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not another's.” The explanation seems to be clear, that after his death, in another life, his spirit shall see God, and have his pleadings heard. He announces his belief in immortality, and is confident of the acquittal of his Maker in another world. Though he has not yet learned a perfect submission to God, or gentleness to his friends who preach their half truths for his spiritual good, he believes confidently in his final vindication. This vindication, he sorrowfully says, will be not on this earth, and not in view of his accusers, whom he therefore accuses of persecution and threatens with the sword of divine vengeance. He finds a comfort in the idea of a future straightening out of things crooked; but he does not claim it to be, nor is it in fact, a satisfactory solution of the great mystery of suffering here.
One would now suppose that his friends would let him alone, but Zophar, with offensive bigotry, reiterates reproaches and paints the portion of the wicked. He says nothing new.
At last Job, in the midst of his tears and sufferings, and in the near prospect of death, condescends to reason. He accepts the challenge of his friends. Thus far, he has contented himself with denying that suffering is necessarily in consequence of the evil-doing of the sufferer; now he goes further, and declares that thu wicked are quite as likely to flourish as the good. He appeals to their experience, to facts which they could not deny. “Wherefore,” he asks, “ do the wicked live, and become even mighty in power, so that their houses are safe from fear, and spend their days in wealth, and rejoice in the sound of the pipe; who say, What is the Almighty that we should serve Him ! One dieth in his full strength in ease and quiet, another in the bitterness of his soul. They alike lie down in the dust, and the worm covers them.”
What a great truth is here enunciated, — that virtue is not the sure and sole cause of outward prosperity; that virtue indeed is not without its reward, but that it is the ungodly rich whose eyes most commonly stand out with fatness, and have more than heart can wish, so that wickedness is not always punished in this world! If misery and suffering are the inevitable and natural fruit of sin, or if sin is necessarily followed by an outward punishinent, — how happens it, Job argues, that men whom we know to be hypocrites, extortioners, liars, and thieves, revel in prosperity ? Here are manifest exceptions to your unbending laws. And if the evil are not apparently punished, as it often happens, why may not the good sometimes fail in receiving their natural reward, and even by some mysterious Providence suffer as if they were bad men ?
But this reasoning does not satisfy his friends. They become angry and unjust in proportion as
Job gets the better of them in argument, — which is no care thing Even Eliphaz so far forgets himself as to taunt the afflicted man with sins which he knows he has not committed. He cruelly insults him, and adds lies to his insults. He accuses Job of stripping the naked, of withholding water from the thirsty and bread from the hungry, and of sending widows empty away.
Job does not get angry in view of these unjust charges. He has reached so great a height of moral elevation that falsehood does not move him. Herein is his patience. He may be indignant, but he is calm in the consciousness of virtue. He expects no more comfort; he is submissive to his miseries; he says that his friends regard his complaints as frowardness, although God's hand upon him is heavier than his groaning; he only longs to appear before God, that he may argue his cause before Him. “I would,” said he, “fill my mouth with arguments.” All this is simply a further protestation of his innocence, which so far from convincing his friends, rather confirms them in their opinion.
Bildad closes the argument by again reiterating the general truth of human depravity. “How can man be justified with God ? How can he be clean who is born of a woman? If the moon and the stars are not pure in His sight, much less man, that is a worm.” It is
obvious that he cannot rise above the dogma which enslaves him. Nor can he answer Job's reasoning. He does not attempt an answer; he can only repeat what Eliphaz had said about the distance between man and God. In fact, he only says what Job himself says better in reference to God's exalted rule.
Job here breaks out in exaltation of the awful majesty of God, before whom the shades of the dead tremble, covered as they are beneath the waters and their inhabitants, and the under-world itself is naked. “Who can understand the thunder of His power ?” He then appears to swear or affirm by the living God, who had sent afflictions upon him, that so long as he had breath in his tortured body he would maintain his integrity,— he would not justify his accusers by speaking wickedness. With apparent contradiction to his own philosophy, he now goes beyond his friends in painting the doom of the wicked. But this is not applicable to him, since he has reposed in triumphant faith in God's will and justice. A wicked man does not trust in God, or, as Job puts it, does not, like himself, delight in the Almighty. To love God and be wicked at the same time is an absurdity. Thus does he now discourse to his friends, teaching them wisdom, and proving the falseness of their reasonings. He exalts wisdom as Paul exalts charity. And wisdom is what Solomon also eloquently declared, — the fear of the Lord, more
to be valued than the gold of Ophir, or all the treasures of earth combined; the precious gift of God.
Job then draws the painful contrast between his present condition, afflicted with intolerable pains, reproached by his friends, and held in derision by those whose fathers he would have disdained to set with the dogs of his flock, and what he once was, when young men in awe of him hid themselves, and the aged stood before him in veneration; when even princes refrained from talking, and nobles held their peace; when his judgment was as a diadem, and his benevolence a blessing; when he was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame, a father to the poor and a judge to the wicked; when he dwelt as a righteous king in his army, and comforted the mourners. Now, alas! he says, “I am a brother to jackals and a companion to the ostrich-brood; my harp is turned to mourning and my pipe into sounds of weeping.” What can be more plaintive? It was no sin to enumerate his sorrows and deplore his changed condition. He does not repine.
Nor was it arrogance and vanity to enumerate the virtues of his prosperous days, partly in answer to the unjust reproaches of his friends, and in order, by contrast, to show his profound cause for grief, — a noble appeal to truths of which they were conscious.
He not only asserts his integrity in those things