Book Overview - Job
by Albert Barnes
Introduction to Job
In reference to no part of the Scriptures have so many questions arisen as to the Book of Job. The time of its composition; the author; the country where the scene was laid; the question whether Job was a real person; the nature and design of the poem; have been points on which a great variety of opinion has been entertained among expositors, and on which different views still prevail. It is important, in order to have a correct understanding of the book, that all the light should be thrown on these subjects which can be; and though amidst the variety of opinion which prevails among men of the highest distinction in learning absolute certainty cannot be hoped for, yet such advances have been made in the investigation that on some of these points we may arrive to a high degree of probability.
Section 1. The Question whether Job Was a Real Person
The first question which presents itself in the examination of the book is, whether Job had a real existence. This has been doubted on such grounds as the following:
(1) The book has been supposed by some to have every mark of an allegory. Allegories and parables, it is said, are not uncommon in the Scriptures where a case is supposed, and then the narrative proceeds as if it were real. Such an instance, it has been maintained, occurs here, in which the author of the poem designed to illustrate important truths, but instead of stating them in an abstract form, chose to present them in the more graphic and interesting form of a supposed case - in which we are led to sympathize with a sufferer; to see the ground of the difficulty in the question under discussion in a more affecting manner than could be presented in an abstract form; and where the argument has all to interest the mind which one has when occurring in real life.
(2) it has been maintained that some of the transactions in the book must have been of this character, or are such as could not have actually occurred. Particularly it has been said that the account of the interview of Satan with yahweh Job 1:6-12; Job 2:1-7 must be regarded merely as a supposed case, it being in the highest degree improbable that such an interview would occur, and such a conversation be held.
(3) the same conclusion has been drawn from the artificial character of the statements about the possessions of Job, both before and after his trials - statements which appear as if the case were merely supposed, and which would not be likely to occur in reality. Thus, we have only round numbers mentioned in enumerating his possessions - as 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 she-asses. So, also, there is something artificial in the manner in which the sacred numbers seven and three are used. He had 7,000 sheep, 7 sons - both before and after his trials; his three friends came and sat down 7 days and 7 nights without saying a word to condole with him Job 2:13; and both before and after his trials he had three daughters. The same artificial and parabolical appearance, it is said, is seen in the fact that after his recovery his possessions were exactly doubled, and he had again in his old age exactly the same number of 7 sons and 3 daughters which he had before his afflictions.
(4) that the whole narration is allegorical or parabolical has been further argued from the conduct of the friends of Job. Their sitting down 7 days and 7 nights without saying anything, when they had come expressly to condole with him, it is said, is a wholly improbable circumstance, and looks as if the whole were a supposed case.
(5) the same thing has been inferred from the manner in which the book is written. It is of the highest order of poetry. The speeches are most elaborate; are filled with accurate and carefully prepared argument; are arranged with great care; are expressed in the most sententious manner; embody the results of long and careful observation, and are wholly unlike what would be uttered in unpremeditated and extemporary debate. No men, it is said, talk in this manner; nor can it be supposed that beautiful poetry and sublime argument, such as abound in this book, ever fell in animated debate from the lips of men. See Eichorn, Einleitung in das Alte Tes. V. Band. 129-131. From considerations such as these the historical character of the book has been doubted, and the whole has been regarded as a supposed case designed to illustrate the great question which the author of the poem proposed to examine.
It is important, therefore, to inquire what reasons there are for believing that such a person as Job lived, and how far the transactions referred to in the book are to be regarded as historically true.
(1) the fact of his existence is expressly declared, and the narrative has all the appearance of being a simple record of an actual occurrence. The first two chapters of the book, and a part of the last chapter, are simple historical records. The remainder of the book is indeed poetic, but these portions bare none of the characteristics of poetry. There are not to be found in the Bible more simple and plain historical statements than these; and there are none which, in themselves considered, might not be as properly set aside as allegorical. This fact should be regarded as decisive, unless there is some reason which does not appear on the face of the narrative for regarding it as allegorical.
(2) the account of the existence of such a man is regarded as historically true by the inspired writers of the Scriptures. Thus, in Ezekiel 14:14, God says, “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it (the land), they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God.” Compare Ezekiel 14:16, Ezekiel 14:20. Here Job is referred to as a real character as distinctly as Noah and Daniel, and all the circumstances are just such as they would be on the supposition that he had a real existence. They are alike spoken of as real “men;” as having souls - “they should deliver but their own souls by their own righteousness;” as having sons and daughters - “they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, they only shall be delivered” Ezekiel 14:16; and are in all respects mentioned alike as real characters. Of the historic fact that there were such men as Noah and Daniel there can be no doubt, and it is evident that Ezekiel as certainly regarded Job as a real character as he did either of the others.
A parallel passage, which will illustrate this, occurs in Jeremiah 15:1: “Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people.” Here Moses and Samuel are spoken of as real characters, and there is no doubt of their having existed. Yet they are mentioned in the same manner as Job is in the passage in Ezekiel. In either case it is incredible that a reference should have been made to a fictitious character. The appeal is one that could have been made only to a real character, and there can be no reasonable doubt that Ezekiel regarded Job as having really existed; or rather, since it is God who speaks and not Ezekiel, that he speaks of Job as having actually existed. The same thing is evident from a reference to Job by the apostle James: “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy” James 5:11; that is, the happy issue to which the Lord brought all his trials, showing that he was pitiful to those in affliction, and of great mercy.
There can be no doubt that there is reference here to the sufferings of a real man, as there is to the real compassion which the Lord shows to one in great trials. It is incredible that this sacred writer should have appealed in this instance to the case of one whom he regarded as a fictitious character; and if the views of Ezekiel and James are to be relied on, there can be no doubt that Job had a real existence. Ezekiel mentions him just as he does Noah and Daniel, and James mentions him just as he does Elijah James 5:17; and so far as this historical record goes there is the same evidence of the actual existence of the one as of the other.
(3) the specifications of places and names in the book are not such as would occur in an allegory. Had it been merely a “supposed case,” to illustrate some great truth, these specifications would have been unnecessary, and would not have occurred. In the acknowledged parables of the Scripture, there are seldom any very minute specifications of names and places. Thus, in the parable of the prodigal son, neither the name of the father, nor of the sons, nor of the place where the scene was laid, is mentioned. So of the nobleman who went to receive a kingdom; the unjust steward; the ten virgins, and of numerous others. But here we have distinct specifications of a great number of things which are in no way necessary to illustrate the main truth in the poem. Thus, we have not only the name of the sufferer, but the place of his residence mentioned, as if it were well known. We have the names of his friends, and the places of their residence mentioned - “Eliphaz the Temanite,” and “Bildad the Shuhite,” and “Zophar the Naamathite.” and Elihu “the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram.” Why are the places of residence of these persons mentioned unless it be meant to intimate that they were real persons, and not allegorical characters?
In like manner we have express mention of the Sabeans and the Chaldeans - specifications wholly unnecessary if not improbable if the work is an allegory. The single word “robbers” would have answered all the purpose, and would have been such as an inspired writer would have used unless the transaction were real, for an inspired writer would not have charged this offence on any class of men, thus holding them up to lasting reproach, unless an event of this kind had actually occurred. When the Savior, in the parable of the good Samaritan, mentions a robbery that occurred between Jerusalem and Jericho, the word “thieves,” or more properly “robbers”, is the only word used. No names are mentioned, nor is any class of men referred to, who would by such a mention of the name be held up to infamy. Thus, also we have the particular statement respecting the feasting of the sons and daughters of Job; his sending for and admonishing them; his offering up special sacrifices on their behalf; the account of the destruction of the oxen, the sheep, the camels, and the house where the sons and daughters of Job were - all statements of circumstances which would not be likely to occur in an allegory.
They are such particular statements as we expect to find respecting the real transactions, and they bear on the face of them the simple impression of truth. This is not the kind of information which we look for in a parable. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, almost the only one spoken by the Saviour where a name is mentioned, we have not that of the rich man; and though the name Lazarus is mentioned, yet that is all. We have no account of his family, of his place of residence, of his genealogy, of the time when he lived; and the name itself is so common that it would be impossible even to suspect whom the Savior had in his eye, if he had any real individual at all. Far different is this in the account of Job. It is true that in a romance, or in an extended allegory like the Pilgrim‘s Progress, we expect a detailed statement of names and places; but there is no evidence that there is any such extended fictitious narrative in the Bible, and unless the Book of Job be one there is no such extended allegory.
(4) the objections urged against this view are not such as to destroy the positive proof of the reality of the existence of Job. The objections which have been urged against the historical truth of the narrative, and which have already been in part alluded to, are principally the following:
The first is, the account of the interview between God and Satan in Job 2:1-13. It is alleged that this is so improbable a transaction as to throw an air of fiction over all the historical statements of the book. In reply to this, it may be observed, first, that even if this were not to be regarded as a literal transaction, it does not prove that no such man as Job lived, and that the transactions in regard to him were not real. He might have had an existence, and been stripped of his possessions, and subjected to these long and painful trials of his fidelity, even if this were a poetic ornament, or merely a figurative representation.
But, secondly, it is impossible to prove that no such transaction occurred. The existence of such a being as Satan is everywhere recognized in the Scriptures; the account which is here given of his character accords entirely with the uniform representation of him; he exerts no power over Job which is not expressly conceded to him; and it is impossible to prove that he does not even now perform the same things in the trial of good men, which it is said that he did in the case of Job. And even if it be admitted that there is somewhat of poetic statement in the form in which he is introduced, still this does not render the main account improbable and absurd. The Bible, from the necessity of the case, abounds with representations of this sort; and when it is said that God “speaks” to men, that he conversed with Adam, that he spake to the serpent Job 1:6-12.
A second objection to the historical truth of the transactions recorded in the book is, the poetic character of the work, and the strong improbability that addresses of this kind should ever have been made in the manner here represented. See Eichhorn, Einleit. v. 123,124. They are of the highest order of poetry; they partake not at all of the nature of extemporaneous effusions; they indicate profound and close thinking, and are such as must have required much time to have prepared them. Especially it is said that it is in the highest degree improbable that Job, in the anguish of his body and mind, should have been capable of giving utterance to poetry and argument of this highly finished character. In regard to this objection, it may be observed,
(1) that even if this were so, and it were to be supposed that the arguments of the various speakers have a poetic character, and were in reality never uttered in the form in which we now have them, still this would not invalidate the evidence which exists of the historic truth of the facts stated about the existence and trials of Job. It might be true that he lived and suffered in this manner, and that a discussion of this character actually occurred, and that substantially these arguments were advanced, though they were afterward wrought by Job himself or by some other hand into the poetic form in which we now have them. Job himself lived after his trials 140 years, and, in itself considered, there is no improbability in the supposition, that when restored to the vigorous use of his powers, and in the leisure which he enjoyed, he should have thought it worthy to present the argument which he once held on this great subject in a more perfect form, and to give to it a more poetic cast. In this case, the main historic truth would be retained, and the real argument would in fact be stated - though in a form more worthy of preservation than could be expected to fall extemporaneously from the lips of the speakers. But
(2) all the difficulty may be removed by a supposition which is entirely in accordance with the character of the book and the nature of the case. It is, that the several speeches succeeded each other at such intervals as gave full time for reflection, and for carefully framing the argument. There is no evidence that the whole argument was gone through with “at one sitting;” there are no proofs that one speech followed immediately on another, or that a sufficient interval of time may not have elapsed to give opportunity for preparation to meet the views which had been suggested by the previous speaker. Everything in the book bears the marks of the most careful deliberation, and is as free as possible from the hurry and bustle of an extemporaneous debate. The sufferings of Job were evidently of a protracted nature. His friends sat down “seven days and seven nights” in silence before they said anything to him.
The whole subject of the debate seems to be arranged with most systematic care and regularity. The speakers succeed each other in regular order in a series of arguments - in each of these series following the same method, and no one of them out of his place. No one is ever interrupted while speaking; and no matter how keen and sarcastic his invectives, how torturing his reproaches, how bold or blasphemous what he said was thought to be, he is patiently heard until he has said all that he designed to say; and then all that he said is carefully weighed and considered in the reply. All this looks as if there might have been ample time to arrange the reply before it was uttered, and this supposition, of course, would relieve all the force of this objection. If this be so, then there is no more ground of objection against the supposition that these things were spoken, as it is said they were, than there is about the genuineness of the poems of the Grecian Rhapsodists, composed with a view to public recitation, or to the Iliad of Homer or the History of Herodotus, both of which, after they were composed, were recited publicly by their authors at Athens. No one can prove certainly that the several persons named in the book - Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zolphar, and Elihu - were incompetent to compose the speeches which are severally assigned to them, or that all the time necessary for such a composition was not taken by them.
Unless this can be done, the objection of its improbability, so confidently urged by Eichhorn (Einleit. v. 123ff.), and defended by Noyes (Intro. pp. xxi., xxi.), where he says that “the supposition that so beautiful and harmonious a whole, every part of which bears the stamp of the highest genius, was the casual production of a man brought to the gates of the grave by a loathsome disease, of three or four friends who had come to comfort him in his affliction, all of them expressing their thoughts in poetical and measured language; that the Deity was actually heard to speak half an hour in the midst of a violent storm; and that the consultations in the heavenly world were actual occurrences, is too extravagant to need refutation,” is an objection really of little force.
A third objection has been derived from the round and doubled numbers which occur in the book, and the artificial character which the whole narrative seems to assume on that account. It is alleged that this is wholly an unusual and improbable occurrence; and that the whole statement appears as if it were a fictitious narrative. Thus Job‘s possessions of oxen and camels and sheep are expressed in round numbers; one part of these is exactly the double of another; and what is more remarkable still, all these are exactly doubled on his restoration to health. He had the same number of sons and the same number of daughters after his trial which he had before, and the number of each was what was esteemed among the Hebrews as a sacred number.
In regard to this objection, we may observe:
(1) That as to the round numbers, this is no more than what constantly occurs in historical statements. Nothing is more common in the enumeration of armies, of the people of a country, or of herds and flocks, than such statements.
(2) in regard to the fact that the possessions of Job are said to have been exactly “doubled” after his recovery from his calamities, it is not necessary to suppose that this was in all respects literally true. Nothing forbids us to suppose that, from the gifts of friends and other causes, the possessions of Job came so near to being just twice what they were before his trials, as to justify this general statement. In the statement itself, there is nothing improbable. Job lived 140 after his trials. If he had then the same measure of prosperity which he had before, and with the assistance of his friends to enable him to begin life again, there is no improbability in the supposition that these possessions would be doubled.
These are substantially all the objections which have been urged against the historical character of the book, and if they are not well founded, then it follows that it should be regarded as historically true that such a man actually lived, and that he passed through the trials which are here described. A more extended statement of these objections, and a refutation of them, may be found in the following works: - Warburton‘s Divine Legation of Moses, Vol. V. p. 298ff. ed. 8vo, London, 1811; Prof. Lee on Job, Intro. Section 11; and Magee on atonement and Sacrifice, p. 212, following, ed. New York, 1813. It should be said, however, that not a few writers admit that such a man as Job lived, and that the book has an historical basis, while they regard the work itself as in the main poetic. In the view of such critics, the poet, in order to illustrate the great truth which he proposed to consider, made use of a tradition respecting the sufferings of a well-known person of distinction, and gave to the whole argument the high poetic cast which it has now. This supposition is in accordance with the methods frequently adopted by epic and tragic poets, and which is commonly followed by writers of romance. This is the opinion of Eichhorn, Einleitung V. Section 638.
Section 2. The Question on Where Job Lived
In Job 1:1, it is said that Job dwelt “in the land of Uz.” The only question, then, to be settled in ascertaining where he lived, is, if possible, to determine where this place was. From the manner in which the record is made (“the land of Uz”) it would seem probable that this was a region of country of some considerable extent, and also that it derived its name from some man of that name who had settled there. The word Uz (עוּץ ‛ûts ), according to Gesenius, means a light, sandy soil; and if the name was given to the country with reference to this quality of the soil, it would be natural to fix on some region remarkable for its barrenness - a waste place or a desert. Gesenius supposes that Uz was in the northern part of Arabia Deserta - a place lying between Palestine and the Euphrates, called by Ptolemy Αἰσῖται Aisitai This opinion is defended by Rosenmuller (Prolegomena); and is adopted by Spanheim, Bochart, Lee, Umbreit, Noyes, and the authors of the Universal History. Dr. Good supposes that the Uz here referred to was in Arabia Petraea, on the southwestern coast of the Dead Sea, and that Job and all his friends referred to in the poem were Idumeans. Introductory Dissertation, Section 1.
Eichhorn also supposes that the scene is laid in Idumea, and that the author of the poem shows that he had a particular acquaintance with the history, customs, and productions of Egypt. Einleit. Section 638. Bochart (in Phaleg et Canaan), Michaelis (Spicileg. Geog. Hebraeo.), and Ilgen (Jobi, Antiquis. carminis Hebrew natura et indoles, p. 91), suppose that the place of his residence was the valley of Guta near Damascus, regarded as the most beautiful of the four Paradises of the Arabians. For a description of this valley, see Eichhorn, Einleit. V. s. 134. The word עוּץ ‛ûts (Uz) occurs only in the following places in the Hebrew Bible: Genesis 10:23; Genesis 22:21; Genesis 36:28, and 1 Chronicles 1:17, 1 Chronicles 1:42; in each of which places it is the name of a man; and in Jeremiah 25:20; Lamentations 4:21, and in Job 1:1, where it is applied to a country. The only circumstances which furnish any probability in regard to the place where Job lived, are the following:
(1) Those which enable us to determine with some probability where the family of Uz was settled, who not improbably gave his name to the country - as Sheba, and Seba, and Tema, and Cush, and Misraim, and others, did to the countries where they settled. In Genesis 10:23; Uz עוּץ ‛ûts is mentioned as a grandson of Shem. In Genesis 22:21; an Uz (English Bible, “Huz”) is mentioned as the son of Nahor, brother of Abraham, undoubtedly a different person from the one mentioned in Genesis 10:23. In Genesis 36:28, an individual of this name is mentioned among the descendants of Esau. In 1 Chronicles 1:17, the name occurs among the “sons of Shem;” and in 1 Chronicles 1:42, the same name occurs among the descendants of Esau. So far, therefore, as the name is concerned, it may have been derived from one of the family of Shem, or from one who was a contemporary with Abraham, or from a somewhat remote descendant Esau. It will be seen in the course of this introduction, that there is strong improbability that the name was given to the country because it was settled by either of the two latter, as such a supposition would bring down the time when Job lived to a later period than the circumstances recorded in his history will allow, and it is therefore probable that the name was conferred in honor of the grandson of Shem. This fact, of itself, will do something to determine the place.
Shem lived in Asia, and we shall find that the settlements of his descendants originally occupied the country somewhere in the vicinity of the Euphrates; Genesis 10:21-30. In Genesis 10:23; Uz is mentioned as one of the sons of Aram, who gave name to the country known as Aramea, or Syria, and from whom the Arameans descended. Their original residence, it is supposed, was near the river Kir, or Cyrus, from where they were brought, at some period now unknown, by a deliverance resembling that of the children of Israel from Egypt, and placed in the regions of Syria; see Amos 9:7. The inhabitants of Syria and Mesopotamia are always called by Moses “Arameus”: as they had their seat in and near Mesopotamia, it is probable that Uz was located also not far from that region. We should, therefore, naturally be led to look for the country of Uz somewhere in that vicinity. In Genesis 10:30; it is further said of the sons of Shem, that “their dwelling was from Mesha, as thou goest unto Sephar, a mount of the East;” a statement which corresponds with what is said of Job himself, that he was “the greatest of all the men of the East” Job 1:8; manifestly implying that he was an inhabitant of the country so called.
Various opinions have been entertained of the places where Mesha and Sephar were. The opinion of Michaelis is the most probable (Spicileg. pt. 11, p. 214), “that Mesha is the region around Passora, which the later Syrians called Maishon, and the Greeks Mesene. Under these names they included the country on the Euphrates and the Tigris, between Seleucia and the Persian Gulf. Abulfeda mentions in this region two cities not far from Passora, called Maisan, and Mushan. Here, then, was probably the northeastern border of the district inhabited by the Joktanites. The name of the opposite limit, Sephar, signifies in the Chaldee shore or coast, and is probably the western part of Yemen, along the Arabian Gulf, now called by the Arabs Tchiainah. The range of high and mountainous country between these two borders, Moses calls “the Mount of the East,” or eastern mountains. It is also called by the Arabs, Djebal, i. e., “mountains,” to the present day. See Rosenmuller‘s Alterthumskunde, iii. 163,164.
The supposition that some portion of this region is denoted by the country where Uz settled, and is the place where Job resided is strengthened by the fact, that many of the persons and tribes mentioned in the book resided in this vicinity. Thus, it is probable that Eliphaz the Temanite had his residence there; see the notes at Job 2:11. The Sabeans probably dwelt not very remote from that region (see the notes at Job 1:15); the Chaldeans we know had their residence there (notes, Job 1:17), and this supposition will agree well with what is said of the tornado that came from the “wilderness,” or desert; see the notes at Job 1:19. The residence of Job was so near to the Chaldeans and the Sabeans that he could be reached in their usual predatory excursions; a fact that better accords with the supposition that his residence was in some part of Arabia Deserta, than that it was in Idumea.
(2) this country is referred to in two places by Jeremiah, which may serve to aid us in determining its location; Lamentations 4:21:
“Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom,
That dwellest in the land of Uz;
The cup shall pass through unto thee:
Thou shalt be drunken, and shalt make thyself naked.”
At first view, perhaps, this passage would indicate that the land of Uz was a part of Edom, yet it more properly indicates that the land of Uz was not a part of that land, but that the Edomites or Idumeans had gained possession of a country which did not originally belong to them. Thus, the prophet speaks of the “daughter of Edom,” not as dwelling in her own country properly, but as dwelling “in the land of Uz” - in a foreign country, of which she had somehow obtained possession. The country of Edom, properly, was Mount Seir and the vicinity, south of the Dead Sea; but it is known that the Edomites subsequently extended their boundaries, and that at one period Bozrah, on the east of the Dead Sea, in the country of Moab, was their capital; see the Analysis of Isaiah 34:6. It is highly probable that Jeremiah refers to the period when the Idumeans, having secured these conquests, and made this foreign city their capital, is represented as dwelling there. If so, according to this passage in Lamentations, we should naturally look for the land of Uz somewhere in the countries to which the conquests of the Edomites extended - and these conquests were chiefly to the east of their own land. A similar conclusion will be derived from the other place where the name occurs in Jeremiah. It is in Jeremiah 25:20 ff. “And all the mingled people, and all the kings of the land of Uz, and all the kings of the land of the Philistines, and Askelon, and Azzah, and Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod, and Edom, and Moab, and the children of Ammon,” etc. Two things are apparent here. One is, that the country of Uz was distinct from the land of Edom, since they are mentioned as separate nations; the other is, that it was a country of some considerable extent, since it is mentioned as being under several “kings.” There is, indeed, in this reference to it no allusion to its situation; but it is mentioned as being well known in the time of Jeremiah.
(3) the same thing is evident from the manner in which the residence of Job is spoken of in Job 1:8. He is there said to have been the “greatest of all the men of the east.” This implies that his residence was in the land which was known familiarly as the country of the East. It is true, indeed, that we have not yet determined where the poem was composed, and of course do not know precisely what the author would understand by this phrase, but the expression has a common signification in the Scriptures, as denoting the country east of Palestine. The land of Idumea, however, was directly south; and we are, therefore, naturally led to look to some other place as the land of Uz; compare the notes at Job 1:3. The expression “the East,” as used in the Bible, would in no instance naturally lead us to look to Idumea.
(4) the Septuagint renders the word Uz in Job 1:1. by Ασίτις Asitis - a word which seems to have been formed from the Hebrew עוּץ ‛ûts Utz, or Uz. Of course, their translation gives no intimation of the place referred to. But Ptolemy (Geog. Lib. v.) speaks of a tribe or nation in the neighborhood of Babylon, whom he calls Αὐσίται Ausitai Ausitae (or as it was perhaps written Αἰσίται Aisitai ), the same word which is used by the Septuagint in rendering the word Uz. These people are placed by Ptolemy in the neighborhood of the Cauchebeni - ὑπὸ υὲν τοῖς Καυχαβηνοις hupo men tois Kauchabēnois - and he speaks of them as separated from Chaldea by a ridge of mountains. See Rosenm. Prolegomena, p. 27. This location would place Job so near to the Chaldeans, that the account of their making an excursion into his country Job 1:17 would be entirely probable. - It may be added, also, that in the same neighborhood we find a town called Sabas ( Σάβας Sabas ) in Diodorus Sic. Lib. iii. Section 46. Prof. Lee, p. 32. These circumstances render it probable that the residence of the patriarch was west of Chaldea, and somewhere in the northern part of Arabia Deserta, between Palestine, Idumea, and the Euphratcs.
(5) the monuments and memorials of Job still preserved or referred to in the East, may be adduced as some slight evidence of the fact that such a man as Job lived, and as an indication of the region in which he resided. It is true that they depend on mere tradition; but monuments are not erected to the memory of any who are not supposed to have had an existence, and traditions usually have some basis in reality. Arabian writers always make mention of Job as a real person, and his pretended grave is shown in the East to this day. It is shown indeed in six different places: but this is no evidence that all that is said of the existence of such a man is fabulous, anymore than the fact that seven cities contended for the honor of the birth of Homer is an evidence that there was no such man. The most celebrated tomb of this kind is that of the Trachonitis, toward the springs of the Jordan. It is situated between the cities still bearing the names of Teman, Shuah, and Naama - (Wemyss); though there is every reason to believe that these names have been given rather with reference to the fact that that was supposed to be his residence, than that they were the names of the places referred to in the book of Job. One of these tombs was shown to Niebuhr. He says (Reisebeschreib, i. 466, “Two or three hours east of Saada is a great mosque, in which, according to the opinion of the Arabs who reside there, the sufferer Job lies buried.” “On the eastern limits of Arabia, they showed me the grave of Job, close to the Euphrates, and near the Helleh, one hour south from Babylon.” is of importance to remark here only that all of these tombs are outside the limits of Idumea. Among the Arabians there are numerous traditions respecting Job, many of them indeed stories that are entirely ridiculous, but all showing the firm belief prevalent in Arabia that there was such a man. See Sale‘s Koran, vol. ii. pp. 174,322; Magee on Atonement and Sacrifice, pp. 366,367; and D‘Herbelot, Bibli. Orient. tom. i. pp. 75,432,438, as quoted by Magee.
(6) the present belief of the Arabians may be referred to as corroborating the results to which we have approximated in this inquiry, that the residence of Job was not in Idumea, but was in some part of Arabia Deserta, lying between Palestine and the Euphrates. Eli Smith stated to me (November, 1840) that there was still a place in the Houran called by the Arabians, Uz; and that there is a tradition among them that that was the residence of Job. It is northeast of Bozrah. Bozrah was once the capital of Idumea (notes on Isaiah 34:6), though it was situated without the limits of their natural territory. If this tradition is well founded, then Job was not probably an Idumean. There is nothing that renders the tradition improbable, and the course of the investigation conducts us, with a high degree of probability, to the conclusion that this was the residence of Job. On the residence of Job and his friends, consult also Abrahami Peritsol Itinera Mundi, in Ugolin, Thes. Sac. vii. pp. 103-106.
Section 3. The Time When Job Lived
There has been quite as much uncertainty in regard to the time when Job lived, as there has been in regard to the place where he lived. It should be observed here, that this question is not necessarily connected with the inquiry when the book was composed, and will not be materially affected, whether we suppose it to have been composed by Job himself, by Moses, or by a later writer. Whenever the book was composed, if at a later period than that in which the patriarch lived, the author would naturally conceal the marks of his own time, by referring only to such customs and opinions as prevailed in the age when the events were supposed to have occurred.
On this question, we cannot hope to arrive at absolute certainty. It is remarkable that neither the genealogical record of the family of Job nor that of his three friends is given. The only record of the kind occurring in the book, is that of Elihu Job 32:2, and this is so slight as to furnish but little assistance in determining when he lived. The only circumstances which occur in regard to this question, are the following; and they will serve to settle the question with sufficient probability, as it is a question on which no important results can depend.
(1) the age of Job. According to this, the time when he lived, would occur somewhere between the age of Terah, the father of Abraham, and Jacob, or about 1,800 years before Christ, and about 600 years after the deluge. For the reasons of this opinion, see the notes at Job 42:16. This estimate cannot pretend to be entirely accurate, but, it has a high degree of probability. If this estimate is correct, he lived not far from 400 years before the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt, and before the giving of the law on Mount Sinai; compare the notes at Acts 7:6.
(2) as a slight confirmation of this opinion, we may refer to the traditions in reference to the time when he lived. The account which is appended to the Septuagint, that he was a son of Zare, one of the sons of Esau, and the fifth in descent from Abraham, may be seen in the notes at Job 42:16. A similar account is given at the close of the Arabic translation of Job, so similar that the one has every appearance of having been copied from the other, or of their having had a common origin. “Job dwelt in the land of Uz, between the borders of Edom and Arabia, and was before called Jobab. He married a foreign wife, whose name was Anun. Job was himself a son of Zare, one of the sons of Esau; and his mother‘s name was Basra, and he was the sixth in descent from Abraham. But of the kings who reigned in Edom, the first who reigned over the land was Balak, the son of Beor; and the name of his city was Danaba. And after him Jobab, who is called Job; and after him the name of him who was prince of the land of Teman; and after him his son Barak, he who slew and put to flight Madian in the plain of Moab, and the name of his city was Gjates. And of the friends of Job who came to meet him, was Elifaz, of the sons of Esau, the king of the Temanites.” These traditions are worthless, except as they show the prevalent belief when these translations were made, that Job lived somewhere near the time of the three great Hebrew patriarchs.
A nearly uniform tradition also has concurred in describing this as about the age in which he lived. The Hebrew writers generally concur in describing him as living in the days of Isaac and Jacob. Wemyss. Eusebius places him about two “ages” before Moses. The opinions of the Eastern nations generally concur in assigning this as the age in which he lived.
(3) from the representations in the book itself, it is clear that he lived before the departure from Egypt. This is evident from the fact that there is no direct allusion either to that remarkable event, or to the series of wonders which accompanied it, or to the journey to the land of Canaan. This silence is unaccountable on any other supposition than that he lived before it occurred, for two reasons. One is, that it would have furnished the most striking illustration occurring in history, of the interposition by God in delivering his friends and in destroying the wicked, and was such an illustration as Job and his friends could not have failed to refer to, in defense of their opinions, if it were known to them; and the other is, that this event was the great storehouse of argument and illustration for all the sacred writers, after it occurred. The deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and the divine interposition in conducting the nation to the promised land, is constantly referred to by the sacred writers. They derive from those events their most magnificent descriptions of the power and majesty of Yahweh. They refer to them as illustrating his character and government. They appeal to them in proof that he was the friend and protector of his people, and that he would destroy his foes. They draw from them their most sublime and beautiful poetic images, and are never weary with calling the attention of the people to their obligation to serve God, on account of his merciful and wonderful interposition. The very point of the argument in this book is one that would be better illustrated by that deliverance, than by any other event which ever occurred in history; and as this must have been known to the inhabitants of the country where Job lived, it is inexplicable that there is no allusion to these transactions, if they had already occurred.
It is clear, therefore, that even if the book was written at a later period than the exode from Egypt, the author of the poem meant to represent the patriarch as having lived before that event. He has described him as one who was ignorant of it, and in such circumstances, and with such opinions, that he could not have failed to refer to it, if he was believed to have lived after that event. It is equally probable that Job lived before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This event occurred in the vicinity of the country where he lived, and he could not have been ignorant of it. It was, moreover, a case not less in point in the argument than the deliverance from Egypt was; and it is not conceivable that a reference to so signal a punishment on the wicked by the direct judgment of the Almighty, would have been omitted in an argument of the nature of that in this book. It was the very point maintained by the friends of Job, that God interposed by direct judgments to cut off the wicked; and the world never furnished a more appropriate illustration of this than had occurred in their own neighborhood, on the supposition that the calamities of Job occurred after that event.
(4) the same thing is apparent also from the absence of all allusion to the Jewish rites, manners, customs, religious ceremonies, priesthood, festivals, fasts, sabbaths, etc. There will be occasion in another part of this introduction (Section 4) to inquire how far there is in fact such a lack of allusion to these things. All that is now meant is, that there is an obvious and striking lack of such allusions as we should expect to find made by one who lived at a later period, and who was familiar with the customs and religious rites of the Jews. The plan of the poem, it may be admitted, indeed, did not demand any frequent allusion to these customs and rites, and may be conceded to be adverse to such an allusion, even if they were known; but it is hardly conceivable that there should not have been some reference to them of more marked character than is now found. Even admitting that Job was a foreigner, and that the author meant to preserve this impression distinctly, yet his residence could not have been far from the confines of the Jewish people; and one who manifested such decided principles of piety toward God as he did, could not but have had a strong sympathy with that people, and could not but have referred to their rites in an argument so intimately pertaining to the government of yahweh. The representation of Job, and the allusions in the book, are in all respects such as would occur on the supposition that he lived before the special Jewish polity was instituted.
(5) the same thing is manifest from another circumstance. The religion of Job is of the same kind which we find prevailing in the time of Abraham, and before the institution of the Jewish system. It is a religion of sacrifices, but without any officiating priest. Job himself presents the offering, as the head of the family, in behalf of his children and his friends; Job 1:5; Job 42:8. There is no priest appointed for this office; no temple, tabernacle, or sacred place of any kind; no consecrated altar. Now this is just the kind of religion which we find prevailing among the patriarchs, until the giving of the law on Mount Sinai; and hence, it is natural to infer that Job lived anterior to that event. Thus, we find Noah building an altar to the Lord, and offering sacrifices, Genesis 8:20; Abraham offering a sacrifice himself in the same manner, Genesis 15:9-11; compare Genesis 12:1-13; and this was undoubtedly the earliest form of religion. Sacrifices were offered to God, and the father of a family was the officiating priest.
These circumstances combined leave little doubt as to the time when Job lived. They concur in fixing the period as not remote from the age of Abraham, and there is no other period of history in which they will be found to unite. No question of great importance, however, depends on settling this question; and these circumstances determine the time with sufficient accuracy for all that is necessary, in an exposition of the book.
Section 4. The Author of the Book
A question of more vital importance than those which have been already considered, relates to the authorship of the book. As the name of the author is nowhere mentioned, either in the book itself or elsewhere in the Bible, it is of course impossible to arrive at absolute certainty; and after all that has been written on it, it is still and must be a point of mere conjecture. Still the question, as it is commonly discussed, opens a wide range of inquiry, and claims an investigation. If the name of the author cannot be discovered with certainty, it may be possible at least to decide with some degree of probability at what period of the world it was committed to writing, and perhaps with a degree of probability that may be sufficiently satisfactory, by whom it was done.
The first inquiry that meets us in the investigation of this point is, whether the whole book was composed by the same author, or whether the historical parts were added by a later hand. The slightest acquaintance with the book is sufficient to show, that there are in it two essentially different kinds of style - the poetic and prosaic. The body of the work, Job 2:1-13 and Job 42:7-17, is prose. The genuineness of the latter has been denied by many eminent critics, and particularly by DeWette, who regard it as the addition of some later hand. Against the prologue and the epilogue DeWette urges, “that the perfection of the work requires their rejection, because they solve the problem which is the subject of the discussion, by the idea of trial and compensation; whereas it was the design of the author to solve the question through the idea of entire submission on the part of man to the wisdom and power of God;” see Noyes, Intro. pp. xxi., xxii.
To this objection it may be replied:
(1) That we are to learn the view of the author only by all that he has presented to us. It may have been a part of his plan to exhibit just this view - not to present an abstract argument, but such an argument in connection with a real case, and to make it more vivid by showing an actual instance of calamity falling upon a pious man, and by a state of remarkable prosperity succeeding it. The presumption is, that the author of the poem designed to throw all the light possible on a very obscure and dark subject; and in order to that, a statement of the facts which preceded and followed the argument seems indispensable.
(2) without the statement in the conclusion of the prosperity of Job after his trials, the argument of the book is incomplete. The main question is not solved. God is introduced in the latter chapters, not as solving by explicit statements the questions that had given so much perplexity, but as showing the duty of unqualified submission. But when this is followed by the historical statement of the return of Job to a state of prosperity, of the long life which he afterward enjoyed, and of the wealth and happiness which attended him for nearly a century and a half, the objections of his friends and his own difficulties are abundantly met, and the conclusion of the whole shows that God is not regardless of his people, but that, though they pass through severe trials, still they are the objects of his tender care.
(3) besides, the prologue is necessary in order to understand the character, the language, and the arguments of Job. In the harsh and irreverent speeches which he sometimes makes, in his fearful imprecations in Deuteronomy 34:1-12 must be supposed not to be the work of Moses himself, but of some later inspired writer.
If there is, therefore, reason to believe that the whole work, substantially as we have it now, was committed to writing by the same hand, the question arises, whether there are any circumstances by which it can be determined with probability who the author was. On no question, almost, pertaining to sacred criticism, have there been so many contradictory opinions as on this. Lowth, Magee, Prof. Lee, and many others, regard it as the work of Job himself. Lightfoot and others ascribe it to Elihu; some of the rabbinical writers, as also Kennicott, Michaelis, Dathe, and Good, to Moses; Luther, Grotius, and Doederlin, to Solomon; Umbreit and Noyes to some writer who lived not far from the period of the Jewish captivity; Rosenmuller, Spanheim, Reimar, Stauedlin, and C. F. Richter, suppose that it was composed by some Hebrew writer about the time of Solomon; Warburton regards it as the production of Ezra; Herder (Hebrew Poetry, i. 110) supposes that it was written by some ancient Idumean, probably Job himself, and was obtained by David in his conquests over Idumea. He supposes that in the later writings of David he finds traces of his having imitated the style of this ancient book.
It would be uninteresting and profitless to go into an examination of the reasons suggested by these respective authors for their various opinions. Instead of this, I propose to state the leading considerations which have occurred in the examination of the book itself, and of the reasons which have been suggested by these various authors, which may enable us to form a probable opinion. If the investigation shall result only in adding one more conjecture to those already formed, still it will have the merit of stating about all that seems to be of importance in enabling us to form an opinion in the case.
I. The first circumstance that would occur to one in estimating the question about the authorship of the book, is the foreign cast of the whole work - the fact that it differs from the usual style of the Hebrew compositions. The customs, allusions, figures of speech, and modes of thought, to one who is familiar with the writings of the Hebrews, have a foreign air, and are such as evidently show that the speakers lived in some other country than Judea. There is, indeed, a common Oriental cast diffused over the whole work, enough to distinguish it from all the modes of composition in the Occidental world; but there is, also, scarcely less to distinguish it from the compositions which we know had their origin among the Hebrews. The style of thought, and the general cast of the book, is Arabian. The allusions; the metaphors; the illustrations; the reference to historical events and to prevailing customs, are not such as an Hebrew would make; certainly not, unless in the very earliest periods of history, and before the character of the nation became so formed as to distinguish it characteristically from their brethren in the great family of the East. Arabian deserts; streams failing from drought; wadys filled in the winter and dry in the summer; moving hordes and caravans that come regularly to the same place for water; dwellings of tents easily plucked up and removed; the dry and stinted shrubbery of the desert; the roaring of lions and other wild beasts; periodical rains; trees planted on the verge of running streams; robbers and plunderers that rise before day, and make their attack in the early morning; the rights, authority, and obligation of the גאל gô'el or avenger of blood; the claims of hospitality; the formalities of an Arabic court of justice, are the images which are kept constantly before the mind.
Here the respect due to an Emir; the courtesy of manners which prevails among the more elevated ranks in the Arabic tribes; the profound attention which listens to the close while one is speaking, and which never interrupts him (Herder i. 81), so remarkable among well-bred Orientals at the present day, appear everywhere. It is true, that many of these things may find a resemblance in the undoubted Hebrew writings - for some of them are the common characteristics of the Oriental people - but still, no one can doubt that they abound in this book more than in any other in the Bible, and that, as we shall see more particularly soon, they are unmixed as they are elsewhere, with what is indubitably of Hebrew origin. In connection with this, it may be remarked that there are in the book an unusual number of words, whose root is found now only in the Arabic, and which are used in a sense not common in the Hebrew, but usual in the Arabic. Of this all will be convinced who, in interpreting the book, avail themselves of the light which Gesenius has thrown on numerous words from the Arabic, or who consult the Lexicon of Castell, or who examine the Commentaries of Schultens and Lee. That more importance has been attached to this by many critics than facts will warrant, no one can deny; but as little can it be denied that more aid can be derived from the Arabic language in interpreting this book, than in the exposition of any other part of the Bible. On this point Gesenius makes the following remarks “Altogether there is found in the book much resemblance to the Arabic, or which can be illustrated from the Arabic; but this is either Hebrew, and pertains to the poetic diction, or it is at the same time Aramaish, and was borrowed by the poet from the Aramaean language, and appears here not as Aramaean but as Arabic. Yet there is not here proportionably more than in other poetic books and portions of books. It would be unjust to infer from this that the author of this book had any immediate connection with Arabia, or with Arabic literature.” Geschichte der hebr. Sprache und Schrift, S. 88. The fact of the Arabic cast of the work is conceded by Gesenius in the above extract; the inferences in regard to the connection of the book with Arabia and with Arabic literature which may be derived from this, is to be determined from other circumstances; compare Eichhorn, Einleitung, v. S. 163ff.
II. A second consideration that may enable us to determine the question respecting the authorship of the book is, the fact that there are in it numerous undoubted allusions to events which occurred before the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt, the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, and the establishment of the Jewish institutions. The point of this remark is, that if we shall find such allusions, and also that there are no allusions to events occurring after that period, this is a circumstance which may throw some light on the authorship. It will at least enable us to fix, with some degree of accuracy, the time when the book was committed to writing. Now that there are manifest allusions to events occurring before that period, the following references will show; Job 10:9, “Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay, and wilt thou bring me to dust again?” Here there is an allusion in almost so many words to the statements in Genesis 2:7; Genesis 3:19, respecting the manner in which man was formed - showing that Job was familiar with the account of the creation of man, Job 27:3, “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils;” Job 33:4, “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life;” Job 32:8, “But there is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.”
Here there are undoubted allusions, also, to the manner in which man was formed - (compare Genesis 2:7) - allusions which show that the fact must have been made known to the speakers by tradition, since it is not such a fact as man would readily arrive at by reasoning. The imbecility and weakness of man also, are described in terms which imply an acquaintance with the manner in which he was created. “How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth;” Job 4:19. In Job 31:33, there is probably an allusion to the fact that Adam attempted to hide himself from God when he had eaten the forbidden fruit. “If I covered my transgressions as Adam.” For the reasons for supposing that this refers to Adam, see the notes at the verse. In Job 22:15-16, there is a manifest reference to the deluge. “Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden? which were cut down out of time, whose foundation was overflown with a flood?”
See the notes on that passage. In connection with this we may refer also to the fact that the description of the modes of worship, and the views of religion, found in this book, show an acquaintance with the form in which worship was offered to God before the exode from Egypt. They are of precisely such a character as we find in the time of Abel, Noah, and Abraham. These events are not such as would occur to one who was not familiar with the historical facts recorded in the first part of the book of Genesis. They are not such as would result from a train of reasoning, but could only be derived from the knowledge of those events which would be spread over the East at that early period of the world. They demonstrate that the work was composed by one who had had an opportunity to become acquainted with what is now recorded as the Mosaic history of the creation, and of the early events of the world.
III. There are no such allusions to events occurring after the exode from Egypt, and the establishment of the Jewish institutions. As this is a point of great importance in determining the question respecting the authorship of the book, and as it as been confidently asserted that there are such allusions, and as they have been made t
the Third Week after Epiphany