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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–3
Verses 1–3

Concerning Job we are here told,

I. That he was a man; therefore subject to like passions as we are. He was Ish, a worthy man, a man of note and eminency, a magistrate, a man in authority. The country he lived in was the land of Uz, in the eastern part of Arabia, which lay towards Chaldea, near Euphrates, probably not far from Ur of the Chaldees, whence Abraham was called. When God called one good man out of that country, yet he left not himself without witness, but raised up another in it to be a preacher of righteousness. God has his remnant in all places, sealed ones out of every nation, as well as out of every tribe of Israel, Rev. 7:9. It was the privilege of the land of Uz to have so good a man as Job in it; now it was Arabia the Happy indeed: and it was the praise of Job that he was eminently good in so bad a place; the worse others were round about him the better he was. His name Job, or Jjob, some say, signifies one hated and counted as an enemy. Others make it to signify one that grieves or groans; thus the sorrow he carried in his name might be a check to his joy in his prosperity. Dr. Cave derives it from Jaab—to love, or desire, intimating how welcome his birth was to his parents, and how much he was the desire of their eyes; and yet there was a time when he cursed the day of his birth. Who can tell what the day may prove which yet begins with a bright morning?

II. That he was a very good man, eminently pious, and better than his neighbours: He was perfect and upright. This is intended to show us, not only what reputation he had among men (that he was generally taken for an honest man), but what was really his character; for it is the judgment of God concerning him, and we are sure that is according to truth. 1. Job was a religious man, one that feared God, that is, worshipped him according to his will, and governed himself by the rules of the divine law in every thing. 2. He was sincere in his religion: He was perfect; not sinless, as he himself owns (Job 9:20): If I say I am perfect, I shall be proved perverse. But, having a respect to all God’s commandments, aiming at perfection, he was really as good as he seemed to be, and did not dissemble in his profession of piety; his heart was sound and his eye single. Sincerity is gospel perfection. I know no religion without it. 3. He was upright in his dealings both with God and man, was faithful to his promises, steady in his counsels, true to every trust reposed in him, and made conscience of all he said and did. See Isa. 33:15. Though he was not of Israel, he was indeed an Israelite without guile. 4. The fear of God reigning in his heart was the principle that governed his whole conversation. This made him perfect and upright, inward and entire for God, universal and uniform in religion; this kept him close and constant to his duty. He feared God, had a reverence for his majesty, a regard to his authority, and a dread of his wrath. 5. He dreaded the thought of doing what was wrong; with the utmost abhorrence and detestation, and with a constant care and watchfulness, he eschewed evil, avoided all appearances of sin and approaches to it, and this because of the fear of God, Neh. 5:15. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil (Prov. 8:13) and then by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil, Prov. 16:6.

III. That he was a man who prospered greatly in this world, and made a considerable figure in his country. He was prosperous and yet pious. Though it is hard and rare, it is not impossible, for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. With God even this is possible, and by his grace the temptations of worldly wealth are not insuperable. He was pious, and his piety was a friend to his prosperity; for godliness has the promise of the life that now is. He was prosperous, and his prosperity put a lustre upon his piety, and gave him who was so good so much greater opportunity of doing good. The acts of his piety were grateful returns to God for the instances of his prosperity; and, in the abundance of the good things God gave him, he served God the more cheerfully. 1. He had a numerous family. He was eminent for religion, and yet not a hermit, not a recluse, but the father and master of a family. It was an instance of his prosperity that his house was filled with children, which are a heritage of the Lord, and his reward, Ps. 127:3. He had seven sons and three daughters, Job 1:2. Some of each sex, and more of the more noble sex, in which the family is built up. Children must be looked upon as blessings, for so they are, especially to good people, that will give them good instructions, and set them good examples, and put up good prayers for them. Job had many children, and yet he was neither oppressive nor uncharitable, but very liberal to the poor, Job 31:17-21 Those that have great families to provide for ought to consider that what is prudently given in alms is set out to the best interest and put into the best fund for their children’s benefit. 2. He had a good estate for the support of his family; his substance was considerable, Job 1:3. Riches are called substance, in conformity to the common form of speaking; otherwise, to the soul and another world, they are but shadows, things that are not, Prov. 23:5. It is only in heavenly wisdom that we inherit substance, Prov. 8:21. In those days, when the earth was not fully peopled, it was as now in some of the plantations, men might have land enough upon easy terms if they had but wherewithal to stock it; and therefore Job’s substance is described, not by the acres of land he was lord of, but, (1.) By his cattle—sheep and camels, oxen and asses. The numbers of each are here set down, probably not the exact number, but thereabout, a very few under or over. The sheep are put first, because of most use in the family, as Solomon observes (Prov. 27:23, 26, 27): Lambs for thy clothing, and milk for the food of thy household. Job, it is likely, had silver and gold as well as Abraham (Gen. 13:2); but then men valued their own and their neighbours’ estates by that which was for service and present use more than by that which was for show and state, and fit only to be hoarded. As soon as God had made man, and provided for his maintenance by the herbs and fruits, he made him rich and great by giving him dominion over the creatures, Gen. 1:28. That therefore being still continued to man, notwithstanding his defection (Gen. 9:2), is still to be reckoned one of the most considerable instances of men’s wealth, honour, and power, Ps. 8:6. (2.) By his servants. He had a very good household or husbandry, many that were employed for him and maintained by him; and thus he both had honour and did good; yet thus he was involved in a great deal of care and put to a great deal of charge. See the vanity of this world; as goods are increased those must be increased that tend them and occupy them, and those will be increased that eat them; and what good has the owner thereof save the beholding of them with his eyes? Eccl. 5:11. In a word, Job was the greatest of all the men of the east; and they were the richest in the world: those were rich indeed who were replenished more than the east, Isa. 2:6. Margin. Job’s wealth, with his wisdom, entitled him to the honour and power he had in his country, which he describes (Job 29:1-25), and made him sit chief. Job was upright and honest, and yet grew rich, nay, therefore grew rich; for honesty is the best policy, and piety and charity are ordinarily the surest ways of thriving. He had a great household and much business, and yet kept up the fear and worship of God; and he and his house served the Lord. The account of Job’s piety and prosperity comes before the history of his great afflictions, to show that neither will secure us from the common, no, nor from the uncommon calamities of human life. Piety will not secure us, as Job’s mistaken friends thought, for all things come alike to all; prosperity will not, as a careless world thinks, Isa. 47:8. I sit as a queen and therefore shall see no sorrow.