"Hast thou considered my servant Job" (Job 1:8)
The Assets of Job
The suffering described in the book of Job came to a man who was very wealthy, had a large family, and had an exalted position and reputation in his land. Sometimes it seems that those type of folk do not experience the trials which we common folk experience so often. But the book of Job says otherwise. Though a man of great assets, Job still experienced heavy trials. If you are envying those of fame and fortune—don't! They often have more troubles than anyone else.
The first few verses of Job are introductory to the story of Job and especially emphasize the great assets which Job possessed. These verses speak of the fellow with the assets (Job 1:1,2); the fortune in the assets (Job 1:3); and the feasting in the assets (Job 1:4,5).
The book of Job begins fittingly by introducing us to the man, Job, who possessed the great assets; then it speaks of his great assets. Here, from the first two verses of Job, we learn of the man or fellow with the great assets. We learn of the confirmation about Job, the country of Job, the compellation of Job, the character of Job, and the children of Job.
"There was a man" (Job 1:1). This statement makes it clear that Job was not a parable or a mythical man. He was a real person and his story was a real story. Other Scripture also confirms the fact of Job's being. And these other Scriptures not only confirm Job's existence as a real person but they also greatly compliment Job's character. Twice the book of Ezekiel refers to Job (Ezekiel 14:14 and 14:20). And in this reference in the book of Ezekiel, Job is highly complimented as a man of high piety and conduct; for in these texts Ezekiel states, "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God" (Ezekiel 14:14; cp 14:20). In these Ezekiel texts, God was complaining that Israel's conduct in the land was so bad that even if three of the most pious people in the Bible (and Job was included in a special group of three of the most pious) were in the land, the land still would not be spared—only the pious people would be spared. The lone reference to Job in the New Testament, which confirms the real-life existence of Job, also compliments Job's character by stating, "Ye have heard of the patience of Job" (James 5:11). So the Bible clearly confirms that Job existed and also that he was a man of high character.
"There was a man in the land of Uz" (Job 1:1). Job lived in a land known as Uz. To further examine the country of Job, we note the name of the country and the neighborhood of the country.
The name of the country. "Uz." Lands were often named after people in the early civilizations of mankind. There are several people in the Bible with "Uz" names who are advanced as possible sources for the name of this country in which Job lived. Aram, a grandson of Shem, had a son named "Uz" (Genesis 10:23); and later an Edomite, a son of Dishan, the son of Seir, was named "Uz" (Genesis 36:28). The grandson of Shem is the most likely to be connected to the the ancient land of Uz. James Smith in Handfuls on Purpose believes "The days of Job were probably about the time of Abraham, as in the book there is no mention of Israel, the Tabernacle, the Temple, or the Law."
The neighborhood of the country. The location of the land of Uz cannot be ascertained with a great deal of certainty. Therefore we are left to the conjecture of scholars. The most popular conclusion as to the location of Uz is that it is east of Palestine somewhere in the land of Arabia. Arno Gaebelein, a trusted Bible scholar says, "The land of Uz was east of Palestine and probably a part of Idumea, or in close proximity to the land of Edom. This seems to be confirmed by Lamentations 4:21: 'Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, that dwellest in the land of Uz.' Uz is also mentioned in Jeremiah 25:20. It must have been on the borderland of Edom, if it was not a part of it."
"Whose name was Job" (Job 1:1). The compellation or name of Job has been given various meanings. The most popular are "persecuted" (Gesenius) or "afflicted" (Gaebelein). This suggests that his name may have been given after his trial. It could have been given in anticipation, but more likely it was given after the trial. Some other notable characters in the Bible have also been given names later in life based on their character or experiences such as Simon was changed to Peter and Saul was changed to Paul. The meaning "persecuted" or "afflicted" fits well the experiences of Job, for he went through some great afflictions as recorded in the book that is called by his name.
"That man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil" (Job 1:1). High character was a hallmark of Job. We noted earlier that his high character is referred to and confirmed in the book of Ezekiel of the Old Testament and in the book of James in the New Testament.
Four things are said about his character here. They are the explanation of his character, the extent of his character, the esteem by his character, and the evading by his character.
The explanation of his character. "Upright." This word describes what kind of character Job had. The word explains Job's character. The word literally means "straight" and says Job was righteous. "Crooked" is a term used to refer to the wicked while "straight" is often used to refer to the righteous.
The extent of his character. "That man was perfect." The word "perfect" does not indicate sinless perfection, for Job admitted to sinful failure (Job 9:20; 42:6). Rather "perfect" indicates a thoroughness of righteousness. It indicates the extent of his righteousness which was very great. Job was something more than a "Sunday Christian." He was a Christian every day of the week and in everything that he did. Not many folk have righteousness to such an extent that it shows up in everything that they do.
The esteem by his character. "Job... feared God." The esteem by Job because of his righteousness shows the quality of his righteousness. There are some in society who appear to be upright but they do not fear God. They are not pious. They do not worship well. But true righteousness honors God. Men may say you are a good fellow, but the proof of your goodness or righteousness is in your attitude towards God. Our land does not want God around and makes laws to prevent honoring God in some places. This certainly reveals a wicked character indeed. Any land that so promotes the dishonor of God is not a good land but a wicked land, for righteousness honors God.
The evading by his character. "Job... eschewed evil." Good character stays away from evil. It avoids evil, does not go in places of evil, does not look at evil, does not think evil, and does not speak evil. People who dabble in evil, who watch it unashamedly on TV, who go to places of evil, who read evil books, and who associate with evil people are not of the character of Job. He wanted nothing to do with evil and avoided it at all times.
It is not easy to avoid evil. It can often alienate your friends (when you will not go with them to some evil place) and sometimes cost you position and popularity (when you refuse to go to the prom or to the boss's Christmas party where drinking and other evil occurs). But avoid evil at all costs; for if you fail to avoid evil, you will suffer great loss that can plague you for all eternity.
"There were born unto him seven sons and three daughters" (Job 1:2). Job was a family man and had ten children. Today, folk do not appreciate large families. We live in a day of abortion, planned parenthood, and other unsavory practices and philosophies which do not advocate large families. But the Bible does not concur with these worldly attitudes. Scripture says, "Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them" (Psalm 127:3-5). This does not mean that every couple must have ten children, nor that we are to have children irresponsibly when we cannot provide for them or take proper care of them. But it does mean that abortion and other like anti-children practices advocated by many today are not acceptable to God.
Job lost all ten of these children in his trials, but God graciously blessed Job after his trials with another seven sons and three daughters (Job 42:13). And of all the blessings which Job received after his trials, these were among the best; and Scripture spends more time on this blessing than on any other post-trial blessing. Truly children are a great blessing.
One verse describes Job's fortune, and it was a great one. Good men are not always wealthy. But there were some very good men in the Bible who were rich, such as Abraham and Job. Wealth is not inherently evil, but few are rich apart from evil. We note the livestock, laborers, and legend in Job's fortune.
"His substance also was seven thousand sheep... three thousand camels... five hundred yoke of oxen... five hundred she asses" (Job 1:3). Four particular animals are mentioned which Job possessed which showed him as a great man of wealth.
Sheep. "Seven thousand sheep." That is a great number of sheep in any age. The income just from the wool would be very great. And the sheep would also provide much food (mutton) for man.
Camels. "Three thousand camels." Today we would list this asset under transportation such as trucks, semi-trailers, etc. "Camels are well called ships of the desert, especially valuable for caravans, as being able to lay in a store of water that suffices them for days, and sustaining life on a very few thistles or thorns" (Fausset). Having three thousand camels says Job was very rich.
Oxen. "Five hundred yoke of oxen." This means he had at least one thousand oxen. In our day he would have a number of tractors to do his farming. "Five hundred yoke of oxen imply station and opulence, the possessor of five hundred yoke would be a great prince" (Cook). "So large a number of oxen would constitute wealth anywhere" (Barnes). This many oxen also indicated that Job tilled a great deal of land.
Asses. "Five hundred she asses." Male asses were "few and not held in equal estimation" (Barnes). Female asses were held in high esteem for their milk and for riding. Also asses were much better to have than horses because they subsisted on much less than any animal except the camel. Having five hundred she asses would certainly emphasize that Job was a man of great fortune. Today he would be a very wealthy farmer who farmed much land and had much livestock and machinery.
"A very great household." This refers to the servants who were the laborers Job had for his great farm or ranch. It would take a great number of laborers to maintain his livestock and till his land. Abraham had 318 servants (Genesis 14:14) and Job had to have at least as many. Job had a big business with many employees. All of this shows his great wealth.
"This man was the greatest of all men in the east." Job's wealth made him a legend. He was considered the greatest of all men in his area of the world. "Greatest" speaks of both fortune and fame. So he not only had fortune, but he also had fame. His reputation was great and will be mentioned again in the book of Job in the talk Job had with his so-called friends.
Job's fortune is confirmed in the feasting or banqueting of his children. Children of wealthy men spend their life differently than other children. Job's sons and daughters lacked nothing, for their father was very rich. Because of the wealth of their home, they were able to indulge in expensive activities. From the two verses about the feasting of the children, we note the practice of the feasting and the protection for the feasters.
"His sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them" (Job 1:4). We note three things about this feasting of Job's children. They are the purpose for the feasting, the people in the feasting, and the peril in their feasting.
The purpose for the feasting. "His sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day." The phrase "his day" refers to the birthdays of the sons, for "most commentators regard these feasts as birthday festivities" (Rawlinson). Thus the purpose of the various feastings was in celebration of the sons' birthdays. Confirmation of this meaning of "his day" is found in Job 3:1 in which "the day [his day]" definitely refers to one's birthday. "The celebration of birthdays by means of a feast was a very widespread custom in the East" (Rawlinson). In the New Testament we have an illustration of this custom when Herod celebrated his birthday with a great banquet (Mark 6:21) in which he ordered the beheading of John the Baptist (Mark 6:27).
The people in the feasting. "Sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them." The fact that the sons invited the sisters shows two things. First, it shows the harmony of the family members. There was evidently much love and friendship amongst Job's family which is not always the case with members of a wealthy family. But Job's character would contribute to this harmony in the family. Second, it shows the holiness of the feasting. Inviting the sisters showed "that these occasions were not designed for revelry. Young men, when they congregate for dissipation, do not usually invite their sisters to be with them; nor do they usually desire the presence of virtuous females at all" (Barnes).
The peril in their feasting. "Eat and to drink." Eating and drinking is not evil in itself, but when folk gather to eat and drink the peril can be great. Eating and drinking in the indulgence of physical appetite often leads to the sinful indulgence of other physical appetites. As we will note next, Job was concerned about these activities becoming profane. Satan often trips us up through things which are not evil in themselves but which, if given too much emphasis, can lead to unholy activity. It is a clever trick of Satan to lead us into defiling conduct via the path of acceptable conduct. Thus we must never let down our caution regarding temptation. It can come anywhere.
"It was so when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, "It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually" (Job 1:5). Job's concern about the innocent feasting shows his good character. He did not ignore the potential of evil in even good activities. Furthermore, Job went to much trouble to protect his children from evil. Many people today would call Job a fanatic and say he was too fussy, but the Bible does not so criticize Job's conduct here. Rather the Bible shows Job as a wise father who was very concerned about his children's conduct. Job did not toy with evil. He did not let down his guard against the perils of evil. His noble character is emphasized in all of this.
We note four important things about Job's protective conduct. They are the diligence for the protection, the duty for the protection, the discernment in the protection, and the dedication for the protection.
The diligence for the protection. "Rose up early in the morning." Unlike many folk of wealth, Job did not lay around in bed in the morning. Job got up early, and he got up early to take care of spiritual matters—a good practice in everyone's life. Getting up early in the morning to offer burnt offerings for his children said Job put a premium on holiness. People who stay up late to watch TV, then get up late the next morning do not demonstrate much priority on spiritual matters.
The duty for the protection. "Offered burnt offerings." This duty of offering sacrifices to God was well known before the giving of the law. Examples include Noah and Abraham who both offered sacrifices though they lived and died long before the giving of the law. The offering of sacrifices showed the belief that it was only through the blood of an innocent sacrifice that sin could be expiated. "Without shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22). The great fulfillment of this truth is found at Calvary in the death of Jesus Christ Who shed His blood for the sins of man. "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). Job was dealing with the sin problem here and he dealt with it the right way—through the shedding of blood. Soul salvation will only occur when the lost soul comes to Jesus Christ and has his sins washed away by the blood of Christ.
The discernment in the protection. "It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts." Job's concern here shows some excellent discernment about sin. There are at least two important truths discerned here by Job. First, the depth of sin. "In their hearts." Job wisely realized that sin is not just an overt act but it can also be an attitude of the heart. In fact, that is where sin begins. Evil thoughts in the heart constitute sin just as much as overt acts. Second, the dishonoring of sin. "Cursed God." Sin dishonors God. Joseph recognized this fact (Genesis 39:9) and so did David (Psalm 51:4). The dishonoring of God by sin is the worst product of sin. Job did not express concern that sin could injure or dishonor his sons, although that would be a legitimate concern; rather Job was primarily concerned about the fact that their sin would dishonor God. It was God's honor that concerned Job the most. That surely shows the great character of Job. If we were more concerned about God's honor, we would be holier people.
The dedication for the protection. "Thus Job did continually." Job was not a person who got all steamed up spiritually for a while then cooled off as so many church members do today. Job had dedication. He was steadfast in his spiritual commitments and concerns. Holiness was a constant concern of Job.