John Kitto Evening Bible Devotions: January 7

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John Kitto Evening Bible Devotions: January 7

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Job’s Greatness


There are five or six kinds of greatness—the greatness of high station—the greatness of high and heroic, but not necessarily good, exploits—the greatness which wealth confers—the greatness which high gifts of intellect or acquirement bestow—the greatness of high aims and generous purposes—and, lastly the greatness of goodness, which may exist apart from all or any of these, or in combination with all or any of them, but without which no greatness bears the sterling mint-mark of Heaven.

Job is presented to us as a great man—“the greatest of all the men of the East.” Wherein lay his greatness? His rank was high—perhaps the highest in his state of life, being that of emir or patriarch of his clan or tribe. His wealth, of the same sort as that of the Hebrew patriarchs, was immense, particularly in various kinds of useful cattle, and in slaves. Nor was this all. He was less exclusively a pastoral man than they were; for, although it is too little noticed, he was also a cultivator of the ground, an owner or renter of land, adding the wealth of agriculture to that of pasturage. This is shown by the fact, that his oxen are numbered by yokes; and still more by the circumstance, that his servants are actually represented as “plowing in the field,” where one of his calamities fell upon him. Moreover, and it is important on other grounds to take notice of this, Job dwelt not in tents, but in a house—not in camps, but in a town—having a fixed and not a movable residence, though his shepherds doubtless went out afar with his flocks. This is the state of life depicted as that led by the elder branches of Abraham’s family at Haran—the state of life which that great father of the faithful quitted, relapsing into a more simple pastoral life, to meet the alteration of his circumstances when he was required to go into a strange country, “not knowing whither he went.” This of course affords a corroboration to the opinion, that Job not only belonged to this state of life, but to this region. Those greatly err who set down his state of life as that of the Bedouin shepherd. He belonged to that condition which fluctuated between that of the wandering shepherd and that of the settled inhabitant of towns find cultivator of the ground; and this mixed condition of life, which is still to be witnessed in some parts of western Asia, sufficiently accounts for the diversified character of the allusions and pictures which the book contains—to the pastoral life and the scenes and products of the wilderness; to the scenes and circumstances of agriculture; and to the arts and sciences of settled life and advancing civilization.

What was the extent of Job’s wealth from agricultural sources we do not know; but his pastoral wealth is more calculable, the number of his cattle being stated; and certainly that alone, even in the present state of things, and at the present rate of value in south-western Asia, among persons in this form of life, would still place him among the greatest of the men of the East. He had 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 1000 oxen, and 500 she-asses, and “a very great household.” This is all immense property, according to the present wealth of the large pastoral chiefs, whether Arab or Turcoman. From all the information we possess, the cattle thus enumerated should be worth from 30,000 l. to 40,000 l.—nearer the latter sum than the former. In this we estimate the worth of a camel at ten pounds, the oxen at one pound each, and the sheep at three for one pound, which we apprehend to be about the average value in western Asia. The value of the asses is more difficult to determine, as so much depends upon their breed and their use. The comparatively small number seems to indicate the highest value; and as they were probably used for riding, it may be that their value was scarcely less than that of the camels. But in all this calculation we are not to overlook the fact, that money is now, and doubtless was still more formerly, of greatly higher value in the East than it is with ourselves; and that, therefore, such a sum as we have named would be in reality of much higher value than with us, seeing that it would go so much farther in exchange for the commodities purchasable with money—particularly in a state of life resembling the patriarchal, and in which, as at present existing, a sheikh or emir, with property worth only 5000 l. or 6000 l., is regarded as most wealthy, and really is such relatively to the circumstances of his people. By this it will appear that Job’s wealth in cattle alone was indeed princely, without taking into account his means derived from agriculture—that is, virtually from the employment of his numerous servants, from the labor of the cattle, and from the usufruct of his lands. We should not be astonished were someone to calculate that the mere value of Job’s cattle constituted scarcely the half of his real wealth.

But Job had not only the greatness which station, and which wealth, in all ages and under all conditions of society, bestow, but he had the greatness of high gifts and noble aims. The former is evinced by the richness of his imagery in discourse, the cogency of his arguments, and the high poetry of his utterances; and the latter by his own declarations, and by the admission of his friends—who, in declaring what he had seemed to be, showed what he was—for there was no hypocrisy in Job.

And all this was crowned and consummated by the supreme greatness of goodness, without which any human greatness is of most small account in the sight of God. For it is said most emphatically that this man “was perfect and upright, and one that feared God and eschewed evil.” This is the highest character ever given to man—so high, that, compassed about with infirmity as the best of men are, we almost shrink from acknowledging its applicability to any man that ever lived—even to Job. This subject is one of interest and importance, and will form a most suitable subject for our contemplation on the approaching Lord’s-day.