according to this
critic, that Job had no right of self-defence as perfect and upright,
without fault before the Most High. No man possessed or could acquire
such integrity. And all the attempts of the earlier dramatist to put
arguments and defences into his hero's mouth had of necessity failed.
The new writer comprehends very well the purpose of his predecessor
and intends to subvert it.

The formal indictment opens thus:--

      "_Surely thou hast spoken in my hearing
       And I have heard thy words:--
       I am clean without transgression;
       I am innocent, neither is there iniquity in me.
       Behold, He findeth occasions against me,
       He counteth me for His enemy;
       He putteth me in the stocks,
       He marketh all my paths._"

The claim of righteousness, the explanation of his troubles given by
Job that God made occasions against him and without cause treated him
as an enemy, are the errors on which Elihu fastens. They are the
errors of the original writer. No one endeavouring to represent the
feelings and language of a servant of God should have placed him in
the position of making so false a claim, so base a charge against
Eloah. Such criticism is not to be set aside as either incompetent or
over bold. But the critic has to justify his opinion, and, like many
others, when he comes to give reasons his weakness discloses itself.
He is certainly hampered by the necessity of keeping within dramatic
lines. Elihu must appear and speak as one who stood beside Job with
the same veil between him and the Divine throne. And perhaps for this
reason the effort of the dramatist comes short of the occasion.

It is to be noted that attention is fixed on isolated expressions
which fell from Job's lips, that there is no endeavour to set forth
fully the attitude of the sufferer towards the Almighty. Eliphaz,
Bildad, and Zophar had made Job an offender for a word and Elihu
follows them. We anticipate that his criticism, however telling it may
be, will miss the true point, the heart of the question. He will
possibly establish some things against Job, but they will not prove
him to have failed as a brave seeker after truth and God.

Opposing the claim and complaint he has quoted, Elihu advances in the
first instance a proposition which has the air of a truism--"_God is
greater than man._" He does not try to prove that even though a man
has appeared to himself righteous he may really be sinful in the sight
of the Almighty, or that God has the right to afflict an innocent
person in order to bring about some great and holy design. The
contention is that a man should suffer and be silent. God is not to be
questioned; His providence is not to be challenged. A man, however he
may have lived, is not to doubt that there is good reason for his
misery if he is miserable. He is to let stroke after stroke fall and
utter no complaint. And yet Job had erred in saying, "_God giveth not
account of any of His matters._" It is not true, says Elihu, that the
Divine King holds Himself entirely aloof from the inquiries and
prayers of His subjects. He discloses in more than one way both His
purposes and His grace.

      "_Why dost thou contend against God
       That He giveth not account of any of His matters?
       For God speaketh once, yea twice,
       Yet man perceiveth it not._"

The first way in which, according to Elihu, God speaks to men is by a
dream, a vision of the night; and the second way is by the
chastisement of pain.

Now as to the first of these, the dream or vision, Elihu had, of
course, the testimony of almost universal belief, and also of some
cases that passed ordinary experience. Scriptural examples, such as
the dreams of Jacob, of Joseph, of Pharaoh, and the prophetic visions
already recognised by all pious Hebrews, were no doubt in the
writer's mind. Yet if it is implied that Job might have learned the
will of God from dreams, or that this was a method of Divine
communication for which any man might look, the rule laid down was at
least perilous. Visions are not always from God. A dream may come "by
the multitude of business." It is true, as Elihu says, that one who is
bent on some proud and dangerous course may be more himself in a dream
than in his waking hours. He may see a picture of the future which
scares him, and so he may be deterred from his purpose. Yet the waking
thoughts of a man, if he is sincere and conscientious, are far more
fitted to guide him, as a rule, than his dreams.

Passing to the second method of Divine communication, Elihu appears to
be on safer ground. He describes the case of an afflicted man brought to
extremity by disease, whose soul draweth near to the grave and his life
to the destroyers or death-angels. Such suffering and weakness do not of
themselves insure knowledge of God's will, but they prepare the sufferer
to be instructed. And for his deliverance an interpreter is required.

      "_If there be with him an angel,
       An interpreter, one among a thousand,
       To show unto man what is his duty;
       Then He is gracious unto him and saith,
       Deliver him from going down to the pit,
       I have found a ransom._"

Elihu cannot say that such an angel or interpreter will certainly
appear. He may: and if he does and points the way of uprightness, and
that way is followed, then the result is redemption, deliverance,
renewed prosperity. But who is this angel? "One of the ministering
spirits sent forth to do service on behalf of the heirs of salvation?"
The explanation is somewhat far-fetched. The ministering angels were
not restricted in number. Each Hebrew was supposed to have two such
guardians. Then Malachi says, "The priest's lips should keep
knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the
angel (messenger) of Jehovah Sebaoth." Here the priest appears as an
angel-interpreter, and the passage seems to throw light on Elihu's
meaning. As no explicit mention is made of a priest or any priestly
function in our text, it may at least be hinted that interpreters of
the law, scribes or incipient rabbis are intended, of whom Elihu
claims to be one. In this case the ransom would remain without
explanation. But if we take that as a sacrificial offering, the name
"angel-interpreter" covers a reference to the properly accredited
priest. The passage is so obscure that little can be based upon it;
yet assuming the Elihu discourses to be of late origin and intended to
bring the poem into line with orthodox Hebrew thought the introduction
of either priest or scribe would be in harmony with such a purpose.
Mediation at all events is declared to be necessary as between the
sufferer and God; and it would be strange indeed if Elihu, professing
to explain matters, really made Divine grace to be consequent on the
intervention of an angel whose presence and instruction could in no
way be verified. Elihu is realistic and would not rest his case at any
point on what might be declared purely imaginary.

The promise he virtually makes to Job is like those of Eliphaz and the
others,--renewed health, restored youth, the sense of Divine favour.
Enjoying these, the forgiven penitent sings before men, acknowledging
his fault and praising God for his redemption. The assurance of
deliverance was probably made in view of the epilogue, with Job's
confession and the prosperity restored to him. But the writer
misunderstands the confession, and promises too glibly. It is good to
receive after great affliction the guidance of a wise interpreter; and
to seek God again in humility is certainly a man's duty. But would
submission and the forgiveness of God bring results in the physical
sphere, health, renewed youth and felicity? No invariable nexus of
cause and effect can be established here from experience of the
dealings of God with men. Elihu's account of the way in which the
Almighty communicates with His creatures must be declared a failure.
It is in some respects careful and ingenious, yet it has no sufficient
ground of evidence. When he says--

      "_Lo, all these things worketh God
       Oftentimes with man,
       To bring back his soul from the pit_"--

the design is pious, but the great question of the book is not
touched. The righteous suffer like the wicked from disease,
bereavement, disappointment, anxiety. Even when their integrity is
vindicated the lost years and early vigour are not restored. It is
useless to deal in the way of pure fancy with the troubles of
existence. We say to Elihu and all his school, Let us be at the truth,
let us know the absolute reality. There are valleys of human sorrow,
suffering, and trial in which the shadows grow deeper as the traveller
presses on, where the best are often most afflicted. We need another
interpreter than Elihu, one who suffers like us and is made perfect by
suffering, through it entering into His glory.

       *       *       *       *       *

An invocation addressed by Elihu to the bystanders begins chap. xxxiv.
Again he emphatically asserts his right to speak, his claim to be a
guide of those who think on the ways of God. He appeals to sound
reason and he takes his auditors into counsel--"_Let us choose to
ourselves judgment; let us know among ourselves what is good._" The
proposal is that there shall be conference on the subject of Job's
claim. But Elihu alone speaks. It is he who selects "what is good."

Certain words that fell from the lips of Job are again his text. Job
hath said, I am righteous, I am in the right; and, God hath taken away
my judgment or vindication. When those words were used the meaning of
Job was that the circumstances in which he had been placed, the
troubles appointed by God seemed to prove him a transgressor. But was
he to rest under a charge he knew to be untrue? Stricken with an
incurable wound though he had not transgressed, was he to be against
his right by remaining silent? This, says Elihu, is Job's unfounded
impious indictment of the Almighty; and he asks:--

      "_What man is like Job,
       Who drinketh up impiety like water,
       Who goeth in company with the workers of iniquity,
       And walketh with wicked men?_"

Job had spoken of his right which God had taken away. What was his
right? Was he, as he affirmed, without transgression? On the contrary,
his principles were irreligious. There was infidelity beneath his
apparent piety. Elihu will prove that so far from being clear of blame
he has been imbibing wrong opinions and joining the company of the
wicked. This attack shows the temper of the writer. No doubt certain
expressions put into the mouth of Job by the original dramatist might be
taken as impeaching the goodness or the justice of God. But to assert
that even the most unguarded passages of the book made for impiety was a
great mistake. Faith in God is to be traced not obscurely but as a shaft
of light through all the speeches put into the mouth of his hero by the
poet. One whose mind is bound by certain pious forms of thought may fail
to see the light, but it shines nevertheless.

The attempt made by Elihu to establish his charge has an appearance of
success. Job, he says, is one who drinks up impiety like water and
walks with wicked men,--

      "_For he hath said, It profiteth a man nothing
       That he should delight himself with God._"

If this were true, Job would indeed be proved irreligious. Such a
statement strikes at the root of faith and obedience. But is Elihu
representing the text with anything like precision? In chap. ix. 22
these words are put into Job's mouth:--

      "_It is all one, therefore I say,
       He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked._"

God is strong and is breaking him with a tempest. Job finds it useless
to defend himself and maintain that he is perfect. In the midst of the
storm he is so tossed that he despises his life; and in perplexity he
cries,--It is all one whether I am righteous or not, God destroys the
good and the vile alike. Again we find him saying, "Wherefore do the
wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?" And in another
passage he inquires why the Almighty does not appoint days of judgment.
These are the expressions on which Elihu founds his charge, but the
precise words attributed to Job were never used by him, and in many
places he both said and implied that the favour of God was his greatest
joy. The second author is either misapprehending or perverting the
language of his predecessor. His argument accordingly does not succeed.

Passing at present from the charge of impiety, Elihu takes up the
suggestion that Divine providence is unjust and sets himself to show
that, whether men delight themselves in the Almighty or not, He is
certainly All-righteous. And in this contention, so long as he keeps to
generalities and does not take special account of the case which has
roused the whole controversy, he speaks with some power. His argument
comes properly to this, If you ascribe injustice or partiality to Him
whom you call God, you cannot be thinking of the Divine King. From His
very nature and from His position as Lord of all, God cannot be unjust.
As Maker and Preserver of life He must be faithful.

      "_Far be from God a wickedness,
       From the Almighty an injustice!
       For every one's work He requiteth him,
       And causeth each to find according to his ways.
       Surely, too, God doeth not wickedness,
       The Almighty perverteth not justice._"

Has God any motive for being unjust? Can any one urge Him to what is
against His nature? The thing is impossible. So far Elihu has all with
him, for all alike believe in the sovereignty of God. The Most High,
responsible to Himself, must be conceived of as perfectly just. But
would He be so if He were to destroy the whole of His creatures? Elihu
says, God's sovereignty over all gives Him the right to act according
to His will; and His will determines not only what is, but what is
right in every case.

      "_Who hath given Him a charge over the earth?
       Or who hath disposed the whole world?
       Were He to set His mind upon Himself,
       To gather to Himself His spirit and His breath,
       Then all flesh would die together,
       Man would return to his dust._"

The life of all creatures implies that the mind of the Creator goes
forth to His universe, to rule it, to supply the needs of all living
beings. He is not wrapped up in Himself, but having given life He
provides for its maintenance.

Another personal appeal in verse 16 is meant to secure attention to
what follows, in which the idea is carried out that the Creator must
rule His creatures by a law of justice.

      "_Shall one that hateth right be able to control?
       Or wilt thou condemn the Just, the Mighty One?
       Is it fit to say to a king, Thou wicked?
       Or to princes, Ye ungodly?
       How much less to Him who accepts not the persons of princes,
       Nor regardeth the rich more than the poor?_"

Here the principle is good, the argument or illustration inconclusive.
There is a strong foundation in the thought that God, who could if He
desired withdraw all life, but on the other hand sustains it, must rule
according to a law of perfect righteousness. If this principle were kept
in the front and followed up we should have a fruitful argument. But
the philosophy of it is beyond this thinker, and he weakens his case by
pointing to human rulers and arguing from the duty of subjects to abide
by their decision and at least attribute to them the virtue of justice.
No doubt society must be held together by a head either hereditary or
chosen by the people, and, so long as his rule is necessary to the
well-being of the realm, what he commands must be obeyed and what he
does must be approved as if it were right. But the writer either had an
exceptionally favourable experience of kings, as one, let us suppose,
honoured like Daniel in the Babylonian exile, or his faith in the Divine
right of princes blinded him to much injustice. It is a mark of his
defective logic that he rests his case for the perfect righteousness of
God upon a sentiment or what may be called an accident.

And when Elihu proceeds, it is with some rambling sentences in which
the suddenness of death, the insecurity of human things, and the
trouble and distress coming now on whole nations now on workers of
iniquity are all thrown together for the demonstration of Divine
justice. We hear in these verses (20 to 28) the echoes of disaster and
exile, of the fall of thrones and empires. Because the afflicted
tribes of Judah were preserved in captivity and restored to their own
land, the history of the period which is before the writer's mind
appears to him to supply a conclusive proof of the righteousness of
the Almighty. But we fail to see it. Eliphaz and Bildad might have
spoken in the same terms as Elihu uses here. Everything is assumed
that Job by force of circumstance has been compelled to doubt. The
whole is a homily on God's irresponsible power and penetrating wisdom
which, it is taken for granted, must be exercised in righteousness.
Where proof is needed nothing but assertion is offered. It is easy to
say that when a man is struck down in the open sight of others it is
because he has been cruel to the poor and the Almighty has been moved
by the cry of the afflicted. But here is Job struck down in the open
sight of others; and is it for harshness to the poor? If Elihu does
not mean that, what does he mean? The conclusion is the same as that
reached by the three friends; and this speaker poses, like the rest,
as a generous man declaring that the iniquity God is always sure to
punish is tyrannical treatment of the orphan and the widow.

Leaving this unfortunate attempt at reasoning we enter at verse 31 on
a passage in which the circumstances of Job are directly dealt with.

      "_For hath any one spoken thus unto God,
       'I have suffered though I offend not:
       That which I see not teach Thou;
       If I have done iniquity I will do it no more'?
       Shall God's recompense be according to thy mind
       That thou dost reject it?
       For thou must choose, and not I:
       Therefore speak what thou knowest._"

Here the argument seems to be that a man like Job, assuming himself to
be innocent, if he bows down before the sovereign Judge, confesses
ignorance, and even goes so far as to acknowledge that he may have
sinned unwittingly and promises amendment, such a one has no right to
dictate to God or to complain if suffering and trouble continue. God
may afflict as long as He pleases without showing why He afflicts. And
if the sufferer dares to complain he does so at his own peril. Elihu
would not be the man to complain in such a case. He would suffer on
silently. But the choice is for Job to make; and he has need to
consider well before he comes to a decision. Elihu implies that as yet
Job is in the wrong mind, and he closes this part of his address in a
sort of brutal triumph over the sufferer because he had complained of
his sufferings. He puts the condemnation into the mouth of "men of
understanding"; but it is his own.

      "_Men of understanding will say to me,
       And the wise who hears me will say:--
       Job speaks without intelligence,
       And his words are without wisdom:
       Would that Job were tried unto the end
       For his answers after the manner of wicked men.
       For he addeth rebellion to his sin;
       He clappeth his hands amongst us
       And multiplieth his words against God._"

The ideas of Elihu are few and fixed. When his attempts to convince
betray his weakness in argument, he falls back on the vulgar expedient
of brow-beating the defendant. He is a type of many would-be
interpreters of Divine providence, forcing a theory of religion which
admirably fits those who reckon themselves favourites of heaven, but
does nothing for the many lives that are all along under a cloud of
trouble and grief. The religious creed which alone can satisfy is one
throwing light adown the darkest ravines human beings have to thread,
in ignorance of God which they cannot help, in pain of body and
feebleness of mind not caused by their own sin but by the sins of
others, in slavery or something worse than slavery.



XXVI.

_THE DIVINE PREROGATIVE._

CHAPS. xxxv.-xxxvii.


After a long digression Elihu returns to consider the statement
ascribed to Job, "It profiteth a man nothing that he should delight
himself with God" (chap. xxxiv. 9). This he laid hold of as meaning
that the Almighty is unjust, and the accusation has been dealt with.
Now he resumes the question of the profitableness of religion.

      "_Thinkest thou this to be in thy right,
       And callest thou it 'My just cause before God,'
       That thou dost ask what advantage it is to thee,
       And 'What profit have I more than if I had sinned'?_"

In one of his replies Job, speaking of the wicked, represented them as
saying, "What is the Almighty that we should serve Him? and what
profit should we have if we pray unto Him?" (chap. xxi. 15). He added
then, "The counsel of the wicked be far from me." Job is now declared
to be of the same opinion as the wicked whom he condemned. The man who
again and again appealed to God from the judgment of his friends, who
found consolation in the thought that his witness was in heaven, who,
when he was scorned, sought God in tears and hoped against hope for
His redemption, is charged with holding faith and religion of no
advantage. Is it in misapprehension or with design the charge is made?
Job did indeed occasionally seem to deny the profit of religion, but
only when the false theology of his friends drove him to false
judgment. His real conviction was right. Once Eliphaz pressed the same
accusation and lost his way in trying to prove it. Elihu has no fresh
evidence, and he too falls into error. He confounds the original
charge against Job with another, and makes an offence of that which
the whole scope of the poem and our sense of right completely justify.

      "_Look unto the heavens and see,
       And regard the clouds which are higher than thou.
       If thou sinnest, what doest thou against Him?
       Or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto Him?
       If thou be righteous, what givest thou Him?
       Or what receiveth He at thy hands?_"

Elihu is actually proving, not that Job expects too little from religion
and finds no profit in it, but that he expects too much. Anxious to
convict, he will show that man has no right to make his faith depend on
God's care for his integrity. The prologue showed the Almighty pleased
with His servant's faithfulness. That, says Elihu, is a mistake.

Consider the clouds and the heavens which are far above the world.
Thou canst not touch them, affect them. The sun and moon and stars
shine with undiminished brightness however vile men may be. The clouds
come and go quite independently of the crimes of men. God is above
those clouds, above that firmament. Neither can the evil hands of men
reach His throne, nor the righteousness of men enhance His glory. It
is precisely what we heard from the lips of Eliphaz (chap. xxii. 2-4),
an argument which abuses man for the sake of exalting God. Elihu has
no thought of the spiritual relationship between man and his Creator.
He advances with perfect composure as a hard dogma what Job said in
the bitterness of his soul.

If, however, the question must still be answered, What good end is
served by human virtue? the reply is,--

      "_Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art;
       And thy righteousness may profit a son of man._"

God sustains the righteous and punishes the wicked, not for the sake
of righteousness itself but purely for the sake of men. The law is
that of expediency. Let not man dream of witnessing for God, or
upholding any eternal principle dear to God. Let him confine religious
fidelity and aspiration to their true sphere, the service of mankind.
Regarding which doctrine we may simply say that, if religion is
profitable in this way only, it may as well be frankly given up and
the cult of happiness adopted for it everywhere. But Elihu is not true
to his own dogma.

The next passage, beginning with verse 9, seems to be an indictment of
those who in grievous trouble do not see and acknowledge the Divine
blessings which are the compensations of their lot. Many in the world
are sorely oppressed. Elihu has heard their piteous cries. But he has
this charge against them, that they do not realise what it is to be
subjects of the heavenly King.

      "_By reason of the multitude of oppressions men cry out,
       They cry for help by reason of the arm of the mighty;
       But none saith, Where is God my Maker,
       Who giveth songs in the night,
       Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth,
       And maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven?
       There they cry because of the pride of evil men;
       But none giveth answer._"

These cries of the oppressed are complaints against pain, natural
outbursts of feeling, like the moans of wounded animals. But those who
are cruelly wronged may turn to God and endeavour to realise their
position as intelligent creatures of His who should feel after Him and
find Him. If they do so, then hope will mingle with their sorrow and
light arise on their darkness. For in the deepest midnight God's
presence cheers the soul and tunes the voice to songs of praise. The
intention is to show that when prayer seems of no avail and religion
does not help, it is because there is no real faith, no right
apprehension by men of their relation to God. Elihu, however, fails to
see that if the righteousness of men is not important to God as
righteousness, much less will He be interested in their grievances.
The bond of union between the heavenly and the earthly is broken; and
it cannot be restored by showing that the grief of men touches God
more than their sin. Job's distinction is that he clings to the
ethical fellowship between a sincere man and his Maker and to the
claim and the hope involved in that relationship. There we have the
jewel in the lotus-flower of this book, as in all true and noble
literature. Elihu, like the rest, is far beneath Job. If he can be
said to have a glimmering of the idea it is only that he may oppose
it. This moral affinity with God as the principle of human life
remains the secret of the inspired author; it lifts him above the
finest minds of the Gentile world. The compiler of the Elihu portion,
although he has the admirable sentiment that God giveth songs in the
night, has missed the great and elevating truth which fills with
prophetic force the original poem.

From verse 14 onward to the close of the chapter the argument is
turned directly against Job, but is so obscure that the meaning can
only be conjectured.

      "_Surely God will not hear vanity,
       Neither will the Almighty regard it._"

If any one cries out against suffering as an animal in pain might cry,
that is vanity, not merely emptiness but impiety, and God will not
hear nor regard such a cry. Elihu means that Job's complaints were
essentially of this nature. True, he had called on God; that cannot be
denied. He had laid his case before the Judge and professed to expect
vindication. But he was at fault in that very appeal, for it was still
of suffering he complained, and he was still impious.

      "_Even when thou sayest that thou seest Him not,
       That thy cause is before Him and thou waitest for Him;
       Even then because His anger visiteth not,
       And He doth not strictly regard transgression,
       Therefore doth Job open his mouth in vanity,
       He multiplied words without knowledge._"

The argument seems to be: God rules in absolute supremacy, and His will
is not to be questioned; it may not be demanded of Him that He do this
or that. What is a man that he should dare to state any "righteous
cause" of his before God and claim justification? Let Job understand
that the Almighty has been showing leniency, holding back His hand. He
might kill any man outright and there would be no appeal nor ground of
complaint. It is because He does not strictly regard iniquity that Job
is still alive. Therefore appeals and hopes are offensive to God.

The insistence of this part of the book reaches a climax here and
becomes repulsive. Elihu's opinions oscillate we may say between Deism
and Positivism, and on either side he is a special pleader. It is by the
mercy of the Almighty all men live; yet the reasoning of Elihu makes
mercy so remote and arbitrary that prayer becomes an impertinence. No
doubt there are some cries out of trouble which cannot find response.
But he ought to maintain, on the other hand, that if sincere prayer is
addressed to God by one in sore affliction desiring to know wherein he
has sinned and imploring deliverance, that appeal shall be heard. This,
however, is denied. For the purpose of convicting Job Elihu takes the
singular position that though there is mercy with God man is neither to
expect nor ask it, that to make any claim upon Divine grace is impious.
And there is no promise that suffering will bring spiritual gain. God
has a right to afflict His creatures, and what He does is to be endured
without a murmur because it is less than He has the right to appoint.
The doctrine is adamantine and at the same time rent asunder by the
error which is common to all Job's opponents. The soul of a man
resolutely faithful like Job would turn away from it with righteous
contempt and indignation. The light which Elihu professes to enjoy is a
midnight of dogmatic darkness.

       *       *       *       *       *

Passing to chap. xxxvi. we are still among vague surmisings which appear
the more inconsequent that the speaker makes a large claim of knowledge.

      "_Suffer me a little and I will show thee,
       For I have somewhat yet to say on God's behalf.
       I will fetch my knowledge from afar,
       And will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.
       For truly my words are not false:
       One that is perfect in knowledge is with thee._"

Elihu is zealous for the honour of that great Being whom he adores
because from Him he has received life and light and power. He is sure
of what he says, and proceeds with a firm step. Preparation thus made,
the vindication of God follows--a series of sayings which draw to
something useful only when the doctrine becomes hopelessly
inconsistent with what has already been laid down.

      "_Behold God is mighty and despiseth not any;
       He is mighty in strength of understanding.
       He preserveth not the life of the wicked,
       But giveth right to the poor.
       He withdraweth not His eyes from the righteous,
       But, with kings on the throne,
       He setteth them up for ever, and they are exalted.
       And if they be bound in fetters,
       If they be held in cords of affliction,
       Then He showeth them their work
       And their transgressions, that they have acted proudly,
       He openeth their ear to discipline
       And commandeth that they return from iniquity._"

"God despiseth not any"--this appears to have something of the humane
breadth hitherto wanting in the discourses of Elihu. He does not mean,
however, that the Almighty estimates every life without contempt,
counting the feeblest and most sinful as His creatures; but that He
passes over none in the administration of His justice. Illustrations
of the doctrine as Elihu intends it to be received are supplied in the
couplet, "He preserveth not the life of the wicked, but giveth right
to the poor." The poor are helped, the wicked are given up to death.
As for the righteous, two very different methods of dealing with them
are described. For Elihu himself, and others favoured with prosperity,
the law of the Divine order has been, "With kings on the throne God
setteth them up for ever." A personal consciousness of merit leading
to honourable rank in the state seems at variance with the hard dogma
of the evil desert of all men. But the rabbi has his own position to
fortify. The alternative, however, could not be kept out of sight,
since the misery of exile was a vivid recollection, if not an actual
experience, with many reputable men who were bound in fetters and held
by cords of affliction. It is implied that, though of good character,
these are not equal in righteousness to the favourites of kings. Some
errors require correction; and these men are cast into trouble, that
they may learn to renounce pride and turn from iniquity. Elihu
preaches the benefits of chastening, and in touching on pride he comes
near the case of Job. But the argument is rude and indiscriminative.
To admit that a man is righteous and then speak of his transgressions
and iniquity, must mean that he is really far beneath his reputation
or the estimate he has formed of himself.

It is difficult to see precisely what Elihu considers the proper frame
of mind which God will reward. There must be humility, obedience,
submission to discipline, renunciation of past errors. But we remember
the doctrine that a man's righteousness cannot profit God, can only
profit his fellow-men. Does Elihu, then, make submission to the powers
that be almost the same thing as religion? His reference to high
position beside the throne is to a certain extent suggestive of this.

      "_If they obey and serve God,
       They shall spend their days in prosperity
       And their years in pleasures.
       But if they obey not
       They shall perish by the sword,
       And they shall die without knowledge._"

Elihu thinks over much of kings and exaltation beside them and of
years of prosperity and pleasure, and his own view of human character
and merit follows the judgment of those who have honours to bestow and
love the servile pliant mind.

In the dark hours of sorrow and pain, says Elihu, men have the choice to
begin life anew in lowly obedience or else to harden their hearts
against the providence of God. Instruction has been offered, and they
must either embrace it or trample it under foot. And passing to the case
of Job, who, it is plain, is afflicted because he needs chastisement,
not having attained to Elihu's perfectness in the art of life, the
speaker cautiously offers a promise and gives an emphatic warning.

      "_He delivereth the afflicted by his affliction
       And openeth their ear in oppression.
       Yea, He would allure thee out of the mouth of thy distress
       Into a broad place where is no straitness;
       And that which is set on thy table shall be full of fatness.
       But if thou art full of the judgment of the wicked,
       Judgment and justice shall keep hold on thee.
       For beware lest wrath lead thee away to mockery,
       And let not the greatness of the ransom turn thee aside.
       Will thy riches suffice that are without stint?
       Or all the forces of thy strength?
       Choose not that night,
       When the peoples are cut off in their place:
       Take heed thou turn not to iniquity,
       For this thou hast chosen rather than affliction._"

A side reference here shows that the original writer dealing with his
hero has been replaced by another who does not realise the circumstances
of Job with the same dramatic skill. His appeal is forcible, however, in
its place. There was danger that one long and grievously afflicted might
be led away by wrath and turn to mockery or scornfulness, so forfeiting
the possibility of redemption. Job might also say in bitterness of soul
that he had paid a great price to God in losing all his riches. The
warning has point, although Job never betrayed the least disposition to
think the loss of property a ransom exacted of him by God. Elihu's
suggestion to this effect is by no means evangelical; it springs from a
worldly conception of what is valuable to man and of great account with
the Almighty. Observe, however, the reminiscences of national disaster.
The picture of the night of a people's calamity had force for Elihu's
generation, but here it is singularly inappropriate. Job's night had
come to himself alone. If his afflictions had been shared by others, a
different complexion would have been given to them. The final thrust,
that the sufferer had chosen iniquity rather than profitable
chastisement, has no point whatsoever.

The section closes with a strophe (vv. 22-25) which, calling for
submission to the Divine ordinance and praise of the doings of the
Almighty, forms a transition to the main theme of the address.

       *       *       *       *       *

Chap. xxxvi. 26--xxxvii. 24. There need be little hesitation in
regarding this passage as an ode supplied to the second writer or simply
quoted by him for the purpose of giving strength to his argument.
Scarcely a single note in the portion of Elihu's address already
considered approaches the poetical art of this. The glory of God in His
creation and His unsearchable wisdom are illustrated from the phenomena
of the heavens without reference to the previous sections of the
address. One who was more a poet than a reasoner might indeed halt and
stumble as the speaker has done up to this point and find liberty when
he reached a theme congenial to his mind. But there are points at which
we seem to hear the voice of Elihu interrupting the flow of the ode as
no poet would check his muse. At chap, xxxvii. 14 the sentence is
interjected, like an aside of the writer drawing attention to the words
he is quoting,--"_Hearken unto this, O Job; stand still and consider the
wondrous works of God._" Again (vv. 19, 20), between the description of
the burnished mirror of the sky and that of the clearness after the
sweeping wind, without any reference to the train of thought, the
ejaculation is introduced,--"_Teach us what we shall say unto Him, for
we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness. Shall it be told Him
that I speak? If a man speak surely he shall be swallowed up._" The
final verses also seem to be in the manner of Elihu.

But the ode as a whole, though it has the fault of endeavouring to
forestall what is put into the mouth of the Almighty speaking from the
storm, is one of the fine passages of the book. We pass from "cold,
heavy and pretentious" dogmatic discussions to free and striking
pictures of nature, with the feeling that one is guiding us who can
present in eloquent language the fruits of his study of the works of
God. The descriptions have been noted for their felicity and power by
such observers as Baron Humboldt and Mr. Ruskin. While the point of view
is that invariably taken by Hebrew writers, the originality of the ode
lies in fresh observation and record of atmospheric phenomena,
especially of the rain and snow, rolling clouds, thunderstorms and
winds. The pictures do not seem to belong to the Arabian desert but to a
fertile peopled region like Aram or the Chaldæan plain. Upon the fields
and dwellings of men, not on wide expanses of barren sand, the rains and
snows fall, and they seal up the hand of man. The lightning clouds cover
the face of the "habitable world"; by them God judgeth the peoples.

In the opening verses the theme of the ode is set forth--the greatness
of God, the vast duration of His being, transcending human knowledge.

      "_Behold God is great and we know Him not,
       The number of His years is unsearchable._"

To estimate His majesty or fathom the depths of His eternal will is far
beyond us who are creatures of a day. Yet we may have some vision of His
power. Look up when rain is falling, mark how the clouds that float
above distil the drops of water and pour down great floods upon the
earth. Mark also how the dark cloud spreading from the horizon obscures
the blue expanse of the sky. We cannot understand; but we can realise to
some extent the majesty of Him whose is the light and the darkness, who
is heard in the thunder-peal and seen in the forked lightning.

      "_Can any understand the spreadings of the clouds,
       The crashings of His pavilion?
       Behold He spreadeth His light about Him;
       And covereth it with the depths of the sea.
       For by these judgeth He the peoples;
       He giveth meat in abundance._"

Translating from the Vulgate the two following verses, Mr. Ruskin gives
the meaning, "He hath hidden the light in His hands and commanded it
that it should return. He speaks of it to His friend; that it is His
possession, and that he may ascend thereto." The rendering cannot be
received, yet the comment may be cited. "These rain-clouds are the robes
of love of the Angel of the Sea. To these that name is chiefly given,
the 'spreadings of the clouds,' from their extent, their gentleness,
their fulness of rain." And this is "the meaning of those strange golden
lights and purple flushes before the morning rain. The rain is sent to
judge and feed us; but the light is the possession of the friends of
God, that they may ascend thereto,--where the tabernacle veil will cross
and part its rays no more."[9]

The real import does not reach this spiritual height. It is simply
that the tremendous thunder brings to transgressors the terror of
judgment, and the copious showers that follow water the parched earth
for the sake of man. Of the justice and grace of God we are made
aware when His angel spreads his wings over the world. In the darkened
sky there is a crash as if the vast canopy of the firmament were torn
asunder. And now a keen flash lights the gloom for a moment; anon it
is swallowed up as if the inverted sea, poured in cataracts upon the
flame, extinguished it. Men recognise the Divine indignation, and even
the lower animals seem to be aware.

      "_He covereth His hands with the lightning,
       He giveth it a charge against the adversary.
       Its thunder telleth concerning Him,
       Even the cattle concerning that which cometh up._"

Continued in the thirty-seventh chapter, the description appears to be
from what is actually going on, a tremendous thunderstorm that shakes
the earth. The sound comes, as it were, out of the mouth of God,
reverberating from sky to earth and from earth to sky, and rolling
away under the whole heaven. Again there are lightnings, and "_He
stayeth them not when His voice is heard._" Swift ministers of
judgment and death they are darted upon the world.

We are asked to consider a fresh wonder, that of the snow which at
certain times replaces the gentle or copious rain. The cold fierce
showers of winter arrest the labour of man, and even the wild beasts
seek their dens and abide in their lurking-places. "The Angel of the
Sea," says Mr. Ruskin, "has also another message,--in the 'great rain of
His strength,' rain of trial, sweeping away ill-set foundations. Then
his robe is not spread softly over the whole heaven as a veil, but
sweeps back from his shoulders, ponderous, oblique, terrible--leaving
his sword-arm free." God is still directly at work. "_Out of His chamber
cometh the storm and cold out of the north._" His breath gives the frost
and straitens the breadth of waters. Towards Armenia, perhaps, the poet
has seen the rivers and lakes frozen from bank to bank. Our science
explains the result of diminished temperature; we know under what
conditions hoar-frost is deposited and how hail is formed. Yet all we
can say is that thus and thus the forces act. Beyond that we remain like
this writer, awed in presence of a heavenly Will which determines the
course and appoints the marvels of nature.

      "_By the breath of God ice is given,
       And the breadth of the waters is straitened.
       Also He ladeth the thick cloud with moisture,
       He spreadeth His lightning cloud abroad;
       And it is turned about by His guidance,
       That it may do whatsoever He commandeth
       Upon the face of the whole earth._"

Here, again, moral purpose is found. The poet attributes to others his
own susceptibility. Men see and learn and tremble. It is for
correction, that the careless may be brought to think of God's
greatness, and the evil-doers of His power, that sinners being made
afraid may turn from their rebellion. Or, it is for His earth, that
rain may beautify it and fill the rivers and springs at which the
beasts of the valley drink. Or, yet again, the purpose is mercy. Even
the tremendous thunderstorm may be fraught with mercy to men. From the
burning heat, oppressive, intolerable, the rains that follow bring
deliverance. Men are fainting for thirst, the fields are languishing.
In compassion God sends His great cloud on its mission of life.

More delicate, needing finer observation, are the next objects of study.

      "_Dost thou know how God layeth His charge on them,
       And causeth the light of His cloud to shine?
       Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds,
       The wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge?_"

It is not clear whether the light of the cloud means the lightning again
or the varied hues which make an Oriental sunset glorious in purple and
gold. But the balancings of the clouds must be that singular power which
the atmosphere has of sustaining vast quantities of watery
vapour--either miles above the earth's surface where the filmy cirrhus
floats, dazzling white against the blue sky, or lower down where the
rain-cloud trails along the hill-tops. Marvellous it is that, suspended
thus in the air, immense volumes of water should be carried from the
surface of the ocean to be discharged in fructifying rain.

Then again:--

      "_How are thy garments warm
       When the earth is still because of the south wind?_"

The sensation of dry hot clothing is said to be very notable in the
season of the siroccos or south winds, also the extraordinary
stillness of nature under the same oppressive influence. "There is no
living thing abroad to make a noise. The air is too weak and languid
to stir the pendant leaves even of the tall poplars."

Finally the vast expanse of the sky, like a looking-glass of burnished
metal stretched far over sea and land, symbolises the immensity of
Divine power.

      "_Canst thou with Him spread out the sky
       Which is strong as a molten mirror?...
       And now men see not the light which is bright in the skies:
       Yet the wind passeth and cleanseth them._"

It is always bright beyond. Clouds only hide the splendid sunshine for
a time. A wind rises and sweeps away the vapours from the glorious
dome of heaven. "_Out of the north cometh golden splendour_"--for it
is the north wind that drives on the clouds which, as they fly
southward, are gilded by the rays of the sun. But with God is a
splendour greater far, that of terrible majesty.

So the ode finishes abruptly, and Elihu states his own conclusion:--

      "_The Almighty! we cannot find Him out; He is excellent in power,
       And in judgment and plenteous justice; He will not afflict.
       Men do therefore fear Him;
       He regardeth not any that are wise of heart._"

Is Job wise in his own conceit? Does he think he can challenge the
Divine government and show how the affairs of the world might have
been better ordered? Does he think that he is himself treated unjustly
because loss and disease have been appointed to him? Right thoughts of
God will check all such ignorant notions and bring him a penitent back
to the throne of the Eternal. It is a good and wise deduction; but
Elihu has not vindicated God by showing in harmony with the noblest
and finest ideas of righteousness men have, God supremely righteous,
and beyond the best and noblest mercy men love, God transcendently
merciful and gracious. In effect his argument has been--The Almighty
must be all-righteous, and any one is impious who criticises life. The
whole question between Job and the friends remains unsettled still.

Elihu's failure is significant. It is the failure of an attempt made,
as we have seen, centuries after the Book of Job was written, to bring
it into the line of current religious opinion. Our examination of the
whole reveals the narrow foundation on which Hebrew orthodoxy was
reared and explains the developments of a later time. Job may be said
to have left no disciples in Israel. His brave personal hope and
passionate desire for union with God seem to have been lost in the
fervid national bigotry of post-exilic ages; and while they faded, the
Pharisee and Sadducee of after days began to exist. They are both here
in germ. Springing from one seed, they are alike in their ignorance of
Divine justice; and we do not wonder that Christ, coming to fulfil and
more than fulfil the hope of humanity, appeared to both the Pharisee
and Sadducee of His time as an enemy of religion, of the country, and
of God.

FOOTNOTE:

[9] "Modern Painters," vol. v., 141.



THE VOICE FROM THE STORM.



XXVII.

"_MUSIC IN THE BOUNDS OF LAW._"

CHAP. xxxviii.


Over the shadowed life of Job, and the world shadowed for him by his own
intellectual and moral gloom, a storm sweeps, and from the storm issues
a voice. With the symbol of vast Divine energy comes an answer to the
problem of tried and troubled human life. It has seemed, as time went
by, that the appeals of the sufferer were unheard, that the rigid
silence of heaven would never break. But had he not heard? "Their line
is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the
world." Job should have known. What is given will be a fresh
presentation of ideas now to be seen in their strength and bearing
because the mind is prepared and made eager. The man, brought to the
edge of pessimism, will at last look abroad and follow the doings of
the Almighty even through storm and darkness. Does the sublime voice
issue only to overbear and reduce him to silence? Not so. His reason is
addressed, his thought demanded, his power to recognise truth is called
for. A great demonstration is made, requiring at every step the response
of mind and heart. The Creator reveals His care for the creation, for
the race of men, for every kind of being and every need. He declares His
own glory, of transcendent power, of immeasurable wisdom, also of
righteous and holy will. He can afflict men, and yet do them no wrong
but good, for they are His men, for whom He provides as they cannot
provide for themselves. Trial, sorrow, change, death--is anything
"disastrous" that God ordains? Impossible. His care of His creation is
beyond our imagining. There are no disasters in His universe unless
where the will of man divorced from faith would tear a way for itself
through the fastnesses of His eternal law.

Eloah is known through the tempest as well as in the dewdrop and the
tender blossom. What is capable of strength must be made strong. That
is the Divine law throughout all life, for the cedar on Lebanon, the
ox in the yoke, the lion of the Libyan desert. Chiefly the moral
nature of man must find its strength. The glory of God is to have sons
who can endure. The easy piety of a happy race, living among flowers
and offering incense for adoration, cannot satisfy Him of the
eternal will, the eternal power. Men must learn to trust, to endure,
to hold themselves undismayed when the fury of tempest scours their
world and heaps the driven snow above their dwellings and death comes
cold and stark. Struggle man shall, struggle on through strange and
dreadful trials till he learn to live in the thought of Divine Will
and Love, co-ordinate in one Lord true to Himself, worthy to be
trusted through all cloud and clash. Ever is He pursuing an end
conformable to the nature of the beings He has created, and, with man
an end conformable to his nature, the possibilities of endless moral
development, the widening movements of increasing life. Let man know
this and submit, know this and rejoice. A dream-life shall be
impossible to man, use his day as he will.

Is this Divine utterance from the storm required by the progress of the
drama? Some have doubted whether its tenor is consistent with the
previous line of thought; yet the whole movement sets distinctly towards
it, could terminate in no other way. The prologue, affirming God's
satisfaction with His servant, left us assured that if Job remained pure
and kept his faith his name would not be blotted from the book of life.
He has kept his integrity; no falsehood or baseness can be charged
against him. But is he still with God in sincere and humble faith? We
have heard him accuse the Most High of cruel enmity. At the close he
lies under the suspicion of impious daring and revolt, and it appears
that he may have fallen from grace. The author has created this
uncertainty knowing well that the verdict of God Himself is needed to
make clear the spiritual position and fate of His servant.

Besides this, Job's own suspense remains, of more importance from a
dramatic point of view. He is not yet reconciled to providence. Those
earnest cries for light, which have gone forth passionately,
pathetically to heaven, wait for an answer. They must have some reply,
if the poet can frame a fit deliverance for the Almighty. The task is
indeed severe. On one side there is restraint, for the original motive
of the whole action and especially the approval of Job by his Divine
Master are not to be divulged. The tried man must not enjoy
vindication at the risk of losing humility, his victory over his
friends must not be too decisive for his own spiritual good, nor out
of keeping with the ordinary current of experience. On the other side
lies the difficulty of representing Divine wisdom in contrast to that
of man, and of dealing with the hopes and claims of Job, for
vindication, for deliverance from Sheol, for the help of a Redeemer,
either in the way of approving them or setting them definitely aside.
Urged by a necessity of his own creating, the author has to seek a
solution, and he finds one equally convincing and modest, crowning his
poem with a passage of marvellous brilliance, aptness, and power.

It has already been remarked that the limitations of genius and
inspiration are distinctly visible here. The bold prophetic hopes put
into Job's mouth were beyond the author's power to verify even to his
own satisfaction. He might himself believe in them, ardently, as
flashes of heavenly foresight, but he would not affirm them to be
Divine in their source because he could not give adequate proof. The
ideas were thrown out to live in human thought, to find verification
when God's time came. Hence, in the speeches of the Almighty, the
ground taken is that of natural religion, the testimony of the
wonderful system of things open to the observation of all. Is there a
Divine Redeemer for the faithful whose lives have been overshadowed?
Shall they be justified in some future state of being when their
bodies have mouldered into dust? The voice from on high does not
affirm that this shall be; the reverence of the poet does not allow so
daring an assumption of the right to speak for God. On the contrary,
the danger of meddling with things too high is emphasised in the very
utterance which a man of less wisdom and humility would have filled
with his own ideas. Nowhere is there a finer instance of self-denying
moderation for the sake of absolute truth. This writer stands among
men as a humble student of the ways of God--is content to stand there
at the last, making no claim beyond the knowledge of what may be
learned from the creation and providence of God.

And Job is allowed no special providence. The voice from the storm is
that which all may hear; it is the universal revelation suited to
every man. At first sight we are disposed to agree with those who
think the appearance of the Almighty upon the scene to be in itself
strange. But there is no Theophany. There is no revelation or message
to suit a particular case, to gratify one who thinks himself more
important than his fellow-creatures, or imagines the problem of his
life abnormally difficult. Again the wisdom of the author goes hand in
hand with his modesty; what is within his compass he sees to be
sufficient for his end.

To some the utterances put into the mouth of the Almighty may seem to
come far short of the occasion. Beginning to read the passage they may
say:--Now we are to have the fruit of the poet's most strenuous
thought, the highest inspiration. The Almighty when He speaks in
person will be made to reveal His gracious purposes with men and the
wisdom of His government in those cases that have baffled the
understanding of Job and of all previous thinkers. Now we shall see a
new light penetrating the thick darkness and confusion of human
affairs. Since this is not done there may be disappointment. But the
author is concerned with religion. His maxim is, "The fear of God
that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding." He has in
his drama done much for human thought and theology. The complications
which had kept faith from resting in true spirituality on God have
been removed. The sufferer is a just man, a good man whom God Himself
has pronounced to be perfect. Job is not afflicted because he has
sinned. The author has set in the clearest possible light all
arguments he could find for the old notion that transgression and
wickedness alone are followed by suffering in this world. He has shown
that this doctrine is not in accordance with fact, and has made the
proof so clear that a thoughtful person could never afterwards
remember the name of Job and hold that false view. But apart from the
prologue, no explanation is given of the sufferings of the righteous
in this life. The author never says in so many words that Job profited
by his afflictions. It might be that the righteous man, tried by loss
and pain, was established in his faith for ever, above all possibility
of doubt. But this is not affirmed. It might be that men were purified
by their sufferings, that they found through the hot furnace a way
into the noblest life. But this is not brought forward as the ultimate
explanation. Or it might be that the good man in affliction was the
burden-bearer of others, so that his travail and blood helped their
spiritual life. But there is no hint of this. Jehovah is to be
vindicated. He appears; He speaks out of the storm, and vindicates
Himself. Not, however, by showing the good His servant has gained in
the discipline of bereavement, loss, and pain. It is by claiming
implicit trust from men, by showing that their wisdom at its highest
is foolishness to His, and that His administration of the affairs of
His world is in glorious faithfulness as well as power.

Is it disappointing? Does the writer neglect the great question his
drama has stirred? Or has he not, with art far more subtle than we may
at first suppose, introduced into the experience of Job a certain
spiritual gain--thoughts and hopes that widen and clear the horizon of
his life? In the depth of despondency, just because he has been driven
from every earthly comfort and stay, and can look only for miserable
death, Job sees in prophetic vision a higher hope. He asks, "If a man
die, shall he live again?" The question remains with him and seeks an
answer in the intervals of suffering. Then at length he ventures on
the presage of a future state of existence, "whether in the body or
out of the body he cannot tell, God knoweth,"--"My Redeemer liveth; I
shall see God for me." This prevision, this dawning of the light of
immortality upon his soul is the gain that has entered into Job's
experience. Without the despondency, the bitterness of bereavement,
the sense of decay, and the pressure of cruel charges made against
him, these illuminating thoughts would never have come to the
sufferer; and along this line the author may have intended to justify
the afflictions of the righteous man and quietly vindicate the
dealings of God with him.

If further it be asked why this is not made prominent in the course of
the Almighty's address from the storm, an answer may be found. The hope
did not remain clear, inspiring, in the consciousness of Job. The waves
of sorrow and doubt rolled over his mind again. It was but a flash, and
like lightning at midnight it passed and left the gloom once more. Only
when by long reflection and patient thought Job found himself reassured
in the expectation of a future life, would he know what trouble had done
for him. And it was not in keeping with the gradual development of
religious faith that the Almighty should forestall discovery by reviving
the hope which for a time had faded. We may take it that with rare skill
the writer avoids insistence on the value of a vision which could appear
charged with sustaining hope only after it was again apprehended, first
as a possibility, then as a revelation, finally as a sublime truth
disentangled from doubt and error.

Assuming this to have been in the author's mind, we understand why the
Almighty speaking from the storm makes no reference to the gain of
affliction. There is a return upon the original motive of the
drama,--the power of the Creator to inspire, the right of the Creator
to expect faith in Himself, whatever losses and trials men have to
endure. Neither the integrity of man nor the claim of man upon God is
first in the mind of the author, but the majestic Godhead that gathers
to itself the adoration of the universe. Man is of importance because
he glorifies his Creator. Human righteousness is of narrow range. It
is not by his righteousness man is saved, that is to say, finds his
true place, the development of his nature and the end of his
existence. He is redeemed from vanity and evanescence by his faith,
because in exercising it, clinging to it through profoundest darkness,
amidst thunder and storm, when deep calleth to deep, he enters into
that wise and holy order of the universe which God has appointed,--he
lives and finds more abundant life.

It is not denied that on the way toward perfect trust in his Creator
man is free to seek explanation of all that befalls him. Our
philosophy is no impertinence. Thought must have liberty; religion
must be free. The light of justice has been kindled within us that we
may seek the answering light of the sublime justice of God in all His
dealings with ourselves and with mankind. This is clearly before the
mind of the author, and it is the underlying idea throughout the long
colloquies between Job and his friends. They are allowed a freedom of
thought and speech that sometimes astonishes, for they are engaged in
the great inquiry which is to bring clear and uplifting knowledge of
the Creator and His will. For us it is a varied inquiry, much of it to
be conducted in pain and sorrow, on the bare hillside or on the rough
sea, in the face of peril, change and disappointment. But if always
the _morale_ of life, the fulfilment of life bestowed by God as man's
trust and inestimable possession are kept in view, freedom is ample,
and man, doing his part, need have no fear of incurring the anger of
the Divine Judge: the terrors of low religions have no place here.

But now Job is given to understand that liberty has its limitation;
and the lesson is for many. To one half of mankind, allowing the mind
to lie inert or expending it on vanities, the word has come--Inquire
what life is, what its trials mean, how the righteous government of
God is to be traced. Now, to the other half of mankind, too
adventurous in experiment and judgment, the address of the Almighty
says: Be not too bold; far beyond your range the activities of the
Creator pass: it is not for you to understand the whole, but always to
be reverent, always to trust. The limits of knowledge are shown, and,
beyond them, the Divine King stands in glory inaccessible, proved true
and wise and just, claiming for Himself the dutiful obedience and
adoration of His creatures. Throughout the passage we now consider
this is the strain of argument, and the effect on Job's mind is found
in his final confession.

Let man remember that his main business here is not to question but to
glorify his Creator. For the time when this book was written the truth
lay here; and here it lies even for us, and will lie for those who
come after us. In these days it is often forgotten. Science questions,
philosophy probes into the reasons of what has been and is, men lose
themselves in labyrinths at the far extremities of which they hope to
find something which shall make life inexpressibly great or strong or
sweet. And even theology and criticism of the Bible occasionally fall
into the same error of fancying that to inquire and know are the main
things, that although inquiry and knowledge do not at every stage aid
the service of the Most High they may promote life. The colloquies and
controversies over, Job and his friends are recalled to their real
duty, which is to recognise the eternal majesty and grace of the
Unseen God, to trust Him and do His will. And our experiments and
questions over in every department of knowledge, to this we ought to
come. Nay, every step in our quest of knowledge should be taken with
the desire to find God more gloriously wise and faithful, that our
obedience may be more zealous, our worship more profound. There are
only two states of thought or dominant methods possible when we enter
on the study of the facts of nature and providence or any research
that allures our reason. We must go forward either in the faith of God
or with the desire to establish ourselves in knowledge, comfort and
life apart from God. If the second way is chosen, light is turned into
darkness, all discoveries prove mere apples of Sodom, and the end is
vanity. But on the other line, with life which is good to have, with
the consciousness of ability to think and will and act, faith should
begin, faith in life and the Maker of life; and if every study is
pursued in resolute faith, man refusing to give existence itself the
lie, the mind seeking and finding new and larger reasons for trust and
service of the Creator, the way will be that of salvation. The faults
and errors of one who follows this way will not enter into his soul to
abide there and darken it. They will be confessed and forgiven. Such
is the philosophy of the Book of Job, and the final vindication of His
servant by the Almighty.



XXVIII.

_THE RECONCILIATION._

CHAPS. xxxviii. i-xlii. 6.


The main argument of the address ascribed to the Almighty is contained
in chaps. xxxviii. and xxxix., and in the opening verses of chap.
xlii. Job makes submission and owns his fault in doubting the
faithfulness of Divine providence. The intervening passage containing
descriptions of the great animals of the Nile is scarcely in the same
high strain of poetic art or on same high level of cogent reasoning.
It seems rather of a hyperbolical kind, suggesting failure from the
clear aim and inspiration of the previous portion.

The voice proceeding from the storm-cloud, in which the Almighty veils
Himself and yet makes His presence and majesty felt, begins with a
question of reproach and a demand that the intellect of Job shall be
roused to its full vigour in order to apprehend the ensuing argument.
The closing words of Job had shown misconception of his position
before God. He spoke of presenting a claim to Eloah and setting forth
his integrity so that his plea would be unanswerable. Circumstances
had brought upon him a stain from which he had a right to be cleared,
and, implying this, he challenged the Divine government of the world
as wanting in due exhibition of righteousness. This being so, Job's
rescue from doubt must begin with a conviction of error. Therefore the
Almighty says:--

      "_Who is this darkening counsel
       By words without knowledge?
       Gird up now thy loins like a man;
       For I will demand of thee and answer thou Me._"

The aim of the author throughout the speech from the storm is to
provide a way of reconciliation between man in affliction and
perplexity and the providence of God that bewilders and threatens to
crush him. To effect this something more than a demonstration of the
infinite power and wisdom of God is needed. Zophar affirming the glory
of the Almighty to be higher than heaven, deeper than Sheol, longer
than the earth, broader than the sea, basing on this a claim that God
is unchangeably just, supplies no principle of reconciliation. In like
manner Bildad, requiring the abasement of man as sinful and
despicable in presence of the Most High with whom are dominion and
fear, shows no way of hope and life. But the series of questions now
addressed to Job forms an argument in a higher strain, as cogent as
could be reared on the basis of that manifestation of God which the
natural world supplies. The man is called to recognise not illimitable
power only, the eternal supremacy of the Unseen King, but also other
qualities of the Divine rule. Doubt of providence is rebuked by a wide
induction from the phenomena of the heavens and of life upon the
earth, everywhere disclosing law and care co-operant to an end.

First Job is asked to think of the creation of the world or visible
universe. It is a building firmly set on deep-laid foundations. As if by
line and measure it was brought into symmetrical form according to the
archetypal plan; and when the corner-stone was laid as of a new palace
in the great dominion of God there was joy in heaven. The angels of the
morning broke into song, the sons of the Elohim, high in the ethereal
dwellings among the fountains of light and life, shouted for joy. In
poetic vision the writer beholds that work of God and those rejoicing
companies; but to himself, as to Job, the question comes--What knows man
of the marvellous creative effort which he sees in imagination? It is
beyond human range. The plan and the method are equally
incomprehensible. Of this let Job be assured--that the work was not done
in vain. Not for the creation of a world the history of which was to
pass into confusion would the morning stars have sung together. He who
beheld all that He had made and declared it very good would not suffer
triumphant evil to confound the promise and purpose of His toil.

Next there is the great ocean flood, once confined as in the womb of
primæval chaos, which came forth in living power, a giant from its
birth. What can Job tell, what can any man tell of that wonderful
evolution, when, swathed in rolling clouds and thick darkness, with
vast energy the flood of waters rushed tumultuously to its appointed
place? There is a law of use and power for the ocean, a limit also
beyond which it cannot pass. Does man know how that is?--must he not
acknowledge the wise will and benignant care of Him who holds in check
the stormy devastating sea?

And who has control of the light? The morning dawns not by the will of
man. It takes hold of the margin of the earth over which the wicked
have been ranging, and as one shakes out the dust from a sheet, it
shakes them forth visible and ashamed. Under it the earth is changed,
every object made clear and sharp as figures on clay stamped with a
seal. The forests, fields, and rivers are seen like the embroidered or
woven designs of a garment. What is this light? Who sends it on the
mission of moral discipline? Is not the great God who commands the
dayspring to be trusted even in the darkness? Beneath the surface of
earth is the grave and the dwelling-place of the nether gloom. Does
Job know, does any man know, what lies beyond the gates of death? Can
any tell where the darkness has its central seat? One there is whose
is the night as well as the morning. The mysteries of futurity, the
arcana of nature lie open to the Eternal alone.

Atmospheric phenomena, already often described, reveal variously the
unsearchable wisdom and thoughtful rule of the Most High. The force
that resides in the hail, the rains that fall on the wilderness where
no man is, satisfying the waste and desolate ground and causing the
tender grass to spring up, these imply a breadth of gracious purpose
that extends beyond the range of human life. Whose is the fatherhood
of the rain, the ice, the hoar-frost of heaven? Man is subject to the
changes these represent; he cannot control them. And far higher are
the gleaming constellations that are set in the forehead of night.
Have the hands of man gathered the Pleiades and strung them like
burning gems on a chain of fire? Can the power of man unloose Orion
and let the stars of that magnificent constellation wander through
the sky? The Mazzaroth or Zodiacal signs that mark the watches of the
advancing year, the Bear and the stars of her train--who leads them
forth? The laws of heaven, too, those ordinances regulating the
changes of temperature and the seasons, does man appoint them? Is it
he who brings the time when thunderstorms break up the drought and
open the bottles of heaven, or the time of heat "when the dust gathers
into a mass, and the clods cleave fast together"? Without this
alternation of drought and moisture recurring by law from year to year
the labour of man would be in vain. Is not He who governs the changing
seasons to be trusted by the race that profits most of His care?

At verse 39 attention is turned from inanimate nature to the living
creatures for which God provides. With marvellous poetic skill they
are painted in their need and strength, in the urgency of their
instincts, timid or tameless or cruel. The Creator is seen rejoicing
in them as His handiwork, and man is held bound to exult in their life
and see in the provision made for its fulfilment a guarantee of all
that his own bodily nature and spiritual being may require. Notable
especially to us is the close relation between this portion and
certain sayings of our Lord in which the same argument brings the same
conclusion. "Two passages of God's speaking," says Mr. Ruskin, "one in
the Old and one in the New Testament, possess, it seems to me, a
different character from any of the rest, having been uttered, the one
to effect the last necessary change in the mind of a man whose piety
was in other respects perfect; and the other as the first statement to
all men of the principles of Christianity by Christ Himself--I mean
the 38th to 41st chapters of the Book of Job and the Sermon on the
Mount. Now the first of these passages is from beginning to end
nothing else than a direction of the mind which was to be perfected,
to humble observance of the works of God in nature. And the other
consists only in the inculcation of three things: 1st, right conduct;
2nd, looking for eternal life; 3rd, trusting God through watchfulness
of His dealings with His creation."[10] The last point is that which
brings into closest parallelism the doctrine of Christ and that of the
author of Job, and the resemblance is not accidental, but of such a
nature as to show that both saw the underlying truth in the same way
from the same point of spiritual and human interest.

      "_Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lioness?
       Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions.
       When they couch in their dens
       And abide in the covert to lie in wait?
       Who provideth for the raven his food,
       When his young ones cry unto God
       And wander for lack of meat?_"

Thus man is called to recognise the care of God for creatures strong
and weak, and to assure himself that his life will not be forgotten.
And in His Sermon on the Mount our Lord says, "Behold the birds of the
heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns;
and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value
than they?" The parallel passage in the Gospel of Luke approaches
still more closely the language in Job--"Consider the ravens that they
sow not neither reap."

The wild goats or goats of the rock and their young that soon become
independent of the mothers' care; the wild asses that make their
dwelling-place in the salt land and scorn the tumult of the city; the
wild ox that cannot be tamed to go in the furrow or bring home the
sheaves in harvest; the ostrich that "leaveth her eggs on the earth
and warmeth them in the dust"; the horse in his might, his neck
clothed with the quivering mane, mocking at fear, smelling the battle
afar off; the hawk, that soars into the blue sky; the eagle that makes
her nest on the rock,--all these, graphically described, speak to Job
of the innumerable forms of life, simple, daring, strong and savage,
that are sustained by the power of the Creator. To think of them is to
learn that, as one among the dependants of God, man has his part in
the system of things, his assurance that the needs God has ordained
will be met. The passage is poetically among the finest in Hebrew
literature, and it is more. In its place, with the limit the writer
has set for himself, it is most apt as a basis of reconciliation and a
new starting-point in thought for all like Job who doubt the Divine
faithfulness. Why should man, because he can think of the providence
of God, be alone suspicious of the justice and wisdom on which all
creatures rely? Is not his power of thought given to him that he may
pass beyond the animals and praise the Divine Provider on their behalf
and his own? Man needs more than the raven, the lion, the mountain
goat, and the eagle. He has higher instincts and cravings. Daily food
for the body will not suffice him, nor the liberty of the wilderness.
He would not be satisfied if, like the hawk and eagle, he could soar
above the hills. His desires for righteousness, for truth, for fulness
of that spiritual life by which he is allied to God Himself, are his
distinction. So, then, He who has created the soul will bring it to
perfectness. Where or how its longings shall be fulfilled may not be
for man to know. But he can trust God. That is his privilege when
knowledge fails. Let him lay aside all vain thoughts and ignorant
doubts. Let him say: God is inconceivably great, unsearchably wise,
infinitely just and true; I am in His hands, and all is well.

The reasoning is from the less to the greater, and is therefore in
this case conclusive. The lower animals exercise their instincts and
find what is suited to their needs. And shall it not be so with man?
Shall he, able to discern the signs of an all-embracing plan, not
confess and trust the sublime justice it reveals? The slightness of
human power is certainly contrasted with the omnipotence of God, and
the ignorance of man with the omniscience of God; but always the
Divine faithfulness, glowing behind, shines through the veil of
nature, and it is this Job is called to recognise. Has he almost
doubted everything, because from his own life outward to the verge of
human existence wrong and falsehood seemed to reign? But how, then,
could the countless creatures depend upon God for the satisfaction of
their desires and the fulfilment of their varied life? Order in nature
means order in the scheme of the world as it affects humanity. And
order in the providence which controls human affairs must have for
principle fairness, justice, so that every deed shall have due reward.

Such is the Divine law perceived by our inspired author "through the
things that are made." The view of nature is still different from the
scientific, but there is certainly an approach to that reading of the
universe praised by M. Renan as peculiarly Hellenic, which "saw the
Divine in what is harmonious and evident." Not here at least does the
taunt apply that, from the point of view of the Hebrew, "ignorance is
a cult and curiosity a wicked attempt to explain," that "even in the
presence of a mystery which assails and ruins him, man attributes in a
special manner the character of grandeur to that which is
inexplicable," that "all phenomena whose cause is hidden, all beings
whose end cannot be perceived, are to man a humiliation and a motive
for glorifying God." The philosophy of the final portion of Job is of
that kind which presses beyond secondary causes and finds the real
ground of creaturely existence. Intellectual apprehension of the
innumerable and far-reaching threads of Divine purpose and the secrets
of the Divine will is not attempted. But the moral nature of man is
brought into touch with the glorious righteousness of God. Thus the
reconciliation is revealed for which the whole poem has made
preparation. Job has passed through the furnace of trial and the deep
waters of doubt, and at last the way is opened for him into a wealthy
place. Till the Son of God Himself come to clear the mystery of
suffering no larger reconciliation is possible. Accepting the
inevitable boundaries of knowledge, the mind may at length have peace.

And Job finds the way of reconciliation.

      "_I know that Thou canst do all things,
       And that no purpose of Thine can be restrained.
       'Who is this that hideth counsel without knowledge?'
       Then have I uttered what I understood not,
       Things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.
       'Hear, now, and I will speak;
       I will demand of Thee, and declare Thou unto me.'
       I had heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear;
       But now mine eye seeth Thee,
       Wherefore I repudiate my words and repent in dust and ashes._"

All things God can do, and where His purposes are declared there is the
pledge of their accomplishment. Does man exist?--it must be for some end
that will come about. Has God planted in the human mind spiritual
desires?--they shall be satisfied. Job returns on the question that
accused him--"Who is this darkening counsel?" It was he himself who
obscured counsel by ignorant words. He had only heard of God then, and
walked in the vain belief of a traditional religion. His efforts to do
duty and to avert the Divine anger by sacrifice had alike sprung from
the imperfect knowledge of a dream-life that never reached beyond words
to facts and things. God was greater far than he had ever thought,
nearer than he had ever conceived. His mind is filled with a sense of
the Eternal power, and overwhelmed by proofs of wisdom to which the
little problems of man's life can offer no difficulty.

"Now mine eye seeth Thee." The vision of God is to his soul like the
dazzling light of day to one issuing from a cavern. He is in a new
world where every creature lives and moves in God. He is under a
government that appears new because now the grand comprehensiveness
and minute care of Divine providence are realised. Doubt of God and
difficulty in acknowledging the justice of God are swept away by the
magnificent demonstration of vigour, spirit and sympathy, which Job
had as yet failed to connect with the Divine Life. Faith therefore
finds freedom, and its liberty is reconciliation, redemption. He
cannot indeed behold God face to face and hear the judgment of
acquittal for which he had longed and cried. Of this, however, he does
not now feel the need. Rescued from the uncertainty in which he had
been involved--all that was beautiful and good appearing to quiver
like a mirage--he feels life again to have its place and use in the
Divine order. It is the fulfilment of Job's great hope, so far as it
can be fulfilled in this world. The question of his integrity is not
formally decided. But a larger question is answered, and the answer
satisfies meantime the personal desire.

Job makes no confession of sin. His friends and Elihu, all of whom
endeavour to find evil in his life, are entirely at fault. The
repentance is not from moral guilt, but from the hasty and venturous
speech that escaped him in the time of trial. After all one's defence
of Job one must allow that he does not at every point avoid the
appearance of evil. There was need that he should repent and find new
life in new humility. The discovery he has made does not degrade a
man. Job sees God as great and true and faithful as he had believed
Him to be, yea, greater and more faithful by far. He sees himself a
creature of this great God and is exalted, an ignorant creature and is
reproved. The larger horizon which he demanded having opened to him,
he finds himself much less than he had seemed. In the microcosm of his
past dream-life and narrow religion he appeared great, perfect, worthy
of all he enjoyed at the hand of God; but now, in the macrocosm, he is
small, unwise, weak. God and the soul stand sure as before; but God's
justice to the soul He has made is viewed along a different line. Not
as a mighty sheik can Job now debate with the Almighty he has invoked.
The vast ranges of being are unfolded, and among the subjects of the
Creator he is one,--bound to praise the Almighty for existence and all
it means. His new birth is finding himself little, yet cared for in
God's great universe.

The writer is no doubt struggling with an idea he cannot fully
express; and in fact he gives no more than the pictorial outline of
it. But without attributing sin to Job he points, in the confession of
ignorance, to the germ of a doctrine of sin. Man, even when upright,
must be stung to dissatisfaction, to a sense of imperfection--to
realise his fall as a new birth in spiritual evolution. The moral
ideal is indicated, the boundlessness of duty and the need for an
awakening of man to his place in the universe. The dream-life now
appears a clouded partial existence, a period of lost opportunities
and barren vain-glory. Now opens the greater life in the light of God.

And at the last the challenge of the Almighty to Satan with which the
poem began stands justified. The Adversary cannot say,--The hedge set
around Thy servant broken down, his flesh afflicted, now he has cursed
Thee to Thy face. Out of the trial Job comes, still on God's side,
more on God's side than ever, with a nobler faith more strongly
founded on the rock of truth. It is, we may say, a prophetic parable
of the great test to which religion is exposed in the world, its
difficulties and dangers and final triumph. To confine the reference
to Israel is to miss the grand scope of the poem. At the last, as at
the first, we are beyond Israel, out in a universal problem of man's
nature and experience. By his wonderful gift of inspiration, painting
the sufferings and the victory of Job, the author is a herald of the
great advent. He is one of those who prepared the way not for a Jewish
Messiah, the redeemer of a small people, but for the Christ of God,
the Son of Man, the Saviour of the world.

A universal problem, that is, a question of every human age, has been
presented and within limits brought to a solution. But it is not the
supreme question of man's life. Beneath the doubts and fears with which
this drama has dealt lie darker and more stormy elements. The vast
controversy in which every human soul has a share oversweeps the land of
Uz and the trial of Job. From his life the conscience of sin is
excluded. The author exhibits a soul tried by outward circumstances; he
does not make his hero share the thoughts or judgment of the evil-doer.
Job represents the believer in the furnace of providential pain and
loss. He is neither a sinner nor a sin-bearer. Yet the book leads on
with no faltering movement toward the great drama in which every problem
of religion centres. Christ's life, character, work cover the whole
region of spiritual faith and struggle, of conflict and reconciliation,
of temptation and victory, sin and salvation; and while the problem is
exhaustively wrought out the Reconciler stands divinely free of all
entanglement. He is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. Job's
honest life emerges at last, from a narrow range of trial into personal
reconciliation and redemption through the grace of God. Christ's pure
heavenly life goes forward in the Spirit through the full range of
spiritual trial, bearing every need of erring man, confirming every
wistful hope of the race, yet revealing with startling force man's
immemorial quarrel with the light, and convicting him in the hour that
it saves him. Thus for the ancient inspired drama there is set, in the
course of evolution, another, far surpassing it, the Divine tragedy of
the universe, involving the spiritual omnipotence of God. Christ has to
overcome not only doubt and fear, but the devastating godlessness of
man, the strange sad enmity of the carnal mind. His triumph in the
sacrifice of the cross leads religion forth beyond all difficulties and
dangers into eternal purity and calm. That is--through Him the soul of
believing man is reconciled by a transcendent spiritual law to nature
and providence, and his spirit consecrated for ever to the holiness of
the Eternal.

The doctrine of the sovereignty of God, as set forth in the drama of
Job with freshness and power by one of the masters of theology, by no
means covers the whole ground of Divine action. The righteous man is
called and enabled to trust the righteousness of God; the good man is
brought to confide in that Divine goodness which is the source of his
own. But the evil-doer remains unconstrained by grace, unmoved by
sacrifice. We have learned a broader theology, a more strenuous yet a
more gracious doctrine of the Divine sovereignty. The induction by
which we arrive at the law is wider than nature, wider than the
providence that reveals infinite wisdom, universal equity and care.
Rightly did a great Puritan theologian take his stand on the
conviction of God as the one power in heaven and earth and hell;
rightly did he hold to the idea of Divine will as the one sustaining
energy of all energies. But he failed just where the author of Job
failed long before: he did not fully see the correlative principle of
sovereign grace. The revelation of God in Christ, our Sacrifice and
Redeemer, vindicates with respect to the sinful as well as the
obedient the Divine act of creation. It shows the Maker assuming
responsibility for the fallen, seeking and saving the lost; it shows
one magnificent sweep of evolution which starts from the manifestation
of God in creation and returns through Christ to the Father, laden
with the manifold immortal gains of creative and redeeming power.

FOOTNOTE:

[10] "Modern Painters," vol. iii., p. 307.



EPILOGUE.



XXIX.

_EPILOGUE._

CHAP. xlii. 7-17.


After the argument of the Divine voice from the storm the epilogue is
a surprise, and many have doubted whether it is in line with the rest
of the work. Did Job need these multitudes of camels and sheep to
supplement his new faith and his reconciliation to the Almighty will?
Is there not something incongruous in the large award of temporal
good, and even something unnecessary in the renewed honour among men?
To us it seems that a good man will be satisfied with the favour and
fellowship of a loving God. Yet, assuming that the conclusion is a
part of the history on which the poem was founded, we can justify the
blaze of splendour that bursts on Job after sorrow, instruction and
reconciliation.

Life only can reward life. That great principle was rudely shadowed
forth in the old belief that God protects His servants even to a green
old age. The poet of our book clearly apprehended the principle; it
inspired his noblest flights. Up to the closing moment Job has lived
strongly, alike in the mundane and the moral region. How is he to find
continued life? The author's power could not pass the limits of the
natural in order to promise a reward. Not yet was it possible, even
for a great thinker, to affirm that continued fellowship with Eloah,
that continued intellectual and spiritual energy which we name eternal
life. A vision of it had come to him; he had seen the day of the Lord
afar off, but dimly, by moments. To carry a life into it was beyond
his power. Sheol made nothing perfect; and beyond Sheol no prophet eye
had ever travelled.

There was nothing for it, then, but to use the history as it stood,
adding symbolic touches, and show the restored life in development on
earth, more powerful than ever, more esteemed, more richly endowed for
good action. In one point the symbolism is very significant. Priestly
office and power are given to Job; his sacrifice and intercession
mediate between the friends who traduced him and Eloah who hears His
faithful servant's prayer. The epilogue, as a parable of the reward of
faithfulness, has deep and abiding truth. Wider opportunity of
service, more cordial esteem and affection, the highest office that
man can bear, these are the reward of Job; and with the terms of the
symbolism we shall not quarrel who have heard the Lord say: "Well
done, thou good servant, because thou wast found faithful in a very
little, have thou authority over ten cities!"

Another indication of purpose must not be overlooked. It may be said
that Job's renewal in soul should have been enough for him, that he
might have spent humbly what remained of life, at peace with men, in
submission to God. But our author was animated by the Hebrew
realism, that healthy belief in life as the gift of God, which kept
him always clear on the one hand of Greek fatalism, on the other of
Oriental asceticism. This strong faith in life might well lead him
into the details of sons and daughters, grandchildren and
great-grandchildren, flocks, tribute, and years of honour. Nor did he
care at the end though any one said that after all the Adversary was
right. He had to show expanding life as Gods recompense of
faithfulness. Satan has long ago disappeared from the drama; and in
any case the epilogue is chiefly a parable. It is, however, a parable
involving, as our Lord's parables always involve, the sound view of
man's existence, neither that of Prometheus on the rock nor of the
grim anchorite in the Egyptian cave.

The writer's finest things came to him by flashes. When he reached the
close of his book he was not able to make a tragedy and leave his
readers rapt above the world. No pre-Christian thinker could have
bound together the gleams of truth in a vision of the spirit's undying
nature and immortal youth. But Job must find restored power and
energy; and the close had to come, as it does, in the time sphere. We
can bear to see a soul go forth naked, driven, tormented; we can bear
to see the great good life pass from the scaffold or the fire, because
we see God meeting it in the heaven. But we have seen Christ.

A third point is that for dramatic completeness the action had to
bring Job to full acquittal in view of his friends. Nothing less will
satisfy the sense of poetic justice which rules the whole work.

Finally, a biographical reminiscence may have given colour to the
epilogue. If, as we have supposed, the author was once a man of
substance and power in Israel, and, reduced to poverty in the time of
the Assyrian conquest, found himself an exile in Arabia--the wistful
sense of impotence in the world must have touched all his thinking.
Perhaps he could not expect for himself renewed power and place; perhaps
he had regretfully to confess a want of faithfulness in his own past.
All the more might he incline to bring his great work to a close with a
testimony to the worth and design of the earthly gifts of God, the
temporal life which He appoints to man, that present discipline most
graciously adapted to our present powers and yet full of preparation for
a higher evolution, the life not seen, eternal in the heavens.



INDEX


  Abraham faith of, 27.

  Accadian psalms, 3.

  Acquittal, Job expects, 285.

  Agnostic, 117.

  Amiel quoted, 88, 288.

  Amos, chap. iv. 4, 44.

  Angel-interpreter, 351.

  Argument, the reconciling, 392.

  Arnold, Matthew, quoted, 95.

  Assize, the Great, 292.

  Astrology, neglected, 317.

  Author, his greatness, 6;
    lives in the poem, 7;
    member of Northern Kingdom, 15;
    in the desert, 17;
    inspiration of, 32;
    paints his own trials, 68;
    his brave truthfulness, 224;
    his prophetic insight, 303.


  Bene-Kedem, 23.

  Bible, universality of, 17.

  Bigot, the, 244.

  Bildad, character of, 102;
    his first speech, 135;
    his second speech, 215;
    his bitterness, 216;
    his third speech, 298.

  Boethius quoted, 288.

  Book of Job, a poem of the soul, 3;
    precursors of, 3;
    poetical art of, 5;
    date of, 6;
    autobiographical, 7, 411;
    style of, 8;
    problem of, 11;
    personality in, 12;
    place in canon, 27;
    main controversy of, 101;
    inspiration of, 122;
    logic of, 295;
    prepares for Christ, 265, 404.

  Bunyan quoted, 144.

  Bushnell, H., quoted, 259.


  Carlyle, T., quoted, 68, 223.

  Catholic theologian, 135.

  Chaldæans, 65.

  Chaos, no moral, 273.

  Christ, sacrifice of, 62;
    mediation of, 121;
    his preaching, 276;
    Redeemer, 242, 404;
    preparation for, 265.

  Church, the Jewish, 14.

  Church, complaints against, 264;
    its duty, 295.

  Cliff in the desert, 231.

  Consolation, 80.

  Corporate sympathy, 230.

  Creed of Job's friends, 155.

  Criticism of first author, 346.


  Dante, 60.

  Davidson, Dr. A. B., 11, 96, 311, 333.

  Davidson, Dr. S., 6.

  Death, finality of, 187.

  Deism and positivism, 365.

  Delay of the Almighty, 269.

  Dogmatism, 136.

  Doughty, Mr. C. M., 20.

  Dualism, 166.

  Duty, keep close to, 88.


  Edwards, Jonathan, quoted, 274.

  Egyptian "Book of the Dead," 212.

  Elihu, who was he? 343;
    inspiration claimed by, 342.

  Eliphaz, character of, 102;
    his first speech, 99;
    vision of, 106;
    apparently right, 113;
    his religion, 114;
    his second speech, 187;
    a pure Temanite, 189;
    jealous for God, 191;
    his third speech, 269.

  Eloah, the righteous, 232;
    and the work of His hands, 233;
    opening Sheol, 233.

  Emerson, R. W., quoted, 257.

  Eschatology, rose-water, 55.

  "Everlasting Yea," 67.

  Evolution, spiritual, 58;
    of religion, 180;
    physical, completes nothing, 241;
    reveals Divine wisdom, 318.

  Ewald, H., 11, 15.


  Failure of old world, 280.

  Fairbairn, Dr. A. M., 57.

  Faith, and happiness, 45;
    three barriers of, 235.

  False judgments, 86.

  Fate of the wicked, 219.

  Festus quoted, 290.

  Finality and progress, 193.

  Funeral in the desert, 264.


  God, no despot, 149;
    seems to persecute, 176, 204;
    and nature, 301.

  Godliness, earthly reward of, 245.

  Goël, the, 234.


  Happiness and faith, 45.

  Hauran, 20.

  Hebrew thought, limitations of, 164;
    realism, 410.

  Hokhma, 9, 16.

  Human frailty, 177.


  Idealism, 65, 79.

  Idolatry, 333.

  Idumæa, religion of, 25.

  Individualism of psalms, 13.

  Inherited opinions, 169.

  Inquiry and reverence, 389.

  Inspiration, of author, 32, 33;
    within limits, 224, 384, 387;
    claimed by Elihu, 342.

  Irresistible power, 141.

  Isaiah compared with Job, 10.


  Jauf, 20.

  Jehovah, servant of, 15.

  Jewel in the lotus, 364.

  Jewish Church, 14.

  Job, a real man, 22;
    religion of, 24;
    character of, 28;
    early prosperity of, 29;
    dream-life of, 30;
    when he lived, 31;
    trials of, 63;
    type of righteous sufferer, 67;
    his integrity, 72;
    his faith, 74;
    his wife, 75;
    his friends, 78;
    curses his day, 89;
    praises death, 92;
    rebuked for scepticism, 154;
    prophetic, 208;
    idealised, 337;
    made priest, 410.

  Justice, of man no refuge, 86;
    in every matter, 237;
    physical argument for, 238.


  Kings, their favour, 357, 369.

  Kinship with Eloah, 181.

  Knowledge not the main thing, 390.

  Koheleth, 38.


  Letters and theology, 4.

  Life, is it for enjoyment? 52;
    meaning of, in the Gospels, 61;
    as vigour, 260;
    principle of man's, 382;
    rewards life, 409.


  Materialism, 54.

  Mediator, desire for a, 147.

  Mephistopheles, 36.

  _Mezbele_, 72.

  Microcosm and macrocosm, 402.

  Mill, J. S., quoted, 256.

  Mining, 314.

  Modern science, 165.


  Natural religion, 25;
    source of, 178;
    ends with a sigh, 290.

  Nature and God, 166, 287, 301.

  Necessity, 130.


  Obedience, reward of, 42.

  Ode cited by Elihu, 370.

  Oriental, society, ideas of, 50;
    life, contrasts of, 72;
    character, 131.

  Orthodoxy uncorrupted, 197.


  Pain, not evil, 52-5;
    and imprudence, 59;
    mystery of, 120.

  Paley quoted, 53.

  Palgrave, W. G., quoted, 20.

  Personality, 12.

  Pessimism, 38.

  Pharisee and Sadducee, germs of, 377.

  Phœnix, 324.

  Piety, daring, 133.

  Pity of it, the, 229.

  "Positive evil," 77.

  Poverty of spirit, 196.

  Precursors of Job, 3.

  Primitive religion of Semites, 180.

  Probation, 47.

  Problem, of the book, 11;
    universal, 403.

  Prophet, the, a critic, 246.

  Proverbs, chaps. iii., viii., 9.

  Providence, enigma of, 207;
    special, 225.

  Psalms, individualism in, 12.

  Punishment of sin, 59.


  Rabbi, the, 368.

  Real and ideal, 152.

  Religion, decay of, 16;
    evolution of, 180.

  Renan quoted, 399.

  Revelation, 117.

  Righteousness, man not saved by, 388.

  Ruskin, J., quoted, 372, 374, 396.


  Sabeans, 65.

  Sacrifice of Christ, 62.

  Sacrificed classes, 170.

  Satan, 34;
    Dante's, 35;
    Milton's, 35;
    power of, 36;
    challenged by the Almighty, 40;
    his question, 42;
    disappears, 71.

  Scepticism, 41, 140.

  Schopenhauer, 37, 39.

  Semites, primitive religion of, 180.

  Servant of Jehovah, 15.

  Sheol, life in, 183;
    no hope in, 211;
    no penalty in, 255.

  Sin, punishment of, 59;
    does it bring suffering? 157.

  Sincerity of mind, 169.

  Skin for skin, 69.

  Smith, Dr. Robertson, 43.

  Social, meliorism, 46;
    tyranny, 331.

  Sons of the Elohim, 37.

  Soulless human beings, 70.

  Special pleading for God, 171.

  Spencer, H., 52.

  Spiritual evolution, 58.

  Suicide, 97, 124.


  Teman, 15.

  Theology and letters, 4;
    new beginning in, 15.

  Theosophy, 39.

  Total depravity, 195.

  Trouble, wherefore? 282.


  Universal problem, 403.

  Uz, 19.


  Wisdom, of the past, 138, 192;
    quest of, 313.

  Woman's life, 75.

  Worldly prosperity offered to Job, 137, 159.


  Zophar, his character, 102;
    his first speech, 154;
    no mere echo, 161;
    his second speech, 243;
    his third speech, 309.



Transciber's Notes:


Obvious punctuation and spelling errors have been fixed throughout.

Inconsistent hyphenation is as in the original text.





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operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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