Job 32-42: The Slaughtered Lamb

Chapter 32

The three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, ceased to answer Job (v.1) – because Job was righteous in his own eyes.  However, then comes Elihu (whose God is he (Jehovah)), the son of Barachel (whom God had blessed) the Buzite (from “Buz” – one of the chiefs of the tribe of Gad – 1 Chronicles 5:14, meaning “contempt“).  So Eliphaz burned with anger, the man who hails from the tribe who strikes at the heel of his raiders (Genesis 49:19).  He identifies himself as one of the young, one of those who would have listened to Job during Job’s days of glory (c.f. chapter 29), yet he recognises that the true teacher is the Breath of the Almighty (v.8; indicative of the Holy Spirit; c.f. Genesis 2:7, 7:22, Job 4:9; see also Job 33:4-5).  It is the Holy Spirit Who is the Wisdom that makes man understand, the very Wisdom whom Job spoke of in chapter 28.  He will not show partiality due to his youth, for the spirit within him shall speak words of truth unveiled and without flattery (v.21-22; c.f. Psalms 5:9; Romans 16:18; 1 Thessalonians 2:5).

It is interesting that Elihu as a character is only verbal between chapters 32 and 37.  He was not introduced at the outset, for is he mentioned by the LORD when the LORD rebukes Job’s three friends.  In the coming chapters, Elihu’s words will show that his focus is not on behavioural modifications leading to God’s stamp of approval; quite the contrary, it is in the LORD’s sovereignty and Ransom (chapter 33.v22-24) by the power of His Wisdom, the Holy Spirit, that Job can plead for this very Mediator.  In a sense, Elihu is akin to Elijah – both figures of Christ, but also foreshadows of John the Baptist, he who prepares the way for the LORD’s coming.  Just as Elihu ceases to speak in chapter 37, so the LORD speaks immediately in chapter 38 as if ushered by this prophetic and mysterious figure.

 

Chapter 33

The Spirit of God has made Elihu, and the breath of the Almighty gives Elihu life – this is how Elihu’s words of truth begin.  He does not set a weighty yoke on Job as Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar did (v.7; c.f. Matthew 11:30).  Elihu speaks as though he is the author of the book of Proverbs – “For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it” (v.14; e.g. Proverbs 6:16; 30:18, 30:21, 30:29).  So also God’s truth is not interpreted merely from one angle of man’s perception, but also from the perspective of a dream, in a vision of the night, in deep sleep (v.14-15), to give man a revelation to turn such man aside from pride and evil deed (v.17), to preserve a man from the bottomless pit (v.18, 24) – this is most predominantly shown in the Ransom (v.24), the Angel of the LORD, the Mediator, one and only (v.22-23).  It is through the propitiation, intercession and mediation of Christ Jesus that Job’s flesh can become fresh with youth, returning to the days of his youthful vigor (v.25), allowing Job to pray to God through the intercessor (v.26; c.f. Book of Hebrews), salvation by the gift of righteousness.  The fulfillment of the Kinsman Redeemer in Job 19:25 is thus fulfilled in the words of Elihu in Job 33:28 – Christ has redeemed Job from going down into the pit, and his life shall look upon the light.  Behold, God does these things, twice, three times with a man – to resurrect his soul from the pit.  Such is the act of the glorious and divine resurrection!  So Elihu enlightens Job to the true wisdom whom Job had been alluding to in his self-defence.

Adam Clarke comments:

It is this that gives efficacy to all the preceding means; without which they would be useless, and the salvation of man impossible. I must think that the redemption of a lost world, by Jesus Christ, is not obscurely signified in Job 33:23, 24.  While the whole world lay in the wicked one, and were all hastening to the bottomless pit, God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have everlasting life. Jesus Christ, the great sacrifice, and head of the Church, commissions his messengers-apostles and their successors-to show men the righteousness of God, and his displeasure at sin, and at the same time his infinite love, which commands them to proclaim deliverance to the captives, and that they who believe on him shall not perish, shall not go down to the pit of destruction, for he has found out an atonement; and that whoever comes to him, through Christ, shall have everlasting life, in virtue of that atonement or ransom price.”

 

Clarke also further provides the following paragraph for v.26-29:

 

Ver. 26. He (Jesus Christ, the head and ransom price) shall pray unto God, (shall make intercession for the transgressors, for he is the Mediator between God and man.) And he (God the Father) will be favourable, ( yirtsehu, will manifest his good will towards him.) And he shall see his face ( panaiv, his faces, God the Father, Son, and Spirit) with joy, ( bithruah, with exultation or triumph,) for he will render unto man his righteousness, ( yasheb leenosh tsidkatho, “He will restore to wretched man his righteousness;” i.e., he will create the soul anew, and restore to the fallen spirit that righteousness and true holiness which it has lost, and bring it again to its original state of perfection, through the grand atonement mentioned Job 33:24.) But when is it that wretched miserable man shall be brought to this state of salvation? This is answered in Ver. 27. When God, looking upon men, seeth any of them saying, I have sinned and perverted that which is right, and it hath profited me nothing-has afforded nothing equal to my wishes, and the tribulation which I sustained in seeking happiness in forbidden things. Redeem my soul from going down to destruction, and my life shall see the light, or shall be as the light. This is the prayer of the penitent, which God has promised to hear. This is one of the best, the deepest, the most spiritual, and most important chapters which the reader has yet met with in the Book of Job. It is every way important, and full of useful information. It is a grand exhibition of the WAY of salvation as revealed to patriarchs and prophets.”

 

So, just as Clarke defines the way of salvation, as specifically revealed to the patriarchs and prophets is no different from the way we see it – Job, Elihu and Paul and Peter all look to Jesus Christ the eternal mediator for the restoration of their souls, so that they too, like Jesus (c.f. Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27), would be resurrected on the Day of the Bridegroom.

 

Chapter 34

Elihu continues his words, in answer not only to Job but also to his other three friends (v.2).  Obviously his words are laced with sarcasm – “Hear my words, you wise men” (v.2).  In particular, Elihu charges Job very high upon his words.  As Matthew Henry comments:

Did you ever know such a man as Job, or ever hear a man talk at such an extravagant rate?” He represents him, (1.) As sitting in the seat of the scornful: “He drinketh up scorning like water,” that is, “he takes a great deal of liberty to reproach both God and his friends, takes a pleasure in so doing, and is very liberal in his reflections.” Or, “He is very greedy in receiving and hearkening to the scorns and contempts which others cast upon their brethren, is well pleased with them and extols them.” Or, as some explain it, “By these foolish expressions of his he makes himself the object of scorn, lays himself very open to reproach, and gives occasion to others to laugh at him; while his religion suffers by them, and the reputation of that is wounded through his side.” We have need to pray that God will never leave us to ourselves to say or do any thing which may make us a reproach to the foolish, Ps. xxxix. 8. (2.) As walking in the course of the ungodly, and standing in the way of sinners: He goes in company with the workers of iniquity ( 8), not that in his conversation he did associate with them, but in his opinion he did favour and countenance them, and strengthen their hands. If (as it follows, 9, for the proof of this) it profits a man nothing to delight himself in God, why should he not lay the reins on the neck of his lusts and herd with the workers of iniquity? He that says, I have cleansed my hands in vain, does not only offend against the generation of God’s children (Ps. lxxii. 13, 14), but gratifies his enemies, and says as they say.”

It would appear, then, that Job has somewhat lost sight of the joys of being with the LORD, although his description of God is far more accurate than that of Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar.  Elihu’s words can be summed up as follows – “Will he then make repayment to suit you, because you reject it?” (v.33).  Elihu, rather than speaking words of what appears to be rebuke, is actually trying to reclaim the Christological perspective in Job’s suffering.  God will never allow wickedness, and he is neve wrong (v.10); indeed, of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not do wickedly (v.12).  However, throughout this, Elihu does not accuse Job as wicked.  He is merely reminding Job that, in the midst of Job’s suffering, if indeed Job is righteous, then what Job is experiencing is still just.  It is still the sovereign act of God; the God who will not pervert justice (v.12, 17); the God who is righteous and mighty and is impartial to men of all stature (v.18-32).  Although Job is declaring in the recent chapters his pain and anguish as one who obeys the LORD, and considers that “It profits a man nothing that he should take delight in God” (v.9), he is indeed better off than if he had sinned (chapter 35:3).

 

Chapter 35

So chapter 35 opens with Elihu comparing the predicament of a sinner and that of a righteous man – what advantage is there, if the guilty flourishes and the innocent perish?  Elihu answers, by indicating that those who cry out for help (v.9-11) may not receive an immediate answer (because of the pride of evil men) (v.12).  As v. 10 states, such cries are merely cries for deliverance – but they do not cry out to the Deliverer.  Yet, that is not the case with Job.  However, despite the LORD not yet speaking in the book of Job since Job’s afflictions, Elihu reminds Job that the LORD’s silence should not be taken as an opportunity for Job to doubt the timing of the LORD’s judgment, lest he opens his mouth to proceed in empty talk and multiply words without knowledge (V.15-16).  As Adam Clarke comments – “they cry for deliverance from the pride of wicked men; but they are not heard, because they cry not to God… He will not attend to such vain cries; they cry from their oppressions, but they cry not to God.”  This indeed is timely advice for a day when Christ’s Second Coming has been approximately 2000 years in the waiting, with people not girding themselves for His return, perhaps even doubting that He would even return at all.  He who was once a righteous man, like Job, would be tempted to grow weary of waiting for the Bridegroom.  However, as sure as the sun shall rise from the east to pursue his Bride, the Church, to the west – so also Christ’s return is imminent hope for Job and Christian alike.

 

Chapter 36

So Elihu continues to elaborate on the just timing of the LORD’s judgment – as in the days of Noah when the LORD closed the door to the ark at his divine appointment, so also Job should look forward to the appointed climax of Christ’s return.  He is described as:

 

  • He is mighty in strength of understanding (v.5);
  • He will exalt the afflicted by giving them their right (v.6; 15-16);
  • His eyes are on the righteous (v. 7 c.f. Psalm 34:15);
  • He sets us as kings upon the throne (v.7 c.f. Revelation 1:5-6, 3:21)
  • He will bless those who listen and serve him (v.8-11)
  • He will allow those who do not listen to perish (v.9-14)

 

From v.17 onwards, Elihu warns Job to not fall into the camp of those who scoff by being enticed by wrath (v.18), that Job should not long for the night nor turn to iniquity (v.17-21), and remember that the LORD is a powerful teacher (v.22-33).  As Elihu sums – “Behold, God is great, and we know him not; the number of his years is unsearchable” (v.26).  This humility before God far exceeds that of Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar who have claimed no knowledge of the vastness of God’s personality and yet they still make definitive charges against Job as if they were God Himself.

 

Indeed – “let not the greatness of the ransom turn you aside” (v.18).  This verse is quite difficult to understand although Matthew Henry sees this as regarding a bribe turning Job away:

 

Even a great ransom cannot deliver thee when God enters into judgment with thee. His justice cannot be bribed, nor any of the ministers of his justice. Will he esteem thy riches, and take from them a commutation of the punishment?”

 

No gold is sufficient to satiate the price – except for the “gold” found in the salvation of Christ Jesus, the true Ransom of all ransoms shadowed by the deaths of the innocent sacrifices under the Levitical law.

 

Chapter 37

Starting with chapter 36:27, after Elihu admits the vastness of God’s unsearchable character, he describes God’s majestic act of creation in intimate detail:

 

  • The spreading of the clouds, the thundering of his pavilion (v.29)
  • Lightning is scattered about him, covering the roots of the sea (v.30)
  • Lightning strikes its mark, its crashing declares His presence (v.33)

 

These themes are carried through and brought to a climactic end in chapter 37, acting as a cloud-like shroud to usher in the LORD’s majesty in chapter 38:

 

  • That his words are like a thunder, thundering with his majestic voice (v.2, 4, 5)
  • His lightning to the corners of the earth, unrestrained when his voice is heard (v.3, 4)

 

The Genesis-type language in chapter 37, combined with the LORD’s booming voice and Word, are indicative of Elihu’s understanding of how creation came into being and his focus on God’s intention for man, vs. Job’s three “wise-men”’s views of man’s intention of God.  Elihu’s words in this chapter illustrates the powerful and authoritative aspect of the LORD’s words and commands – the imperative nature of His Word causing immediate transformation.  And yet – God has not actually “spoken” in the way that Job has stated God to be in silence!  Elihu is still able to identify the gospel in the creation, that God has not ceased to speak, and that it is only by his Word and anything can be sustained (c.f. Colossians 1:15).  So Elihu displays in this chapter to us, fallen man, that God’s revelation is just as powerful by his spoken word as can be traced in the sky, in the snow and in the very ice of His breath.

 

So Elihu goes on immediately in this chapter to describe the life that is breathed from God’s Word.  From v.6-13, he explains that the LORD’s sovereignty in all events of life and uses the winter imagery; that snow shall fall on earth in his mighty downpour (v.6), whilst the hand of every man is sealed and beasts remain in their dens (v.7-8); that by His breath, ice is given and broad waters frozen (v.10) – ultimately, “whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen”.  Even in the nature of this world, God’s love is wildly imprinted.  Such are the wondrous works of God which, if Job considered further, would reveal the reasons for his current demise (v.14-18).  Job is revealed for his over-presumption of the LORD’s perspective, with Elihu stringing question after question:

 

  • Do you know how God lays his command upon them and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine?
  • Do you know the balancings of the clouds…?
  • Can you spread out the skies, hard as a cast metal mirror?

 

Chapter 38

After 37 chapters of apparent silence (which Elihu would of course dispute, as he would affirm the LORD’s presence during Job’s friends’ “wise” counsel), the LORD booms into the scene by answering Job out of the whirlwind (very different to the LORD who spoke a whisper in 1 Kings 19 to Elijah), his first words being:

 

Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

 

It is important that the LORD’s first words are words of justice.  The LORD immediately identifies those with false counsel, just as the LORD, upon reacting to the enemy’s work in Genesis 3, immediately adjudicates the situation at hand.  Without such justice, there can be no mercy by the power of the Passover Lamb.  Yet, the LORD does not begin to provide answers.  Instead, as fitting to the precursor by Elihu, He continues with the questions in this chapter with regard to the majesty of his creation (a total of 26 questions including his very first statement!).  Several of these questions validate Elihu’s position in chapters 36 and 37.

 

However, whilst these words appear to be directed to the men who have darkened counsel by words, to the men who have misrepresented God in their attempts to be humble; God’s questions are most fitting if they are posited against the enemy, the Satan.  Just as if God is speaking to the prince of Tyre in Ezekiel 28, or the Day Star, son of Dawn, the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14:  WHO is this enemy?  Did he lay the foundation of the earth?  Where was he when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?  God’s accusation is that of the enemy’s lack of wisdom and knowledge.  “You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!” – fitting words of irony against the prince who so heavily relied on his wisdom and understanding (Ezekiel 28:4).  Even the enemy has not seen the gates of death and deep darkness, the very Sheol which is the prison the LORD has prepared for the father of lies and his children (John 8:44; 1 John 2:22).  While the LORD is clearly speaking to Job here (c.f. Job 42:7), similarly his words directed at the prince of Tyre and king of Babylon and not merely to those men, but to the evil spirit speaking behind those men.

 

Chapter 39

So the LORD continues his questions, which hones in onto the lives of the creatures He has made (15 questions), covering:

 

  • Mountain goats, from the old giving birth to the young becoming strong (v.4);
  • Wild donkey, who has the arid plain for his home, the salt land for his dwelling place, scorning the city (v.5-8);
  • Wild ox’s unwillingness to serve man, unwillingness to be bound (v.9-12);
  • Ostrich, who appear beautiful but can hardly be called pinions and plumage of love (v.13-17)
  • Horses, which are mighty, leaping like locusts, with terrifying snorts and great exultation in strength (v.19-25)
  • Hawks, which soar (v.26)
  • Eagle, which mounts up high and makes his nest, dwelling at his stronghold and where the slain are, spying out the prey and  (v.27-30)

 

The LORD therefore spent two chapters – 38 and 39 – describing His activity in the nature of creation, and in the life of creation.  The vastness of his glory which transcends man’s feeble understanding and role in His large universe.

 

Chapter 40

So Job responds in this chapter humbly – “Behold I am of small account; what shall I answer you?” (v.4)

 

The LORD’s response in v.7 is a refrain from chapter 38:3 – “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me”.  As Adam Clarke interprets:

 

Verse 3. Gird up now thy loins: I will not confound thee with my terrors; dismiss all fearful apprehensions from thy mind; now act like a man, kegeber, like a hero: stand and vindicate thyself. For I will demand of thee-I will ask thee a series of questions more easy of solution than those which thou hast affected to discuss already; and then thou shalt have the opportunity of answering for thyself.”

 

Sometimes we forget the majesty of the Lord.  Sometimes we blaspheme, use his name in vain, treat him like a theological topic to be discussed, molded, politicized for our debased desires.  Yet have we an arm like God, thunder with a voice like his (v.9)?  Can we truly treat our workmanship as though we have adorned ourselves with majesty and dignity, clothe ourselves with glory and splendor, abase those who are proud and bring them low and tread down the wicked where they stand (v.10-12), let alone bind the enemy (v.13)?  No – although we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do His works (Ephesians 2:10).  We are none of these things outside of Jesus – that is the LORD’s response.  Without the Lord, our own right hand cannot save ourselves (v.14).  Even a grand creature such as the Behemoth cannot contend with the Lord himself, although he may be the fear of men (v.19-24)!

 

It is here that we realize the Lord, at this point, is but using the Behemoth as an analogy both for himself (see Job 41:10) and for us.  If we cannot even contend against the Behemoth, how can we contend against God?  And yet, even if we think ourselves equal to Behemoths, are they not also humbled by the Father above?  No matter how much we boast, we are but the clay of the potter.  We who mold are but molded daily by His grace.  As Matthew Henry commented:

 

The behemoth perhaps is here intended (as well as the leviathan afterwards) to represent those proud tyrants and oppressors whom God had just now challenged Job to abase and bring down. They think themselves as well fortified against the judgments of God as the elephant with his bones of brass and iron; but he that made the soul of man knows all the avenues to it, and can make the sword of justice, his wrath, to approach to it, and touch it in the most tender and sensible part. He that framed the engine, and put the parts of it together, knows how to take it in pieces. Woe to him therefore that strives with his Maker, for he that made him has therefore power to make him miserable, and will not make him happy unless he will be ruled by him.”

 

Chapter 41

The analogy at the end of chapter 40 continues here, from Behemoth to Leviathan.  Can we play with Leviathan, a type of the Lord?  Can we draw the Lord out with a fishhook, press down His tongue with a cord, put a rope in His nose, pierce His jaw with a hook (v.1-2)?  Will He make many pleas to us, speak to us with soft words, make a covenant with us and make Himself a servant forever?  (v.3-4)  Will we play with Him as with a bird, or will we put him on a leash for our girls?  Will traders bargain over Him, divide Him up among the merchants?  Can we fill His skin with harpoons or His head with fishing spears?  Lay our hands on Him? (v.5-8)  Can we strip off His outer garment, come near Him with a bridle, open the doors of His face?  (v.13-14)

 

Yet, all these things we have attempted to do and have done against our Lord Jesus Christ!  Is he not the lamb led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7)?  Was he not whipped and his flesh torn (Psalm 22:6)?  Did we not divide his garments (Psalm 22:18)?  Did we not spit and laugh at him (Mark 14:65)?  Such is the grace of God – that the Lord had the power, majesty and authority to be like the Leviathan, and yet condescended himself incarnate as though a lamb.  Here is Jesus, whose very sneeze could have flashed forth light, with eyes like eyelids of the dawn, flaming torches coming out of his mouth, smoke from his nostrils – this is the power imbued in the creature from the Creator.  Is our Christ the same one who can make the deep boil like a point, make the sea like a pot of ointment – indeed, is he your king over all the sons of pride (v.18-34)?

 

Chapter 42

So Job understands – the grace of God found in the Kinsman Redeemer who would humble himself (Job 19:25); the God who is like Behemoth or Leviathan; the Christ who, from Job’s sight, would be flogged just like an innocent lamb slain.  Job repents in dust and ashes, recognizing the grandeur of the Father’s glory and grace, and the Lord turns to Job’s “friends” in judgment – a judgment and righteous anger which Job is shielded from (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17).

 

The Lord is angry with Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar – they have simply spoken lies of Him.  He is not a Lord who is a glory-monger; or requires us to work in order to receive glory.  Quite the opposite.  Look now on the seven bulls and seven rams which Job is honoured to sacrifice as their mediator (v.8).  The Lord institutes Job as their mediator and intercessor, as their model of Jesus; it is on Job’s basis and merciful prayer that the Father chooses not to deal with the three according to their folly, for they have not spoken of Him what is right, as Job had (v.7-8).  In accepting Job’s prayer, and witnessing what appears to be a mindless slaughter of bulls and lambs (symbolically numbered at seven, the Lord’s rest), the friends should now see that Behemoth and Leviathan are what the Lord is entitled to.  Yet, it is the form of the lamb which the Lord took on, in order that even the likes of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar would be saved, so that they too can be like Job and be the mediators and intercessors of other “friends”.

 

Therefore, from Job 42:10, we see that Job is prosperous again and is restored beyond what he initially had.  He had twice more than before – in Job 1:3 it stated he had 7000 sheep, now he has 14,000; 3,000 camels, and now 6,000, and so forth.  Although Psalm 90:10 states that a normal man should only have a lifespan of 70 to 80 years, Job 42:16 states he lived 140 years and saw up to four generations.  He also had beautiful daughters, named Jemimah (“sunshine”, to answer the dark night of his suffering), Keziah (“beautiful smell”, like Kaziah, cinnamon, compared against the offensive breath to Job’s wife in Job 19), Keren-happuch (“little make-up box” as his youngest, beautiful taughter, compared against Job 16 where Job’s face was red with weeping, this beautiful daughter covering Job’s sorrow).

 

More radically, in v.15, Job grants them an inheritance among their brothers, which is not introduced until Moses’ time hundreds of years later (Numbers 27; Deuteronomy 25)!  Yet, it is also because only by allowing the inheritance to pass through the women can Jesus Christ be the rightful king!  Through Job’s obedient act, we are on step closer to the birth of the offspring who would stamp on the enemy’s head.

 

We look to Isaiah 61, which Jesus said spoke of himself – in v.7, the Word shows that because of Christ, we too (like Job) would be brought through our suffering to a new body, a new family – a double portion.  We are therefore looking forward to a future far outstretching the paradise of Eden, so that we might have a blessing in Christ which we would never have had with Adam.  There would be no enemy causing death and destruction, for our hope (which is not in our hope or found independent of God, c.f. Job 41:9) is in the Son.

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Job 32-42: The Slaughtered Lamb

Job 1-3: Echoes of the Fall from Paradise

Many people only read the entire book of Job as an allegory – yet, there is a lot of specific reference to him as an actual individual and the book provides suitable context to the background of his time period.  The story of Job takes place outside Israel to the east and south (Uz is related to Edom, which may be the setting of the book c.f. chapter 2:11, 6:19; Lamentations 4:21), and it is clear that the author of the book is thoroughly immersed in the Hebrew Scriptures.  This author knew the constellations (Job 9:9; 38:31), could discuss meteorology (Job 38:22-38), and makes direct allusion to other Scriptures (e.g. Psalm 8:4; c.f. Job 7:17-18; Psalm 107:40; Isaiah 41:20; c.f. Job 12:21, 24) – suggesting that the book may be dated in the exilic/post-exilic period (around 600 to 500 BC – approximately just before the Ezra-Nehemiah-Esther books).  However, it has also been surmised that Job predates even the exile – that he may be a contemporary of Abraham’s son Isaac.  See Matthew Henry’s commentary:

We are sure that it is very ancient, though we cannot fix the precise time either when Job lived or when the book was written. So many, so evident, are its hoary hairs, the marks of its antiquity, that we have reason to think it of equal date with the book of Genesis itself, and that holy Job was contemporary with Isaac and Jacob; though not coheir with them of the promise of the earthly Canaan, yet a joint-expectant with them of the better country, that is, the heavenly. Probably he was of the posterity of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, whose first-born was Uz (Gen. xxii. 21), and in whose family religion was for some ages kept up, as appears, Gen. xxxi. 53, where God is called, not only the God of Abraham, but the God of Nahor. He lived before the age of man was shortened to seventy or eighty, as it was in Moses’s time, before sacrifices were confined to one altar, before the general apostasy of the nations from the knowledge and worship of the true God, and while yet there was no other idolatry known than the worship of the sun and moon, and that punished by the Judges, ch. xxxi. 26-28. He lived while God was known by the name of God Almighty more than by the name of Jehovah; for he is called Shaddai–the Almighty, above thirty times in this book. He lived while divine knowledge was conveyed, not by writing, but by tradition; for to that appeals are here made, ch. viii. 8; xxi. 29; xv. 18; v. 1. And we have therefore reason to think that he lived before Moses, because here is no mention at all of the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, or the giving of the law. There is indeed one passage which might be made to allude to the drowning of Pharaoh (ch. xxvi. 12): He divideth the sea with his power, and by his understanding he smiteth through Rahab, which name Egypt is frequently called by in scripture, as Ps. lxxxvii. 4; lxxxix. 10; Isa. li. 9. But that may as well refer to the proud waves of the sea. We conclude therefore that we are here got back to the patriarchal age, and, besides its authority, we receive this book with veneration for its antiquity.

The name “Job” means persecuted, he who weeps – yet could also be related to the Hebrew word for “enemy”, perhaps referring to Job’s response to suffering.  It would appear the earliest reference to Job outside the book itself is in Ezekiel where the prophet names three virtuous persons: Noah, Daniel and Job (Ezekiel 14:14, 20); he is also mentioned in James 5:11 as a man of steadfastness receiving the LORD’s compassion and mercy.  It is important that Job’s “virtue” is interpreted hand in hand with the LORD’s mercy – for Job’s queries of his suffering goes to the heart of the gospel. 

Chapter 1

The first verse opens with describing Job as a “blameless and upright” man who feared God and turned away from evil (c.f. Genesis 6:9 and Genesis 17:1 where the same description is applied to Noah and Abraham).  He was considered the “greatest of all the people of the east” (v.3) and had:

  • 10 offspring (7 sons, 3 daughters)
  • 7,000 sheep; 3,000 camels; 500 yoke of oxen; 500 female donkeys; and very many servants

It is important that Job is from Uz – and in understanding Job 1, we understand the final chapter of Job as well.  Uz is known as a fertile/oasis/garden-like pace – a garden land situated in the east, sounding a lot like the garden in the east mentioned in Genesis 2.  Where Genesis 2 considered sin and death coming into the world, Job considered suffering – an echo of the fall.

Following Esther, note the lavishness of Job’s sons – that each is able to hold a feast each day of the week, with the three sisters joining (v.4).  They are immediately consecrated and Job would arrange burnt offerings for each of them to ensure that their hearts are in the right place – in the Son.  It is important that this first chapter and last chapter of Job show that the book is bookended by burnt offerings, just as Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega.

V.6-12 describe the heavenly beings gathered before God like a council before a king (15:8; Psalm 29:1; Isaiah 6:1-8), notably Satan the chief angel coming among them (implying he, too, is a “son of God”).  Consider what Satan had been doing prior to joining this council in v.7 – Satan had been “going to and fro on earth, and from walking up and down on it”.  This phrase is peculiar, as Adam Clarke comments:

“The translation of the Septuagint is curious: περιελθωντηνγηνκαιεμπεριπατησαςτην υπουρανονπαρειμι; “Having gone round the earth, and walked over all that is under heaven, I am come hither.” The Chaldee says, “I am come from going round the earth to examine the works of the children of men; and from walking through it.” Coverdale, who generally hits the sense, translates thus: I have gone aboute the londe ond walked thorow it. Mr. Good has it, from roaming round the earth, and walking about it.

St. Peter, as has been already stated, 1Pe 5:8, refers to this: Be sober, be vigilant; for your ADVERSARY the DEVIL GOETH ABOUT, as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. I rather think, with Coverdale, that arets here signifies rather that land, than the habitable globe. The words are exceedingly emphatic; and the latter verb hithhallech being in the hithpael conjugation shows how earnest and determined the devil is in his work: he sets himself to walk; he is busily employed in it; he is seeking the destruction of men; and while they sleep, he wakes-while they are careless, he is alert. The spirit of this saying is often expressed by the simple inhabitants of the country: when they perceive a man plotting mischief, and frequent in transgression, they say, The devil is BUSY with him.”

In the devil’s busyness, the LORD said to Satan whether he had considered Job “who fears God and turns away from evil” (c.f. Proverbs 3:7, 14:16, 16:6).  Satan contends that if Job was removed from his circumstances, he would curse God (the same verb used in v.5 regarding the children’s cursing).  Although the Hebrew word literally means “bless”, the book of Job is commonly also seen as a commentary on Deuteronomy 28 – the chapter on blessing (as used in v.5 of Job 1) and cursing from the LORD.  So Satan believed that Job would curse the LORD to his face, whilst Satan “went out from the presence of the LORD” (literally, left the face of the LORD) – ironic, since it is Satan who is the prime adversary who cursed the LORD to his face.

It is therefore important that we are immediately faced with Satan’s power, as allowed by the LORD (reminding us of His divine sovereignty never undermined by Satan’s darkness, c.f. v.9-12).  Job is faced with the following troubles:

  • Sabeans attacking (v.15);
  • Fire coming from heaven (v.16)
  • Chaldeans attacking (v.17)
  • Wilderness wind (v.19)

Such tragedies, immediately coming one after another, is to give Job a sense of restlessness (chapter 9:18) – causing the very deaths of his sons, daughters, and much of his material wealth. 

Yet, Job’s reaction is wise.  He fell on the ground and worshiped (v.20) – what a stark contrast to what Satan expected.  Just like Haman (c.f. Esther) who boasted in what he expected of Mordecai’s death, so Satan also boasted that Job would curse the LORD’s face.  Instead – as the underlying inspiration to the Matt Redman song – blessed be the name of the LORD (v.21).  Even the narrator stated from this that Job did not sin nor did he charge God with wrong (v.22).  

Chapter 2

As a repeat of chapter 1:6-12, v. 1-6 explores the second test proposed by Satan and allowed by the LORD – again, to spare Job’s life (v.6).  This test is with regard to Job’s bone and flesh, his very health (v.5, 7), loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head (v.7).  Job, even in this pain, did not curse God and die; it would seem to be an easier exit from his pain that Job should die as a result of cursing (the foolishness of his wife, identified identically with Satan’s provocation c.f. 1:11, 2:4), but he would rather bless the LORD and live a painful but blessed life (v.9-10).  Thus is Job’s theology (c.f. Psalm 119:75):

“Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”

It is at this point, v.11 onwards, that we meet Job’s three friends – Eliphaz (“God his strength“) the Temanite (an important city in Edom c.f. Genesis 36:11, 15; Ezekiel 25:13; Amos 1:11-12, known for its wisdom – Jeremiah 49:7), Bildad (“son of contention“) the Shuhite (from Shuah, a name of one of the sons of Abraham from his marriage to Keturah, whose brother was Midian and whose nephews were Sheba and Dedan – c.f. Genesis 25:2, 1 Chronicles 1:32; the latter being a place in Edom or Arabia) and Zophar (“sparrow“) the Naamathite (from Naamah, name of a woman listed in Cain’s genealogy – Genesis 4:22, from whom the Kenites were descendants – Genesis 4:22; the Kenites are mentioned in connection with the Midianites in the Sinai and Arabian deserts – Numbers 10:29, Judges 4:11), meeting together to show him sympathy and comfort him.  It would appear that this is the crux of Christian fellowship; to also identify with Job’s pain by tearing their robes and also sprinkling dust on their heads toward heaven (v.12), sitting with him for seven days and seven nights – symbolic of the same amount of time Job’s children used to hold their feasts; but also symbolic of the time God used to create the earth and man – only for man to undo the LORD’s creation on the 7th day (v.13; also signifying a complete time of mourning in response to the suffering – c.f. Ezekiel 3:15).  If only Christians were to learn half of what these friends have done!

Yet, such sympathy and comfort is – like Satan states – skin for skin (v.4).  This is skin-deep – as the flesh of their sympathy and comfort is revealed in the coming chapters. 

Chapter 3

On the eighth day, Job finally opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth – that the day of his birth be darkness (v.4-7), be barren – a large contrast to the joy of creation, the joy of our birth as shown in Genesis 1.  At no stage does he see life as anything other than divine (c.f. 10:8-13), while he poetically focuses on the moment of birth, calling even upon Leviathan (c.f. Psalm 74:14, Isaiah 27:1 – monster used as a figure for Egypt; an awesome creature) as a contribution of lament to his day of birth.  Thus, the opening words of his speech are opened with “let“s in every verse v.3-10.  The next verses 11-26 are characterised by the why’s, ranging from references to kings and princes who laboured to obtain wealth and build cities but now laying without them in death, to the way death removes the constraints of social position, focusing attention on the small and the slave, and those who have been weary or prisoners; ranging from themes of light to death:

  • Why did I not die at birth (v.11)
  • Why did the knees receive me or why the breasts, that I should nurse? (v.12-15)
  • Why was I not as a hidden stillborn child, as infants who never see the light? (v.16-19)
  • Why is light given to him who is in misery and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it comes not, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures, who rejoice exceedingly and are glad when they find the grave? (v.20-22)
  • Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden whom God has hedged in? (v.23-26)

It is possible that Job will not find an answer lest Wisdom be shown (c.f. Job 28; although he does not receive a proper answer until Job 42) – yet, in Job’s accusation – and contrary to Satan’s expected response to Job – Job does not consider his material wealth and health as the cause of his uprightness.  Rather, as the ESV Study Bible states,

“Job refers to his sustained life amid inscrutable circumstances of suffering as rendering him one whom God has hedged in.  Satan’s contention is disproved through Job’s continued faithfulness.  Job’s overall lament of his situation is something which God both reproves and commends (see chs. 38-41; 42:7).”

Job 1-3: Echoes of the Fall from Paradise

Ezra 7-10: Pleading of the High Priest

Chapter 7

The events leading up to chapter 7 have been providing a background to Ezra’s (the name means “help”) involvement in the restoration of Israel, a context and culture in which Ezra operated as the LORD’s key servant in re-building of the Temple.  This is the same Ezra whose lineage is traced directly back to Aaron, the chief priest – as a reminder that it is the High Priest who re-built the temple, and no mere “layman”, pointing towards Jesus the High Priest who is the one who destroyed the temple and also built it up in three days (John 2:19).  Not only is it refreshing to know that this son of the high priest Aaron is the key catalyst behind the Second Temple, but he is also a “scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD the God of Israel had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him”.  Indeed, his faithful walk with Christ has led those around him to grant him favour and understand the ways of the LORD as well.  Therefore, this man is equipped, and ready to leave Babylonia to Israel for the purpose of teaching the LORD’s statutes and rules in Israel (v.10), knowing that the previous six chapters provided the context of the return of the exiles as summarised in v.7-9 of this chapter.  The LORD effectively uses King Artaxerxes to provide Ezra (the refrain, again – “a man learned in matters of the commandments of the LORD and his statutes for Israel” – repeated previously in v.6 and v.10) with the resources (i.e. all the silver and gold that Ezra shall find in the whole province of Babylonia, v.16, the money used to purchase bulls, rams, and lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings, v.17) to do all that is necessary, “according to the will of your God” (v.18).  It is clear from v.11-20 that the king, too, is well-versed in the necessities of Temple maintenance.  What a contrast in v.24 for Artaxerxes to command the treasurers to not impose a tribute, custom or toll on anyone of the specified servants of the house of God (c.f. Rehum and Shimshai’s lies in Ezra 4:11-15).

This chapter ends with a first person commentary of Ezra – indeed, blessed be the LORD who put such a thing as this into the heart of the non-Israelite king, to beautify the house of the LORD that is in Jerusalem.  Whilst the book of Ezra focused primarily on theology than chronology, we saw Zerubbabel and Jeshua’s work on the Second Temple completed by chapter 6; and in the remaining chapters of Ezra, we shall see this scribe of the LORD focus on the community of Israel and the issues of their hearts as revealed later.

Chapter 8

Ezra therefore left Babylonia with a number of exiles to return to rebuilt Jerusalem – yet, his primary concern is the presence of the sons of Levi (v.15), despite the lengthy detail given to the returning exiles in v.1-14.  It is from Iddo that Sherebiah (“heat/flame of the LORD”) (with his sons and kinsmen, sons of Mahli the son of Levi), Hashabiah (“whom God regards”), and Jeshaiah (“salvation of the LORD”) (of the sons of Merari, with his kinsmen and their sons) were appointed, these men (and their kinsmen/sons) making up the 12 leading priests (v.24).  In the same vein, Ezra continues to rely on the LORD for protection by fasting and imploring Him for safety at the river Ahava (meaning “water/essence“), relying not on Artaxerxes’ band of soldiers and horsemen which would otherwise be reliable in worldly eyes.  Most importantly is Ezra’s pronouncement that these men are “holy to the LORD”, a refrain often used as a reminder of the priesthood, the setting apart of Israel from other nations and the Sabbath rest (c.f. Exodus 28:36, 30:37, 31:15, 35:2, 39:30; Deuteronomy 7:6).  This is key, given the events in chapters 9 and 10.

Symbolically, Ezra’s return is timed to a meaningful date in the Israelite calendar.  Where chapter 3 began with the Feast of Booths in the 7th month (Tishri) of the ecclesiastical year, this chapter focuses on the Passover, occuring between the 15th to the 21st of the month of Nisan (the 1st month).  Therefore, whilst under Zerubbabel and Jeshua’s re-institution of the Temple the Feast of Booths and other offerings were kept (fitting in the context of the Feast reminding them of the tent-centric life of Abraham and the saints as we look forward to new creation), under Ezra the re-institution began with the Passover, an equally fitting reminder of the separation of the Israelite community from the captivity of the Egyptians, just as the community is now restored after 70 years of Babylonian captivity.  To conclude this chapter with the words of Matthew Henry as the churches finally entered (a temporary) rest:

“That will be dispensed with when we want opportunity which when the door is opened again will be expected from us. It is observable, … That among their sacrifices they had a sin-offering; for it is the atonement that sweetens and secures every mercy to us, which will not be truly comfortable unless iniquity be taken away and our peace made with God… That the number of their offerings related to the number of the tribes, twelve bullocks, twelve he-goats, and ninety-six rams (that is, eight times twelve), intimating the union of the two kingdoms, according to what was foretold, Ezek. xxxvii. 22. They did not any longer go two tribes one way and ten another, but all the twelve met by their representatives at the same altar.
…That even the enemies of the Jews became their friends, bowed to Ezra’s commission, and, instead of hindering the people of God, furthered them, purely in complaisance to the king: when he appeared moderate they all coveted to appear so too. Then had the churches rest.”

Chapter 9

Throughout chapter 8, the theme of being “holy to the LORD” (taking us back to Exodus and Deuteronomy) has been briefly explored – and immediately Ezra is faced with the challenge of spiritual purity of the returned Israelites.  “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations” – language which is directly lifted from the Deuteronomic law (chapters 13, 14, 17, 18, 22-27).  What beauty then, that in spite of our sins, that the LORD is merciful.  Look at Ezra’s humility as he stood on behalf of Israel before the LORD, praying as if he himself was the High Priest mediating on behalf of the nation, as if it was Christ mediating between Israel and His Father.  The words in v.6-15 could be lifted from the lips of Christ as he bore our sins on the cross – that he should be counted as a worm whilst the burden of the Fall was on His shoulders (Psalms 22:6), pleading in relation to man’s heaven-high guilt (v.6), the nation given into captivity for its iniquities (v.7), that the LORD has not forsaken them in their slavery (v.9), that they still break His commandments (v.10), that they have inter-married against the commandments of the prophets (v.11-14; c.f. Exodus 34; Deuteronomy 7:3).  Ezra recognises that His grace and His steadfast love is still on this remnant of Israel (v.15), preserved as this remnant hides in Christ.

Chapter 10

It is telling that the first person to confess the sin of inter-marriage is from Shecaniah (the name aptly means “dweller with Jehovah or intimate with Jehovah”) son of Jehiel (“God lives”), of the sons of Elam (“eternity”).  It is because of his first confession that the nation is on its first steps to heart-felt recovery, rather than that of the mere infrastructure.  The restoration of the Temple, though centre to the lives of the Israelites, would be meaningless in face of a rebellious remnant.  It would take a man, intimate with Christ, to proclaim the living and eternal God through true repentance by separation from their wives, as Ezra calls for in v.9-11 (though not universally agreed by the Israelites – v.15).  Symbolically, this begins in the 9th month (Kislev – commonly known as the month of “hope”, during the autumn season), lasting until the first day of the first month (v.17 – i.e. Tishri, the month of “beginnings”) – that in this period of refining, Israel would not only hope to be restored but is given a new beginning (and, especially, that even the sons of Jeshua, son of Jozadak (v.18), the Levites (v.23) would be purified from their sins the same way as the other “laymen” of Israel, a reminder that the Israelites are all but sinners, with Ezra standing as the typological mediator between them and the LORD). 

The book interestingly ends on this “census” of those who have sinned and inter-married – a bittersweet mixture of a new beginning under Ezra’s leadership of the community, having established the re-institution of the Temple in the earlier chapters under Zerubbabel and Jeshua; yet time with tell as to whether these sons of intermarriage (v.44) would have a role to play in the first coming of the Messiah and whether they cling to the Promised Seed or become the seeds of Satan, leading Israel astray.

Ezra 7-10: Pleading of the High Priest

2 Chronicles 34-36: Gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world

Chapter 34

Josiah, the last glorious king before Judah’s lengthy captivity in the hands of the Babylonians, sought the LORD when he was sixteen (v.3) and immediately purged the city and the temple in which was the Name of the LORD (2 Chronicles 6).  The cleansing involved the chopping down of altars of Baals (v.4), burning the bones of the priests on their altars as a retribution of the wrath they incurred upon themselves (v.5) and bearing the Asherim and images into powder, cutting down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel (v.7).  At 24 years old (v.8), upon cleaning the land, the Law of the LORD was found (v.8-18), commencing a reformation of Israel once again – just as Christ cleansed our hearts so that the law could be written on them (Jeremiah 31:33) and allow the spiritual Israelites to be reminded that the removal of idolatry comes hand in hand with worshipping the true God and find their identity as His collective children.  Josiah’s reaction (v.21) is exactly that of a person who understands the implications of not truly following Christ and merely “playing church”, as a worshipper of the LORD who does not have His law.  Yet, note the narrator’s decision to state clearly that Josiah had been walking with the LORD since 16; and for 8 years, Josiah had not the law of the LORD to guide Him, yet His mandates were already written on Josiah’s heart by the indwelling Holy Spirit – a reminder that the era before Moses, too, walked with Jesus without the written law.

Note, then, prophetess Huldah’s prophecy on Israel and Judah – that Josiah shall sleep with his fathers (v.28) before witnessing the inevitable tragedy and destruction to fall on Israel.  In the wake of this, Josiah immediately worships the LORD by making a covenant with Him, clearly understanding the purpose of the Law is relational and not simply that of a master bidding a slave to merely work.

Chapter 35

Josiah’s relationship with the LORD upon Huldah’s prophecy is most importantly marked by his keeping of the Passover through the properly elected divisions and positions of the Levites (v.1-6).  Such worship and sacrifice in the face of Israel’s impending disaster (v.7-9)!  Note clearly that no Passover of this grandeur and detail to the iota has been kept since the days of Samuel the prophet, indicating that Josiah’s keeping of the Passover is the ending bookend to the book of Samuel which opens the eras of the kings of Israel.  The repeating refrain in these verses are “according to the king’s command” and “as it is written in the Book of Moses” / “according to the rule“, which prove that the Law is closely adhered to, by the faithful Christian king’s command at a tender age of 26 years.

Yet, Josiah’s death is sudden and is indeed brought about the the Egyptian king Neco, who himself understands to be carrying out the LORD’s will (v.21-22).  It is a strange turn of events, for Neco to state that it would be against His will if Josiah opposes Neco; yet, Huldah had already prophesied that Josiah’s death was the LORD’s grace towards him, in preventing him from seeing Israel’s eventual downfall.  Surely, it is not contrary to God’s will that Josiah oppose Neco and is brought to the grave in return?  Is it not because of Josiah’s faithfulness to even the smallest iota of the Law that Israel has this temporary peace, and thus the king’s removal is tantamount to the LORD’s eventual disciplining of His elected nation?  Observe Matthew Henry’s commentary on Josiah’s death:

“From principles of religion: “God is with me; nay, He commanded me to make haste, and therefore, if thou retard my motions, thou meddlest with God.” It cannot be that the king of Egypt only pretended this (as Sennacherib did in a like case, 2 Kings xviii. 25), hoping thereby to make Josiah desist, because he knew he had a veneration for the word of God; for it is said here ( 22) that the words of Necho were from the mouth of God. We must therefore suppose that either by a dream, or by a strong impulse upon his spirit which he had reason to think was from God, or by Jeremiah or some other prophet, he had ordered him to make war upon the king of Assyria. (3.) From principles of policy: “That he destroy thee not; it is at thy peril if thou engage against one that has not only a better army and a better cause, but God on his side.”
…It was not in wrath to Josiah, whose heart was upright with the Lord his God, but in wrath to a hypocritical nation, who were unworthy of so good a king, that he was so far infatuated as not to hearken to these fair reasonings and desist from his enterprise. He would not turn his face from him, but went in person and fought the Egyptian army in the valley of Megiddo, 22. If perhaps he could not believe that the king of Egypt had a command from God to do what he did, yet, upon his pleading such a command, he ought to have consulted the oracles of God before he went out against him. His not doing that was his great fault, and of fatal consequence. In this matter he walked not in the ways of David his father; for, had it been his case, he would have enquired of the Lord, Shall I go up? Wilt thou deliver them into my hands? How can we think to prosper in our ways if we do not acknowledge God in them?”

Indeed, Josiah died in the Valley of Megiddo (symbolically called the place of crowns).  In further distinction to Matthew Henry’s views, Dev Menon’s commentary on the book of Revelations (chapter 16:15-16) reveals that Josiah’s death at Megiddo is prophetic of a greater death:

” The victory is assured – the armies of the world assemble at the Mount of Megiddo, the very place where Josiah (God supports) was pierced (2 Chronicles 35, Zechariah 12, John 19:37). That is the place of their destruction. The place of the cross.”

Josiah’s death is therefore compared in Zechariah 12 to the death of Christ; and it is in the death of Christ that the disciples were scattered, albeit for 3 days and 3 nights.  It is this short, dark period that the remainder of the Old Testament points towards – the fall and scattering of Israel until Christ’s resurrection, when similarly the Church is restored and shines gloriously.  Here, Josiah’s death prompts the inevitable downfall of Israel, as he is pierced in God’s plan by a Gentile, just as the first Passover was held in Egypt – the same Passover which only king Josiah has kept since the day of Samuel’s leadership.

Chapter 36

In this short chapter we see an usurping of the throne of Josiah’s appointed son (v.2-3), followed by the folly of Eliakim (raised up by God) / Jehoiakim (brother of Josiah’s son Jehoahaz, renamed as Jehoiakim – whom Jehovah sets up, as a mockery that the king of Egypt is Jehovah), and his son Jehoiachin (v.8-9, whom Jehovah has appointed), and Jehoiachin’s brother Zedekiah (justice of the LORD) – the narrator intentionally grouping the three kings together as having hard hearts against the LORD (v.13), leading to Israel’s unfaithfulness (v.14) and failure to keep and protect the house of the LORD (v.7, 14).  Yet, despite His unwavering steadfast love (v.15-16), they kept mocking the messengers of God.

It is in Israel’s own rejection of God that the house of the LORD is destroyed, just as the body of Christ had to be destroyed before being re-built (John 2).  So this temporary destruction of the house is but a prophecy of Israel’s own rejection of Christ, leading to the destruction of the true temple of God – Jesus’ body – just so we could be baptized in Christ’s death and raised in His resurrection (Romans 6:3), just as the Israelites are now scattered and baptised in Christ’s death, and whether they resurrect with His glory or not depends on whether they cling onto Christ or their empty religion for the generations to come.

This resurrection of Israel, akin to Christ’s resurrection, is described at the end of 2 Chronicles which is a sweeter note than that of 2 Kings.  Where in 2 Kings 25 we see a description of grace falling on Jehoiachin, both books of Chronicles’ intention is on a larger scale beyond that of microscopic mercy; rather, Chronicles detail the macroscope of the importance of the priesthood, and the victories of the kings when the priesthood and the Levites are restored to their proper duty – with the temple and Jerusalem being once again the focus of Israel’s identity (c.f. 2 Chronicles 26), given their dual importance as the place of Christ’s work on the cross and a multimedia presentation of the gospel respectively.  Jeremiah’s positive prophecy concerning Israel is therefore not surprising, and had been fulfilled (v.21-22), for Israel’s captivity is but a foreshadowing of Christ’s death on the cross leading to the scattering of the disciples.  That time of darkness was merely temporary.  Similarly, Babylon’s captivity would end under Persia eventual leadership, and Cyrus’ decision to release the Israelites and rebuild the destroyed house in Judah.  Here, for the first time, the Gentiles are not merely contributing to the house of God (i.e. Sheba / other kings paying tributes to Israel in the past) – but Cyrus is proactively commissioning Israelites to rebuild the temple, a foreshadowing of the global evangelism involving both Jews and Gentiles in building up the dwelling place of God on earth.  That is the hope we are left with at the end of 2 Chronicles, that not only Israel, but also the Gentiles, are workers of the resurrected global House of the LORD – but not until after being exiled and banished in the wake of the crucifixion of Josiah, a type of Christ.

2 Chronicles 34-36: Gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world

2 Chronicles 7-9: Golden Age of Israel

Chapter 7

In response to Solomon’s understanding of the gospel as to why and how the LORD’s steadfast love endures forever, the kindling fire of the LORD fills the Temple in v.1-3.  The manifold offerings were accepted (v.4-6), the offering overflowing into the middle of the court before the Temple because the bronze altar was not sufficient!  This is a beautiful time of worship, the type of overflowing love which the Father gives to us through His Son, hence the celebration of the Feast of Booths here between the 15th to the 22nd of the seventh month as described in Leviticus 23:

“33  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 34  “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD. 35  On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. 36  For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.”  As I have explained here, the Feast of Booths is a feast which reminds us of Hebrews 11:8-10, of Abraham looking forward to the day of meeting the God the Father face to face, starting and ending the festivities with rest, foreshadowing the eternal Sabbath of New Creation.  With this “rest” in mind, Solomon sends the people away to their homes, joyful and glad of heart (v.10) because of the LORD blessing the Israelites through David and Solomon, symbolic of his actual blessing through his only begotten Son Jesus.

Jesus then appears to Solomon in the evening (v.12), He responds verbally to Solomon’s pleading in chapter 6, essentially stating that He has chosen and consecrated the Temple that His name may be there forever, His eyes and His heart there for all time (v.16).  Yet, again, v.17-22 is a reminder of the demise of Israel as the kings failed to walk with Christ – failing to receive the wisdom, the Spirit, whom Solomon asked for after he was anointed a second time as king.  Yet, the caveat is still v.36-39 in chapter 6 – that even if Israel does become a proverb and a byword among all peoples (v.20-22), a reminder of those who forsake the LORD, He will still forgive so long as Christ is their King – for His steadfast love endures forever.

Chapter 8

Now we turn to the daily life of the Israelite – and here we see Solomon assigning forced labour tasks to the Gentiles, the once-enemies of Israel; rather than destroying them, he extends his hand gracefully to keep them in the land although as bondservants of Solomon.  Contrarily, the Israelite enjoys other positions of work (v.9), a sign again of the “work” in new creation.  This “work” should be placed in the context of the various ministries and delegations in 1 Chronicles 27-29 under the ruling of David (v.14) – and the three annual feasts as described throughout Leviticus as reminders of the Trinity, from the Son (the Passover), to the Spirit (the Pentecost), and to the Father (Sukkot).

Here there is a seemingly strange interjection of Solomon’s visit to Ezion-geber and Eloth in the land of Edom, and together with Hiram, going to Ophir to obtain 450 talents of gold.  Matthew Henry observes it thus:

“He did himself in person visit the sea-port towns of Eloth and Ezion-geber; for those that deal much in the world will find it their interest, as far as they can, to inspect their affairs themselves and to see with their own eyes, Canaan was a rich country, and yet must send to Ophir for gold; the Israelites were a wise and understanding people, and yet must be beholden to the king of Tyre for men that had knowledge of the seas. Yet Canaan was God’s peculiar land, and Israel God’s peculiar people. This teaches us that grace, and not gold, is the best riches, and acquaintance with God and his law, not with arts and sciences, the best knowledge.”

It is indeed true that the Temple is already filled with gold, to convey the majesty of the LORD’s presence through Israel; yet Israel is not rich with gold itself but with other natural resources (Numbers 13:27).  Israel is therefore not a “self-sufficient” nation, but a nation which requires inheritance of resources from neighbouring nations, but not by becoming their allies or assimilating their practices (Deuteronomy 18) – but by preaching the gospel to them (Matthew 5:5) and teaching all to be meek before the LORD.  This is adequately expressed in chapter 9, with the Queen of Sheba’s visit (carrying spices and gold) immediately juxtaposed to Solomon’s expeditions for these resources.  One can presume that Solomon’s dedication to the LORD in the previous chapters, and his voyages to Ezion-geber, Eloth and Ophir have created the impression of a priest-king-evangelist, missional in his outlook and ensuring that other nations are, too, blessed by the gospel.

Chapter 9

See my commentary on the Queen of Sheba’s visit here.  Her contribution to Israel is described to have coincided with Hiram’s contribution – both bringing gold – one from Sheba, the other from Ophir (v.10) and rare elements for the Temple, Solomon’s house, and lyres and harps for the singers.

However, this is but the beginning of the famed “Golden Age” of Israel – and quite literally so.  From v.13-28, we see a variety of gold and silver brought in from explorers, merchants, from the kings of Arabia and governors of the land – used for shields (v.14-16), for overlaying a great ivory throne (v.17-18), for the king’s drinking vessels (v.20) – and the resources kept coming (v.21; making silver as common as stone v.27).  This grand depiction of the LORD’s material and spiritual blessing is summed in v.22-23 – “Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom.  And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind“.  They came not to receive items from Solomon – but simply to learn of the LORD’s wisdom!  Such was the glorious kingdom under the headship of a king who followed, sought, and met with Christ.  Never was the gospel so gloriously communicated in Israel, not until the time of Christ’s first coming.

2 Chronicles 7-9: Golden Age of Israel

2 Chronicles 4-6: Solomon’s understanding of the gospel

Chapter 4

See my commentary on the making of the temple from here onwards.

Let me re-emphasise the importance of distinguishing between Solomon delegating the work of building the temple and being described as actually, first-hand, building it.  As was the case in 2 Chronicles 3:1 – “Solomon began to build the house of the LORD…”, chapter 3:8 – “And he made the Most Holy Place…”, followed by chapter 4:1, “He made an altar of bronze…”, v.6 – “He also made ten basins…”, v.7-9 – “And he made ten golden lampstands as prescribed… He also made ten tables and placed them in the temple… He made the court of the priests…”.

Compare this immediately with Hiram’s contribution to the temple building – “Hiram also made the pots, the shovels, and the basins.  So Hiram finished the work that he did for King Solomon on the house of God” (consisting of the pillars, the latticework on the pillars, the stands, and the equipment – see v.12-16).  This is a firm reminder that the foundation of the temple, just as the foundation of the gospel, was not laid down by an Israelite – but by a person of mixed heritage, perhaps even a non-Israelite – such that Abraham himself was not even an Israelite, a time long before the nation Israel even existed.  However, apart from the materials and a skilled man (see chapter 2:13-16), Hiram’s fundamental contributions are not symbolic to the same extent as Solomon’s role in the temple building which the LORD has clearly reserved for this typological son, more fitting even than David.  Solomon’s contributions and the things he has built (the Holy Place; the temple furniture; priestly court) are of substance to the meaning of the temple, and Hiram’s service is but a setting up of the scene for Solomon and His LORD and Father to receive the first and last credit.

Chapter 5

Finally, the most important furniture of the temple, being the Ark of Covenant, in which are the two tablets of Moses (v.10) and brought to its resting place – symbolically, “Zion” (as opposed to its common name, Jerusalem) – the city of God (Hebrews 12:22) though often referred typologically as the city of David (c.f. 2 Samuel 5:7).  The movement of the Ark to the temple mount at Moriah upon the completion of the Temple, with cherubim spreading out their wings over the place of the ark (v.8) is thus foreshadowing of Christ’s second return and the Father finally coming to meet us face-to-face in New Creation at the end of Christ’s on-going work in the current end-times:

“The “Mercy Seat”, the gold used for the entire structure (made of wood) should also be considered as a throne – in 1 Samuel 4:4 the language used is that the ark of the covenant is enthroned between the cherubim.  No doubt, this ark also symbolised the throne of the Father in heaven – c.f. Daniel 7:9-10 and Revelation 4:1-3.  The former book speaks of the Ancient of Days, whose throne was flaming with fire, and wheels were all ablaze.  The latter letter speaks of the throne in heaven where a rainbow, resembling an emerald encircled the throne.  Although the throne was spoken of in two different manners, the lake of fire coming out from the throne is akin to the lake of fire referred to in Revelation 20:15.  However, the throne of the Father in heaven, if speaking of the covenant rainbow established after the global diluvian punishment, then the message spoken of is that of peace and eternity, rather than contention and eternal hell. Then there is Isaiah 37:16 who speaks of the LORD who dwells between the cherubim; and Ezekiel 1:4-5, 26-28 speaks of four living creatures and the throne of God…” (taken from here)

The whole picture is of the Father meeting us at Moriah from Zion, the city of God, founded on the Son’s sacrifice on the cross as witnessed by the laws and tablets of Moses (John 1:45; Acts 26:22, 28:23) as kept by the Ark of Covenant (c.f. chapter 6:11).  This is indeed the whole gospel – not just that of Christ on the cross, but what the event points towards, which is our fellowship with the Trinity in New Creation.  It is this reason that the Levitical singers praise Him – “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (v.13).  And what is “love” if not Christ the Person (as commonly misunderstood in 1 Corinthians 13!)?

Chapter 6

Hence the beauty that is chapter 6 – Solomon’s actual understanding of what the Temple represents.  This should very much characterise Israel as a nation and whether it fails or continues to act as the ordained national priesthood for other nations (Exodus 19:6) just as the Levites are to Israel.  The LORD would only dwell with us through the Temple, through the various symbolic messages communicated in the Temple furniture, all of which is a “multimedia representation” (stated by Paul Blackham, in his explanation of the tabernacle to a Bible study meeting in All Souls in 2007) of the gospel.  Solomon is writing in a format slightly similar to that of the Book of Proverbs, a question followed by an answer, a statement followed by a seemingly contradictory statement.  See v.5 where he recites that the LORD has brought His people out of Egypt but chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel, and chose no man as prince over Israel; yet He has also chosen Jerusalem (admittedly, not a name of any of the tribes of Israel) and has also chosen a man, David, as prince over Israel (1 Samuel 13:14; and now Solomon – 1 Chronicles 29:22) as described in v.6.

This if followed by a re-statement that the LORD shows steadfast love to His servants who walk before Him with all their heart (v.14), and that Israel will not be without a man on the throne is only the LORD’s sons would pay close attention to their way (v.16).  As revealed by 1 and 2 Kings, such “sons”, princes and kings have failed miserably and have led Israel into captivity, and only the Anointed, Elected and Chosen Son and Prince of the Father could truly walk before the Father and cling onto His bosom tightly (John 1:18).  Almost as if it were a response to this, Solomon declares – “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth?“.  The Hebrew seems to indicate a rhetorical question demanding a “No – God cannot dwell with man on earth surely!”, although Young’s Literal translation assists in rephrasing the sentence as “For is it true? — God dwelleth with man on the earth!“.  The latter translation in fact, even if not entirely accurate, is closer to Solomon’s understanding of the gospel and the workings of the temple, as revealed in the remainder of chapter 6:

v.19-21: Opening:  Solomon opens with pleading the LORD to have regard to the prayer of His servant (Solomon) and to Solomon’s plea, as well as the pleas of the Israelites (v.21) when they pray to the Temple (which is clearly a novel practice given the Temple is a new creation in itself!);

v.22-23: Sinning against neighbour:  the man with the false oath shall be punished, and the righteous vindicated, as exposed before the altar;

v.24-25: Israel’s defeat due to its sins:  turning once again to the LORD at the temple and His house, where He shall hear from heaven (note: not the house) and forgive the people’s sin;

v.26-27: No rain due to Israel’s sin:  will lead to forgiveness if they pray toward the Temple and acknowledge the LORD’s name and turning from their sin;

v.28-31: Famine in the land due to pestilence / blight / mildrew / locust / caterpillar:  whatever prayer / plea made by any man or by the Israelites, knowing their own afflications and sorrows, shall be granted the LORD’s protection;

v.32-33: Foreigners:  should they go to worship the LORD at the Temple, the LORD may fulfill his prayers to expedite the conversation of neighbouring nations;

v.34-35: Battling against enemies:  should Israelites go out to battle against their enemies, the LORD shall have their cause maintained by their prayer to the chosen city and Temple;

v.36-39: Sinning against the LORD: as an umbrella to all that above, if any man sins against the LORD, and the LORD is angry with such a person and gives him/her to the enemy as captive, v.37-39 – “yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity, saying, “We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly, if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their captivity to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name… maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you“.

The repeated refrain that the LORD hears from heaven His dwelling place is, on the one hand, Solomon’s understanding that the LORD could never see the Temple as His actual shelter; a fitting pretext to the entire chapter’s devotion to people praying towards the Temple for the LORD’s mercy.  In this sense, Solomon is stating time and time again that the Temple is but a shadow to the LORD’s true dwelling place, which is heaven.  Yet, at the same time, the LORD has chosen Jerusalem and David to be the respective city and prince where His Name is sealed – both being “mortal” city and man.  In the various scenarios outlined above, it is the final few verses which hit the heart of Solomon’s message – that the LORD’s steadfast love means no man shall ever fear of being apostate due to their own sin (a fitting interpretation of Hebrews 6), except the unforgiveable sin of continual rejection of Christ, the Person witnessed by Moses’ law in the Ark of Covenant.  Though heaven be the LORD’s dwelling place, His acts are clearly incarnate in His gracious dealings with men in spite of their sin, which could not be possibly dealt with save for the saving work symbolised in the Temple.  Solomon does not even mention the need to go through the offerings detailed in Leviticus, but pleads with the LORD that a proper Christological understanding of the Temple is sufficient for them to see that the object of faith for Old Testament Christians is Christ the Person, not Ark / Altar / Lamb the shadow.  It is only in this sense that the LORD’s “priests… be clothed with salvation… [and the] saints rejoice in [His] goodness” (c.f. language in Isaiah 61:11 – the garment of salvation as a gift from the LORD), undergirded by the LORD’s steadfast love for David as contingent upon him remaining face to face with His anointed one, predominantly Jesus Christ the Anointed One.

Solomon therefore clearly understood the gospel as we understand it today:

1.  The Father shall dwell with us upon the completion of the work of the Son;

2.  His true dwelling place was never in the shadow of old creation, such as the temple, but in his current heavenly dwelling;

3.  No man could have his sins pardoned except by praying to the LORD through the Temple, symbolising the work of Christ on the cross;

4.  God could not possibly forgive any such men without remembering first the steadfast love for David, and remaining face to face with the anointed one.  Or in the better words of Matthew Henry:

“We may plead, as Solomon does here, with an eye to Christ:–“We deserve that God should turn away our face, that he should reject us and our prayers; but we come in the name of the Lord Jesus, thy anointed, thy Messiah (so the word is), thy Christ, so the LXX. Him thou hearest always, and wilt never turn away his face. We have no righteousness of our own to plead, but, Lord, remember the mercies of David thy servant.” Christ is God’s servant (Isa. xlii. 1), and is called David, Hos. iii. 5. “Lord, remember his mercies, and accept us on the account of them. Remember his tender concern for his Father’s honour and man’s salvation, and what he did and suffered from that principle. Remember the promises of the everlasting covenant, which free grace has made to us in Christ, and which are called the sure mercies of David,” Isa. lv. 3 and Acts xiii. 34. This must be all our desire and all our hope, all our prayer and all our plea; for it is all our salvation.”

2 Chronicles 4-6: Solomon’s understanding of the gospel

1 Chronicles 24-26: Spirit before brawn

Chapter 24 therefore continues with the children of Aaron (excluding Nadab and Abihu – see Numbers 3:4), organising the priests by sixteen heads under the sons of Eleazar (organised by Zadok), and eight under the sons of Ithamar (organised by Ahimelech) – listed under v.7-19, by casting lots and leaving it to the LORD’s decision (Proverbs 16:33).  David then moves on to organise the musicians in chapter 25.  Note the quality of the men chosen, and their gift of prophecy – (i) the sons of Asaph who prophesied under Asaph (“collector of the people“), and Asaph who prophesied under the direction of the king; (ii) the sons of Jeduthun, under the direction of Jeduthun (“praising“), who prophesied with the lyre in thanksgiving and praise to the LORD (v.3); and (iii) the sons of Heman, under the direction of Heman (“faithful“).  Not only were these men prophetic (v.1), but these were skilled (v.7) and were above all compliant with the orders of the king (v.6).  Again, these men were chosen by casting of lots for their small and great duties, reserving these decisions once again to the LORD.  Such men, filled with the Holy Spirit, thus combine their musical talents to worship, to praise, and to prophecy – and they are brilliant models enabling us to see the different corners of the ancient Church doing His work through various means.

Next, chapter 26 re-counts the divisions of the gatekeepers, sons of Meshelemiah (friendship of Jehovah, v.2-3); sons of Obed-edom (servant of Edom, v.4-8; the sons of Shemaiah, son of Obed-edom, in v.7-8); sons of Merari (sad, bitter, v.10) – lots, too, were cast for their duties and gates as follows:

1.  East:  Shelemiah (whom Jehovah repays) (six Levites each day)

2.  North:  Zechariah (Jehovah is renowned / remembered), a shrewd counselor (four Levites each day)

3.  South:  Obed-edom and his sons (four Levites each day, as well as two and two at the gatehouse)

4.  West:  Shuppim (serpents) and Hosah (refuge) (four Levites at the road, and two at the colonnade).

Ahijah (brother / friend of Jehovah) is then described in v.20 as having charge of the treasuries of the house of God and of the dedicated gifts, the sons of Jehieli (treasured of God) (sons of the Gershonites belonging to Ladan – v.21-22) being in charge of the treasuries.

Shelomoth (peaceful), another from the line of Moses (v.25), with his brothers were in charge of all the treasuries of the dedicated gifts (v.26-28).

It is interesting how the description of the gatekeeping comes before the allocation for the gifts; for the temple itself requires gatekeeping not due to the gifts; nor does the temple itself require protection.  Quite the contrary, as was the case with the flaming sword in Eden (Genesis 3:24), the purpose was for our protection (c.f. 1 Chronicles 13:10) so that we do not waltz into the temple without the blood and robe of Christ (Isaiah 61:11).  The temple treasuries and dedicated gifts are but a re-treading of Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7), but it is the gatekeeping of the temple which reminds us that our offer of worship through such gifts are to come after the objective truth of our sin which must be dealt with at the temple by the blood of the Chosen Lamb.

And the other sons of the Kohathites (assembly) (c.f 1 Chronicles 23:12), the Izrahites (descendant of Zerah, rising of the sun) were appointed to external duties; the Hebronites (alliance) had oversight of Israel westward of the Jordan for all the work of the LORD and for the king’s service; Jerijah (people of Jehovah) of the Hebronites in particular was responsible for the genealogy or fathers’ houses – appointing him and his brothers to have oversight of the Reubenites, Gadites and half-tribe of the Manassites.

Thus, chapters 24-26 clarify once again the importance of the Levites in the important works surrounding the temple and also consolidating Israel’s identity as priesthood to all nations (Exodus 19:6) before its military persona (described in chapter 27, after the allocation of roles to the Levites in chapters 23-26) which is but temporary and holds no candle to the peace which the true Solomon shall bring to Israel (1 Chronicles 23).

Concluding these chapters, Matthew Henry comments on David’s allocations of roles in particular in relation to the Reubenites, Gadites and half-tribe Manassites:

“Either those remote tribes were not so well furnished as the rest with judges of their own, or because they, lying furthest from Jerusalem and on the borders of the neighbouring nations, were most in danger of being infected with idolatry, and most needed the help of Levites to prevent it. The frontiers must be well guarded.  This is said to be done (as were all the foregoing settlements) in the fortieth year of the reign of David (v.31), that is, the last year of his reign. We should be so much the more industrious to do good as we can see the day approaching. If we live to enjoy the fruit of our labours, grudge it not to those that shall come after us.”

One would imagine military allocations would be more fitting if these men were placed on the borders of Israel most susceptible to pagan invasion or influence; yet, in David’s wisdom and in the LORD’s will through His divine allotment, the priests continue to take the higher and preceding role in Israel’s identity to the other nations.  Never once should Israel confuse itself as a neighbouring nation (Deuteronomy 18:9), but to remember that it is a nation chosen to be saved by the grace of the Father through their submission to the Passover Lamb.

1 Chronicles 24-26: Spirit before brawn