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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 13–19
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Verses 13–19

We have here a particular account of Job’s troubles.

I. Satan brought them upon him on the very day that his children began their course of feasting, at their eldest brother’s house (Job 1:13), where, he having (we may suppose) the double portion, the entertainment was the richest and most plentiful. The whole family, no doubt, was in perfect repose, and all were easy and under no apprehension of the trouble, now when they revived this custom; and this time Satan chose, that the trouble, coming now, might be the more grievous. The night of my pleasure has he turned into fear, Isa. 21:4.

II. They all come upon him at once; while one messenger of evil tidings was speaking another came, and, before he had told his story, a third, and a fourth, followed immediately. Thus Satan, by the divine permission, ordered it, 1. That there might appear a more than ordinary displeasure of God against him in his troubles, and by that he might be exasperated against divine Providence, as if it were resolved, right or wrong, to ruin him, and not give him time to speak for himself. 2. That he might not have leisure to consider and recollect himself, and reason himself into a gracious submission, but might be overwhelmed and overpowered by a complication of calamities. If he have not room to pause a little, he will be apt to speak in haste, and then, if ever, he will curse his God. Note, The children of God are often in heaviness through manifold temptations; deep calls to deep; waves and billows come one upon the neck of another. Let one affliction therefore quicken and help us to prepare for another; for, how deep soever we have drunk of the bitter cup, as long as we are in this world we cannot be sure that we have drunk our share and that it will finally pass from us.

III. They took from him all that he had, and made a full end of his enjoyments. The detail of his losses answers to the foregoing inventory of his possessions.

1. He had 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 she-asses, and a competent number of servants to attend them; and all these he lost at once, Job 1:14, 15. The account he has of this lets him know, (1.) That it was not through any carelessness of his servants; for then his resentment might have spent itself upon them: The oxen were ploughing, not playing, and the asses not suffered to stray and so taken up as waifs, but feeding beside them, under the servant’s eye, each in their place; and those that passed by, we may suppose, blessed them, and said, God speed the plough. Note, All our prudence, care, and diligence, cannot secure us from affliction, no, not from those afflictions which are commonly owing to imprudence and negligence. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman, though ever so wakeful, wakes but in vain. Yet it is some comfort under a trouble if it found us in the way of our duty, and not in any by-path. (2.) That is was through the wickedness of his neighbours the Sabeans, probably a sort of robbers that lived by spoil and plunder. They carried off the oxen and asses, and slew the servants that faithfully and bravely did their best to defend them, and one only escaped, not in kindness to him or his master, but that Job might have the certain intelligence of it by an eye-witness before he heard it by a flying report, which would have brought it upon him gradually. We have no reason to suspect that either Job or his servants had given any provocation to the Sabeans to make this inroad, but Satan put it into their hearts to do it, to do it now, and so gained a double point, for he made both Job to suffer and them to sin. Note, When Satan has God’s permission to do mischief he will not want mischievous men to be his instruments in doing it, for he is a spirit that works in the children of disobedience.

2. He had 7000 sheep, and shepherds that kept them; and all those he lost at the same time by lightning, Job 1:16. Job was perhaps, in his own mind, ready to reproach the Sabeans, and fly out against them for their injustice and cruelty, when the next news immediately directs him to look upwards: The fire of God has fallen from heaven. As thunder is his voice, so lightning is his fire: but this was such an extraordinary lightning, and levelled so directly against Job, that all his sheep and shepherds were not only killed, but consumed by it at once, and one shepherd only was left alive to carry the news to poor Job. The devil, aiming to make him curse God and renounce his religion, managed this part of the trial very artfully, in order thereto. (1.) His sheep, with which especially he used to honour God in sacrifice, were all taken from him, as if God were angry at his offerings and would punish him in those very things which he had employed in his service. Having misrepresented Job to God as a false servant, in pursuance of his old design to set Heaven and earth at variance, he here misrepresented God to Jacob as a hard Master, who would not protect those flocks out of which he had so many burnt-offerings. This would tempt Job to say, It is in vain to serve God. (2.) The messenger called the lightning the fire of God (and innocently enough), but perhaps Satan thereby designed to strike into his mind this thought, that God had turned to be his enemy and fought against him, which was much more grievous to him than all the insults of the Sabeans. He owned (Job 31:23) that destruction from God was a terror to him. How terrible then were the tidings of this destruction, which came immediately from the hand of God! Had the fire from heaven consumed the sheep upon the altar, he might have construed it into a token of God’s favour; but, the fire consuming them in the pasture, he could not but look upon it as a token of God’s displeasure. There have not been the like since Sodom was burned.

3. He had 3000 camels, and servants tending them; and he lost them all at the same time by the Chaldeans, who came in three bands, and drove them away, and slew the servants, Job 1:17. If the fire of God, which fell upon Job’s honest servants, who were in the way of their duty, had fallen upon the Sabean and Chaldean robbers who were doing mischief, God’s judgments therein would have been like the great mountains, evident and conspicuous; but when the way of the wicked prospers, and they carry off their booty, while just and good men are suddenly cut off, God’s righteousness is like the great deep, the bottom of which we cannot find, Ps. 36:6.

4. His dearest and most valuable possessions were his ten children; and, to conclude the tragedy, news if brought him, at the same time, that they were killed and buried in the ruins of the house in which they were feasting, and all the servants that waited on them, except one that came express with the tidings of it, Job 1:18, 19. This was the greatest of Job’s losses, and which could not but go nearest him; and therefore the devil reserved it for the last, that, if the other provocations failed, this might make him curse God. Our children are pieces of ourselves; it is very hard to part with them, and touches a good man in as tender a part as any. But to part with them all at once, and for them to be all cut off in a moment, who had been so many years his cares and hopes, went to the quick indeed. (1.) They all died together, and not one of them was left alive. David, though a wise and good man, was very much discomposed by the death of one son. How hard then did it bear upon poor Job who lost them all, and, in one moment, was written childless! (2.) They died suddenly. Had they been taken away by some lingering disease, he would have had notice to expect their death, and prepare for the breach; but this came upon him without giving him any warning. (3.) They died when they were feasting and making merry. Had they died suddenly when they were praying, he might the better have borne it. He would have hoped that death had found them in a good frame if their blood had been mingled with their feast, where he himself used to be jealous of them that they had sinned, and cursed God in their hearts—to have that day come upon them unawares, like a thief in the night, when perhaps their heads were overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness—this could not but add much to his grief, considering what a tender concern he always had for his children’s souls, and that they were now out of the reach of the sacrifices he used to offer according to the number of them all. See how all things come alike to all. Job’s children were constantly prayed for by their father, and lived in love one with another, and yet came to this untimely end. (4.) They died by a wind of the devil’s raising, who is the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), but it was looked upon to be an immediate hand of God, and a token of his wrath. So Bildad construed it (Job 8:4): Thy children have sinned against him, and he has cast them away in their transgression. (5.) They were taken away when he had most need of them to comfort him under all his other losses. Such miserable comforters are all creatures. In God only we have a present help at all times.