Last time, we considered the book of Job’s teaching on man’s nature as to his constitution or “parts,” body and soul or spirit, noting that it echoes Genesis 2-3 (2:7; 3:19). There is a reason why Job and his friends speak so frequently of man’s body and spirit. Job is experiencing intense suffering in body and soul, and death appears near, bringing man’s dissolution into his two constituent “aspects” (4:19-20; 10:9; 34:14-15).
The book of Job contains valuable instruction not only on the constitutional nature of man but also on his moral nature, now that he is fallen. “How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?” (15:16). Job himself was a believer in, and worshipper of, the one true and living God (1:1), indeed Jehovah Himself twice declares to Satan that Job was an exemplary saint: “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (1:8; 2:3). But no man can be spotless in the eyes of the most holy God: “Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm?” (25:5-6). After his great trial, Job confesses, “Behold, I am vile ... Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (40:4; 42:6).
It is highly significant that the book of Job repeatedly speaks of sin as being conveyed to us by means of human generation. Bildad asks, “How can he be clean that is born of a woman?” (25:4). Eliphaz raises the same rhetorical question: “What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?” (15:14). After Job’s sombre evaluation of humanity, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (14:1), he asks and answers his own question, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one” (14:4).
Though Bildad and Eliphaz (and their companion Zophar) differed from Job in that they reckoned that Job’s calamities were God’s judgment upon him for some great sin, all the parties were agreed not only on man’s wickedness but also that man’s depravity is passed on to him through conception. “Born of a woman”—the same Hebrew words are used in each instance (14:1; 15:14; 25:4)—declare Job, Eliphaz and Bildad unitedly in explanation of man’s sinfulness—both as to its origin (right at the start of each life) and its means of conveyance (human generation).
Zophar states that man was “placed upon earth” by God (20:4); this includes every human being and the first man. Job refers to Adam’s covering or hiding his sin, alluding to Genesis 3:8 and/or Genesis 3:12: “If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom ...” (Job 31:33; cf. Hos. 6:7).
All of us are sinners through being “born of a woman” and this holds for our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and so on. Indeed, this goes all the way back to the children born to Adam and Eve. Belgic Confession 15 summarizes biblical teaching: “We believe that, through the disobedience of Adam, original sin is extended to all mankind; which is a corruption of the whole nature and an hereditary disease, wherewith infants themselves are infected even in their mother’s womb, and which produceth in man all sorts of sin, being in him as a root thereof, and therefore is so vile and abominable in the sight of God that it is sufficient to condemn all mankind.”
This great truth of original sin is especially taught by the apostle Paul in Romans 5:12-21, the locus classicus, i.e., standard or classic place, on this subject. By Paul’s day, the Messiah had come and died on the cross for the sins of all His people, He had sent forth His Holy Spirit and was gathering His catholic or universal church from all nations. Thus Paul was able to contrast Adam’s sin, offence and disobedience bringing death, judgment and condemnation upon those in him to Christ’s perfect obedience bringing justification, righteousness and life to those in Him. The wonder of God’s gracious gift to us is that the Lord Jesus, “the last Adam” (I Cor. 15:45), is our covenant head and representative, and not the first Adam. Thus the Lord’s righteousness is imputed or reckoned to us and not our actual sins or our original sin in Adam.
But why does the book of Job repeatedly refer to man’s original or birth sin? In general, it explains the source of man’s grief (14:1-4) and provides the judicial ground for God’s inflicting misery upon man. In particular, man’s original sin is brought up by Job and his three friends, though with different purposes, in connection with Job’s terrible sufferings and wretched condition.
One could also add that Job is best understood as living around the days of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He was not that far historically from the fall recorded in Genesis 3. Moreover, in the great debate in the book of Job, none of the parties could draw upon the history of Israel for their arguments, for that nation had not yet been formed. But they could and did appeal, for example, to the truth concerning God (His power, majesty and justice) and man (his creation, sinfulness and mortality), and they drew lessons from the Most High’s creation of all things, His providential government of the universe and His dealings with man.
We should bear these things in mind when reading the powerful and moving book of Job. These issues are especially important to us when we suffer loss and bodily pain, when we are wrongly accused by misguided friends or when we struggle with God’s way with us. How much we need “the patience of Job” and the grace to understand, despite all appearances to the contrary, that “the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” towards us, His weak and sinful people (James 5:11)!
- Volume: 14
- Issue: 3
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
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