Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Job 2:4

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Skin for skin - That is, A man will part with all he has in the world to save his life; and he will part with all by piecemeal, till he has nothing left on earth, and even be thankful, provided his life be spared. Thou hast only destroyed his property; thou hast left him his life and his health. Thou hast not touched his flesh nor his bone; therefore he is patient and resigned. Man, through the love of life, will go much farther: he will give up one member to save the rest; yea, limb after limb as long as there is hope that, by such sacrifices, life may be spared or prolonged. This is the meaning given to the passage by the Targum; and, I believe, the true one; hence, Job 2:6, the Lord says, Save his life.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Skin for skin - This is a proverbial expression, whose origin is unknown, nor is its meaning as “a proverb” entirely clear. The general sense of the passage here is plain, for it is immediately explained that a man would give everything which he had to save his life; and the idea here is, that if Job was so afflicted in his body that he was likely to die, he would give up all his religion in order to purchase life. His religion, which had berne the comparatively trifling test before applied to it, would not bear the severer trial if his life was endangered. In regard to the proverb itself, a great variety of explanations has been given. The ancient versions throw no light on it. The Vulgate renders it, “Pellem pro pelle.” The Septuagint Δέρμα ὑπέρ δέρυατος derma huper dermatos - skin for, or instead of, skin. The Chaldee renders it, “member for member,” אברא אמטול אברא - and the author of that paraphrase seems to have supposed that it means that a man would give the members of his body or his limbs to preserve his life. Parkhurst renders it, “skin after skin,” meaning, as he explains it, that a man may bear to part with all that he has, and even to have his skin, as it were, stripped off again and again, provided only that his life is safe. Noyes supposes that it means that any man will give the skin or life of another, whether animal or man, to save his own; and that: Job gave up all, without complaint, from the selfish fear of exposing his own life to danger. Dr. Good remarks on the passage, that the skins or spoils of beasts, in the rude and early ages of man, were the most valuable property he could acquire, and that for which he most frequently combated. Thus, Lucretius says,

Tam igitur “pelles,” nunc aurum et purpura, curis

Exercent hominum vitam, belloque fatigant.

v. 1422.

“Then man for “skins” contended; purple now,

And gold, forever plunge him into war.”

In various parts of the book of Job, however, Dr. Good remarks, the word skin imports the “person” of a man as well as his “property,” the whole living body which it envelopes, as in Job 18:13; Job 19:26. “It is,” says he, “upon the double meaning of the same term, and the play which is here given to it, by employing the term first in one sense and then in the other, that the gist of the proverb, as of a thousand others similarly constructed, depends. ‹Skin for skin‘ is in this view, in plain English, ‹property for person,‘ or ‹the skin forming property for the skin forming person.‘” See a somewhat similar view presented by Callaway, in Bush‘s Illustrations, “in loco.” The editor of the Pictorial Bible coincides mainly with this view, and supposes that the reference is to the time when trade was conducted by barter, and when the skins of animals, being a most frequent and valuable commodity, were used to represent property.

Tributes, ransoms, etc., he observes, were paid in skins. According to this, it means that a man would give “skin upon skin;” that is, would pile one piece of property upon another, and give “all” that he had, in order to save his life. It refers to the necessity of submitting to one great evil rather than incur a greater, answering to the Turkish proverb, “We must give our beards to save our heads.” According to Gesenius, it means “life for life.” Drusius explains it as meaning, that he would give the skin of others, as of his sons, to save his own; that is, that he was unmoved so long as his own skin or life was safe. The same view is given by Ephrem the Syrian. “Skin for skin; the skin not only of flocks, but even of his sons will he give, in order to save his own.” This view also is adopted by Urnbreit. That is, his religion was supremely selfish. The loss of property and even of children he could bear, provided his person was untouched.

His own health, and life; his own skin and body were dearer to him than anything else. Other people would have been afflicted by the loss of children and property. But Job was willing to part with any or all of these, provided he himself was safe. Rosenmuller supposes that the word skin here is used for the whole body; and says that the sense is, that he would give the body of another for his own, as in Exodus 21:23. “The meaning of this proverbial formula,” says he, “is, that any one would redeem his own safety by the skin of others; that is, not only by the skins or lives of oxen, camels, servants, but even of his own children.” Schultens supposes it means that a man would submit to any sufferings in order to save his life; that he would be willing to be flayed alive; to be repeatedly excoriated; to have, so to speak. one skin stripped off after another, if he might save his own life.

According to this, the idea is, that the loss of life was the great calamity to be feared, and that a man would give “any” thing in order to save it. Umbreit says, “there is nothing so valuable to a man that he will not exchange it - one thing for another; one outward good for another, ‹skin for skin.‘ But life, the inward good, is to him of no value that can be estimated. That he will give for nothing; and much more, he will offer everything for that.” Another solution is offered in the Biblische Untersuchungen ii. Th. s. 88. “Before the use of gold, traffic was conducted chiefly by barter. Men exchanged what was valuable to themselves for what others had which they wanted. Those who hunted wild beasts would bring their skins to market, and would exchange them for bows and arrows. Since these traffickers were exposed to the danger of being robbed, they often took with them those who were armed, who agreed to defend them on condition that they should have a part of the skins which they took, and in this way they purchased their property and life.”

That is, they gave the skins of animals for the safety of their own; all that they had they would surrender, in order that their lives might be saved. See Rosenmuller‘s Morgenland, “in loc.” None of these solutions appear to me perfectly satisfactory, and the proverb is involved in perplexity still. It seems to refer to some kind of barter or exchange, and to mean that a man would give up one thing for another; or one piece of property of less value in order to save a greater; and that in like manner he would be willing to surrender “everything,” in order that his life, the most valuable object, might be preserved. But the exact meaning of the proverb, I suspect, has not yet been perceived.

Yea, all that a man hath - This is evidently designed to express the same thing as the proverb, “skin for skin,” or to furnish an illustration of that. The meaning is plain. A man is willing to surrender all that he has, in order to preserve his life. He will part with property and friends, in order that he may be kept alive. if a man therefore is to be reached in the most tender and vital part; if any thing is to be done that shall truly reveal his character, his life must be put in danger, and his true character will then be revealed. The object of Satan is to say, that a test had not been applied to Job of sufficient severity to show what he really was. What he had lost was a mere trifle compared with what would be if he was subjected to severe bodily sufferings, so that his life would be in peril. it is to be remembered that these are the words of Satan, and that they are not necessarily true.

Inspiration is concerned only in securing “the exact record” of what is said, not in affirming that all that is said is true. We shall have frequent occasion to illustrate this sentiment in other portions of the book. In regard to the sentiment here expressed, however, it is in general true. Men will surrender their property, their houses, and lands, and gold, to save their lives. Many, too, would see their friends perish, in order that they might be saved. It is not universally true, however. It is possible to conceive that a man might so love his property as to submit to any torture, even endangering life, rather than surrender it. Many, too, if endangered by shipwreck, would give up a plank in order to save their wives or children, at the risk of their own lives. Many will give their lives rather than surrender their liberty; and many would die rather than abandon their principles. Such were the noble Christian martyrs; and such a man was Job. Satan urged that if his life were made wretched, he would abandon his integrity, and show that his professed piety was selfish, and his religion false and hollow. The Syriac and Arabic add, “that he may be safe.”

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
How well is it for us, that neither men nor devils are to be our judges! but all our judgment comes from the Lord, who never errs. Job holds fast his integrity still, as his weapon. God speaks with pleasure of the power of his own grace. Self-love and self-preservation are powerful in the hearts of men. But Satan accuses Job, representing him as wholly selfish, and minding nothing but his own ease and safety. Thus are the ways and people of God often falsely blamed by the devil and his agents. Permission is granted to Satan to make trial, but with a limit. If God did not chain up the roaring lion, how soon would he devour us! Job, thus slandered by Satan, was a type of Christ, the first prophecy of whom was, that Satan should bruise his heel, and be foiled.
Ellen G. White
My Life Today, 316

Victory in the Conflict

Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me. Isaiah 27:5 ML 316.1

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Ellen G. White
Education, 155

Very early in the history of the world is given the life record of one over whom this controversy of Satan's was waged. Ed 155.1

Of Job, the patriarch of Uz, the testimony of the Searcher of hearts was, “There is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil.” Ed 155.2

Against this man, Satan brought scornful charge: “Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast Thou not made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? ... Put forth Thine hand now, and touch all that he hath;” “touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse Thee to Thy face.” Ed 155.3

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Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 589

Through spiritualism, Satan appears as a benefactor of the race, healing the diseases of the people, and professing to present a new and more exalted system of religious faith; but at the same time he works as a destroyer. His temptations are leading multitudes to ruin. Intemperance dethrones reason; sensual indulgence, strife, and bloodshed follow. Satan delights in war, for it excites the worst passions of the soul and then sweeps into eternity its victims steeped in vice and blood. It is his object to incite the nations to war against one another, for he can thus divert the minds of the people from the work of preparation to stand in the day of God. GC 589.1

Satan works through the elements also to garner his harvest of unprepared souls. He has studied the secrets of the laboratories of nature, and he uses all his power to control the elements as far as God allows. When he was suffered to afflict Job, how quickly flocks and herds, servants, houses, children, were swept away, one trouble succeeding another as in a moment. It is God that shields His creatures and hedges them in from the power of the destroyer. But the Christian world have shown contempt for the law of Jehovah; and the Lord will do just what He has declared that He would—He will withdraw His blessings from the earth and remove His protecting care from those who are rebelling against His law and teaching and forcing others to do the same. Satan has control of all whom God does not especially guard. He will favor and prosper some in order to further his own designs, and he will bring trouble upon others and lead men to believe that it is God who is afflicting them. GC 589.2

While appearing to the children of men as a great physician who can heal all their maladies, he will bring disease and disaster, until populous cities are reduced to ruin and desolation. Even now he is at work. In accidents and calamities by sea and by land, in great conflagrations, in fierce tornadoes and terrific hailstorms, in tempests, floods, cyclones, tidal waves, and earthquakes, in every place and in a thousand forms, Satan is exercising his power. He sweeps away the ripening harvest, and famine and distress follow. He imparts to the air a deadly taint, and thousands perish by the pestilence. These visitations are to become more and more frequent and disastrous. Destruction will be upon both man and beast. “The earth mourneth and fadeth away,” “the haughty people ... do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.” Isaiah 24:4, 5. GC 589.3

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3 (EGW), 1140

14-17. Consecrated Women Can Act Important Part—Through Esther the queen the Lord accomplished a mighty deliverance for His people. At a time when it seemed that no power could save them, Esther and the women associated with her, by fasting and prayer and prompt action, met the issue, and brought salvation to their people. 3BC 1140.1

A study of women's work in connection with the cause of God in Old Testament times will teach us lessons that will enable us to meet emergencies in the work today. We may not be brought into such a critical and prominent place as were the people of God in the time of Esther; but often converted women can act an important part in more humble positions (Letter 22, 1911). 3BC 1140.2

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