Resources » Matthew Henry's Commentary » Job » Chapter 1 » Verses 20–22

Verses 20–22

The devil had done all he desired leave to do against Job, to provoke him to curse God. He had touched all he had, touched it with a witness; he whom the rising sun saw the richest of all the men in the east was before night poor to a proverb. If his riches had been, as Satan insinuated, the only principle of his religion now that he had lost his riches he would certainly have lost his religion; but the account we have, in these verses, of his pious deportment under his affliction, sufficiently proved the devil a liar and Job an honest man.

I. He conducted himself like a man under his afflictions, not stupid and senseless, like a stock or stone, not unnatural and unaffected at the death of his children and servants; no (Job 1:20), he arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, which were the usual expressions of great sorrow, to show that he was sensible of the hand of the Lord that had gone out against him; yet he did not break out into any indecencies, nor discover any extravagant passion. He did not faint away, but arose, as a champion to the combat; he did not, in a heat, throw off his clothes, but very gravely, in conformity to the custom of the country, rent his mantle, his cloak, or outer garment; he did not passionately tear his hair, but deliberately shaved his head. By all this it appeared that he kept his temper, and bravely maintained the possession and repose of his own soul, in the midst of all these provocations. The time when he began to show his feelings is observable; it was not till he heard of the death of his children, and then he arose, then he rent his mantle. A worldly unbelieving heart would have said, “Now that the meat is gone it is well that the mouths are gone too; now that there are no portions it is well that there are no children:” but Job knew better, and would have been thankful if Providence had spared his children, though he had little of nothing for them, for Jehovah-jireh—the Lord will provide. Some expositors, remembering that it was usual with the Jews to rend their clothes when they heard blasphemy, conjecture that Job rent his clothes in a holy indignation at the blasphemous thoughts which Satan now cast into his mind, tempting him to curse God.

II. He conducted himself like a wise and good man under his affliction, like a perfect and upright man, and one that feared God and eschewed the evil of sin more than that of outward trouble.

1. He humbled himself under the hand of God, and accommodated himself to the providences he was under, as one that knew how to want as well as how to abound. When God called to weeping and mourning he wept and mourned, rent his mantle and shaved his head; and, as one that abased himself even to the dust before God, he fell down upon the ground, in a penitent sense of sin and a patient submission to the will of God, accepting the punishment of his iniquity. Hereby he showed his sincerity; for hypocrites cry not when God binds them, Job 36:13. Hereby he prepared himself to get good by the affliction; for how can we improve the grief which we will not feel?

2. He composed himself with quieting considerations, that he might not be disturbed and put out of the possession of his own soul by these events. He reasons from the common state of human life, which he describes with application to himself: Naked came I (as others do) out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither, into the lap of our common mother—the earth, as the child, when it is sick or weary, lays its head in its mother’s bosom. Dust we were in our original, and to dust we return in our exit (Gen. 3:19), to the earth as we were (Eccl. 12:7), naked shall we return thither, whence we were taken, namely, to the clay, Job 33:6. St. Paul refers to this of Job, 1 Tim. 6:7. We brought nothing of this world’s goods into the world, but have them from others; and it is certain that we can carry nothing out, but must leave them to others. We come into the world naked, not only unarmed, but unclothed, helpless, shiftless, not so well covered and fenced as other creatures. The sin we are born in makes us naked, to our shame, in the eyes of the holy God. We go out of the world naked; the body does, though the sanctified soul goes clothed, 2 Cor. 5:3. Death strips us of all our enjoyments; clothing can neither warm nor adorn a dead body. This consideration silenced Job under all his losses. (1.) He is but where he was at first. He looks upon himself only as naked, not maimed, not wounded; he was himself still his own man, when nothing else was his own, and therefore but reduced to his first condition. Nemo tam pauper potest esse quam natus est—no one can be so poor as he was when born.—Min. Felix. If we are impoverished, we are not wronged, nor much hurt, for we are but as we were born. (2.) He is but where he must have been at last, and is only unclothed, or unloaded rather, a little sooner than he expected. If we put off our clothes before we go to bed, it is some inconvenience, but it may be the better borne when it is near bed-time.

3. He gave glory to God, and expressed himself upon this occasion with a great veneration for the divine Providence, and a meek submission to its disposals. We may well rejoice to find Job in this good frame, because this was the very thing upon which the trial of his integrity was put, though he did not know it. The devil said that he would, under his affliction, curse God; but he blessed him, and so proved himself an honest man.

(1.) He acknowledged the hand of God both in the mercies he had formerly enjoyed and in the afflictions he was now exercised with: The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. We must own the divine Providence, [1.] In all our comforts. God gave us our being, made us, and not we ourselves, gave us our wealth; it wa 109f s not our own ingenuity or industry that enriched us, but God’s blessing on our cares and endeavours. He gave us power to get wealth, not only made the creatures for us, but best owed upon us our share. [2.] In all our crosses. The same that gave hath taken away; and may he not do what he will with his own? See how Job looks above instruments, and keeps his eye upon the first Cause. He does not say, “The Lord gave, and the Sabeans and Chaldeans have taken away; God made me rich, and the devil has made me poor;” but, “He that gave has taken;” and for that reason he is dumb, and has nothing to say, because God did it. He that gave all may take what, and when, and how much he pleases. Seneca could argue thus, Abstulit, sed et dedit—he took away, but he also gave; and Epictetus excellently (cap. 15), “When thou art deprived of any comfort, suppose a child taken away by death, or a part of thy estate lost, say not apolesa autoI have lost it; but apedokaI have restored it to the right owner; but thou wilt object (says he), kakos ho aphelomenoshe is a bad man that has robbed me; to which he answers, ti de soi meleiWhat is it to thee by what hand he that gives remands what he gave?”

(2.) He adored God in both. When all was gone he fell down and worshipped. Note, Afflictions must not divert us from, but quicken us to, the exercises of religion. Weeping must not hinder sowing, nor hinder worshipping. He eyed not only the hand of God, but the name of God, in his afflictions, and gave glory to that: Blessed be the name of the Lord. He has still the same great and good thoughts of God that ever he had, and is as forward as ever to speak them forth to his praise; he can find in his heart to bless God even when he takes away as well as when he gives. Thus must we sing both of mercy and judgment, Ps. 101:1. [1.] He blesses God for what was given, though now it was taken away. When our comforts are removed from us we must thank God that ever we had them and had them so much longer than we deserved. Nay, [2.] He adores God even in taking away, and gives him honour by a willing submission; nay, he gives him thanks for good designed him by his afflictions, for gracious supports under his afflictions, and the believing hopes he had of a happy issue at last.

Lastly, Here is the honourable testimony which the Holy Ghost gives to Job’s constancy and good conduct under his afflictions. He passed his trials with applause, Job 1:22. In all this Job did not act amiss, for he did not attribute folly to God, nor in the least reflect upon his wisdom in what he had done. Discontent and impatience do in effect charge God with folly. Against the workings of these therefore Job carefully watched; and so must we, acknowledging that as God has done right, but we have done wickedly, so God has done wisely, but we have done foolishly, very foolishly. Those who not only keep their temper under crosses and provocations, but keep up good thoughts of God and sweet communion with him, whether their praise be of men or no, it will be of God, as Job’s here was.