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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Job

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JOB

1. The man Job . Job is referred to in the OT in the book bearing his name, and in Ezekiel 14:12-20 , where he is mentioned as a conspicuous example of righteousness; in the Apocr [Note: pocr Apocrypha, Apocryphal.] in Sir 49:9 [Heb. after Smend and Ryssel], and the Vulg. [Note: Vulgate.] of Tob 2:12; and in the NT in James 5:11 , the last two passages alluding to his patience. The reference in Ezk. shows that righteous Job was a familiar figure in some Jewish circles in the 6th cent. b.c. On the assumption that the Job of the book is sketched, as to the main outlines, after ancient tradition, probably the same in substance as that known to Ezk., we have to think of him as a Gentile living in patriarchal times either in the Hauran or on the confines of Idumæa and Arabia (see Uz), and his friends also must be regarded as Gentiles.

This conclusion is supported by the names of God generally employed in the poem. The Tetragrammaton, which is used 31 times by the writer in the prose parts, occurs only once in the poetic portions (Job 12:9 ), and is ascribed to Job only in one verse in the Prologue ( Job 1:21 ). Adonai is also met with once ( Job 28:28 ). God is usually referred to by Job and his associates by names not distinctively Jewish: Et , 55 times; Etoah , 41 times out of 57 in the whole OT; and Shaddai , 31 times out of 48 in OT; Etohim is comparatively rare in the poem. The entire absence of distinct allusions to Israelitish history points to the same conclusion. The great word torah , ‘law,’ is used only once ( Job 22:22 ), and then in the general sense of ‘instruction.’ According to a lost work, ‘Concerning the Jews,’ by one Aristeas, cited by Euseb. ( Ev. Praep . ix. 25), and the appendix in the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , said to be taken from a Syriac book but standing in some relation to Aristeas, Job is to be identified with Jobab, king of Edom ( Genesis 36:33 ). This identification, which appears also in the Testament of Job , a work probably containing an ancient Jewish nucleus, although critically worthless, is not without interest and value, as possibly preserving a fragment of old tradition. The name Job , which probably belongs to the traditional story, is in Heb. ’Iyyôb . The apparently similar name Job (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ) of Genesis 46:13 , a son of Issachar, is differently spelt (in Heb. Yôb ), and is therefore given in the RV [Note: Revised Version.] as Iob. Jobab , which is met with in several connexions ( Genesis 10:29 Joktanite; Genesis 36:33 Edomite; Joshua 11:1 Canaanite; 1 Chronicles 8:9 Benjamite), seems to be quite distinct, although Cheyne remarks (in EBi [Note: Encyclopædia Biblica.] ) that the possibility of a connexion must be admitted. The meaning of ’Iyyôb is extremely uncertain. If explained from the Heb., it means either ‘attacked’ or ‘attacker’ (Siegfried in JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] ). If explained with the help of the Arabic ’ayyûb , it means ‘returning,’ ‘penitent.’ In all probability it was a foreign name taken over with the story, which seems in the first instance to have been of foreign origin. The name Aiab , which was current in the north of Palestine c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 1400 (Tell el-Amarna Letters, No. 237 Winckler [118 Petrie]), may be a Canaanitish equivalent, but no stress can be laid on the similarity. It has also been noticed that aiabu in Bab. [Note: Babylonian.] meant ‘enemy’ ( ib. 50 Winckler [147 Petrie]), but this cannot be regarded at present as more than a coincidence.

2. The Book of Job

(1) Place in the Canon . Except in the Syriac Bible, which locates it between the Pentateuch and Joshua, on account of its supposed great antiquity, the book is always reckoned as one of the Kethubim or Hagiographa , and is often given the third place. It is usually grouped with Ps. and Prov., with which it is associated by the use of a special system of accentuation (except in the Prologue and Epilogue), but the order of the three books varies.

In a baraitha in the Bab. [Note: Babylonian.] Talm. ( Baba bathra 14 b ), which probably gives the most ancient order (Ryle, Canon of OT , 232), it comes after Ruth and Ps.; in many Heb. MSS, especially Spanish, and in the Massorah, after Ch. and Ps.; in the German MSS, which have been followed in most printed editions, after Ps. and Proverbs. Of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] MSS Codex B has the remarkable order: Ps., Pr., Ec., Ca., Job, Wis., Sir.; A has Ps., Job, Proverbs. In printed editions of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] and Vulg. [Note: Vulgate.] Job usually comes first, and this order is generally adopted in European versions, owing no doubt to the influence of the Latin Bible.

(2) Text . The Heb. text of Job was long regarded as excellent, but has been much questioned in recent years, some critics resorting very largely to emendation with the help of the Versions and free conjecture. The reaction against the earlier view has probably led some scholars too far. When the difficulty of the theme, its bold treatment in many places, and the large number of words, forms, and uses not met with elsewhere (according to Friedrich Delitzsch, 259) are duly taken into account, the condition of the text is seen to be less corrupt than might have been expected. Much discussion has been occasioned by the peculiar character of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] as restored to its original form by means of the Sahidic translation first published in 1889. This version differs in extent from the Massoretic text more widely in Job than in any other book. There are two interesting additions: the expansion of Job 2:8 and the appendix at the end of the book; but the chief characteristic is omission. A little less than one-fifth of the Heb. text is absent about 400 lines out of, roundly speaking, 2200 for the whole book and 2075 for the poetic portions. A few have found in this shorter edition the original text of the book, but most ascribe the minus of the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] to defective understanding of the Hebrew, imperfect acquaintance with the structure of Heb. poetry, and the desire to conform to Hellenic standards, etc., rather than to variation of text. This version therefore, in the opinion of most competent judges, is of little use for the restoration of the text. Here and there it suggests a better reading, e.g. in Job 8:13 a ‘latter end’ for ‘paths,’ but in the main the Massoretic text is greatly to be preferred. It is not improbable, however, that the arrangement of the latter is wrong in a few passages: e.g. in ch. 31, where 8:35 37 form a more fitting close than 8:38 40.

(3) Analysis . The book, as we have it, is a poem framed in prose, with bits of prose interspersed. The prose portions are as follows: the introduction, often called the Prologue (ch. 1 f.), stating the problem, ‘the undeserved suffering of a good man,’ giving a partial solution, and bringing on the scene the hero’s three friends; short headings ( Job 3:1 , Job 4:1 etc.); a supplementary note ( Job 31:40 c.); a brief introduction to the speeches of Elihu ( Job 32:1-6 ); and the sequel, often called the Epilogue ( Job 42:7-17 ). The poem opens with a monologue in which Job curses the day of his birth (ch. 3). This is followed by a series of three dialogues extending over chs. 4 28: (i.) 4 14; (ii.) 15 21; (iii.) 22 28.

The three friends in succession, probably in order of seniority, reason with Job, all from the generally accepted standpoint that suffering is a sure indication of sin. As the discussion proceeds they become more and more bitter, until the most moderate and dignified of them, Eliphaz, actually taxes Job with flagrant iniquity ( Job 22:5-9 ). In the third dialogue, as we have it, one of the speakers, Zophar, is silent. Job replies at length to each expostulation, sometimes sinking into depression on the verge of despair ( Job 14:1-12 etc.), occasionally rising for a moment or two into confidence ( Job 16:19 , Job 19:25-27 ), but throughout maintaining his integrity, and, notwithstanding passionate utterances which seem near akin to blasphemy ( Job 10:8-17 , Job 16:7-17 ), never wholly losing his faith in God.

The dialogues are followed by a monologue spoken by Job (chs. 29 31), consisting of a vivid retrospect of the happy past (ch. 29), a dismal picture of the wretched present (ch. 30), and what Marshall calls ‘Job’s oath of self-vindication’ an emphatic disavowal of definite forms of transgression, in a series of sentences most of which begin with ‘if,’ sometimes followed by an imprecation (ch.31). The succeeding six chapters (32 37) are ascribed to a new character, a young man, Elihu the Buzite, who is dissatisfied] with both Job and his friends. The distinctive note of his argument is the stress laid on the thought that God teaches by means of affliction; in other words, that the purpose, or at least one main purpose, of trial is discipline (Job 33:19-28 , Job 36:10; Job 36:15 ). Elihu then drops out of the book, and the remainder of the poem (chs. 38 42:6) is devoted to Jahweh’s answer to Job’s complaint, calling attention to the Divine power, wisdom, and tenderness revealed in creation, in the control of natural forces and phenomena, in the life of birds and beasts, and in the working of Providence in human history, and suggesting that He who could do all this might surely he trusted to care for His servant; and Job’s penitent retraction of his ‘presumptuous utterances.’

(4) Integrity . On the question whether the book, as we have it, is a single whole or a combination of two or more parts, there is a general agreement among scholars in favour of the latter alternative. There are clear indications of at least two hands. The speeches of Elihu (chs. 32 37) are ascribed by most (not by Budde, Cornill, Wildehoer, Briggs, and a few others) to a later writer, who desired to supplement, and to some extent correct, the work of his predecessor.

The chief reasons alleged for this conclusion are: (1) the silence about Elihu in the Epilogue. (2) The fact that the whole section can be removed without any break of continuity, Job 31:40 c. linking on naturally to Job 38:1 . (3) The Aramaic character of the diction, and the occurrence of words and phrases not found elsewhere in the poem. (4) Literary inferiority. (5) Theological diversity, the conception of God differing from what is met with in the rest of the book (Marshall, Job and his Friends , p. 82ff.).

The third of these reasons has been shown to be inconclusive. The language of Elihu is not inconsistent with the view that these chapters were written by the author of the dialogues. The fourth reason is not without weight, but it must be allowed that there are some very fine things in these chapters, and it must be remembered that they have probably been handed down less carefully than some other parts of the book, on account of the disfavour with which some of the ancient Jews regarded Elihu (‘inspired by Satan’ Test. of Job , ch. 41). In any case, Friedrich Delitzsch has gone too far in describing the author as ‘a fifth-rate poet.’ The remaining three reasons, however, seem to be nearly decisive.

The fine poem in ch. 28, which contrasts the success of man in finding precious ore with his utter failure to find wisdom, does not fit in with the context, and is therefore regarded by many as an addition. The striking, but rather turgid, descriptions of the hippopotamus and the crocodile in chs. 40, 41 are also held by many to be an interpolation. Some question the verses about the ostrich (Job 39:13-18 ). The Prologue and Epilogue are considered by some to be the relies of an earlier work in prose.

A few scholars go much further in critical analysis. Bickell, for instance, in his search after the original text, expunges not only the speeches of Elihu and the Prologue and Epilogue, but also the whole of the speeches of Jahweh, and many smaller portions. Cheyne (in EBi [Note: Encyclopædia Biblica.] ) seems to find four main elements in the book, as we have it, ‘which has grown, not been made’: (1) the Prologue and the Epilogue; (2) the dialogue; (3) the speeches of Jahweh; (4) the speeches of Elihu. Marshall (in Com .), on the ground that there are different strata of theological belief, also finds four elements, but only in part the same. (1) The dialogues up to Job 27:23 , with the Epilogue, and part of the Prologue; (2) chs. 28 31, and the speeches of Jahweh; (3) the speeches of Elihu; (4) the references to the heavenly council in chs. 1 and 2.

(5) Nature of the Book . The class of Heb. literature to which the Book of Job belongs is clearly the Chokhmah or Wisdom group, the other representatives of which are Pr., Ec., and Sir. the group which deals with questions of practical ethics, religious philosophy, and speculation. The book is mainly not entirely, as one of the Rabbis thought ( Baba bathra , 15 a ) a work of imagination, but, in the judgment of most, with a traditional nucleus, the extent of which, however, is uncertain, as there are features in both the Prologue and the Epilogue which suggest literary invention: e.g. , the recurrence of the words ‘I only am escaped alone to tell thee’ ( Job 1:15-17; Job 1:19 ), the use of the Numbers 3:1-51 ( Job 1:2; JOba 1:17 , Job 2:11 , Job 42:13 ) and 7 ( Job 1:2 f., Job 42:8; Job 42:13 ), and the doubling of Job’s possessions ( Job 42:12 ). The poem, as handed down to us, can hardly he described in modern terms. It contains lyrical elements, but could not appropriately he designated lyrical. It has more than one dramatic feature, but is not really a drama. It reminds one of the epos, but is not an epic. It is didactic, but, as Baudissin has observed, soars high above a mere didactic poem. It is emphatically sui generis . It stands absolutely alone, not merely in the literature of Israel, but in the literature of the world.

(6) Poetic Form . The Austrian scholar Bickell, who has been followed by Duhm, and in England by Dillon, has tried to show that the poem was written throughout in quatrains, but the textual havoc wrought in the attempt seems to prove clearly that he is, in part at least, on the wrong track. Very few critics accept the theory. The only thing that seems to be certain about the poetic method of the writer or writers is the use throughout of the parallelism of members, which has long been known as the leading feature of ancient Oriental poetry. A verse usually consists of two lines or members, but there are many instances where there are three ( Job 3:4 ff., Job 3:9 ), and one at least where there is only one ( Job 14:4 ). More than eight hundred out of about a thousand verses, according to Ley, consist of two lines, each of which has three independent words. But here again there are many exceptions, some no doubt due to textual corruption, but more in all probability to the poet’s mastery of the forms which he employed.

(7) Purpose and teaching . The chief object of the poet to whom we owe the dialogues, and probably the Prologue and the Epilogue, and the speeches of Jahweh, and we may add, of the compiler or editor of the whole book, is to give a better answer to the question, ‘Why are exceptionally good men heavily afflicted?’ than that generally current in Jewish circles down to the time of Christ. A subsidiary object is the delineation of spiritual experience under the conditions supposed, of the sufferer’s changing moods, and yet indestructible longing for the God whom he cannot understand. The poet’s answer, as stated in the speeches of Jahweh, seems at the first reading no answer at all, but when closely examined is seen to be profoundly suggestive. There is no specific reply to Job’s bitter complaints and passionate outcries. Instead of reasoning with His servant, Jahweh reminds him of a few of the wonders of creation and providence, and leaves him to draw the inference. He draws it, and sees the God whom he seemed to have lost sight of for ever as he never saw Him before, even in the time of his prosperity; sees Him, indeed, in a very real sense for the first time ( Job 42:5 ). The book also contains other partial solutions of the problem. The speeches of Elihu lay stress, as already observed, on the educational value of suffering. God is a peerless teacher ( Job 36:22 b), who ‘delivereth the afflicted by his affliction, and openeth (uncovereth) their ear by adversity’ ( Job 36:15 ). The Prologue lifts the curtain of the unseen world, and reveals a mysterious personality who is Divinely permitted to inflict suffering on the righteous, which results in manifestation of the Divine glory. The intellectual range of the book is amazingly wide. Marshall observes that ‘every solution which the mind of man has ever framed [of the problem of the adversity of the righteous, and the prosperity of the wicked] is to be found in the Book of Job.’ On the question of the hereafter the teaching of the book as a whole differs little from that of the OT in general. There is yearning for something better ( Numbers 14:13-16 ), and perhaps a momentary conviction ( Job 19:25-27 ), but the general conception of the life after death is that common to Hebrews, Assyrians, and Babylonians.

(8) The characters . The interest of the Book of Job is concentrated mainly on the central figure, the hero. Of the other five leading characters by far the most interesting is the Satan of the Prologue, half-angel half-demon, by no means identical with the devil as usually conceived, and yet with a distinctly diabolical tendency. The friends are not very sharply differentiated in the book as we have it, but it is probable that the parts are wrongly distributed in the third dialogue, which is incomplete, no part being assigned to Zophar. Some ascribe Job 27:7-10; Job 27:13-23 to Zophar, and add to Bildad’s speech (which in the present arrangement consists only of ch. 25) Job 27:5-14 of ch. 26. what is left of Job’s reply being found in Job 26:1-4 , Job 27:2-6; Job 27:11 f. Marshall finds Zophar’s third speech in chs. 25 and Job 26:5-14 , and Bildad’s in Job 24:18-21 . There seems to be considerable confusion in chs. 25 27, so that it is difficult to utilize them for the study of the characters of Bildad and Zophar. Eliphaz seems to be the oldest and most dignified of the three, with something of the seer or prophet about him ( Job 4:12-21 ). Bildad is ‘the traditionalist.’ Zophar , who is probably the youngest, is very differently estimated, one scholar designating him as a rough noisy fellow, another regarding him as a philosopher of the agnostic type. It must be allowed that the three characters are not as sharply distinguished as would be the case in a modern poem, the writer being concerned mainly with Job, and using the others to some extent as foils. Elihu , who has been shown to be almost certainly the creation of another writer, is not by any means a copy of one of the three. He is an ardent young man, not free from conceit, but with noble thoughts about God and insight into God’s ways not attained by them.

(9) Date . In the Heb. Sirach ( Sir 49:8-10 ) Job is referred to after Ezekiel and before ‘the Twelve.’ which may possibly suggest that the writer regarded the book as comparatively late. The oldest Rabbinic opinion ( Baba bathra , 14 b ) ascribed the book to Moses. Two Rabbis placed Job in the period of the return from the Exile ( ib. 15 a ), one as late as the Persian period ( ib. 15 b ). These opinions have no critical value, but the first has exercised considerable influence. Modern students are generally agreed on the following points: (1) The book in all its parts implies a degree of reflexion on the problems of life which fits in better with a comparatively late than with a very early age. (2) The dialogue, which is unquestionably one of the oldest portions, indicates familiarity with national catastrophes, such as the destruction of the kingdom of Samaria, the overthrow of Damascus, and the leading away of large bodies of captives, including priests and nobles, from Jerusalem to Babylon ( Job 12:17-25 ), which again, on the assumption that the writer is an Israelite, points to an advanced stage of Israelitish history. Many take a further step. ‘The prophet Jeremiah in his persecutions, Job who is called by Jahweh “my servant Job” ( Job 42:7 ), and the suffering Servant of Jahweh in the exilic prophet are figures which seem to stand in the connexion of a definite period’ (Baudissin, Einleitung , 768), and so point at the earliest to the Exile and the decades immediately preceding it. These and other considerations have led most recent critics to date the main poem near, or during, or after the Exile.

Some earlier scholars (Luther, Franz Delitzsch, Cox, and Stanley) recommended the age of Solomon, others (Nöldeke, Hitzig, and Reuss) the age of Isaiah, and others (Ewald, Riehm, and apparently Bleek) the period between Isaiah and Jeremiah. Marshall thinks that the dialogue may have been written as early as the time of Tiglath-pileser iii (b.c. 745 726), but not earlier. Dillmann, König, Davison (in Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] ), and Driver favour the period of the Exile; Cheyne (in EBi [Note: Encyclopædia Biblica.] ) puts the earliest part after b.c. 519; G. Hoffmann, c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 500; Duhm, from 500 to 450; Budde, E.Kautzsch, and Peake, c [Note: circa, about.] . 400; the school of Kuenen, the 4th or 3rd cent.; O. Holtzmann the age of the Ptolemys; and Siegfried (in the JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] ), the time of the Maccabees.

At present the period from c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 600 to c [Note: circa, about.] . 400 seems to command most approval. The later portions of the book, especially the speeches of Elihu, may have been written a century or more after the main poem. Marshall thinks that the latest element may be as late as the age of Malachi, and Duhm confidently assigns ‘Elihu’ to the 2nd cent. b.c. A definite date is evidently unattainable either for the whole or for parts, but it seems to be tolerably certain that even the earlier portions are much later than used to be assumed.

(10) Authorship . Besides the Talmudic guess cited above, very few attempts have been made to fix on an author. Calmet suggested Solomon , Bunsen Baruch , and Royer (in 1901) Jeremiah . None of these views needs to be discussed. Whoever was the author of the main poem, he was undoubtedly an Israelite, for a Gentile would not have used the Tetragrammaton so freely. Of familiarity with the Law there are, indeed, very few traces, but that is doubtless owing to the poet’s wonderful skill, which has enabled him to maintain throughout a Gentile and patriarchal colouring. There is no reason for thinking that he wrote either in Babylonia or in Egypt. He must have lived in some region where he could study the life of the desert. It has been remarked that all the creatures he names (except the hippopotamus and the crocodile, which may have been introduced by a later hand) are desert creatures. He was intimately acquainted with the life of caravans ( Job 6:15-20 ). He knew something of the astronomy of his time ( Job 9:9 , cf. Job 38:31 f.). He had some acquaintance with the myths and superstitions of Western Asia: cf. Job 9:13 , Job 25:2 , Job 26:12 , where there may be allusions to the Babylonian myth about the struggle between the dragon of Chaos and Marduk, the god of light; Job 3:8 , Job 26:13 , where reference may be made to popular notions about eclipses and to the claims of magicians; and perhaps Job 29:18 b., where some find an allusion to the fabulous phÅ“nix. He was probably familiar with the Wisdom-lore of Israel, and possibly of Edom, and may safely be assumed to have known all that was worth knowing in other departments of Heb. literature (cf. Job 7:17 f. with Psalms 8:4 f., and Job 3:3; Job 3:10 with Jeremiah 20:14-18 , although the order of dependence is by no means certain in the latter case). The poetic execution reveals the hand of a master. It seems most natural to look for his home in the south or southeast of the Holy Land, not far from Edom, where he would come in frequent contact with Gentile sages, and could glean much from travellers.

(11) Parallels to Job . Cheyne (in EBi [Note: Encyclopædia Biblica.] ) has endeavoured to connect the story of Job with the Babylonian legend of Eabani, but the similarity is too slight to need discussion. A far closer parallel is furnished by a partially preserved poem from the library of Ashurbanipal, which probably reproduces an ancient Babylonian text. It represents the musings of an old king, who has lived a blameless and devout life, but is nevertheless terribly afflicted in body and mind pursued all day, and without rest at night and is apparently forsaken of the gods. He cannot understand the ways of Deity towards either himself or others. ‘What seems good to a man is bad with his god.… Who could understand the counsel of the gods in heaven?’ The poem ends with a song of praise for deliverance from sin and disease ( Der Alte Orient , vii. No. 3, pp. 27 30, and extra vol. ii. 134 139; and M. Jastrow in JBL [Note: BL Journ. of Biblical Literature.] xxv [1906], p. 135 ff.).

The Jesuit missionary, Père Bouchet, called attention in 1723 to the story of the ancient Indian king Arichandiren who, in consequence of a dispute in an assembly of gods and goddesses and holy men as to the existence of a perfect prince, was very severely tested by the leader of the sceptical party. He was deprived of his property, his kingdom, his only son, and his wife, but still trod the path of virtue, and received as rewards the restoration of wife and son, and other marks of Divine favour. These parallels, however, interesting as they are, do not in the least interfere with the originality and boldness of the Hebrew poem, which must ever be regarded as the boldest and grandest effort of the ancient world to ‘justify the ways of God to men.’

W. Taylor Smith.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Job'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/j/job.html. 1909.

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