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Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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Age, and relation to the canon. The book has a unique position in the canon. It is unconnected with Israel, God's covenant people, with whom all the other scriptures are associated. "The law" (towrah ),the Magna Charta of the rest, occurs but once, and then not in its technical sense (Job 22:22). The Exodus is never alluded to, though the miraculous events connected with it in Egypt and the desert, with both of which Job shows his acquaintance, would have been appropriate to his and the friends' argument. The destruction of the guilty by the flood (Job 22:15), and that of Sodom and Gomorrah (Job 18:15) possibly, are referred to; but no later facts. The inference seems natural that the book was of an age anterior to Israel. Job's own life was of patriarchal length, 200 years. The only idolatry alluded to is the earliest, Sabeanism, the worship of the sun, moon, and seba or heavenly hosts (Job 31:26-28).

Job sacrifices as priest for his family according to patriarchal usage, and alludes to no exclusive priesthood, temple, or altar. Lastly, the language is Hebrew with an Arabic and Syriac infusion found in no other sacred book, answering to an age when Hebrew still retained many of the elements of the original common Semitic, from which in time branched off Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic, carrying with them severally fragments of the common stock. The obscurity of several phrases, the obsolete words and forgotten traditions (e.g. that of the bushmen, Job 30:4-7), all mark a remote antiquity. The admission of the book into the Hebrew canon, notwithstanding the absence of reference to Israel, is accounted for if Let's theory be adopted that Moses became acquainted with it during his stay in Arabia, near Horeb, and added the prologue and epilogue. To the afflicted Israelites Job's patience and restoration were calculated to be a lesson of special utility.

The restriction of "Jehovah" (the divine name revealed to Moses in its bringing the fulfillment of the promise to God's covenant people just at that time: Exodus 6:3) mostly to the prologue and epilogue favors this view. The Holy Spirit directed him to canonize the oriental patriarch's inspired book, just as he embodies in the Pentateuch the utterances of Balaam the prophet from the mountains of the East. The grand theme of the book is to reconcile the saint's afflictions with God's moral government in this present world. The doctrine of a future life in which the seeming anomalies of the present shall be cleared up would have given the main solution to the problem. But as yet this great truth was kept less prominent until "the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ who hath abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." Job plainly refers to the resurrection, but not with that persistent prominence with which the New Testament saints rest on it as their continual hope; Job does not make it his main solution.

Even still we need something in addition, to clear off the clouds which hang over God's present government of this fallen earth. The first consideration suggested in this sublime history and poem is, "an enemy hath done this." The veil which hides the world of spirits is drawn aside, and Satan, the accuser of the brethren, appears as the mediate cause of Job's afflictions. Satan must be let do his worst to show that his sneer is false that religion is but selfishness," doth Job fear God for naught?" (Job 1:9). The patience and the final perseverance of the saints (Job 1:21; Job 2:10; Job 13:15), notwithstanding temporary distrust under Satan's persecutions which entailed loss of family, friends, possessions, and bodily health, are illustrated in Job's history.

God's people serve Him for His own sake, not merely for the temporary reward His service generally brings; they serve Him even in overwhelming trial (Genesis 15:1). Herein Job is a type though imperfectly of Him who alone, without once harbouring a distrustful thought, endured all this as well as death in its most agonizing, humiliating form, and, worse than all, the hiding of even God's countenance from Him. Job's chief agony was not so much his accumulated losses and sufferings, not even his being misunderstood by friends, but that God hid His face from him, as these calamities too truly seemed to prove (Job 23:9). Yet conscience told him he was no hypocrite, nay though God was slaying him he still trusted in God (Job 23:10-15; Job 13:15; compare Abraham, Genesis 22). Job's three trials are progressive:

1. His sudden loss of all blessings external to himself, possessions, servants, and sons; he conquers this temptation: "naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord."

2. His loss of bodily health by the most loathsome sickness; still he conquers: "shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?"

3. His mental conflict brought on by the three friends' suspicion of his insincerity, which he felt untrue, but which seemed justified by his trials from God; this was the poignant sting to his soul, for he accepted their premises, that great suffering proved great sin.

Here he failed; yet amidst his impatient groans he still clung desperately to his faith and followed hard after God, and felt sure God would yet vindicate him (Job 23:10; Job 19:25-27). His chief error was his undue self justification before God, which he at last utterly renounces (Job 30:25 to Job 31; Job 32:1; Job 33:9; Job 9:17; Job 10:7; Job 16:17; Job 27:5; Job 29:10-17; Job 40:4-5; Job 42:5-6). After fretfully demanding God's interposition (23) to vindicate his innocence he had settled down into the sad conviction that God heeds not, and that His ways of providence are as a theory inexplicable to man while practical wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Job 28:31:35). Elihu gives a leading solution of the problem. God not only hereafter shall judge the world, but even now providentially and morally controls all its affairs.

Even the righteous have sin which needs correction. God speaks to them by chastisement; He is not really silent (Job 16:21; Job 23:3; Job 31:35), as Job had complained (Job 33:14, etc.); He teaches them humility, and prepares them for pardon and life through the mediating Angel of the covenant (of whom Elihu is the type: Job 33:6-7; Job 33:23-30). To Job's charge against God of injustice Elihu answers that God's omnipotence (Job 34:35-36), upholding man in life when He could destroy him, and His universal government, exclude the idea of injustice in Him. To Job's charge that God's providence is unsearchable, Elihu answers that suffering is to teach humility and adorntion of His greatness. Affliction to the saint is justice and mercy in disguise; he is thereby led to feel the heinousness of sin (via crucis via salutis ), and not being permitted by God's love to fall away for ever he repents of the impatience which suffering betrayed him into for a time.

Then, justifying God and condemning himself, he is finally delivered from temporal afflictions. Now already the godly are happier amidst afflictions than the ungodly (Mark 10:29-30). Even these considerations do not exhaust the subject; still difficulties remain. To answer these, God Himself (Job 38) appears on the scene, and resolves all that remains uncleared into the one resting thought of faith, the sovereignty of God. We must wait for His solution hereafter of what we know not now (John 13:7). Elihu is the preacher appealing to Job's reason and conscience. God alone, in His appearing, brings home the truth experimentally to Job's heart: "Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace; Behind a frowning Providence He hides a smiling face. Blind unbelief is sure to err, And scan God's work in vain; God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain."

CONSTRUCTION. The artificial construction of the poem appears in the oft recurring sacred numbers three and seven. Job had seven thousand sheep, seven sons, and three daughters, both before and after his trials. His three friends sit with him seven days and nights. "Job" in Arabic means repentance, the name given him in after life from his experiences. His personal reality appears from his being named with "Noah and Daniel," real persons, in Ezekiel 14:14; Ezekiel 14:16-20. James (James 5:11) refers to Job as an example of patience, which he would hardly do were Job an imaginary person. Persons and places are specified as they would not be in an allegory. The exact doubling of his possessions after restoration is probably the nearest round number given, as is often the case in books undoubtedly historical. The arguments of the speeches were substantially those given, the studied number and poetic form were given by the sacred writer under the Holy Spirit.

Job lived 140 years after his trials; and nothing is more natural than that he should at leisure mould into form the arguments of the momentous debate for the edification of the church. The debate occupied several sittings with intervals of a day or more between them. The number of speeches assigned to each was arranged by preconcerted agreement, so that none spoke out of his turn. Uz means "a light sandy soil" (Gesenius). (See UZ.) It was probably N. of Arabia Deserta, between Palestine and the Euphrates; called Ausitai by Ptolemy (Geogr. 19). In Genesis 22:21 Uz is son of Nahor, Abraham's brother. Another Uz in Genesis 10:23 was grandson of Shem and son of Aram; the latter is probably the source of the name, as the Aramaeaus dwelt between the Euphrates and Tigris. The sons of Shem dwelt in "a mount of the East" (Genesis 10:30), answering to "men of the East" (Job 1:3).

Rawlinson says Uz is the prevailing name of the country at the Euphrates' mouth, where the Chaldees mentioned in Job 1 resided. The Idumean quarter however, and Arabia, would agree better with Moses' finding it during his exile in Midian. Moreover, Eliphaz is an Idumean name so is "Temanite" (Genesis 36:4; Genesis 36:15). "Shuhite" answers to Sycca in Arabia Deserta. Eusebius fixes Job's time as being two ages before Moses. Besides the arguments for this above, others are the number of oxen and rams sacrificed seven, as in Balaam's case; this agrees with a time before the law defined God's will otherwise. Also the writing he speaks of is the most ancient, sculpture (Job 20:23-24); "printed" means engraven, "pen" a graver, Riches were then cattle. The Hebrew "piece of money" is rather a lamb.

THE WRITER. The thought, imagery, and manners accord with what we should expect from an Arab emir. Job in his speeches shows himself more competent to compose the book than Elihu, to whom Lightfoot attributes it. The style is distinct from that of Moses. Its inspiration is attested by Paul under the Spirit quoting it with the formula "it is written" (Job 5:13). Our Lord in Matthew 24:28 refers to Job 29:30; compare also James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6, with Job 22:29; Romans 11:34-35 with Job 15:8; Jeremiah 20:14-15, endorses Job 3:3; Isaiah 19:5; Job 14:11; Psalm 37; Psalm 73, discuss the same problem as Job. Proverbs 8 develops Job's description of wisdom in Job 28. It stands among the hagiographa (ketuwbim , "sacred writings") in the threefold division "the law, the prophets, and the psalms," or hagiographa, of which the Psalms are a leading book (Luke 24:44).

DIVISIONS. To each of the three friends three speeches are assigned; Job is allowed a reply to each of the three. Eliphaz the oldest leads; Zophar at his third turn fails to speak, virtually owning himself defeated (Job 27). Therefore, Job continues his reply which forms three speeches: Job 26; Job 27; Job 28; Job 29-31. Elihu (Job 32-37) is allowed four speeches. Jehovah makes three addresses (Job 38-41). Thus throughout there is a tripartite division. The whole consists of three parts: the prologue, poem, and epilogue. The poem three: (1) Job's dispute with his three friends; (2) Elihu's address; (3) Jehovah's. The epilogue has three parts: Job' s justification, reconciliation with his friends, and restoration. The speakers regularly advance from less to greater vehemence. The explicitness (Job 14:14; Job 19:25) of Job's anticipation of the resurrection, as contrasted with the obscurity on the subject in the early books of Old Testament, is due to Job's enjoyment of the divine vision (Job 38:1; Job 42:5).

The revelations outside of Israel, being few, needed to be the more explicit. Balaam's prophecy (Numbers 24:17) was clear enough to lead the wise men of the East by the star (Matthew 2). In the age before the written law God left not Himself without witnesses, e.g. Melchizedek, Job, Jethro. Job only dimly realized the Spirit-designed significancy of his own words (1 Peter 1:11-12). Even Asaph, who had in David's psalms (Psalms 16:10; Psalms 17:15) plain prophecies of a future retribution in the body to the righteous and to the wicked, still felt the difficulty as regards God's government here in this present time (Psalm 73). "Prosperity is the blessing of Old Testament, adversity that of N. T. ... Yet even in Old Testament the pencil of the Holy Spirit has laboured more in describing Job's afflictions than Solomon's felicities" (Bacon). Elihu showed how God can be just, and yet the righteous be afflicted; Jehovah's address shows that He must be just, because He is God. God reprimands the three friends, but not Elihu. The simpler and less artificial forms of poetry prevail in Job, a mark of the early age. The Orientals used to preserve their sentiments in a terse, proverbial, poetic form, called mashal; to this form Job's poetry is related. (See JOBAB.)

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Job'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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Job, the Book of
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