« PreviousContinue »
laid open. Two of the principal of these were the HISTORY OF SATAN and the DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE STATE; which, soon after this time, were conveyed to their knowledge. Now, besides the use of these two truths to the general Economy, they were of great advantage to the Jewish people at those very junctures when each was first made known unto them. The history of Satan, it is evident, they were brought acquainted with in their Captivity; and nothing could better secure them from the dangerous error of the TWO PRINCIPLES, which was part of the national Religion of the Country into which they were led captive. The doctrine of a future state they learnt some small time after their thorough Re-establishment; and this being at a time when their extraordinary Providence was departed from them, was of the highest advantage and support to them, as a Nation and a People. But this, as I say, is anticipating my subject, and will be explained at large hereafter: The other is the point we are at present concerned with, namely, the knowledge of this wicked Spirit; and the security this knowledge afforded, against the error of the two Principles: Which leads us to another use the writer of the book of Job hath made of this Personage of the Drama.
We have observed, that the principal design of the Author of this work was to remove all errors, concerning the SUPREME CAUSE from amongst a People now about to come under the ordinary Providence of Heaven, after having been long accustomed to the extraordinary. The common fault which the Ancients were prone to commit, on seeing good and bad happen indifferently to all men, was to bring in question the GOODNESS of their Maker. And they were apt to satisfy themselves in this difficulty, by another mistake as absurd as that was impious; the belief of TWO PRINCIPLES, a Good and an Evil. The Jews, of this time particularly, were most obnoxious to the danger, as coming from a place where this strange Doctrine made part of the public Religion. It was of the highest importance there.. fore to guard against both these errors. And this the sacred Writer hath effectually done, by shewing that SATAN, or the evil Spirit (whose history, misunderstood, or imperfectly told, in the first Ages of mankind, much favoured the notion of an evil Principle) was, like all other immaterial Beings, even of the highest rank, a creature of GOD; at enmity with him; but entirely in his power; and used by him as an instrument to punish wicked men; yet sometimes permitted to afflict the Good, for a trial of their patience, and to render their Faith and Virtue more perfect and conspicuous. Hence we see (which deserves our serious reflection) how useful it was to this purpose (what little light soever it gave to the Question) to resolve all, when the dispute came to be moderated and determined, into the
OMNIPOTENCE OF GOD, who is represented as the SOLE Creator and Governor of all things. And, what the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit directed the Writer of the book of Job to do, in this point, on their coming from the Land which held the belief of TWO PRINCIPLES, the same Wisdom directed Isaiah to do, on their going thither. This Prophet, in the person of God, addressing his speech to Cyrus, whom God had appointed to be the instrument of his People's Restoration, says: I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God besides me. I girded thee, though thou hast not known me.—I FORM THE LIGHT AND CREATE DARKNESS, I MAKE PEACE AND CREATE EVIL: I the Lord do all these things.*
This declaration of God by Isaiah naturally leads us, ere we conclude this head, to consider another text of the book of Job, which confirms all that is here said of SATAN and the TWO PRINCIPLES; and, by consequence, the opinion here advanced, of the time in which the book was written. Job, speaking of the works of Creation and Providence, says, He divided the SEA with his power, and his understanding smiteth through the PROUD.†-This evidently alludes to the miracle of the Red-sea, and the destruction of Pharaoh. From these works of Providence upon earth, the writer proceeds to speak of God's work of Creation above; both material and intellectual.— By his Spirit he hath GARNISHED the heavens; his Hand hath formed the CROOKED SERPENT; i. e. He made the material and intellectual world; and in this latter, the evil Being himself, (that pretended Rival of his power, and Opposer of all his good) is equally the work of his hands. The progression and connexions of the parts, contained in this whole period, are extremely beautiful. His work of Providence, as Lord of Nature upon earth, led properly to his work of Creation above, as the Maker and Governor of all things: and his chastisement of the proudest and most powerful Monarch then on earth, in his character of Governor of the Moral world, as naturally introduced the mention of his creating, and his keeping in subjection, the EVIL SPIRIT, in his character of the first Cause of all things. And, to connect these two relations together with the greater justness, the writer with much elegance calls the evil Spirit by that name wherewith the sacred Writers, and especially Isaiah, (whom we shall see presently the writer of the book of Job had particularly in his eye) denote the king of Egypt. In that day the Lord, with his sore and great and strong sword, shall punish Leviathan the piercing serpent, even Leviathan that CROOKED SERPENT, and he shall slay the Dragon that is in the sea.§ Let us observe, that the Writer of the book of Job, in the last verse, evidently alludes to, or rather paraphrases those words of Isaiah quoted before.-I form the light and
Isai. xlv. 5, 7.
↑ Job xxvi. 12.
↑ Verse 13.
§ Isai, xxvii. 1.
create darkness; I make peace, and CREATE EVIL: I the Lord do all these things: For what is this but garnishing the Heavens, and FORMING THE CROOKED SERPENT? But the relation and connexion between the 12th and 13th verses* not being observed, several eminent Commentators, both Jews and Christians, were inclined to understand the crooked serpent as signifying the great Constellation so named, situate near the arctic pole; or at least, that enormous trail of light called the Galaxy or Via lactea. And those Moderns who have been as backward to find a Devil for their Tempter, as a God for their Redeemer, thought it agreed best with their Socinian reasoning-scheme; the general mention of the garniture of the Heavens, being well followed by a particular description of one of its pieces of furniture. But whatever their force of Logic may be, their taste of Rhetoric seems none of the best. It is a strange kind of amplification to say, "He made all the constellations, and he made one of them." But that interpretation of Scripture which receives its chief strength from the rules of human eloquence, and art of composition, hath often but a slender support. I shall go on therefore to shew, that an Hebrew Writer (and he who, after all that has been said, will not allow the Author of the book of Job to be an Hebrew, may grant or deny what he pleases, for me)-to shew, I say, that an Hebrew Writer, by the crooked Serpent could not mean a Constellation.
The Rabbins tell us, (who in this case seem to be competent Evidence) that the ancient Hebrews in their Astronomy, which the moveable Feasts of their Ritual necessitated them to cultivate, did not represent the Stars, either single or in Constellations, by the name or figure of any Animal whatsoever; but distinguished them by the letters of their alphabet, artificially combined. And this they assure us was the constant practice, till, in the later ages, they became acquainted with the Grecian Sciences: Then, indeed, they learnt the art of tricking up their SPHERE, and making it as picturesque as their neighbours. But still they did it with modesty and reserve; and hesitated even then, to admit of any human Figure. The reason given for this scrupulous observance, namely, the danger of Idolatry, is the highest confirmation of the truth of their account. For it is not to be believed, that, when the ASTRONOMY and SUPERSTITION of Egypt were so closely colleagued, and that the combination was supported by this very means, the NAMES given to the Constellations, it is not to be believed, I say, that Moses, who, under the ministry of God, forbad the Israelites to make any likeness of any thing in HEAVEN above according to the old mode, would suffer them to make new likenesses there: which, if not in the first intention set up to be
• Job xxvi.
worshiped, yet, we know, never waited long to obtain that honour. To corroborate this Rabbinical account relative to the Hebrew Astronomy, we may observe, that the Translators of the Septuagint, the Heads and Doctors of the Jewish Law, who must needs know what was conformable to the practice derived from that law, understood the Writer of the book of Job to mean no more nor less than the DEVIL by this periphrasis of the crooked Serpent ; and so translated it, ΔΡΑΚΟΝΤΑ ΑΠΟΣΤΑΤΗΝ, the apostate Dragon.
From all this it appears, that neither Moses nor ESDRAS could call a Constellation by the name of the crooked Serpent.
V. The last Actor in this representation, is Job's fourth friend, ELIHU the son of Barachel the Buzite, who is brought upon the stage in the thirty-second chapter. He is made to reprove Job with great asperity; and, like the other three, to have his wrath kindled against him and yet, to the surprise of all the Commentators, he is not involved in their Sentence, when GOD passes judgment on the Controversy. Here again, the only solution of the difficulty is our interpretation of the book of Job. Elihu's opposition was the severity of a true friend; the others' the malice of pretended ones. His severity against Job arose from this, that Job justified himself rather than God, that is, was more anxious to vindicate his own innocence than the equity of God's Providence. For under the person of ELIHU WAS designed the sacred Writer himself. He begins with the character of a true Prophet, under which, as in the act of inspiration, he represents himself. I am full of matter, the Spirit within me constraineth me. Behold my belly is as wine which hath no vent, it is ready to burst like new bottles.† And this he contrasts with the character of the false Prophets of that time,-Let me not, I pray you, accept any man's person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man. But all this will appear from the following considerations.
Elihu, on the entrance upon his argument, addresses the three friends in the following manner: Now he hath not directed his words against ME: neither will I answer him with YOUR speeches.§ This sufficiently discriminates his cause and character from theirs. He then turns to Job: " My words" (says he) "shall be of the uprightness of my heart; and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly. The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life. If thou canst answer me, set thy words in order before me, and stand up. BEHOLD I AM, ACCORDING TO THY WISH, IN GOD'S STEAD: I also am formed out of the clay," &c.| This clearly intimates the character of God's chosen Servant: These were of approved integrity, they received the divine inspiration, and
† Verses 18, 19.
‡ Verse 21.
§ Verse 14.
• Job xxxii. 2.
were therefore in God's stead to the People. Elihu goes on in the same strain." He excites Job to attention,-accuses him of charging GOD with injustice,-reproves his impiety,-tells him that men cry in their afflictions, and are not heard for want of faith:-that his sins hinder the descent of God's blessings; whose wisdom and ways are unsearchable."-But is this the conversation of one private man to another? Is it not rather a public exhortation of an Hebrew Prophet speaking to the People? Hence too, we may see the great propriety of that allusion to the case of Hezekiah,* mentioned above, which the writer of the book of Job, in this place, puts into the mouth of Elihu. The Spirit with which Elihu speaks is farther seen from his telling Job that he desires to justify him.† And yet he accuses him of saying, It profiteth a man nothing, that he should delight himself with God: and expostulates with him yet further; Thinkest thou this to be right that thou saidst, My righteousness is more than God's? For thou saidst, What advantage will it be unto thee, and what profit shall I have, if I be cleansed from my sin ?§ Here the Commentators are much scandalized, as not seeing how this could be fairly collected from what had passed: yet it is certain he says no more of Job than what the Prophets say of the People represented under him. Thus Malachi: "Ye have wearied the Lord with your words: yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment ?" || And again : Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it, that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the proud happy: Yea they that work wickedness are set up; yea they that tempt God are even delivered.¶ It was this which kindled Elihu's wrath against Job; who, in this work, is represented to be really guilty; as appears not only from the beginning of God's speech to him; ** but from his own confession,†† which follows. It is remarkable that Job, from the beginning of his misfortunes to the coming of his three comforters, though greatly provoked by his Wife, sinned not (as we are told) with his lips.‡‡ But, persecuted by the malice and bitterness of their words, he began to lay such stress on his own innocence as even to accuse the justice of GOD. This was the very state of the Jews at this time: So exactly has the sacred Writer conducted his allegory! They bore their straits and difficulties with temper, till their enemies the Cutheans, and afterwards Sanballat, Tobiah, and the Arabians confederated against them; and then they fell into indecent murmurings
† Verse 32.
Job xxxiii. 18, et seq.
2, 3. xlii. 1, et seq.
1 Job xxxiv. 9.
• Job xxxviii.
§ Job xxxv. ti Job