A Classic Study:
The Book of Job
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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.]
A Study by Joseph Caryl (1644)
Job 1:9-11 (part 1) –
“Doth Job Fear God for Naught?”
9Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Doth Job fear God for naught? 10Hast not thou 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. 11But put forth thy hand now and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.’” (KJV)
In the former verse, Job received testimony from God himself; in this, though Satan cannot deny it, yet he calumniates and misinterprets what he cannot contradict. Satan grants indeed that Job fears God, but the latter words debase the former, and fasten insincerity upon all his services. “Doth Job fear God for naught?” (vs. 9). Fear is worth nothing unless in this sense it be for naught. I have already showed you what it is to fear God; I shall now clear the other term, and show how much evil Satan charges Job with, when he questions, “Doth Job fear God for naught?”
Satan accuses with a question, “Doth Job fear God for naught?” The question may be resolved into this accusation: Job does not fear God for naught. The word which we translate for naught, has a threefold sense from the Hebrew.
First, some render it in vain. So: Doth Job fear God in vain? We are then said to do a thing in vain, when we cannot attain the end which we propose in doing of it. “The Egyptians help in vain” (Isa. 30:7), that is, they cannot procure that salvation and deliverance which was desired or intended. And so, the sense here may be, “Doth Job fear God in vain?” No, he does not; he has his end; he looked for riches, that he intended in taking up the service of God, and that he has attained.
Secondly, it is interpreted as, without cause. So: Doth Job fear God without cause? So the word is translated in Psalm 35:7, where David, complaining of his enemies, said, “Without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul.” As if he should say, I never gave them any cause as to why they should lay snares for me; I never wronged or hurt any of them. According to this sense, when Satan said, “Doth Job fear God for naught?”, namely, without cause, it is as if he had said, “The Lord has given Job reason enough; he has given him cause enough to do what he does; Job sees reason in his hocks and in his herds, in his many children, and in his great household, in his substance, and in his honor, he sees reason in all these; why, he should fear God, and be a very obedient servant, having so bountiful a matter. Does Job fear God without cause?”
Or thirdly, the word is translated by gratis (as we express it), to do a thing gratis; that is, to do a thing without any reward, without any price, or without pay. I shall cite scriptures wherein the word is rendered in that sense. In Gen. 29:15, Laban said to Jacob, when he had come to him, to serve him, “Thou art my kinsman, shouldest thou therefore serve me for naught?”, that is, shouldest thou serve me gratis, or without wages, as he explains his meaning in the next words, “Tell me what shall thy wages be?” So that to do a thing for naught, is to do a thing without wages, without price. And so there is the same interpretation of the word in Ex. 21:11, where Moses speaking of the maid that was taken into the family and was not married, said, “If he does not these three unto her, then she shall go out free without money”; she shall pay nothing; she shall go out gratis, or for naught. So here we may take in this sense to fill up the form, Doth Job serve God gratis? Doth he serve God without price or without pay? Surely no, thou hast given him sufficient hire, wages sufficient for all his service; Job does not serve thee gratis, out of good will and affection to thee, but he serves thee for hire, because thou payest him so plentifully.
So the general sense of the words, “Doth Job fear God for naught?”, is as if Satan had bespoken the Lord in such words as these: Lord, thou dost enquire of me whether I had considered thy servant Job? I confess I have, and I must needs acknowledge that he is a man very diligent and zealous in thy worship and service neither do I wonder that he is so, seeing thou hast out-bid all his labours and endeavours by heaps of benefits. There is no question but thou mayest have servants enough upon such terms, at such rates as these: no marvel if Job be willing to do whatsoever thou commandest, whenas thou bestowest upon Job whatsoever he desireth. Thou seemest as it were to neglect all other men, and only to intend the safety and prosperity of thy darling Job. Is it any great matter, that he who hath received a flock of seven thousand sheep from thee, should offer a few, seven or ten, to thee in sacrifice? Is it any great matter that he should give some of his fleeces to clothe the poor, who hath received from thee so many thousands to clothe and enrich himself? Is it a strange thing that he should feed a few that hath 500 yoke of oxen? Is not Job well hired to work for thee? Doth he fear God for naught, who hath received all these?
First note, that Satan implies that riches will make any man serve God, that it is no great matter to be holy when we have abundance; a man that prospers in the world cannot choose but be good. This Satan implies, and this is an extreme lie. For as there is no affliction, so there’s no outward blessing that can change the heart or bring it about unto God: “They did not serve the Lord in the abundance of all things” (Deut. 28:47). Abundance does not draw the heart to God. Yet Satan would infer that it does. This might well be retorted upon Satan himself: Satan, why did you not serve God, then? You once received more outward blessings from God than ever Job did, the blessedness of an angel; yet that glorious angelical estate wherein you were created, could not keep you in the compass of obedience. You rebelled in the abundance of all blessings, and left your habitation. Satan, you should not have served God for naught. Why then did you not serve him? Your own apostasy refutes your error in making so little of Job’s obedience, because he had received so much.
Secondly, there is this in it: by asking, “Doth Job fear God for naught?”, Satan intimates that God could have no servants for love, none unless he did pay them extremely; that God is such a master and his work such as none would meddle with, unless allured by benefits. It is as if Satan should say, “You have indeed one eminent servant, but you should not have had him unless you had been at double cost with him.” Here is another lie Satan winds up closely in this speech, for the truth is, God’s servants follow him for himself. The very excellencies of God, and sweetness of his ways, are the argument and the wages by which his people are chiefly moved and hired to his service. God indeed makes many promises to those that serve him, but he never makes any bargains to hire men to his service, as Satan did with Christ: “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4:9). God makes many large and gracious promises, but he never makes any such bargain and agreement with men for their obedience.
Then there is a third sense full of falsehood, which Satan casts upon Job, Doth Job fear God for naught?: that is, Satan implies that Job has a bias in all that he does; that he is carried by the game of godliness, not by any delight in godliness thus to serve God. Job is mercenary, he serves God for hire; Job has not any desire to please God, but to benefit himself; Job does not seek the glory of God, but he seeks his own advantage. This is the sense which the words have in reference to the person of Job; that as once Satan accused God unto man, so now he accuses this man unto God; he accused God unto man in Gen. 3: When God had forbidden him to eat of the Tree of knowledge of good and evil, and told him that in the day he did eat thereof he should surely die: “Ye shall not surely die,” said Satan, “for God knoweth that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as Gods knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4-5). As if he should say, God has not forbidden this tree, because it will do you any hurt, but because he would be God alone; he would have all the knowledge to himself; he has an ill intent: he knows that if you eat of it, you will be like him, as gods knowing good and evil. So here he accuses man to God: Job serves you indeed and offers you sacrifice and obeys you, but it is that he may get by you, that he may receive more and more from you; he likes the pay, the reward, not the work; he cares not for God, but for the good that comes from him. This is the accusation which here the slanderer casts upon all the holy services and duties of Job.
Thus in brief you see the sense; I shall give you some observations from it.
The first is this: It is an argument of a most malignant spirit, when a man’s actions are fair, then to accuse his intentions. The devil has nothing to say against the actions of Job, but he goes down into his heart and accuses his intentions. Malice misinterprets the fairest actions, but love puts the fairest interpretation it can upon soul actions. Malice will say when a man does well, it is true he does it, but it is for vain glory, it is to be seen of men, it is for his own ends, it is for game. But when a man does ill, love will say, this he has done through ignorance, or inadvertency or violent temptations. Love covers a multitude of sins as fairly as possibly it may with wisdom and with justice. How fair a cover did Christ himself put upon the foulest act that ever was in the world, upon his own crucifying, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34); they do it indeed, but they do it ignorantly. So also Peter afterward, “I wot that through ignorance you did it, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:17). Love excuses what is ill done in another, and malice accuses what others do well. Let such men learn from hence, that in so doing they are the mouth and tongue of Satan.
Secondly, we may observe from hence: That it is an argument of a base and an unworthy spirit to serve God for ends. Had this been true in Satan’s sense, it had indeed spoiled and blemished all that Job had done. Those that come to God upon such terms are not holy, but crafty; they make a trade with God; they do not serve God; it is not obedient, but mercantile; it is merchandizing with God, not obeying him. There is reward enough in God himself; there is reward enough in the very duties themselves; work and wages go together. Therefore, for any to be carried out to the service of God upon outward things, argues a base and an earthly spirit. As sin is punishment enough unto itself, though there were no other punishment, though there were no hell to come after, yet to do evil is or will be hell enough to itself, so to do good is reward enough unto itself. A secular poet observed it as a brand of infamy upon the age wherein he lived, that most did repent that they had done good or were good gratis or for naught, that the price of all good actions fell in their esteem, unless they could raise themselves. If a non-Christian condemned this, how damnable is it among Christians?
But here a question will arise, and I shall a little debate it, because it does further clear the main point, May we not have respect to our own good or unto the benefit we shall receive from God? Is it unlawful to have an eye to our own advantage, while we do our duty? Must we serve God for naught in that strict sense, or else will God account nothing of all our services?
I shall clear that in five brief conclusions, and these will (I suppose) fully state the sense of this text and of this speech.
The first is this, There is no man does or possibly can serve God for naught. God has by benefits already bestowed, and by benefits promised out-vied and outbid all the endeavors and services of the creature. If a man had a thousand pair of hands, a thousand tongues and a thousand heads, and should set them all on work for God, he were never able to answer the engagements and obligations which God has already put upon him. Therefore, this is a truth, that no man can in a strict sense serve God for naught. God is not beholden to any creature for any work or service that is done unto him.
Again secondly, this is further to be considered. The more outward blessings anyone does receive, the more he ought to serve God, and the more service God looks for at his hands. That is another conclusion. Therefore, we find still, that when God has bestowed outward blessings upon any, either persons or nations, he charges an acknowledgement upon them: “She did not know that I gave her corn and wine and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold which she bestowed upon Baal, therefore I will come and recover it,” said God (Hos. 2:8). You having received this, you ought to have served me with it. You see how God upbraids David: “I anointed thee King of Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul, and I gave thee thy Master’s house and thy Masters wives into thy bosom, and if this had been too little, I would moreover have given thee such and such things. How is it then that thou hast despised the Commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight?” (II Sam. 12:7-8). As if he should say, the more I bestowed upon thee, the more obligations you should feel yourself under to obey me faithfully.
In the third place, it is lawful to have some respect to benefits both received and promised by way of motive and encouragement to stir us up and quicken us, either in doing or in suffering for God. “Moses had respect to the recompense of reward” (Heb. 11:26), therefore it is not unlawful; and Christ himself was “looking at the joy that was set before him” (Heb. 12:2). These are examples beyond all exceptions, that respect may be had to benefits and blessings received and expected.
Fourthly, then reference to benefits is sinful, when we make it either the sole and only cause, or the supreme and chief cause of our obedience. This makes anything we do smell so of ourselves that God abides it not: when we respect ourselves, either alone or above God, God has no respect at all to us. As Christ taxes those, you did not seek me but the loaves (John 6:26), to have respect to the loaves more than to Christ, or as much as to Christ, is to have no respect at all to Christ.
Thus when the Shechemites, in Gen. 34:22ff, admitted of circumcision, and so gave up themselves as a covenant people to God, here was all the argument they proposed to themselves, “Shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of theirs be ours?” (Gen. 34:23). What beasts were these Shechemites? What shadows of religion, who would take upon them this badge of religion for the gain of beasts and worldly substance? Such pure respects to ourselves, defile all our services and render our persons odious unto God.
Therefore, in all our duties and holy services, we must set the glory of God in the throne, that must be above; and then we may set our desires of heaven and glory on the right hand; we may set the fear of hell and the avoiding of misery on the left hand, we may set our desire of enjoying outward comforts here in the world at the footstool. Thus we must arrange and rank respect to God and ourselves. And thus we may look upon outward things, as motives and encouragements; we must not make them ends and causes; we may make them as occasions, but not as ground of our obedience.
Lastly, we may look upon them as fruits and consequences of holiness, yea as encouragements unto holiness, but not as causes of our holiness; or we may eye these as media, through which to see the bounty and goodness of God, not as objects on which to free and terminate our desires.
So much for the clearing of the first part of Satan’s answer, “Doth Job serve God for naught?” Wherein you see, he casts dirt upon Job’s sincerest duties, and how we may carry our respects in the service of God to outward blessings, whither received or promised.
This article is taken from: Caryl, Joseph. An Exposition with Practical Observations upon the Book of Job. London: G. Miller, 1644. A PDF file of this book can be downloaded, free of charge, at