« PreviousContinue »
remarkable words: With him is strength and wisdom; the deceived and the deceiver are his.' If nothing more is meant by this than that the cunning man as well as the weak man is under the power of God, it is an observation that needed not to have been prefaced with an express declaration of God's great wisdom and power; nor should it be placed, as it is, among the greatest works of Providence, the creation of the world, the destroying it by the flood, the settling and enlarging the nations of the earth, and straitening them again in the midst of these great accounts of Providence stands this observation, the deceived and the deceiver are his.' This therefore must be something relating to the general condition of mankind, and must be understood to be an instance of God's Providence in the great affairs of the world. And for this reason it is very probable that the words were meant of the fall of man through the cunning of the tempter. It was directly to the purpose of the Book of Job to assert and maintain the superiority of God over the deceiver, who, by this very means of bringing evil into the world, had grown up, in the opinion of many, into a rival of the power and majesty of God.
There is another passage in this book of Job very like to the former, which, considered and compared with it, will leave little room to doubt of its true meaning. The passage I mean is in chap. xxvi.: they are the words of Job: By his Spirit he (God) hath garnished the heaven; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.' How come these disagreeable ideas to be joined together? How comes the forming of a crooked serpent to be mentioned as an instance of Almighty power, and to be set, as it were, on an equal foot with the creation of the heavens, and all the host of them? Read the whole chapter; all the images there of divine power are great and magnificent: 'Hell,' we are told, is naked before God, and destruction hath no covering. He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth on nothing. He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them. He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end. The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his reproof. He divideth the sea with his power, and by his understanding he smiteth through the
proud his hand formed the crooked serpent.' Can you pos sibly imagine that the forming the crooked serpent' in this place means no more than that God created snakes and adders? This surely cannot be the case!
If we consider the state of religion in the world when this book was penned, it will help to clear this matter up. The oldest notion, in opposition to the supremacy of the Creator, is that of two independent principles, as has been already observed; and the only kind of idolatry mentioned in the book of Job (and it was of all others the most ancient) is the worship of the sun and moon and heavenly host; from this Job vindicates himself, chap. xxxi. 'If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness, and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand: this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above.' Suppose now Job to be acquainted with the fall of man and the part ascribed to the serpent in the introduction of evil, and see how aptly the parts do cohere. In opposition to the idolatrous practice of his time, he asserts God to be the maker of all the host of heaven, by his Spirit hath he garnished the heavens.' In opposition to the false notion of two independent principles, he asserts God to be the maker of him who was the first author of evil; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.' You see how properly the garnishing of the heavens and the forming of the serpent are joined together.
That this was the ancient traditionary explication of this place, we have undeniable evidence from the translation of the LXX, who render the latter part of this verse, which relates to the serpent, in this manner, προστάγματι δὲ ἐθανάτωσε δρα kóvra åπoorárηv, 'by a decree he destroyed the apostate dragon' the Syriac and Arabic versions are to the same sense. These translators applied the place to the punishment inflicted on the serpent; and it comes to the same thing; for the punishing the serpent is as clear an evidence of God's power over the author of evil as the creating him.
The old commentator on Job, printed among the works of St. Jerome, though he chiefly pursues a mystical sense, yet has left us a plain intimation how he understood these words : edu
citur ab eis (i. e. ab animabus sanctis) et de cordibus earum excluditur ille, in quo nihil est rectum, COLUBER TORTUO
We need not wonder to see so much concern in this book of Job to maintain the supremacy of God, and to guard it against every false notion; for this was the theme, the business of the author. He gives, as it were, an epitome of his design in these remarkable words delivered by Job: God is wise in heart and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?' ix. 4.
The mention of the serpent in this manner in the book of Job is the more to be regarded, because this book being, as I conceive, older than the Mosiac history, it is an evident proof that the account of Moses is the ancient account of the fall, and not a story dressed up by himself to serve any particular ends or purposes.
But let us proceed to consider what notions this writer had of the consequences of the fall, and of the state of the world after it. The general corruption of the world has been observed in all times, and it is not worth the while to be particular in proving that this ancient writer had the same sense which others had of the condition of mankind. He mentions the flood, the overturning the earth by waters,' as he styles it; but this too is an uncontested piece of history. One observation he has which deserves our regard, that all the works of nature are prepared by God to be his instruments either for judgment or for mercy. Of the clouds he says they are made to do whatsoever he commandeth them on the face of the world in the earth. He causeth it to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for his mercy:' xxxvii. 12. 13. The treasures of snow and hail are reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war:' xxxviii. 23. It seems not improbable to me that these reflexions arose from the methods made use of by Providence (not worn out of memory in this writer's time) in punishing the old world, in consequence of the curse laid on the ground. Such methods they are by which the ground may at any time be cursed, and the toil and labor of men increased, to what degree God thinks fit. And it is to be noted that the blessing promised to Noah on the resto
ration of the earth, is expressed by the regular successions that should continue from that time, of seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter;' which is but a promise, in other words, that the hail and snow and the waters of heaven should be no longer instruments of judgment, but of mercy. In the thirty-eighth chapter God is introduced setting forth his own great works of wisdom and power; 'he laid the foundations of the earth; he shut up the sea with doors; he commanded the morning and the day-spring' after which it follows, from the wicked their light is withholden.' passage might be thought to allude to the Egyptian darkness, did it not refer to a much older date, and stand among the earliest of God's works as an instance of his power from the beginning. The same reflexion occurs in this writer more than once; it is mentioned again chap. ix. and numbered among the judgments of God: He commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars.' Again, chapter xxxvi. after mention of the clouds and of light, it follows,‘By them judgeth he the people.' To what ancient piece of history do all these allusions refer? We have nothing remaining on record to which the application may be made. This only I find, that when God restored the earth, and gave his blessing to Noah, one promise is, that day and night shall not cease :' a strong intimation that clouds and darkness, storms and tempests, had greatly prevailed before for the punishment of the old world. These expressions, you will say perhaps, were used in the eastern countries metaphorically: it is true I find them so used in this very book of Job, xxii. 11. But what was the foundation of the metaphor? Metaphors do not arise out of nothing; and there was some reason why sealing up of stars, and darkening the sun,' were expressions made use of to denote a state of sorrow and distress. Job's affliction is described by one of his friends in this manner : Sudden fear troubleth thee, or darkness that thou canst not see, and abundance of waters cover thee.' The first expression is plain; the second and third are metaphorical. Why the judgments of God are represented by the overwhelming of waters, every man may understand who knows the history of the flood. But how will
you account for the second metaphor? or why is he said to be without the sun,' who suffers under trouble or affliction in this life? In this manner Job himself complains: 'The days of affliction prevented me, I went mourning without the sun :' xxx. 28. The same figure is applied in like manner by the prophet Amos; Seek him-that turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: v. 8. And again I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day, and I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation :' viii. 9. So the prophet Joel: The day of the Lord cometh— a day of darkness and of gloominess.' 'The sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining :' Joel ii. 1. 2. 10. And the prophet Isaiah: The stars of heaven, and the constellations thereof, shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evils, and the wicked for their iniquity :' Isa. xiii. 10. 11. But this is not a very material point, and therefore I need not enlarge on it.
As to the origin of the general corruption and depravity of mankind, this ancient author seems to suppose that all men are corrupt by descent and inheritance: what is man that is born of a woman that he should be righteous?' Job xv. 14. The same question is asked again Job xxv. In both these places there may be some reason perhaps to think that uncleanness is charged on man comparatively only, and with respect to the transcendent purity of God; which is a very different thing from the uncleanness derived from the fall. But there is another passage which will not admit of this construction: in chapter xiv. Job represents the miserable condition of man;:
Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble; he cometh forth like a flower and is cut down; he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.' On this representation he expostulates his case with God: Dost thou open thine eyes on such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee? Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?' These last words plainly refer to the first, and show the ground of the