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Job, now overcome with the terrible rebukes of Jehovah in reference, not to his sinfulness, but to his impotence and ignorance, humbled himself and said: “ Behold, I am vile : what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.” Silence is the only thing for him. He is utterly confounded in view of the grandest truth that it is possible to know, the central truth of all religions, which stands out in the Hebrew Scriptures with terrible distinctness, — yea, in the writings of the greatest minds that have instructed the world, like Augustine, Calvin, and Pascal, and is apparently ignored or forgotten only by the charlatans in science, the butterflies of fashion, and the slaves of “pleasurable sin,” — the majesty of God and the littleness of man.
Again the voice of God comes from the whirlwind, and continues the terrible questioning, as if he would further humble his servant.
Job cannot answer one of the questions ; nor is any solution given to them. The mighty mysteries of the universe still remain unsolved, and never can be penetrated by man. In the depth of his penitence and broken pride Job exclaims, “Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge ? I uttered what I understood not, things too wonderful for me which I knew not; I will demand of thee, and inform thou me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now
my eye seeth thee, — I am conscious of the very presence of God. Therefore do I abhor my presumption, and repent in dust and ashes."
God now justifies the sufferer, calling him “my servant Job,” and reproves his friends, who had falsely accused him; but at the intercession of Job they are forgiven. As for Job himself, he was restored to the divine favor, and given twice as much as he had before. His latter days were more blessed than his early ones. His brothers and sisters and acquaintances rallied around him and comforted him, and made him costly presents. Seven sons and two daughters were born unto him, and no women were so fair as his daughters. After his trial he lived one hundred and forty years, and saw descendants to the fourth generation, - a patriarch who was honored like Abraham.
Though we do not know the exact period when Job was supposed to live, the scene of the poem is evidently laid by the writer in a remote antiquity; and though we do not know by whom the poem was written, it has been long regarded as an inspired production. Even Ewald admits that in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah it was generally regarded as the work of Moses. This theory finds especial support from the long residence of Moses in Arabia, and his early training“ in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” In reference to the latter point Dr. Conant 1 says: “The book exhibits an intimate acquaintance with the range of knowledge familiar to that people; with the phenomena of Nature, in the heavens and the earth ; with the habits of various classes of animals; with the different climates of the earth, and the aspects of the heavens in different latitudes. The various operations of mining, for which Egypt was celebrated, are represented with the minuteness and precision of an eyewitness, and on the grandest scale on which they have ever been conducted. Inhabitants of the Nile and other waters of Egypt are described, with the most accurate knowledge of their structure and habits; and equal familiarity is shown with the vegetable products of that country.”
But whoever wrote it, all ages and countries are united in the judgment that the poem is of transcendent genius and value, and may well be classed among the sacred writings, surpassing the Psalms in sublimity and the Proverbs in moral wisdom. The Book of Job is very suggestive of great truths. They generally centre round the cardinal and fundamental truth of the majesty of God and the littleness of man.
| The Book of Job: A translation from the original Hebrew on the basis of the Common and Earlier English Version. With an Introduction and Explanatory Notes. For the American Bible Union, by Thomas J. Conant, D.D. New York : 1857.
These are expressed in language of incomparable sublimity. In no other part of the Bible is the sovereignty of God more clearly expressed, or the weakness and wickedness of man more impressively defined.
But the great mystery — Why does God afflict a righteous man? — is still unsolved Mystery and awe enshroud all the ways of the Almighty, and no amount of knowledge will enable a man to penetrate the secrets of his moral government. We know that virtue leads to happiness, and sin is followed with penalty; but we do not know why a wise man languishes in neglect, why evil prevails over good, why folly with most persons is of more account than wisdom, or why sufferinys overwhelm the righteous. Neglected virtue and prosperous iniquity fill the world with doubt and gloom. Why is it that we so often see vice triumphant and virtue defeated ? How can we reconcile divine justice with the misery of good people ? The footsteps of the mighty God are seen upon the deep, but storms and billows soon cover them from our sight.
If we cannot interpret the secrets which pertain to earth and life, how can we solve the mysteries of heaven? The most profound inquiries become presumptuous, and end in confusion and shame. The most gifted intellects are baffled by apparent inconsistencies, which can never be reconciled. Intellectual arrogance may venture into the last citadel which
thought can raise, but it is overthrown and rebuked. Canst thou by searching find out God ? The defeated reason can take refuge only in confessions of ignorance and in the depths of humiliation. There is no solid comfort for the bewildered mind or the agonized soul, but to fall back on faith when we would explain the triumph of evil, and on consciousness when we would settle the reality of virtue. The wisest of mankind have not attempted to soar into forbidden heights, nor penetrate realms which cannot be explored. Neither have they sought to explain the realm of mind by the laws of matter, nor conquer the domain of faith by the arms of reason. It is only he who humbleth himself like a little child, to whom is promised exaltation in the kingdom of heaven. If pride is offensive to man, how much more so must it be to our Creator ! One of the most frequent injunctions of the Bible is to humility; and even this is more often a gift than an acquired virtue, --- a virtue which even Jcb was slow to learn, upright as he was in his dealings with men. He perpetually justifies himself; and while he is sustained in his uprightness by consciousness, he does not sufficiently humble himself in view of his impotence.
There is another lesson to be learned from this most sublime of poems; and that is, that no truth is susceptible of universal application. There is no one truth