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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 (part 2) -
Job’s Greatness, 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.
We read: “...so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east” (vs. 3). He was the greatest in many ways: greatest in riches; greatest in power; greatest in honor; greatest in grace, which is the best greatness of all. He was greatest all these ways, but that which is here specially meant is the greatness of his honor and riches. He was the greatest man in outward estate of all the men of the east.
Of all the men of the East. In Genesis 25:6, Abraham “gave gifts unto his sons by the concubines, and sent them away from his son Isaac eastward into the easy country.” Doubtless the blessing of God followed these sons of Abraham his friend, and they waxed great, but among them all, Job was greatest. It had been much to say, he was a great man among the men of the east: for the men of the east were very great men, and very rich men. As to say, one is a rich man in the city of London where there are so many rich men; one that does for a rich man there, is a rich man indeed. But here is more in this, he was not only a rich man, or a great man amongst the men of the east, but he was the greatest, he was the richest of them: as to say that one is the richest in the whole city cries a man up the height of riches. The expression then heightens the sense of the text concerning Job’s greatness. He was not only great among the men of the east, but the greatest man of them; as if the Holy Ghost should have said, “I will not stay reckoning up particulars or telling you this and that Job had: you know the east was a large country and full of rich men, his estate was the largest and himself the richest of all the men of the east.”
A question may here be raised: Why does the Holy Ghost spend so many words and is thus accurate in the setting forth of Job’s outward estate? I shall touch three reasons for it:
1. He is described to be a man of a very great estate, to the end that the greatness of his affliction might appear afterward: the measure of a loss is taken by the greatness of a man’s enjoyment. If a man have but little, his affliction cannot be great; but if a man have much, if he have abundance, then the affliction does abound. After great enjoyments, want is greatest: Emptiness presses those most, who once were full. “I went out full” (said Naomi, Ruth 1:21) “and the Lord has brought me home empty therefore call me not Naomi” (which is pleasant) “but Marah” (which is bitter) “for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”
2. The greatness of his estate is set forth, that the greatness of his patience might appear. For a man to be made poorer, that was but poor and mean before, it is no great matter though he bear it; for a man to have but little that never had much is no great trial of his patience: but for a man to have nothing at all, that had as it were all things, and to be patient under it, this shows the proof of patience. To a man that is born a slave, or a captive, captivity and bondage is no trouble, it does never exercise his patience, he is scarce sensible of the evil, because he never knew better. But for a king that is born free and has power over others, for a king that is in the height of freedom and liberty to become a slave and a captive, is such a one patience has a perfect work, if he bear it. So for Job, a man that once abounded in all manner of outward good things, to be ousted and emptied of all, that tried his patience to the full.
3. It was to give to all the world, a testimony that Job was a godly and holy man; that he was a man of extraordinary strength of grace. Why? Because he held his integrity, and kept up his spirit in the way of holiness, notwithstanding he was lifted up with abundance of outward blessing. To be very great and very good, shows that a man is good indeed. Great and good, rich and holy are happy conjunctions, and they are rare conjunctions. Usually, riches impoverish the fool, and the world eats out all care of heaven; therefore Job was one of a thousand, being at once thus great in riches and thus rich in goodness. He was rich in grace, that was so gracious in the midst of so much riches, the godliness of Job was enriched by his riches. It argued that Job’s godliness was very great and very right, because he continued right in the midst of all his greatness. How often do riches cause forgetfulness of God, yea, kicking against God? How often are they made bellows of pride, the swell of uncleanness, the instruments of revenge? How often do rich men condemn, despise and oppress their weak and poor brethren? But to make riches the swell of our graces, and the instruments of duty both to God and man: to have the house full of riches, and the heart full of holiness, these united are admirable. Extremes are very dangerous: to be extreme poor or extreme rich, is an extreme temptation. Therefore the wise man, Agur (Proverbs 30:8) prays, “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” Lord, said he, I would not be in any of the extremes. It is a sore temptation to be far on either hand, to be far on the hand of riches, or far on the hand of poverty. To be very poor and very holy is a rare thing; that man has great treasures and riches of grace who is so. I remember the speech of a poor woman, who having a child about eight or nine years of age, and being once in such a strait that hunger began to pinch them both, the child looking upon the Mother said, “Mother, do you think that God will starve us?” “No, child.” Answers the mother. The child replied, “If he does, yet we must love him and serve him.” Such language from the heart becomes and argues more than a child in grace, a grown Christian. They are filled with Christ who can starve and serve him. So likewise are they who bring full fed yet serve him; and temptations are greater upon the full than upon the empty, upon the rich than upon the poor. The reason of it is, because as riches do stir up lust, so they give fuel, and administer instruments for the obtaining and taking in of that which lust calls for: this poverty does not.
The poor, says Christ, receive the Gospel; the lame and the blind make most speed, and see their way clearest into the kingdom of heaven; but for the rich men, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of heaven (see Matt. 19:14). We see now the miracle in Job, the camel is got through the needle’s eye: Job, a rich man is got through the needle’s eye with three thousand camels. And the reason was, because all his camels, cattle, and riches, did not take up so much room in his heart; they were not so thick in his spirit, as one single thread. All his outward estate was kept without, not a shred, not a thread got into his Spirit. Take this for a third reason why the Holy Ghost does thus exactly set forth the estate of Job, that he might appear to be an exact holy man.