The Apostle assumes that we are not ignorant of Satan’s devices (2Co_2:11), and among the sources of our knowledge respecting them, the history of Job and his trials is most conspicuous. An attentive consideration of the whole matter, in that point of view, would be most instructive. To track his various windings, dodges, and maneuvers for the purpose of circumventing Job, and of bringing peril upon his soul, might be made a study of surpassing interest and high edification.
Look, for instance, at his penetrating knowledge of man’s heart, and his masterly generalship in working upon it, as evinced in the mere order and succession of his assaults upon Job. After having, as he supposed, weakened and dispirited this good man by his previous attacks, he comes with his most fierce and terrible charge last of all, confident that by this management, the last stroke must overwhelm and destroy him. This seems to be a favorite tactic with him—to come down upon us with his strongest assaults when he thinks we are at the weakest.
It is easy to perceive, that if Satan had suffered Job to hear first of the death of his children, all the rest would have been of small account to him. Little would he have cared for the loss of his cattle, after having heard that all his children had been crushed to death by the fall of the house. As, when some one great sorrow falls upon us, the heart can find no joy in the good that at other times bestows delight—so also does one great evil swallow up all sense and feeling of lesser troubles. Here, therefore, we behold the wiliness of Satan. Lest Job should lose any of the smart of the lesser afflictions, lest they should all have been swallowed up in the greater, be lays them out in order, the lesser first, the greater last, that his victim may not lose one drop of the bitterness in the cup mixed by the lord of poisons for him. It reminds one of the continental executions of great criminals in the last age, when the condemned was tortured, maimed, and broken, before the coup de grace was given. Had this stroke been given at first, all else had been nothing. “We observe in war,” says Caryl, but we cannot vouch for the exactness of his observation, “that when once the great ordnance are discharged, the soldiers are not afraid of the muskets. So when a great battery is made by some thundering terrible judgment upon the soul, or upon the body or estate of any man; the noise and force of lesser evils are drowned and abated. Therefore, Satan keeps his greatest shot to the last, that the small might be heard and felt, and that the last, coming in greater strength, may find the least strength to resist it.”
The overwhelming intensity of this affliction beyond all the others, it needs no argument to show. Every heart feels it. A man’s children are more to him than all else he has in the world—more than wealth, greatness, fame, or life. And these were all taken away from the patriarch of Uz at one stroke. To lose all one’s children is surely as grievous as to lose one only child, which is described by the prophet as the highest and deepest sorrow known to man: “They shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son,” Zec_12:10. Further, all his children were lost to Job, with circumstances tending greatly to aggravate the deep distress which such a loss must have occasioned under any circumstances. They were all taken away suddenly. Had death sent them a summons by its usual messenger, sickness, even but a day or two before they departed, it had much sweetened the bitterness of the cup to the survivor. His mind would have been in some measure prepared, or rather not wholly unprepared, for the event; and he would have found some comfort in the thought, that some small time to prepare their minds and his own for so great a change had been given. But to hear that they were dead—all dead, before he knew that even one of them was sick—that they were dead when he deemed them to be rejoicing in the gladness of their young hearts—were enough well nigh to burst a father’s heart.
Besides, they died a violent death. Had they died in their beds, although suddenly, there had been one pang the less in it. At the present time in the East, such a death is accounted martyrdom; but to the ancient mind, it bore the aspect of a judgment—a mark of the Divine wrath; and this notion naturally grew out of systems which looked but little, if they looked at all, beyond the life that now is. Even in this land, with all its light, and in spite of the contrary declaration of our Savior, there still lingers a disposition to regard sudden death in the light of a divine judgment; and this, which is here merely a leaning of the uninstructed mind, was an article of positive belief in the ancient world. Suspicion would thus arise, amongst better than “barbarous people,” if positive censure passed not, when merely a viper was seen to hang upon the hand even of a Paul (Acts 28); and from our Lord’s question, it is more than probable that those eighteen, upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them, were supposed by the people, merely from their fate, to have been the greatest sinners in Jerusalem.
Considering the apprehension Job had previously entertained of some danger lurking in the feastings of his sons, it may well be supposed that it aggravated his distress to learn that his children had perished while engaged in those enjoyments which the high blood of youth often renders dangerous. Knowing the patriarch’s great anxiety on this point, it was doubtless deemed by Satan his masterpiece in this day’s work, to take them from him, under circumstances which might suggest to their bereaved father that they had been really taken by the judgment of God, and to fill his mind with alarm for the safety of their souls, or at least with strong doubts of their preparedness to meet their God. If Job saw cause to fear that his sons had died unreconciled to God, and with unrepented sins upon their heads, this had been the crowning grief, and was, as Satan reckoned, effectually calculated to shake his righteousness, by putting into his mind hard thoughts of the Lord, who had been, as it seemed to him, so swift in judgment, and had taken his sons at such disadvantage.
This, then, was Job’s greatest loss and severest trial.
In tracing the dark and blood-red cycle of Job’s afflictions, we miss the purpose for which these things were written, if we do not learn to hold all our blessings with a loose hand. There could be no one whose estate was better gotten, better founded, or better managed, than Job’s; yet in one short day all was gone. In the morning, he had a fair estate, and numerous children in whom he saw the roots of his honors planted deep. In the things of this world; all was as great and good as the heart of man could desire. There was strength and luster in and upon all that he had. But in the evening all had departed as a dream when one awaketh; and he stood among the ruins of his greatness—poor, childless, and desolate.