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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Job

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a patriarch celebrated for his patience, and the constancy of his piety and virtue. That Job was a real, and not a fictitious, character, may be inferred from the manner in which he is mentioned in the Scriptures. Thus, the Prophet Ezekiel speaks of him: "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God," Ezekiel 14:14 . Now since Noah and Daniel were unquestionably real characters, we must conclude the same of Job. "Behold," says the Apostle James, "we count them happy which endure: 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 . It is scarcely to be believed that a divinely inspired Apostle would refer to an imaginary character as an example of patience, or in proof of the mercy of God. But, beside the authority of the inspired writers, we have the strongest internal evidence, from the book itself, that Job was a real person; for it expressly specifies the names of persons, places, facts, and other circumstances usually related in true histories. Thus, we have the name, country, piety, wealth, &c, of Job described, Job i; the names, number, and acts of his children are mentioned; the conduct of his wife is recorded as a fact, Job ii; his friends, their names, countries, and discourses with him in his afflictions are minutely delineated, Job 2:11 , &c.

Farther: no reasonable doubt can be entertained respecting the real existence of Job, when we consider that it is proved by the concurrent testimony of all eastern tradition: he is mentioned by the author of the book of Tobit, who lived during the Assyrian captivity; he is also repeatedly mentioned by Arabian writers as a real character. The whole of his history, with many fabulous additions, was known among the Syrians and Chaldeans; and many of the noblest families among the Arabs are distinguished by his name, and boast of being descended from him.

Since, then, says Horne, the book of Job contains the history of a real character, the next point is the age in which he lived, a question concerning which there is as great a diversity of opinion, as upon any other subject connected with this venerable monument of sacred antiquity. One thing, however, is generally admitted with respect to the age of the book of Job, namely, its remote antiquity. Even those who contend for the later production of the book of Job are compelled to acquiesce in this particular. Grotius thinks the events of the history are such as cannot be placed later than the sojourning of the Israelites in the wilderness. Bishop Warburton, in like manner, admits them to bear the marks of high antiquity; and Michaelis confesses the manners to be perfectly Abrahamic, that is, such as were common to all the seed of Abraham, Israelites, Ishmaelites, and Idumeans. The following are the principal circumstances from which the age of Job may be collected and ascertained:—

1. The Usserian or Bible chronology dates the trial of Job about the year 1520 before the Christian era, twenty-nine years before the departure of the Israelites from Egypt; and that the book was composed before that event, is evident from its total silence respecting the miracles which accompanied the exode; such as the passage of the Red Sea, the destruction of the Egyptians, the manna in the desert, &c; all of which happened in the vicinity of Job's country, and were so apposite in the debate concerning the ways of Providence that some notice could not but have been taken of them, if they had been coeval with the poem of Job.

2. That it was composed before Abraham's migration to Canaan, may also be inferred from its silence respecting the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the other cities of the plain, which were still nearer to Idumea, where the scene is laid.

3. The length of Job's life places him in the patriarchal times. He survived his trial one hundred and forty years, Job 42:16 , and was probably not younger at that time; for we read that his seven sons were all grown up, and had been settled in their own houses for a considerable time, Job 1:4-5 . He speaks of the sins of his youth, Job 13:26 , and of the prosperity of his youth; and yet Eliphaz addresses him as a novice: "With us are both the gray-headed and very aged men, much elder than thy father," Job 15:10 .

4. That he did not live at an earlier period, may be collected from an incidental observation of Bildad, who refers Job to their forefathers for instruction in wisdom:—

"Inquire, I pray thee, of the former age,

And prepare thyself to the search of their fathers:"

assigning as a reason the comparative shortness of human life, and consequent ignorance of the present generation:—

"For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing; Because our days upon earth are a shadow."

Job 8:8-9 .

But the fathers of the former age, or grandfathers of the present, were the contemporaries of Peleg and Joktan, in the fifth generation after the deluge; and they might easily have learned wisdom from the fountain head by conversing with Shem, or perhaps with Noah himself; whereas, in the seventh generation, the standard of human life was reduced to about two hundred years, which was a shadow compared with the longevity of Noah and his sons.

5. The general air of antiquity which pervades the manners recorded in the poem, is a farther evidence of its remote date. The manners and customs, indeed, critically correspond with that early period. Thus, Job speaks of the most ancient kinds of writing, by sculpture, Job 19:24 ; his riches also are reckoned by his cattle, Job 42:12 . Farther: Job acted as high priest in his family, according to the patriarchal usage, Genesis 8:20 ; for the institution of an established priesthood does not appear to have taken place any where until the time of Abraham. Melchizedec, king of Salem, was a priest of the primitive order, Genesis 14:18 ; such also was Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, in the vicinity of Idumea, Exodus 18:12 . The first regular priesthood was probably instituted in Egypt, where Joseph was married to the daughter of the priest of On, Genesis 41:45 .

6. The slavish homage of prostration to princes and great men, which prevailed in Egypt, Persia, and the east in general, and which still subsists there, was unknown in Arabia at that time. Though Job was one of the greatest men of all the east, we do not find any such adoration paid to him by his contemporaries, in the zenith of his prosperity, among the marks of respect so minutely described in the twenty-ninth chapter: "When the young men saw him, they hid themselves," (rather, shrunk back, through respect or rustic bashfulness,) "the aged arose and stood up in his presence, (more correctly, ranged themselves about him, ) "the princes refrained from talking, and laid their hand upon their mouth; the nobles held their peace," and were all attention while he spoke. All this was highly respectful, indeed, but still it was manly, and showed no cringing or servile adulation. With this description correspond the manners and conduct of the genuine Arabs of the present day, a majestic race, who were never conquered, and who have retained their primitive customs, features, and character, with scarcely any alteration.

7. The allusion made by Job to that species of idolatry alone, which by general consent is admitted to have been the most ancient, namely, Zabianism, or the worship of the sun and moon, and also to the exertion of the judicial authority against it, Job 31:26-28 , is an additional and most complete proof of the high antiquity of the poem, as well as a decisive mark of the patriarchal age. 8. A farther evidence of the remote antiquity of this book is the language of Job and his friends; who, being all Idumeans, or at least Arabians of the adjacent country, yet conversed in Hebrew. This carries us up to an age so early as that in which all the posterity of Abraham, Israelites, Idumeans, and Arabians, yet continued to speak one common language, and had not branched into different dialects.

The country in which the scene of this poem is laid, is stated, Job 1:1 , to be the land of Uz, which by some geographers has been placed in Sandy, and by others in Stony, Arabia. Bochart strenuously advocated the former opinion, in which he has been powerfully supported by Spanheim, Calmet, Carpzov, Heidegger, and some later writers; Michaelis and Ilgen place the scene in the valley of Damascus; but Bishops Lowth and Magee, Dr. Hales, Dr. Good, and some later critics and philologers, have shown that the scene is laid in Idumea. In effect, nothing is clearer than that the history of an inhabitant of Idumea is the subject of the poem which bears the name of Job, and that all the persons introduced into it were Idumeans, dwelling in Idumea, in other words, Edomite Arabs. These characters are, Job himself, of the land of Uz; Eliphaz, of Teman, a district of as much repute as Uz, and which, it appears from the joint testimony of Jeremiah. Ezekiel, Amos, and Obadiah, Jeremiah 49:7 ; Jeremiah 49:20 ; Ezekiel 25:13 ; Amos 1:11-12 ; Obadiah 1:8-9 , formed a principal part of Idumea; Bildad, of Shuah, who is always mentioned in conjunction with Sheba and Dedan, the first of whom was probably named after one of the brothers of Joktan or Kahtan, and the two last from two of his sons, all of them being uniformly placed in the vicinity of Idumea, Genesis 25:2-3 ; Jeremiah 49:8 ; Zophar of Naama, a city importing pleasantness, which is also stated by Joshua, Joshua 15:21 ; Joshua 15:41 , to have been situate in Idumea, and to have lain in a southern direction toward its coast, on the shores of the Red Sea; and Elihu, of Buz, which, as the name of a place, occurs only once in Sacred Writ, Jeremiah 25:23 , but is there mentioned in conjunction with Temen and Dedan; and hence necessarily, like them, a border city upon Uz or Idumea. Allowing this chirography to be correct, (and such, upon a fair review of facts, we may conclude it to be,) there is no difficulty in conceiving that hordes of nomadic Chaldeans as well as Sabeans, a people addicted to rapine, and roving about at immense distances for the sake of plunder, should have occasionally infested the defenceless country of Idumea, and roved from the Euphrates even to Egypt.

The different parts of the book of Job are so closely connected together, that they cannot be detached from each other. The exordium prepares the reader for what follows, supplies us with the necessary notices concerning Job and his friends, unfolds the scope, and places the calamities full in our view as an object of attention. The epilogue, or conclusion, again, has reference to the exordium, and relates the happy termination of Job's trials; the dialogues which intervene flow in regular order. Now, if any of these parts were to be taken away, the poem would be extremely defective. Without the prologue the reader would be utterly ignorant who Job was, who were his friends, and the cause of his being so grievously afflicted. Without the discourse of Elihu, Job 32-37, there would be a sudden and abrupt transition from the last words of Job to the address of God, for which Elihu's discourse prepares the reader. And without the epilogue, or conclusion, we should remain in ignorance of the subsequent condition of Job. Hence it is evident, that the poem is the composition of a single author; but who that was, is a question concerning which the learned are very much divided in their sentiments. Elihu, Job, Moses, Solomon, Isaiah, an anonymous writer in the reign of Manasseh, Ezekiel, and Ezra, have all been contended for. The arguments already adduced respecting the age of Job, prove that it could not be either of the latter persons. Dr. Lightfoot, from an erroneous version of Job 32:16-17 , has conjectured that it is the production of Elihu; but the correct rendering of that passage refutes this notion. Ilgen ascribes it probably to a descendant of Elihu. Another and more generally received opinion attributes this book to Moses; this conjecture is founded on some apparent striking coincidences of sentiment, as well as from some marks of later date which are supposed to be discoverable in it. But, independently of the characters of antiquity already referred to, and which place the book of Job very many centuries before the time of Moses, the total absence of even the slightest allusion to the manners, customs, ceremonies, or history of the Israelites, is a direct evidence that the great legislator of the Hebrews was not, and could not have been the author. To which may be added, that the style of Job, as Bishop Lowth has remarked, is materially different from the poetical style of Moses; for it is much more compact, concise, or condensed, more accurate in the poetical conformation of the sentences; as may be observed also in the prophecies of Balaam the Mesopotamian, a foreigner, indeed, with respect to the Israelites, but not unacquainted either with their language, or with the worship of the true God. Upon the whole, then, we have sufficient ground to conclude that this book was not the production of Moses, but of some earlier age. Bishop Lowth favours the opinion of Schultens, Peters, and others, which is adopted by Bishop Tomline and Dr. Hales, who suppose Job himself, or some contemporary, to have been the author of this poem; and there seems to be no good reason for supposing that it was not written by Job himself. It appears, indeed, highly probable that Job was the writer of his own story, of whose inspiration we have the clearest evidence in the forty-second chapter of this book, in which he thus addresses the Almighty: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee." It is plain that in this passage some privilege is intended which he never had enjoyed before, and which he calls the sight of God.

The book of Job contains the history of Job, a man equally distinguished for purity and uprightness of character, and for honours, wealth and domestic felicity, whom God permitted, for the trial of his faith, to be suddenly deprived of all his numerous blessings, and to be at once plunged into the deepest affliction, and most accumulated distress. It gives an account of his eminent piety, patience, and resignation under the pressure of these severe calamities, and of his subsequent elevation to a degree of prosperity and happiness, still greater than that which he had before enjoyed. How long the sufferings of Job continued, we are not informed; but it is said, that after God turned his captivity, and blessed him a second time, he lived one hundred and forty years, Job 42:16 . Its style is in many parts peculiarly sublime; and it is not only adorned with poetical embellishments, but most learned men consider it as written in metre. Through the whole work we discover religious instruction shining forth amidst the venerable simplicity of ancient manners. It every where abounds with the noblest sentiments of piety, uttered with the spirit of inspired conviction. It is a work unrivalled for the magnificence of its language and for the beautiful and sublime images which it presents. In the wonderful speech of the Deity, Job 38, 39, every line delineates his attributes, every sentence opens a picture of some grand object in creation, characterized by its most striking features. Add to this, that its prophetic parts reflect much light on the economy of God's moral government; and every admirer of sacred antiquity, every inquirer after religious instruction, will seriously rejoice that the enraptured sentence of Job, Job 19:23 , is realized to a more effectual and unforeseen accomplishment; that while the memorable records of antiquity have mouldered from the rock, the prophetic assurance and sentiments of Job are graven in Scriptures that no time shall alter, no changes shall efface.


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Job'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/j/job.html. 1831-2.

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