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[Here we continue 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 1:3–5 (pt. 1) –
Job’s Possessions, by Joseph Caryl
3His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred oxen, and five hundred donkeys, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all men in the East. 4And his sons went and feasted in their homes, everyone his day, and sent and called for their three sisters, to eat and drink with them. 5And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning and offered burnt offerings, according to the number of them all.
The Holy Ghost having showed us the qualities of Job’s person, in the first verse, the olive plants round about his table (being the first outward blessing) in the second verse, now proceeds to show also his outward estate; his stock of cattle, “His substance was seven thousand sheep.” Concerning the outward estate of Job, we may note in this third verse,
1. The several kinds of his stock: Sheep, Camels, Oxen, and Donkeys.
2. The several numbers of each of these kinds.
It is said, “His substance is seven thousand sheep.” We in our language, call the estate of a man his substance, and a rich man we call him a substantial man, though indeed riches are but external and accidental, yet they are called the substance of a man, because they make him subsist and stand by himself, he needs not the prop and help of others. The word here in the Hebrew which we translate substance is indifferent to signify any possession; but especially it signifies possession of substance by cattle. Therefore in those times wherein the estates of the great men of the earth were most in cattle, this expression was chiefly used; the Septuagint renders it, “and his cattle were 7000 sheep”. So then his substance of cattle was seven thousand sheep.
Sheep for meat and sheep for clothing, the flesh and the fleece both are of great use.
Camels were used in those countries for burdens, and for travel especially in long journeys, merchants traveled with camels. As you may read, Joseph’s brethren beheld a company of Ishmaelites which came from Gilead with their camels, and these were very strong for travel, being able to abide much hunger and thirst (as the natural history affirms). Some affirm they will travel six days together in those hot countries without drink, and therefore those eastern parts are stocked and stored with camels, beasts so fit for service there.
Oxen were used for the tillage of the ground. The donkeys were for ordinary travel, and for ordinary burdens about the house.
But you may say, we read in the inventory which here is made of Job’s estate, that he had sheep and camels, oxen and donkeys, but where was the silver and the gold, where was the goodly household stuffs, the jewels and the plate? Here is no mention made of these.
I answer, first, that without doubt Job had silver and gold, and precious things. It is clear that he had when he said “If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold you are my confidence...” (Job 31:24). It had not been proper for him to deny that gold was his hope (in this sense) if he had not had gold in his possession; or to say he did not confide in fine gold, when he had no gold to confide in. So then he had gold and silver. And for jewels, the holy story tells us “That God gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:12). And a part of what was restored to him, was jewels and earrings: “Every man gave him a piece of money, and everyone an earring of gold” (Job 42.11). Therefore he had jewels also in his possession at first, or else they could not be doubled to him in the day of his deliverance.
We find frequent mention in those ancient times, of the riches of the patriarchs and others in gold and silver. It is expressed concerning Abraham, “That Abraham was very rich in cattle, in silver and in gold” (Gen 13:2). And Abraham’s servant said of him, “The Lord has blessed my Master greatly, and he has given him flocks, and herds, and silver and gold” (Gen 24:35); “The servant brought forth jewels of silver and jewels of gold, and gave them to Rebecca, he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things” (Gen 24:53). And Genesis 23:16, we read of Abraham’s paying four hundred shekels of silver unto Ephron the Hittite, which was called current money with the merchants. So that it is plain in those days, gold and silver, and jewels were substance.
But here the estate of Job is reckoned and cast up by cattle. There is no mention of gold, and silver, and jewels, and precious stones, and the like. His substance was 7000 sheep, etc. Two reasons may be given for this account.
The first is this, Because those ancient times were so much given to and employed in the feeding of cattle: therefore they did reckon their estates by cattle, as we now do by money, by gold and by silver, or by yearly rents and revenues: If a man had so many cattle, so many sheep, so many oxen, etc, they knew his estate, what gold and silver or other riches he might have. When the sons of Jacob came before Pharaoh, they are called shepherds, “The men are shepherds, for their trade has been to feed cattle” (Gen. 46:32): They are men of cattle, as if he should say, the special commodity, the main thing these trade in, is about cattle, and that gives the denomination: They had gold and silver, but they are men of cattle.
And then again, for this reason, cattle are living substance; gold and silver are dead substance. Cattle in their own nature are more excellent then gold and silver, because they have life. Everything that has life is better in its degree than that which has no life. The lowest creature that has life is better than the best without life; the lowest of a superior order, is better than the highest of an inferior. Now all things without life are put into a degree, into a class or form below and inferior to those that have life. It is true, that money answers all things, money is equivalently sheep, oxen, donkeys, camels, bread, meat, drink, clothing, and whatsoever you need, it is virtually all that you may and can receive; so that by way of commutation and exchange money all things: but formally and in itself, so these things are the life and sustenance, and support of man, therefore these go away with the name and the title of the estate. The estate or substance of it was in these natural and living riches, not in artificial or dead riches. Hence, it was that the Ancients gave the name Pecune to money, which comes a pecude, from cattle (so the critics observe) because they stamped the form of a sheep or an ox upon money, noting that cattle were the riches and the estate of a man properly and chiefly. This may suffice for the reason why the estate or riches of Job is set forth by cattle, and not by gold and silver and other like possessions.
Further, with this abundance of cattle that Job had, we must understand (though it is not expressed) that he had land suitable to such a stock.
And when these numbers are set down (because we usually say, he is but poor that can number his cattle), we are not to stand strictly upon the precise number of seven thousand, or five hundred, etc. But here are great quantities mentioned, to note that Job had many, very many cattle, and that he had great numbers of all these.
Then it follows: He had these and “a very great household”
The words in the original, signify servants, or tillage and husbandry. Concerning Isaac, in Genesis 26, it is said that “he had possessions of flocks and of herds, and great store of servants” so some read it; others that he had great store of husbandry. It comes all to one purpose, for the greatness of the household or multitude of servants were for those uses, to manage and order those flocks, that tillage and estate that God had blessed him with. He had a very great household, many attendants upon the several services of his estate.