The devil, having got leave to tear and worry poor Job, presently fell to work with him, as a tormentor first and then as a tempter. His own children he tempts first, and draws them to sin, and afterwards torments, when thereby he has brought them to ruin; but this child of God he tormented with an affliction, and then tempted to make a bad use of his affliction. That which he aimed at was to make Job curse God; now here we are told what course he took both to move him to it and move it to him, both to give him the provocation, else he would not have thought of it: thus artfully in the temptation managed with all the subtlety of the old serpent, who is here playing the same game against Job that he played against our first parents (Gen. 3:1-24), aiming to seduce him from his allegiance to his God and to rob him of his integrity.
I. He provokes him to curse God by smiting him with sore boils, and so making him a burden to himself, Job 2:7, 8. The former attack was extremely violent, but Job kept his ground, bravely made good the pass and carried the day. Yet he is still but girding on the harness; there is worse behind. The clouds return after the rain. Satan, by the divine permission, follows his blow, and now deep calls unto deep.
1. The disease with which Job was seized was very grievous: Satan smote him with boils, sore boils, all over him, from head to foot, with an evil inflammation (so some render it), an erysipelas, perhaps, in a higher degree. One boil, when it is gathering, is torment enough, and gives a man abundance of pain and uneasiness. What a condition was Job then in, that had boils all over him, and no part free, and those as of raging a heat as the devil could make them, and, as it were, set on fire of hell! The small-pox is a very grievous and painful disease, and would be much more terrible than it is but that we know the extremity of it ordinarily lasts but a few days; how grievous then was the disease of Job, who was smitten all over with sore boils or grievous ulcers, which made him sick at heart, put him to exquisite torture, and so spread themselves over him that he could lie down no way for any ease. If at any time we be exercised with sore and grievous distempers, let us not think ourselves dealt with any otherwise than as God has sometimes dealt with the best of his saints and servants. We know not how much Satan may have a hand (by divine permission) in the diseases with which the children of men, and especially the children of God, are afflicted, what infections that prince of the air may spread, what inflammations may come from that fiery serpent. We read of one whom Satan had bound many years, Luke 13:16. Should God suffer that roaring lion to have his will against any of us, how miserable would he soon make us!
2. His management of himself, in this distemper, was very strange, Job 2:8.
(1.) Instead of healing salves, he took a potsherd, a piece of a broken pitcher, to scrape himself withal. A very sad pass this poor man had come to. When a man is sick and sore he may bear it the better if he be well tended and carefully looked after. Many rich people have with a soft and tender hand charitably ministered to the poor in such a condition as this; even Lazarus had some ease from the tongues of the dogs that came and licked his sores; but poor Job has no help afforded him. [1.] Nothing is done to his sore but what he does himself, with his own hands. His children and servants are all dead, his wife unkind, Job 19:17. He has not wherewithal to fee a physician or surgeon; and, which is most sad of all, none of those he had formerly been kind to had so much sense of honour and gratitude as to minister to him in his distress, and lend him a hand to dress or wipe his running sores, either because the disease was loathsome and noisome or because they apprehended it to be infectious. Thus it was in the former days, as it will be in the last days, men were lovers of their own selves, unthankful, and without natural affection. [2.] All that he does to his sores is to scrape them; they are not bound up with soft rags, not mollified with ointment, not washed or kept clean, no healing plasters laid on them, no opiates, no anodynes, ministered to the poor patient, to alleviate the pain and compose him to rest, nor any cordials to support his spirits; all the operation is the scraping of the ulcers, which, when they had come to a head and began to die, made his body all over like a scurf, as is usual in the end of the small-pox. It would have been an endless thing to dress his boils one by one; he therefore resolves thus to do it by wholesale—a remedy which one would think as bad as the disease. [3.] He has nothing to do this with but a potsherd, no surgeon’s instrument proper for the purpose, but that which would rather rake into his wounds, and add to his pain, than give him any ease. People that are sick and sore have need to be under the discipline and direction of others, for they are often but bad managers of themselves.
(2.) Instead of reposing in a soft and warm bed, he sat down among the ashes. Probably he had a bed left him (for, though his fields were stripped, we do not find that his house was burnt or plundered), but he chose to sit in the ashes, either because he was weary of his bed or because he would put himself into the place and posture of a penitent, who, in token of his self-abhorrence, lay in dust and ashes, Job 42:6; Isa. 58:5; Jonah 3:6. Thus did he humble himself under the mighty hand of God, and bring his mind to the meanness and poverty of his condition. He complains (Job 7:5) that his flesh was clothed with worms and clods of dust; and therefore dust to dust, ashes to ashes. If God lay him among the ashes, there he will contentedly sit down. A low spirit becomes low circumstances, and will help to reconcile us to them. The LXX. reads it, He sat down upon a dunghill without the city (which is commonly said, in mentioning this story); but the original says no more than that he sat in the midst of the ashes, which he might do in his own house.
II. He urges him, by the persuasions of his own wife, to curse God, Job 2:9. The Jews (who covet much to be wise above what is written) say that Job’s wife was Dinah, Jacob’s daughter: so the Chaldee paraphrase. It is not likely that she was; but, whoever it was, she was to him like Michal to David, a scoffer at his piety. She was spared to him, when the rest of his comforts were taken away, for this purpose, to be a troubler and tempter to him. If Satan leaves any thing that he has permission to take away, it is with a design of mischief. It is his policy to send his temptations by the hand of those that are dear to us, as he tempted Adam by Eve and Christ by Peter. We must therefore carefully watch that we be not drawn to say or do a wrong thing by the influence, interest, or entreaty, of any, no, not those for whose opinion and favour we have ever so great a value. Observe how strong this temptation was. 1. She banters Job for his constancy in his religion: “Dost thou still retain thy integrity? Art thou so very obstinate in thy religion that nothing will cure thee of it? so tame and sheepish as thus to truckle to a God who is so far from rewarding thy services with marks of his favour that he seems to take a pleasure in making thee miserable, strips thee, and scourges thee, without any provocation given? Isa. this a God to be still loved, and blessed, and served?”
Dost thou not see that thy devotion’s vain? What have thy prayers procured but woe and pain? Hast thou not yet thy int’rest understood? Perversely righteous, and absurdly good? Those painful sores, and all thy losses, show How Heaven regards the foolish saint below. Incorrigibly pious! Can’t thy God Reform thy stupid virtue with his rod?--Sir R. BLACKMORE. Thus Satan still endeavours to draw men from God, as he did our first parents, by suggesting hard thoughts of him, as one that envies the happiness and delights in the misery of his creatures, than which nothing is more false. Another artifice he uses is to drive men from their religion by loading them with scoffs and reproaches for their adherence to it. We have reason to expect it, but we are fools if we heed it. Our Master himself has undergone it, we shall be abundantly recompensed for it, and with much more reason may we retort it upon the scoffers, “Are you such fools as still to retain your impiety, when you might bless God and live?” 2. She urges him to renounce his religion, to blaspheme God, set him at defiance, and dare him to do his worst: “Curse God and die; live no longer in dependence upon God, wait not for relief from him, but be thy own deliverer by being thy own executioner; end thy troubles by ending thy life; better die once than be always dying thus; thou mayest now despair of having any help from thy God, even curse him, and hang thyself.” These are two of the blackest and most horrid of all Satan’s temptations, and yet such as good men have sometimes been violently assaulted with. Nothing is more contrary to natural conscience than blaspheming God, nor to natural sense than self-murder; therefore the suggestion of either of these may well be suspected to come immediately from Satan. Lord, lead us not into temptation, not into such, not into any temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
III. He bravely resists and overcomes the temptation, Job 2:10. He soon gave her an answer (for Satan spared him the use of his tongue, in hopes he would curse God with it), which showed his constant resolution to cleave to God, to keep his good thoughts of him, and not to let go his integrity. See,
1. How he resented the temptation. He was very indignant at having such a thing mentioned to him: “What! Curse God? I abhor the thought of it. Get thee behind me, Satan.” In other cases Job reasoned with his wife with a great deal of mildness, even when she was unkind to him (Job 19:17): I entreated her for the children’s sake of my own body. But, when she persuaded him to curse God, he was much displeased: Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. He does not call her a fool and an atheist, nor does he break out into any indecent expressions of his displeasure, as those who ar sick and sore are apt to do, and think they may be excused; but he shows her the evil of what she said, and she spoke the language of the infidels and idolaters, who, when they are hardly bestead, fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, Isa. 8:21. We have reason to suppose that in such a pious household as Job had his wife was one that had been well affected to religion, but that now, when all their estate and comfort were gone, she could not bear the loss with that temper of mind that Job had; but that she should go about to infect his mind with her wretched distemper was a great provocation to him, and he could not forbear thus showing his resentment. Note, (1.) Those are angry and sin not who are angry only at sin and take a temptation as the greatest affront, who cannot bear those that are evil, Rev. 2:2. When Peter was a Satan to Christ he told him plainly, Thou art an offence to me. (2.) If those whom we think wise and good at any time speak that which is foolish and bad, we ought to reprove them faithfully for it and show them the evil of what they say, that we suffer not sin upon them. (3.) Temptations to curse God ought to be rejected with the greatest abhorrence, and not so much as to be parleyed with. Whoever persuades us to that must be looked upon as our enemy, to whom if we yield it is at our peril Job did not curse God and then think to come off with Adam’s excuse: “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me persuaded me to do it” (Gen. 3:12), which had in it a tacit reflection on God, his ordinance and providence. No; if thou scornest, if thou cursest, thou alone shalt bear it.
2. How he reasoned against the temptation: Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil also? Those whom we reprove we must endeavour to convince; and it is no hard matter to give a reason why we should still hold fast our integrity even when we are stripped of every thing else. He considers that, though good and evil are contraries, yet they do not come from contrary causes, but both from the hand of God (Isa. 45:7; Lam. 3:38), and therefore that in both we must have our eye up unto him, with thankfulness for the good he sends and without fretfulness at the evil. Observe the force of his argument.
(1.) What he argues for, not only the bearing, but the receiving of evil: Shall we not receive evil, that is, [1.] “Shall we not expect to receive it? If God give us so many good things, shall we be surprised, or think it strange, if he sometimes afflict us, when he has told us that prosperity and adversity are set the one over against the other?” 1 Pet. 4:12. [2.] “Shall we not set ourselves to receive it aright?” The word signifies to receive as a gift, and denotes a pious affection and disposition of soul under our afflictions, neither despising them nor fainting under them, accounting them gifts (Phil. 1:29), accepting them as punishments of our iniquity (Lev. 26:41), acquiescing in the will of God in them (“Let him do with me as seemeth him good”), and accommodating ourselves to them, as those that know how to want as well as how to abound, Phil. 4:12. When the heart is humbled and weaned, by humbling weaning providence, then we receive correction (3:2) and take up our cross.
(2.) What he argues from: “Shall we receive so much good as has come to us from the hand of God during all those years of peace and prosperity that we have lived, and shall we not now receive evil, when God thinks fit to lay it on us?” Note, The consideration of the mercies we receive from God, both past and present, should make us receive our afflictions with a suitable disposition of spirit. If we receive our share of the common good in the seven years of plenty, shall we not receive our share of the common evil in the years of famine? Qui sentit commodum, sentire debet et onus—he who feels the privilege, should prepare for the privation. If we have so much that pleases us, why should we not be content with that which pleases God? If we receive so many comforts, shall we not receive some afflictions, which will serve as foils to our comforts, to make them the more valuable (we are taught the worth of mercies by being made to want them sometimes), and as allays to our comforts, to make them the less dangerous, to keep the balance even, and to prevent our being lifted up above measure? 2 Cor. 12:7. If we receive so much good for the body, shall we not receive some good for the soul; that is, some afflictions, by which we partake of God’s holiness (Heb. 12:10), something which, by saddening the countenance, makes the heart better? Let murmuring therefore, as well as boasting, be for ever excluded.
IV. Thus, in a good measure, Job still held fast his integrity, and Satan’s design against him was defeated: In all this did not Job sin with his lips; he not only said this well, but all he said at this time was under the government of religion and right reason. In the midst of all these grievances he did not speak a word amiss; and we have no reason to think but that he also preserved a good temper of mind, so that, though there might be some stirrings and risings of corruption in his heart, yet grace got the upper hand and he took care that the root of bitterness might not spring up to trouble him, Heb. 12:15. The abundance of his heart was for God, produced good things, and suppressed the evil that was there, which was out-voted by the better side. If he did think any evil, yet he laid his hand upon his mouth (Prov. 30:32), stifled the evil thought and let it go no further, by which it appeared, not only that he had true grace, but that it was strong and victorious: in short, that he had not forfeited the character of a perfect and upright man; for so he appears to be who, in the midst of such temptations, offends not in word, 3:2; Ps. 17:3.