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BIRTHPLACE OF THE BOOK OF JOB.

SECTION IV.

SATAN IN THE BOOK OF JOB.

The Shemitic view of God in its most rigorous form has now been set before you in its relations with the Old Testament Scriptures. A qualified conception of it is presented in the book of Job. The degeneracy is both marked and measured by the appearance in the composition of a being called Satan. This is the central point toward which my present remarks must tend. What is Satan in the Scripture? An individual reality? or an offshoot of Oriental imagination?

The age when the book inscribed with the name of Job was produced is a matter of dispute, after all the discussions the subject has undergone. With some critics, it is the most ancient book of the Old Testament; with others, it has its place among the most recent. Others, again, assign it a medium date. In their judgment, it was produced in the classic period of the Hebrew literature, perhaps under the reign of Solomon. This time is strongly recommended by the fact that then Hebrew culture and the fame of that culture extended from Jerusalem, its centre, far and wide over conterminous lands. Idumæa was a minor centre of the same literary skill and fame. This probably is the birthplace of the book of Job. Commonly accounted a Hebrew work, it is totally free from a specially Hebrew colouring, making no mention, not even by implication, of the Mosaic law or the institutions which gathered around it. Among those institutions was a complicated system of sacrificial offerings, in part derived from ages long anterior to Moses, in part parasitic accretions, which, coming from sacerdotal and other quarters, fastened themselves on the body of the Mosaic religion. This system of sacrifices was in operation during the long period. at some point of which the book of Job came into existence. Had it been produced in the land of Canaan, had it been pro

SUBJECT OF THE BOOK OF JOB.

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duced under the religious influences to which its natives were devoted, it must have borne a larger or smaller, a superficial, if not a deep, imprint of the sacrificial religion of Israel. And this the rather, because the question on which the narrative turns is one of the most vital importance; namely, the great problem of evil, specially in relation to its retributions. Here is Job, a sincerely religious man, overwhelmed with calamity and suffering. How can the fact be accounted for? If God is good and righteous, how can such an one as Job have to endure suffering? But suffering he has to endure; perhaps, then, the lack of righteousness is on his side, and not on the side of God? The question is debated by the interlocutors. They find no solution. The knot that cannot be untied is at last cut. God's sovereign will explains all. What does man know of God and his ways? Let man be humbled in the dust. Let him bow down and acknowledge God's right to do as he pleases, and then God will recompense the pious and prostrate worshiper. Such is Job's position and such his reward. And all this in Palestine, which swarms with daily sacrifices specially designed to meet and answer the great questions of sin, suffering and forgiveness. It must be acknowledged that if the land of Israel is the stage whereon this drama unrolls itself, the book is thoroughly untrue to its scenery.

So unlikely a circumstance, combined with other considerations, has led recent critics of the highest repute to fix the place of the alleged events in the land of Edom, lying on the south-east of Palestine, whose capital, Petræa, was distinguished for skill in the highest civilization of the day, and whose sages were specially renowned for religious sentiment and practical morality; albeit they seem to have had a certain tincture of religious speculation in their nature, so as to be inclined to debate questions of doubtful issue, shunned as unbecoming by the less reflective piety of genuiue Hebrewism. The locality thus preferred has the additional recommendation of being in unison with the scenery of heaven and earth pre

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SATAN AN ACTOR IN A SACRED DRAMA.

sented in this composition. In favour of this view I should, did space allow, cite the opinion of one of the most accomplished Oriental scholars, Ernest Renan.* Renan moreover states that the book of Job is founded on a legend. Certainly it is a poem. With the exception of a brief prologue and a brief epilogue, the whole book is poetic both in form and spirit. It is a didactic poem, after the manner of Pope's "Essay on Man." So manifest is the fact as to create astonishment that any one versed in study should ever have supposed it a history.

With a true knowledge of the character of the composition, the historical reality of its Satan falls to the ground. Satan is simply one of the actors in the sacred drama. The restoration to Satan of his real character brings the book back into the category of Shemitic literature and Shemitic thought to which, in the main, it unquestionably belongs; yet belongs with a difference. That difference lies in this, that although the book of Job knows nothing of the Turanian and Aryan dualism, and regards God's will as equally without rival and without control, it yet mentions another being which many have identified with the Aryan devil.

Read the words which

Totally, however, without reason. appertain to Satan as found in the Bible.

The narrative is doubtless equally simple and graphic. So much likelihood to truth does it contain, that so long as it remains in its own phraseology it commands assent and concurrence. Nevertheless, the moment you try to re-create the picture in your own mind, you become vividly sensible of the

* Le Livre de Job, traduit de l'Hebreu par Ernest Renan, Membre de l'Institut. 1 vol. 8vo. Paris, 1859. In speaking thus favourably of Renan, I confine myself to his scholarship. The man and his opinions are somewhat fully and critically reviewed by me in "A MANUAL OF CHRISTIAN EVIDENCE, containing, as an Antidote to current Materialistic Tendencies, particularly as found in the Writings of Ernest Renan, an Outline of the Manifestation of God in the Bible, in Providence, in History, in the Universe, and in the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. By John R. Beard, D.D. 8vo. bound. Price 10s. 6d. London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co. (The Editor.)

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incongruity of the whole and its several parts with the deepest moral intuitions of your soul. So certainly is this the experience of every ecclesiastically untutored mind, that it is among the strangest of mental and moral phenomena that the scene should ever have imposed itself as a reality on any ordinarily cultivated person.

Reproduce, then, in your own thought the idea here given you of God. Instead of God, say "My own father," and then ascribe to your father what is here attributed to God. You shrink from repeating the impieties that must ensue aloud. Yet I entreat you to go over the whole scene, simply substituting, with the necessary verbal changes, the words "My father" for God. Then say, can that be true of God which would be a shameless calumny if uttered of your father? What! is then the Scripture false which runs in these words: "Let no man when he is tempted say, I am tempted of God; for God tempteth not any one" (James i. 13). Yet God not only tempts Job, but, according to the orthodox view, he employs the basest, yet the most powerful, of evil spirits to be his instrument in the unworthy task. Nay, when, for the first time Job comes out of temptation uninjured, he lays another snare, and one of such a nature that the victim is caught and brought to moral and spiritual despair. Moreover, while God, as the prime agent thus commits acts which, if done by any father in any village in England, would call forth a cry of indignant reprobation against so unnatural a parent, God is made to declare to Satan in express terms, "Thou movedst me against him." What! God moved by Satan? The infinitely wise and good One moved by the incarnation of evil to a wicked act!—that is, to assail a second time, and with more effectual weapons, a human being strong enough to resist for the first time both God and the devil? And do you call this history? Reality? Is this the God of the Bible? Is this really in the Bible? Every pious mind will long to answer, "No! no! this is your infirmity."

No! it is not there in substance. It is not there for

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doctrine. It is there only as the imagery of a poetic parable.

This one consideration suffices to overthrow the hypothesis of those (the great majority of Bible readers) who suppose that the things here spoken of took place as ordinary things, such as eating, drinking, reading, talking, take place every day in the life you live at home and abroad. But I must offer another consideration.

What is the picture here drawn? It is the picture of an Oriental court, with transcendently more than its ordinary sumptuousness. (Comp. 1 Kings xxii. 19.) It is audience day. The courtiers all assemble to pay homage to the King of kings. He comes forth in radiant majesty, and ascends the throne, blazing with incomparable gems. The prostrate worshipers arise, when one who, as well as others, has the right of entry, presents himself as not unknown nor undistinguished. The appearance, however imposing, is not unusual. Indeed, it is no less a personage than (to use intelligible language) "the King's Attorney-general," whose function is to keep watch and ward all over the empire, and to report to the Sovereign all breaches or probable breaches of the law. The accuser (such is the import of the Hebrew) rises to speak, when he is asked by the King, "Hast thou considered my servant Job?" "I have," is the reply; "a fair-seeming one, but thoroughly selfish. Touch him in a tender place, and he will curse thee to thy face." Job is touched, and touched so as to feel it keenly. Yet, instead of cursing God, he blesses him.

Another grand court of audience is held, and there the King and his Attorney-general devise measures which overthrow their victim.

We have looked at these scenes morally and declared them fiction. Look at them intellectually. Is this your idea of God? Is his universal presence, after all, to be dwarfed to the petty dimensions of an Oriental court, and his all-fostering and all-sustaining Providence to be reduced to the tinsel pageantry of a few score of Oriental courtiers?

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