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[Here we begin a reprint of a small portion of Joseph Caryl’s study in Job. Mr. Caryl wrote twelve volumes on the book of Job. His study is a great example of how deep one can dig into the truths of the Bible.]
Job 1:1 - Who Was Job?,
by Joseph Caryl (1602-1673)
1There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job, and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God and eschewed evil.
This chapter may be divided into three parts: whereof the first contains a description of Job in his prosperous estate, from the first to the end of the fifth verse. In the second we have the first part of Job’s affliction, set down from the sixth verse to the end of the nineteenth. In the third, Job’s carriage and behavior in, or his conquest and victory over that first trial are discovered; this concludes in the three last verses of the chapter.
The description of his prosperous estate is given us in three points. First, What he was in his person, (verse 1); secondly, what he was in his possessions (we have an inventory of his goods - verse 2, 3, 4); thirdly, what he was in his practice of holiness (verse 5), where one example or instance is set down for all the rest.
The book begins with the description of his person in the first verse: where Job is described by that which is accidental, and by that which is essential. By accidentals, so he is described by the place where he dwells, “There was a man in the land of Uz”. 2. By his name, “whose name was Job”. The essentials are four qualifications, which were essential to him, not as a rational man, but as a holy man. “And that man was:
3. One that feared God.
4. Eschewed evil.”
As they who write the acts or stories of great men, usually give us some description of their persons before they set down their undertakings or achievements (as you see in 1 Samuel 17:4,5,6,7, how the great giant Goliath is described), so here the Holy Ghost by the pen-man of this book, being to record a glorious combat, and combat with not flesh and blood alone, but with principalities and powers, a wrestling with mighty and strong temptations: first gives us (if we may so speak) the analysis of this divine heroes soul, the lineaments and abilities of his spirit. This was the height, and this the stature of the combatant, such were his limbs, and such his weapons, there he dwelt, and this was his name.
“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job.” That refers us, either to the truth of the story, or to the time of the story. Such a man there was, that’s certain. Such a man there was but the time when is uncertain. It refers us to the time only indefinitely. There was such a man, but when, is not exactly and precisely set down. The Scripture (we know) does often keep an exact amount of years. The Scripture is the guide and key of all chronology, and sometimes it leaves things in general for the time, and only faith thus much such a thing was, or such a person was. So here. Yet some have undertaken to define (what the Spirit of God has left at large) the precise time wherein Job lived; and tell us in what year of the world these things were done. But I desire not to be so accurate, unless the rule were so too. Only thus much we may safely say, that Job lived between the times of Abraham and Moses, and nearer Moses than Abraham, and for that I conceive there is ground sufficient. There are these two special reasons, why it should be circumscribed within that limit.
1. Because Job offered sacrifice at that time in his own country: which after the giving of the law, and setting up of a public worship, was forbidden all, both Jews and Proselytes. They that were acquainted with the ways of God knew they must not worship by sacrifice anywhere, but before the Tabernacle, or (after the temple was built) at the Temple.
2. Because in the whole book there is not the least print, or the least mention of anything, which did concern those great and glorious passages of Gods providence towards the people of Israel, either in their going out of Egypt, or in their journey through the wilderness to Canaan. Now in a dispute of this nature (such as was between Job and his friends) there would have been frequent occasion to have considered and instanced some of those things. There is scarce any book in Scripture, that bears date after that great and wonderful dispensation of God, but it makes mention of or refers to some passages concerning them.
Again for the time, that which some collect to clear it, is from the genealogy of Job, there are three special opinions concerning the line of his pedigree.
One that he descended from Nahor, who was brother to Abraham, (Gen 22:20). It was told Abraham, beheld Milcah thee has born children to thy brother Nahor, Uz his first-borns and Buz, his brother. This Uz who was the first-born of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, is conceived to have given denomination to the land of Uz, and so from him, Job to be descended.
Another opinion there is (maintained by many) that Job was of the line of Esau, and that he was called Jobab by Moses, (Gen 36:33). “And Bela died and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his stead.” This Jobab, who was a descendant or one of the Dukes of the line of Esau, they say was Job. But why the name Jobab should be contracted into Job, I see little reason offered.
A third opinion for his descent is that he came from the children of Abraham by his second wife Keturah, (Gen 25) where it is said, that Abraham by her had divers sons, and that he gave them portions and “sent them eastward into the east country”; and from Midian, (who was the fourth son of Abraham by that second marriage) our genealogies do positively and directly affirm, that Job was descended. That may suffice for the time, for bringing of him within a narrower power limit, I have no grounds but conjectural.
He is not called “A man” (here) barely as the philosophies animal rationale, as man opposed to a beast: Not barely is he called a man to distinguish his sex, as a man is opposed to a woman. But there is somewhat more in the expression, he is called a man by way of excellency. And for the clearing and opening of that, we may consider that there are three words in Scripture original by which “man” is expressed.
1. Man is called Adam. That was the proper name of the first man, and it became the common name for all men since. So man was called from the matter of which he was made, Adam, from Adam, because (as the reason is given, Gen 2:7) “God made man dust out of the earth, or as we translate) of the dust of the earth.”
2. Man is called Enosh: So he is called in regard of the infirmities, weaknesses and sorrows, which he has contracted by sin, since the fall, sin made the red earth weak and brittle earth indeed, earth moistened with tears, and mixed with troubles.
3. He is called Ish, which the critics in that language say comes from and has alliance with two words: One signifying being, or existence, and the other heat or fire. So that the excellency of man’s being, the heat, courage and spirit that flames in him is set forth in that word; and that’s the word here in the text, “There was a man”, it is Ish, an excellent, a worthy man, a man of an excellent spirit, a man of men, a man fitted to honor God and govern men. And that is it so used in Scripture, I will give you an instance or two, that you may see it is not a bare conjecture.
In Psalm 49, David, as it were, summons and divides mankind. In the first verse he summons, “Hear this all you people, give ear all you inhabitants of the world.” In the second verse he divides, “Both low and high, rich and poor together.” The word in the Hebrew for high, is Bene-Ish, sons of Ish, and the word for low is Bene-Adam, sons of Adam. If we should translate the text directly, according to the letter, the words must run, sons of men and sons of men, for sons of Adam and the sons of Ish are both translated sons of men. Yet when they are set together in a way of opposition, the one signifies low and the other high; and so out translators render it according to the sense, not sons or men and sons of men, but low, and high. Junius translates to this sense, though in more words, as well they who are born of mean men, as they who are born of the honorable.
A like instance we have, “The mean man bows down, and the great man humbles himself” (Isaiah 2:9). The mean man, that is, the son of Adam, and the great man, the son of Ish; the great man in regard of his excellency, is by such a circumlocution described to be more than a man: not only the son of man, but the son of an honorable and great man. So I find the word diverse times used to signify the excellency and greatness of the person.
Then further, it signifies not only a man that is great, but it signifies a man in authority. “There was a man”, that is, an excellent man, a man of word; “There was a man”, that is, a man in authority. It signifies a magistrate, and so in diverse places of Scripture, man is put for a magistrate, especially when it is expressed as here, by Ish, “Carry a present to the man” (Gen 43:11), i.e., to the governor of the country. Go through Jerusalem and “search, and see if you can find a man” (Jer 5:1). What were men so scarce in Jerusalem at that time? Was there such a death of men, that a man could not be found? Surely no. Jerusalem had throngs of men in every street. The meaning then is explained in the words following, “if there be any that executes judgment”, that is, if there be a Magistrate, a public man, that’s the man I mean.
So in Numbers 27:16, we find the word to signify a Magistrate, “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation.” “A man”, that is, a Magistrate, for there that’s the essence. If you read the text you will find it, a man in authority, and man fit to rule. And that is it, which is meant in Acts 17:31, concerning Christ. “God” (says he) “has appointed a day wherein he will judge the world by that man, whom he has ordained.” It notes Christ the man in power, in authority, because all power in heaven and in earth is committed to him. So you know it was usual among the Romans to call their Magistrates by the name of The men, as the Triumviri, the Septemviri, the Decemviri, to call them sometime the three-men, sometime the seven-men, sometime the ten-men. Those who were the special men in authority, that were men in place and eminency, they carried away the name of men (as it were) from all men, as if they were the only men.
So that we have these two things to take notice of, when it is said here, that Job was a man, you must carry it further than the word is ordinarily taken: He was a great man, he was a man in authority, a magistrate. Some carry the Magistracy so high, as to set him on a throne, affirming that he was a king, a point very much contended for by diverse expositors; but that he was a magistrate in authority, a chief in his country, is clear by that which is expressed of him in Chapter 29, where he speaks of his deciding men’s rights and executions of justice.