Job 4:8


We have now reached the kernel of the controversy with which Job and his friends are to be engaged. While - as the prologue shows - the primary purpose of the Book of Job is to refute Satan's low, sneering insinuation implied in the words, "Doth Job serve God for nought?" and to prove that God can and does inspire disinterested devotion, the long discussion among the friends is concerned with the problem of suffering, and the old orthodox notion that it was just the punishment of sin, showing the inadequacy of that notion, and the deep mystery of the whole subject. Now we are introduced to this perplexing question. It comes before us in the form of a principle that is undoubtedly true, although the application of it by Job's friends turned out to be egregiously false.

I. THE TRUTH OF THE PRINCIPLE.

1. This is communicated in the New Testament by St. Paul, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7).

2. This is in accordance with experience. Eliphaz had seen it. We need not suppose that he had been deceived by some strange hallucination. We must all have observed how men make or mar their own fortunes. We know what will be the end of the career of the idle and dissipated. We are constantly watching the triumph of diligence and prudence.

3. This is after the analogy of nature. Then the harvest is according to the sowing, and it is determined by absolute laws. But there is no chaos in the human sphere. Moral causation works there as strictly as physical causation in the outer world. There is no escaping from the natural consequences of our deeds. He who sows the wind will most assuredly reap the whirlwind.

4. This is just. Job's friends were right in feeling that the wicked ought to suffer and that the good ought to be blessed. The attempt to evade the great law of causation in the spiritual sphere is as immoral as it is futile. Why should any one expect to be saved firm the harvest which he has himself sown?

II. THE FALSE APPLICATION OF THE PRINCIPLE. The whole Book of Job demonstrates that Job's friends were wrong in applying this principle to the case of the patriarch. But why was it not applicable?

1. They anticipated the harvest. The harvest is the end of the world. Some firstfruits may be gathered earlier; often we see the evil consequences of misdeeds ripening rapidly. But this is not always the case. Meanwhile we can judge of no life until we have seen the whole of it. In the end Job reaped an abundant harvest of blessings (Job 42:10-17).

2. They ignored the variety of causes. It is a recognized rule of logic that while you can always argue from the cause to the effect, you cannot safely reverse the process and reason back from the effect to the cause, because the same effect may come from any one of a number of causes. Job might bring calamity on himself, and if he did wrong he would bring it - in the long run. But other causes might produce it. In this case it was not Job, but Satan, who brought it. It was not the husbandman, but an enemy, who sowed tares in the field.

3. They mistook the nature of the harvest. The man who sows iniquity will not necessarily reap temporal calamity. He will get his natural harvest, which is corruption, but he may have wealth and temporal, external prosperity on earth. And the man who sows goodness may not reap money, immunity from trouble, etc.; for these things are not the natural products of what he sows. They are not "after its kind." But he will reap "eternal life." Nothing that had happened to Job indicated that he would not gather that best of all harvests. - W.F.A.









Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.
Eliphaz speaks of himself here as an observer of God's providence; and the result of his observations is, the discernment of the law, that "they who plow iniquity and sow wickedness, reap the same." Was Eliphas wrong in this? No. He perceived a very great and important law of the kingdom. Where, then, was he wrong? It was in applying this to Job, and in so easily concluding that his severe sufferings were the consequence of his own individual sins. The friends often expressed most beautiful and important truths, and only failed because they misapplied them. For this law, compare Hosea 8:7; Hosea 10:12, 13; Galatians 6:7, 8. We see the operation of this law in the natural world. There, in that world, as people sow, so they reap; nor do they ever expect it to be otherwise. But in the moral and spiritual world, nothing is more common than to meet with those who sow iniquity, and yet do not expect to reap of the same, either in this world or in the world to come. Men do not expect any consequences to follow a life of carelessness and impenitence. It may be that you have seen solemn and affecting instances of the operation of this law; if not, ministers of Christ will tell you that they have seen them only too often. They have seen those who have lived careless and self-indulgent lives struggle at last in vain. The hardened heart was but the fulfilment of the solemn law of God's kingdom. Amongst the many ways of sowing to the flesh, there is one which we cannot omit. It is the indulgence of pride and self-confident feelings. St. Paul speaks of sowing to the Spirit. In which way have you been sowing? Do you wish to escape the consequences — the harvest of misery — which, in the very nature of things, will follow your sowing to the flesh? Through grace you may do it.

(George Wagner.)

There was truth underlying the proposition set forth by Eliphaz, applicable to all ages and states of the world. The axiom is a very old one as propounded by Job's expostulator; it may have been older than he; but it is not so old now as to have become obsolete; nor will it ever become so while the world is the same world, and its Governor is the same God. As St. Paul reproduced it in his day, so may we in ours. Its principle is incorporated with this dispensation as much as with the last. It is its application that is modified under the Gospel; the principle is just the same. It is as true now as it was of old time, that men reap as they sow; that the harvest of their recompense is according to the agriculture of their actions. The difference in the truth, as propounded during the age of Moses, and as recognised in "the days of the Son of Man," is, that during the latter, its confirmation and realisation are thrown further forward. The distinction is indicated by the respective forms into which the axiom is cast by Eliphaz and St. Paul. The one saith, "They that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same." The other, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Eliphaz makes both portions of this moral process, present, palpable, perspicuous. The apostle severs the two; projecting the latter portion into the future. With the Jew, this truth was a fact of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. With us, it is rather a matter of faith for the future, the far off, the eternal. Eliphaz states the subject in accordance with the order of the past dispensation; as doth St. Paul with the genius of this. In the eyes of the ancient Israelite, the doctrine of Divine retribution was like some mountain of his native country, which upreared its brow close over against him, overshadowing him whithersoever he went; its rugged aspect being all the more sharply defined through the sunshine of temporal prosperity in which his nation reposed, so long as the people were "obedient unto the voice of the Lord their God." As to us, the mountain is in the distance; far away, as Sinai itself is, from many a shore on which the standard of the Redeemer's Cross hath been planted; but visible in the distance still, though its outline be rendered indistinct in the twilight of that mystery which now encompasseth God's government of our world. At the period when Eliphaz reasoned, a state of things had just been inaugurated, under which, as a rule, retribution of a temporal kind was to follow "every transgression and disobedience"; when punishment was to be contemporaneous with the commission of crime; and when a man would begin to reap the fruit of his deeds shortly after his sowing. And the reasoner could not understand how the patriarch, or anyone else, could be an exception to the rule; still less, that a state of things inaugurated by both the teaching and the history of Jesus Christ, under which the rule itself would become the exception, was to succeed. That was a state under which God judged men for their sins continually and instantaneously; this a state under which God is not judging them; seeing "He hath appointed a day in which He will judge them by that Man whom He hath ordained"; through whose intercession at the right hand of the Father, judgment is at present suspended. Now it is our consolation to know that whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth; then the man whom the Lord chastened, He might have had a controversy with, and was visiting for his misdeeds.

(Alfred Bowen Evans.)

? —

1. It is so far true as to assure us that there is a righteous Governor and a just Judge of the world. We cannot apply the rule laid down by Eliphaz. It is a rule to us no longer. We have no right to fix upon any individual or nation upon earth, and to affirm that Almighty God is dealing with the one or the other in a way of retribution, because they may be suffering such and such things. But, notwithstanding this, there is a principle at work in the affairs of men, so far manifest as to show that the world is not left to take its chance, and that the children of men cannot do as they please.

2. It is so far true as it hath respect to the natural constitutions of men. Men cannot transgress the principles of their nature with impunity, nor run counter to the rules of their constitution unharmed. Nature is not to be trifled with. And the retribution that followeth the violation of physical laws is a sure pledge of a retribution that will follow the infringement of moral.

3. It is true so far as to obviate the necessity of our ever taking vengeance into our own hands. God repayeth that we need not. Vengeance is His, that it may not be ours. It has been said, "God avengeth those that do not avenge themselves."

4. It is true so far as to inspire us with a salutary fear for ourselves. There is to be a resurrection of action as well as of agents; of deeds as well as of doers; of works as well as of men. And we know not how soon, as to some of its details, this resurrection may take place. The transgressor is never safe. Whatsoever wrong any man hath done may be required of him at any time.

(Alfred Bowen Evans.)

Homilist.
I. HUMAN LIFE IS A SOWING AND A REAPING. All the actions of a man's life are inseparable, united by the law of causation. One grows out of another as plants out of seed. The sowing and the reaping, strange to say, go on at the same time. In reaping what we sowed yesterday, we sow what we shall have to reap tomorrow.

II. LIFE'S REAPING IS DETERMINED BY ITS SOWING. "I have seen, they that plow iniquity," etc. Like begets like everywhere, the same species of seed sown will be reaped in fruit. He that soweth hemlock will not reap wheat, but crops of hemlock. All moral actions are moral seeds deposited in the soul.

III. THE REAPING OF THE SINNER IS A TERRIBLE DESTINY. What a destiny this: to be reaping wickedness, to be reaping whirlwinds of agony. From this subject learn —

1. The great solemnity of life. There is nothing trifling. The most volatile sin is a seed that must grow, and must be reaped. Take care!

2. The conscious rectitude of the sinner's doom. What is hell? Reaping the fruit of sinful conduct. The sinner feels this, and his conscience will not allow him to complain of his fate.

3. The necessity for a godly heart. All actions and words proceed from the heart: out of it are the issues of life. Hence the necessity of regeneration.

(Homilist.)

1. That to be a wicked man is no easy task; he must go to plough for it. It is ploughing, and you know ploughing is laborious, yea, it is hard labour.

2. That there is an art in wickedness. It is ploughing, or, as the word imports, an artificial working. Some are curious and exact in shaping, polishing, and setting off their sin. So to say such a man is an abomination worker, or a lie maker, notes him not only industrious, but crafty, or (as the prophet speaks) "wise to do evil."

3. That wicked men expect benefit in ways of sin, and look to be gainers by being evil-doers. They make iniquity their plough; and a man's plough is so much his profit, that it is grown into a proverb, to call that (whatsoever it is) by which a man makes his living or his profit, his plough. Every man tills in expectation of a crop; who would put his plough into the ground to receive nothing? It is even so with wicked men, when they are stoning, they think themselves thriving, or laying up that in the earth a while, which will grow and increase to a plentiful harvest. What strange fancies have many to be rich, to be great, by ways of wickedness! Thus they plough in hope, but they shall never be partakers of their hope.

4. That every sinful act persisted in shall have a certain sorrowful reward.

5. That the punishment of sin may come long after the committing of sin. The one is the seedtime, and the other a reaping time; there is a great distance of time between sowing and reaping. The seeds of sin may lie many years under the furrows.

6. That the punishment of sin shall be proportionable to the degrees of sin. He shall reap the same, saith the text, the same in degree. If ye sow sparingly, ye shall reap sparingly; on the other side, if ye sow plentifully, ye shall reap plentifully.

7. Punishment shall not exceed the desert of sin.

8. That the punishment of sin shall be like the sin in kind. It shall be the same, not only in degree, but also in likeness. Punishment often bears the image and superscription of sin upon it. You may see the father's face and feature in the child. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7).

(J. Caryl.)

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