International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Job, Book of
1. Place in the Canon
2. Rank and Readers
1. Setting of Time, Place and Scene
2. Characters and Personality
3. Form and Style
A) To Job's Blessing and Curse
1. His "Autumn Days"
2. The Wager in Heaven
3. The Silent Friends
4. Whose Way Is Hid
B) To Job's Ultimatum of Protest
1. The Veiled Impeachment
2. Wisdom Insipid, Friends Doubtful
3. Crookedness of the Order of Things
4. No Mediation in Sight
C) To Job's Ultimatum of Faith
1. Detecting the Friends' False Note
2. Staking Everything on Integrity
3. "If a Man Die"
4. The Surviving Next of Kin
D) To Job's Verdict on Things as They Are
1. Climax and Subsidence of the Friends' Charge
2. The Real Cause of Job's Dismay
3. Manhood in the Ore
4. Job Reads His Indictment
E) The Denoucement
1. The Self-constituted Interpreter
2. The Whirlwind and the Voice
3. The Thing That Is Right
4. The Restored Situation
1. Beyond the Didactic Tether
2. What Comes of Limiting the Purpose
3. The Book's Own Import of Purpose
4. Problem of the Intrinsic Man
1. Shadowy Contacts with History
2. Place in Biblical Literature
3. Parallels and Echoes
1. Place in the Canon:
The greatest production of the Hebrew Wisdom literature, and one of the supreme literary creations of the world. Its place in the Hebrew Canon corresponds to the high estimation in which it was held; it stands in the 3section, the "writings" (
2. Rank and Readers:
The Book of Job was not one of the books designated for public reading in the synagogues, as were the Pentateuch and the Prophets, or for occasional reading at feast seasons, as were the 5 megilloth or rolls. It was rather a book for private reading, and one whose subject-matter would appeal especially to the more cultivated and thoughtful classes. Doubtless it was all the more intimately valued for this detachment from sanctuary associations; it was, like Proverbs, a people's book; and especially among the cultivators of Wisdom it must have been from its first publication a cherished classic. At any rate, the patriarch Job (though whether from the legend or from the finished book is not clear; see JOB ) is mentioned as a well-known national type by Ezekiel 14:14 , Ezekiel 14:20; and James, writing to Jewish Christians (James 5:11 ), refers to the character of patriarch as familiar to his readers. It was as one of the great classic stories of their literature, rather than as embodying a ritual or prophetic standard, that it was so universally known and cherished.
II. The Literary Framework.
In view of the numerous critical questions by which the interpretation of the book has been beclouded - questions of later alterations, additions, corruptions, dislocations - it may be well to say at the outset that what is here proposed is to consider the Book of Job as we have it before us today, in its latest and presumably definitive edition. It will be time enough to remove excrescences when a fair view of the book as it is, with its literary values and relations, makes us sure that there are such; see III, below. Meanwhile, as a book that has reached a stage so fixed and finished that at any rate modern tinkering cannot materially change it, we may consider what its literary framework does to justify itself. And first of all, we may note that preeminently among Scripture books it bears the matured literary stamp; both in style and structure it is a work, not only of spiritual edification, but of finished literary article This may best be realized, perhaps, by taking it, as from the beginning it purports to be, as a continuously maintained story, with the consistent elements of plot, character scheme, and narrative movement which we naturally associate with a work of the narrator's article
1. Setting of Time, Place and Scene:
The story of the Book of Job is laid in the far-off patriarchal age, such a time as we find elsewhere represented only in the Book of Genesis; a time long before the Israelite state, with its religious, social and political organization, existed. Its place is "the land of Uz," a little-known region Southeast of Palestine, on the borders of Edom; a place remote from the ways of thinking peculiar to Israelite lawgivers, priests and prophets. Its scene is in the free open country, among mountains, wadies, pasture-lands, and rural towns, where the relations of man and man are more elemental and primitive, and where the things of God are more intimately apprehended than in the complex affairs of city and state. It is easy to see what the writer gains by such a choice of setting. The patriarchal conditions, wherein the family is the social and communal unit, enable him to portray worship and conduct in their primal elements: religious rites of the simplest nature, with the family head the unchallenged priest and intercessor (compare Job 1:4 , Job 1:5; Job 42:8 ), and without the austere exactions of sanctuary or temple; to represent God, as in the old folk-stories, as communicating with men in audible voice and in tempest; and to give to the patriarch or sheikh a function of counsel and succor in the community analogous to that of the later wise man or sage (compare Job 29). The place outside the bounds of Palestine enables him to give an international or rather intercommunal tissue to his thought, as befits the character of the wisdom with which he is dealing, a strain of truth which Israel could and did share with neighbor nations. This is made further evident by the fact that in the discourses of the book, the designation of God is not Yahweh (with one exception, Job 12:9 ), but Elohim or Eloah or Shaddai, appellatives rather than names, common to the Semitic peoples. The whole archaic scene serves to detach the story from complex conditions of civilization, and enables the writer to deal with the inherent and intrinsic elements of manhood.
2. Characters and Personality:
All the characters of the story, Job included, are from non-Palestinian regions. The chief spokes-man of the friends, Eliphaz, who is from Teman, is perhaps intended to represent a type of the standard and orthodox wisdom of the day; Teman, and Edom in general being famed for wisdom (Jeremiah 49:7; Obadiah 1:8 , Obadiah 1:9 ). The characters of the friends, while representing in general a remarkable uniformity of tenet, are quite aptly individualized: Eliphaz as a venerable and devout sage who, with his eminent penetrativeness of insight, combines a yearning compassion; Bildad more as a scholar versed in the derived lore of tradition; and Zophar more impetuous and dogmatic, with the dogmatist's vein of intolerance. In Elihu, the young Aramean who speaks after the others, the writer seems endeavoring to portray a young man's positiveness and absoluteness of conviction, and with it a self-conceit that quite outruns his ability. The Satan of the Prologue, who makes the wager with Yahweh, is masterfully individualized, not as the malignant tempter and enemy of mankind, but as a spirit compact of impudent skepticism, who can appreciate no motive beyond self-advantage. Even the wife of Job, with her peremptory disposition to make his affliction a personal issue with God, is not without an authentic touch of the elemental feminine. But high above them all is the character of Job himself, which, with all its stormy alternations of mood, range of assertion and remonstrance and growth of new conviction, remains absolutely consistent with itself. Nor can we leave unmentioned what is perhaps the hardest achievement of all, the sublime venture of giving the very words of God, in such a way that He speaks no word out of character nor measures His thought according to the standards of men.
3. Form and Style:
The Prologue, Job 1 and Job 2:1-13 , a few verses at the beginning of chapter 32 (Job 32:1-6 ), and the Epilogue (Job 42:7-17 ) are written in narrative prose. The rest of the book (except the short sentences introducing the speakers) is in poetry; a poetic tissue conforming to the type of the later
III. The Course of the Story.
To divide the story of Job into 42 parts, according to the 42 numbered chapters, is in the last degree arbitrary. Nothing comes of it except convenience in reading for those who wish to take their Job in little detached bits. The chapter division was no part of the original, and a very insignificant step in the later apprehension of the original. To divide according to the speeches of the interlocutors is better; it helps us realize how the conflict of views brought the various phases of the thought to expression; but this too, with its tempting, three-times-three, turns out to be merely a framework; it corresponds only imperfectly with the true inwardness of the story's movement; it is rather a scheme than a continuity. We are to bear in mind that this Book of Job is fundamentally the inner experience of one man, as he rises from the depths of spiritual gloom and doubt to a majestic table-land of new insight and faith; the other characters are but ancillary, helps and foils, whose function is subordinate and relative. Hence, mindful of this inwardness of Job's experience, I have ventured to trace the story in 5 main stages, naming them according to the landing-stage attained in each.
A) To Job's Blessing and Curse:
1. His "Autumn Days":
The story begins (Job 1:1-5 ) with a brief description of Job as he was before his trial began; the elements of his life, outer and inner, on which is to be raised the question of motive. A prosperous landholder of the land of Uz, distinguished far and wide as the greatest (i.e. richest) of the sons of the East, his inner character corresponds: to all appearance nothing lacking, a man "perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and turned away from evil." The typical Hebrew blessings of life were his to the full: wealth, honor, health, family. He is evidently set before us as the perfect example of the validity of the established Wisdom-tenet, that righteousness and Wisdom are identical (see under
2. The Wager in Heaven:
Nor is the test delayed, or its ground ambiguous when it comes. Satan proposes it. Two scenes are given (Job 1:6-12; Job 2:1-6 ) from the court of God, wherever that is; for they are overheard by the reader, not seen, and of course neither Job nor any inhabitant of earth is aware of them. In these scenes the sons of God, the spirits who rejoiced over creation (Job 38:7 ), are come together to render report, and Satan, uninvited, enters among them. He is a wandering spirit, unanchored to any allegiance, who roams through the earth, prying and criticizing. There is nothing, it would seem, in which he cannot find some flaw or discount. To Yahweh's question if he has considered Job, the man perfect and upright, he makes no denial of the fact, but raises the issue of motive: "Doth Job fear God for nought?" and urges that Job's integrity is after all only a transparent bargain, a paying investment with only reward in view. It is virtually an arraignment both of God's order and of the essential human character: of God's order in connecting righteousness so intimately with gain; and of the essential human character, virtually denying that there is such a thing as disinterested, intrinsic human virtue. The sneer strikes deep, and Job, the perfect embodiment of human virtue, is its designated victim. Satan proposes a wager, to the issue of which Yahweh commits Himself. The trial of Job is carried out in two stages: first against his property and family, with the stipulation that it is not to touch him; and then, this failing to detach him from his allegiance, against his person in sore disease, with the stipulation that his life is to be spared. Yahweh acknowledges that for once He is consenting to an injustice (Job 2:3 ), and Satan, liar that he is, uses instrumentalities that men have ascribed to God alone: the first time, tempest and lightning (as well as murderous foray), the second time, the black leprosy, a fell disease, loathsome and deadly, which, in men's minds meant the immediate punitive stroke of God. The evil is as absolute as was the reward; a complete reversal of the order in which men's wisdom had come to trust. But in the immediate result, Yahweh's faith in His noblest creature is vindicated. Urged by his wife in his extremity to "curse God and die," Job remains true to his allegiance; and in his staunch utterance, "Yahweh gave, and Yahweh hath taken away; blessed be the name of Yahweh," Job, as the writer puts it, 'sinned not, nor attributed aught unbeseeming (תּפלה ,
3. The Silent Friends:
We are now to imagine the lapse of some time, perhaps several months (compare Job 7:3 ), during which Job suffers alone, an outcast from house and society, on a leper's ash-heap. Meanwhile three friends of his who have heard of his affliction make an appointment together and come from distant regions to give him sympathy and comfort (Job 2:11-13 ). On arriving, however, they find things different from what they had expected; perhaps the ominous nature of his disease has developed since they started. What they find is a man wretched and outcast, with a disease (elephantiasis) which to them can mean nothing but the immediate vengeance of God. The awful sight gives them pause. Instead of condoling with him, they sit silent and dismayed, and for seven days and nights no word is spoken (compare Isaiah 53:3 ). What they were debating with themselves during that time is betrayed by the after-course of the story. How can they bless one whom God has stamped with His curse? To do so would be taking sides with the wicked. Is it not rather their duty to side with God, and be safe, and let sympathy go? By this introduction of the friends and their averted attitude, the writer with consummate skill brings a new element into the story, the element of the Wisdom-philosophy; and time will show whether as a theoretical thing, cold and intellectual, it will retain or repress the natural outwelling of human friendship. And this silence is ominous.
4. Whose Way Is Hid:
The man who, in the first onset of trial, blessed Yahweh and set himself to bear in silence now opens his mouth to curse. His curse is directed, not against Yahweh nor against the order of things, but against the day of his birth. It is a day that has ceased to have meaning or worth for him. The day stands for life, for his individual life, a life that in the order of things should carry out the personal promise and fruitage for which it had been bestowed. And his quarrel with it is that he has lost its clue. Satan unknown to him has sneered because Yahweh had hedged him round with protection and favor (Job 1:10 ); but his complaint is that all this is removed without cause, and God has hedged him round with darkness. His way is hid (Job 3:23 ). Why then was life given at all? In all this, it will be noted, he raises no train of introspection to account for his condition; he assumes no sinfulness, nor even natural human depravity; the opposite rather, for a baffling element of his case is his shrinking sensitiveness against evil and disloyalty (compare Job 3:25 , Job 3:26 , in which the tenses should be past, with Job 1:5; see also Job 6:30; Job 16:17 ). His plight has become sharply, poignantly objective; his inner self has no part in it. Thus in this opening speech he strikes the keynote of the real, against which the friends' theories rage and in the end wreck themselves.
B) To Job's Ultimatum of Protest:
1. The Veiled Impeachment:
With all the gentle regret of having to urge a disagreeable truth the friends, beginning with Eliphaz the wisest and most venerable, enter upon their theory of the case. Eliphaz covers virtually the whole ground; the others come in mainly to echo or emphasize. He veils his reproof in general and implicatory terms, the seasoned terms of wisdom in which Job himself is expert (Job 4:3-5 ); reminds him that no righteous man perishes, but that men reap what they sow (Job 4:7 , Job 4:8 ); adduces a vision that he had had which revealed to him that man, by the very fact of being mortal, is impure and iniquitous (Job 4:17-19 ); implies that Job's turbulence of mind precludes him from similar revelations, and jeopardizes his soul (Job 5:1 , Job 5:2 ); advises him to commit his case to God, with the implication, however, that it is a case needing correction rather than justification, and that the result in view is restored comfort and prosperity. As Job answers with a more passionate and detailed portrayal of his wrong, Bildad, following, abandons the indirect impeachment and attributes the children's death to their sin (Job 8:4 ), saying also that if Job were pure and upright he might supplicate and regain God's favor (Job 8:5 , Job 8:6 ). He then goes on to draw a lesson from the traditional Wisdom lore, to the effect that sure destruction awaits the wicked and sure felicity the righteous (Job 8:11-22 ). On Job's following this with his most positive arraignment of God's order and claim for light, Zophar replies with impetuous heat, averring that Job's punishment is less than he deserves (Job 11:6 ), and reproving him for his presumption in trying to find the secret of God (Job 11:7-12 ). All three of the friends, with increasing emphasis, end their admonitions in much the same way; promising Job reinstatement in God's favor, but always with the veiled implication that he must own to iniquity and entreat as a sinner.
2. Wisdom Insipid, Friends Doubtful:
To the general maxims of Wisdom urged against him, with which he is already familiar (compare Job 13:2 ), Job's objection is not that they are untrue, but that they are insipid (Job 6:6 , Job 6:7 ); they have lost their application to the case. Yet it is pain to him to think that the words of the Holy One should fail; he longs to die rather than deny them (Job 6:9 , Job 6:10 ). One poignant element of his sorrow is that the intuitive sense (
3. Crookedness of the Order of Things:
With the sense that the old theories have become stale and pointless, though his discernment of the evil of things is undulled by sin (Job 6:30 ), Job arrives at an extremely poignant realization of the hardness and crookedness of the world-order, the result both of what the friends are saying and of what he has always held in common with them. It is the view that is forced upon him by the sense that he is unjustly dealt with by a God who renders no reasons, who on the score of justice vouchsafes to man neither insight nor recourse, and whose severity is out of all proportion to man's sense of worth (Job 7:17 ) or right (Job 9:17 ) or claim as a creature of His hand (Job 10:8-14 ). Job 9, which contains Job's direct address to this arbitrary Being, is one of the most tremendous, not to say audacious conceptions in literature; in which a mortal on the threshold of death takes upon himself to read God a lesson in godlikeness. In this part of the story Job reaches his ultimatum of protest; a protest amazingly sincere, but not blasphemous when we realize that it is made in the interest of the Godlike.
4. No Mediation in Sight:
The great lack which Job feels in his arraignment of God is the lack of mediation between Creator and creature, the Oppressor and His victim. There is no umpire between them, who might lay his hand upon both, so that the wronged one might have voice in the matter (Job 9:32-35 ). The two things that an umpire might do: to remove God's afflicting hand, and to prevent God's terror from unmanning His victim (see Job 13:20-22 , as compared with the passage just cited), are the great need to restore normal and reciprocal relations with Him whose demand of righteousness is so inexorable. This umpire or advocate idea, thus propounded negatively, will grow to a sublime positive conviction in the next stage of Job's spiritual progress (Job 16:19; Job 19:25-27 ).)
C) To Job's Ultimatum of Faith:
1. Detecting the Friends' False Note:
As the friends finish their first round of speeches, in which a remote and arbitrary God is urged upon him as everything, and man so corrupt and blind that he cannot but be a worm and culprit (compare Job 25:4-6 ), Job's eyes, which hitherto have seen with theirs, are suddenly opened. His first complaint of their professed friendship was that it was fallible; instead of sticking to him when he needed them most (Job 6:14 ), and in spite of his bewilderment (Job 6:26 ), they were making it virtually an article of traffic (Job 6:27 ), as if it were a thing for their gain. It was not sincere, not intrinsic to their nature, but an expedient. And now all at once he penetrates to its motive. They are deserting him in order to curry favor with God. That motive has prevented them from seeing true; they see only their theoretical God, and are respecting His person instead of responding to the inner dictate of truth and integrity. To his honest heart this is monstrous; they ought to be afraid of taking falseness for God (Job 13:3-12 ). Nor does his inference stop with thus detecting their false note. If they are "forgers of lies" in this respect, what of all their words of wisdom? they have been giving him "proverbs of ashes" (Job 13:12 ); the note of false implication is in them all. From this point therefore he pays little attention to what they say; lets them go on to grossly exaggerated statement of their tenet, while he opens a new way of faith for himself, developing the germs of insight that have come to him.
2. Staking All on Integrity:
Having cut loose from all countenancing of the friends' self-interested motives, Job now, with the desperate sense of taking his life in his hand and abandoning hope, resolves that come what will he will maintain his ways to God's face. This, as he believes, is not only the one course for his integrity, but his one plea of salvation, for no false one shall appear before him. How tremendous the meaning of this resolve, we can think when we reflect how he has just taken God in hand to amend His supposed iniquitous order of things; and that he is now, without mediator, pleading the privilege that a mediator would secure (Job 13:20 , Job 13:21; see 4, above) and urging a hearing on his own charges. The whole reach of his sublime faith is involved in this.
3. "If a Man Die":
In two directions his faith is reaching out; in both negatively at first. One, the belief in an Advocate, has already been broached, and is germinating from negative to positive. The other, the question of life after death, rises here in the same tentative way: using first the analogy of the tree which sprouts again after it is cut down (Job 14:7-9 ), and from it inquiring, 'If a man die - might he live again?' and dwelling in fervid imagination on the ideal solution which a survival of death would bring (Job 14:13-17 ), but returning to his reluctant negative, from the analogy of drying waters (Job 14:11 ) and the slow wearing down of mountains (Job 14:18 , Job 14:19 ). As yet he can treat the idea only as a fancy; not yet a hope or a grounded conviction.
4. The Surviving Next of Kin:
The conviction comes by a nobler way than fancy, by the way of his personal sense of the just and God-like order. The friends in their second round of speeches have begun their lurid portrayals of the wicked man's awful fate; but until all have spoken again he is concerned with a far more momentous matter. Dismissing these for the present as an academic exercise composed in cold blood (Job 16:4 , Job 16:5 ), and evincing a heart hid from understanding (Job 17:4 ), Job goes on to recount in the most bitter terms he has yet used the flagrancy of his wrong as something that calls out for expiation like the blood of Cain (Job 16:18 ), and breaks out with the conviction that his witness and voucher who will hear his prayer for mediation is on high (Job 16:19-21 ). Then after Bildad in a spiteful retort has matched his complaint with a description of the calamities of the wicked (an augmented echo of Eliphaz), and he has pathetically bewailed the treachery of earthly friends (Job 19:13 , Job 19:14 , Job 19:21 , Job 19:22 ), he mounts, as it were, at a bound to the sublime ultimatum of his faith in an utterance which he would fain see engraved on the rock forever (Job 19:23-29 ). "I know that my Redeemer liveth," he exclaims; literally, my
D) To Job's Verdict on Things as They Are:
1. Climax and Subsidence of the Friends' Charge:
That in this conviction of a living Redeemer Job's faith has reached firm and final ground is evident from the fact that he does not recur to his old doubts at all. They are settled, and settled right. But now, leaving them, he can attend to what the friends have been saying. Zophar, the third speaker, following, presses to vehement, extreme their iterated portrayal of the wicked man's terrific woes; it seems the design of the writer to make them outdo themselves in frantic overstatement of their thesis. As Zophar ceases, and Job has thus, as it were, drawn all their fire, Job refutes them squarely, as we shall presently see. Meanwhile, in the course of his extended refutation, the friends begin a third round of speeches. Eliphaz, who has already taken alarm at the tendency of Job's words, as those of a depraved skeptic and ruinous to devotion (Job 15:4-6 ), now in the interests of his orthodoxy brings in his bill of particulars. It is the kind of theoretical cant that has had large prevalence in dogmatic religion, but in Job's case atrociously false. He accuses Job of the most heartless cruelties and frauds (Job 22:5-11 ), and of taking occasion to indulge in secret wickedness when God was not looking (Job 22:12-14 ); to this it is that he attributes the spiritual darkness with which Job is encompassed. Then in a beautiful exhortation - beautiful when we forget its unreal condition (Job 22:23 ) - he ends by holding open to Job The way of reinstatement and peace. This is the last word of the friends that has any weight. Bildad follows Job's next speech indeed very briefly (Job 25:1-6 ), giving a last feeble echo of their doctrine of total depravity; a reply which Job ridicules and carries on in a kind of parody (Job 26:1-14 ). Zophar does not speak a third time at all. He has nothing to say. And this silence of his is the writer's way of making the friends' theory subside ingloriously.
2. The Real Cause of Job's Dismay:
The idea that Job has a defensible cause or sees farther than they is wholly lost on the friends; to them he is simply a wicked man tormented by the consciousness of guilt, and they attribute the tumult of his thoughts to a wrath, or vexation, which blinds and imperils his soul (compare Job 5:2; Job 18:4 ). That is not the cause of his dismay at all, nor is it merely that his personal fate is inscrutable (compare Job 23:17 margin). He is confounded rather, even to horror, because the probable facts of the world-order prove the utter falsity of all that they allege. Leaving his case, the righteous man's, out of the account, he sees the wicked just as prosperous, just as secure, just as honored in life and death, as the righteous ( Job 21:5-15 , Job 21:29-33 ). The friends ought to see so plain a fact as well as he (Job 21:29 ). To all outward appearance there is absolutely no diversity of fate between righteous and wicked (Job 21:23-26 ). The friends' cut-and-dried Wisdom-doctrine and their thrifty haste to justify God (compare Job 13:7 , Job 13:8 ) have landed them in a lie; the truth is that God has left His times mysterious to men (Job 24:1 ). They may as well own to the full the baffling fact of the impunity of wickedness; the whole of Job 24 is taken up with details of it. Wisdom, with its rigid law of reward and punishment, has failed to penetrate the secret. A hard regime of justice, work and wage, conduct and desert, does not sound the deep truth of God's dealings, either with righteous or wicked. What then? Shall Wisdom go, or shall it rise to a higher level of outlook and insight?
3. Manhood in the Ore:
In some such dim inquiry as this, it would seem, Job goes on from where his friends sit silenced to figure some positive solution of things as they are. He begins with himself and his steadfastly held integrity, sealing his utterance by the solemn Hebrew oath (Job 27:2-6 ), and as solemnly disavowing all part or sympathy with the wicked (Job 27:7; compare Job 21:16 ). He has already found a meaning in his own searching experience; he is being tried for a sublime assay, in which all that is permanent and precious in him shall come out as gold (Job 23:10 ). But this thought of manhood in the ore is no monopoly of his; it may hold for all. What then of the wicked? In a passage which some have deemed the lost third speech of Zophar (27:8-23), and which, indeed, recounts what all the friends have seen (Job 27:12 ), he sets forth the case of the wicked in its true light. The gist of it is that the wicked have not the joy of God (Job 27:10 ), or the peace of a permanent hope. It is in much the same tone as the friends' diatribes, but with a distinct advance from outward disaster toward tendency and futility. The ore is not being purged for a noble assay; and this will work their woe. Then finally, in the celebrated Job 28, comes up the summary of wisdom itself. That remains, after all this testing of motive, a thing intact and elemental; and man's part in it is just what Job's life has been, to fear God and shun evil (Job 28:28 ).
4. Job Reads His Indictment:
As the crowning pronouncement on things as they are, Job in his final and longest speech, describes in a beautiful retrospect his past life, from his "autumn days" when the friendship of God was over his tent and he was a counselor and benefactor among men (Job 29 ), through this contrasted time of his wretchedness and curse-betraying disease, when the most degraded despise him (Job 30 ), until now as he draws consciously near the grave, he recounts in solemn review the principles and virtues that have guided his conduct - a noble summary of the highest Hebrew ideals of character (Job 31 ). This he calls, in sublime irony, the indictment which his Adversary has written; and like a prince, bearing it upon his shoulder and binding it to him like a crown, he is ready to take it with him beyond the bourn to the presence of his Judge. With this tremendous proposal, sanctioned Hebrew-fashion by a final curse if it prove false, the words of Job are ended.
E) The Denoucement:
The friends are silenced, not enlightened. They have clung to their hard thesis to the stubborn end; postulating enough overt crime on Job's part to kill him (Job 22:5-9 ), and clinching their hypothesis with their theory of innate depravity (Job 4:18 , Job 4:19; Job 15:14 , Job 15:15; Job 25:4-6 ) and spiritual hebetude (Job 5:2; Job 15:26 , Job 15:27; Job 22:10 , Job 22:11 ); but toward Job's higher level of honest integrity and exploring faith they have not advanced one inch; and here they lie, fossilized dogmatists, fixed and inveterate in their odium theologicum - a far cry from the friendship that came from afar to condole and console. Job, on the other hand, staking all on the issue of his integrity, has held on his way in sturdy consistency (compare Job 17:9 ), and stood his ground before the enigma of things as they are. Both parties have said their say; the story is evidently ready for its denouement. Job, too, is ready for the determining word, though it would seem he expects it to be spoken only in some unseen tribunal; the friends rather savagely wish that God would speak and reprove Job for his presumption (compare Job 11:5 , Job 11:11 ). But how shall the solution be brought about in this land of Uz where all may see? And above all, how shall it affect the parties concerned? A skillfully told story should not leave this out.
1. The Self-Constituted Interpreter:
For this determining pronouncement the writer has chosen to have both parties definitely represented, apparently at their best. So, instead of proceeding at once to the summons from the whirlwind, he introduces here a new character, Elihu, a young man, who has listened with growing impatience to the fruitless discussion, and now must set both parties right or burst (Job 32:19 ). It is like the infusion of young blood into a theodicy too arrogant in its antiquity (compare Job 8:8-10; Job 15:10 , Job 15:18; Job 12:12 margin, or better as question). This character of Elihu is conceived in a spirit of satire, not without a dash of grim humor. His self-confidence, not to say conceit, is strongly accentuated ( Job 32:11-22 ); he assumes the umpire function for which Job has pleaded (Job 33:6 , Job 33:7; compare Job 9:33-35; Job 13:20-22 ); and is sure he represents the perfect in knowledge (Job 36:2-4; Job 37:16 ). He speaks four times, addressing himself alternately to Job and the friends. His words, though designedly diffuse, are not without wisdom and beauty; he makes less of Job's deep-seated iniquity than do the friends, but blames him for speaking in the wicked man's idiom (Job 34:7-9 , Job 34:36 , Job 34:37 ), and warns him against inclining more to iniquity than submission (Job 36:21 ); but his positive contribution to the discussion is the view he holds of the chastening influence of dreams and visions (Job 33:14-18; compare Job 7:13-15 ), and of the pains of disease (Job 33:19-28 ), especially if the sufferer has an "angel (messenger) interpreter" to reveal its meaning, such a one perhaps as Elihu feels himself to be. As he proceeds in his speech, his words indicate that a storm is rising; and so long as it is distant he employs it to descant on the wonders of God in Nature, wonders which to him mean little more than arbitrary marvels of power; but as it approaches nearer and shows exceptional phenomena as of a theophany, his words become incoherent, and he breaks off with an abject attempt to disclaim his pretensions. Such is the effect, with him, of the near presence of God. It overwhelms, paralyzes, stops the presumptuous currents of life.
2. The Whirlwind and the Voice:
The writer of the book has not committed the literary fatuity of describing the whirlwind, except as Elihu has seen its oncoming, first with conceit of knowledge, then with wild access of terror - a description in which his essentially vapid personality is reflected. For the readers the significance of the whirlwind is in the Voice it encloses, the thing it says. And here the writer has undertaken the most tremendous task ever attempted by the human imagination: to make the Almighty speak, and speak in character. And one fatuity at least he has escaped; he has not made God bandy arguments with men, or piece together the shifting premises of logic. The whole of the two discourses from the whirlwind is descriptive; a recounting of observable phenomena of created nature, from the great elemental things, earth and sea and light and star and storm, to the varied wonders of animal nature - all things in which the questing mind of man may share, laying hold in his degree on its meaning or mystery. Thus, as a sheer literary personation, it fails at no point of the Godlike. It begins with a peremptory dismissal of Elihu: "Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?" (Job 38:2 ). Then Job is bidden gird up his loins like a strong man, and listen and answer. The fact that Job alone, of all the company, can stand, as it were, on common terms with God is premonitory of the outcome. Of the two Divine discourses, the first (Job 38; 39) emphasizes more especially the unsearchable wisdom of creation; and the lesson it brings home to Job is that a being who is great enough - or presumptuous enough - to criticize and censure is great enough to resolve his own criticism (Job 40:2 ). To this, of course, Job has no answer; he has presented his plea, which he neither adds to nor takes back (Job 40:3-5 ). Resuming, then, the Voice in the second discourse (40:6 through 41:34) goes on to describe two great beasts, as it were, elemental monsters of Nature: Behemoth - probably the hippopotamus - vast in resisting and overcoming power, yet unaware of it, and easily subduable by man; and Leviathan - probably the crocodile - a wonder of beautiful adaptedness to its function in Nature, yet utterly malignant, unsubduable, untamable. And the lesson brought home to Job by this strange distribution of creative power is that he, who has called in question God's right to work as He does, had better undertake to lower human pride and "tread down the wicked where they stand" (Job 40:12 ), thus demonstrating his ability to save himself and manage mankind (Job 40:14 ). By this illuminating thought Job's trenchancy of demand is utterly melted away into contrition and penitence (Job 42:1-6 ); but one inspiring effect is his, the thing indeed which he has persistently sought (compare Job 23:3 ): God is no more a hearsay, such as the friends have defended and his Wisdom has speculated about; his eye sees Him here on earth, and in his still unremoved affliction, no stranger, but a wise and communable Friend, just as his confident faith had pictured he would, in some embodied sphere beyond suffering (Job 19:27 ).
3. The Thing That Is Right:
Two of the parties in the story have met the august theophany, and it has wrought its effect on them according to the spirit of the man. The self-constituted interpreter, Elihu, has collapsed as suddenly as he swelled up and exhibited himself. The man of integrity, Job, has reached the beatific goal of his quest. What now of the friends who came from far to confirm their Wisdom, and who were so sure they were defending the mind of God? they are not left without a sufficing word, addressed straight to their spokesman Eliphaz (Job 42:7 ); but their way to light is through the man whose honesty they outraged. Eliphaz' closing words had promised mediatorial power to Job if he would return from iniquity and acquaint himself with God (Job 22:30 ); Job is now the mediator, though he has held consistently to the terms they reprobated. And the Divine verdict on them is: "Ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath" (Job 42:7 ). These are the words of the Being who acknowledged that in permitting this whole trial He was 'swallowing Job up causelessly' (Job 2:3 ). Job's honest and immensely revelatory words, anger, remonstrance, bold arraignment of God's way and all, were "the thing that is right." There is no more tremendous Divine pronouncement in all Scripture than this.
4. The Restored Situation:
Here certain myopic students of the Book of Job think the story should end. It offends them, apparently, to see Satan's work undone; if they had had the making of the story they would have left Job still suffering, as if disinterested virtue could not be its own reward without it. The author, at least the final author, evidently did not think so; in the ideals and sanctions that prevailed in his age he knew better what he was about. It is not my business to cut the book to modern pattern, but to note what is there. Job is restored to health, to double his former wealth, to family and honor and a ripe old age. These were what the friends predicted for him on condition of his owning to guilt and calling injustice desert; but in no word of his has he intimated that worldly reinstatement was his wish or his object, the contrary rather. And what he sought he obtained, in richer measure than he sought; obtained it still in suffering, and on earth, "in the place where may see" (compare Job 34:26 margin). It is no discount to the value of this, nor on the other hand is it an essential addition, to express it not only in spiritual terms, but in terms current among men. And one fundamental thing this restored situation shows, or at least takes for granted, namely, that the quarrel has not been with Wisdom itself, its essence or its sanctions, but only with its encroaching false motive. Deepened, not invaded, its Newtonian law that it is well with the righteous, ill with the wicked, remains intact, an external sanction to live by, in spite of temporal exceptions. A spiritual principle of great significance, too, seems to be indicated, as it were, furtively, in the words, "And Yahweh turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends." He had stood on his integrity demanding his right, and became a self-loathing penitent; out of dust and ashes he prayed for his friends, and became again such a power in health and wealth as he had been in his "autumn days."
IV. The Problem and the Purpose.
1. Beyond the Didactic Tether:
If the foregoing section has rightly shown that the main thrust and interest of the Book of Job lies not in its debate but in its narrative, we have therein the best clue to its problem and its purpose. The sublime self-portrayal of a man who held fast his integrity against God and man and death and darkness tells its own story and teaches its own lesson, beyond the power of didactic propositions or deductions to compass. The book is not a sermon but a vital, throbbing uprising of the human spirit. It is warm with the life of sound manhood; the inner life with its hopes, its doubts, its convictions, its supreme affiance; to impose on this any tether of didacticism is to chili its spirit and make it dogmatic and academic. The reading of its problem which mainly holds the field today is expressed in the question, "Why does God afflict the righteous?" and so the book is resolved into a theodicy, a justification of God's ways with man. Well the friends of Job do their best to make their interpretation a theodicy, even outraging palpable fact to do it; they monopolize the didactic element of the poem; but their chief contention is that God does not afflict the righteous but the wicked, and that Job is a flagrant case in point who adds rebellion to his sin (compare Job 34:37 ). Job does not know why God afflicts the righteous; he only knows that it is a grievous fact, which to him seems utterly un-Godlike. God knows, undoubtedly, but He does not tell. Yet all the while an answer to the question is shaping itself in personality, in intrinsic manhood, in the sturdy truth and loyalty of Job's spirit. So, going beyond the didactic tether, we may say that in a deeper sense God is justified after all; if such a result of desperate trial is possible in man, it is worth all the rigor of the experiment. But it is as truly an anthropodicy (excuse the word!) as a theodicy; it puts the essential man on a plane above all that Satan can prove by his lying sneers of self-interest, or the friends' poisoning of the wells by their theory of natural depravity. It comes back after all to the story of Job; he lives the answer to the problem, his personality is the teaching.
2. What Comes of Limiting the Purpose:
It is from this point of view that we can best judge of the critical attacks that have been made on the structure and coherence of the Book of Job. The book has suffered its full share of negative disintegration at the hands of the critics; mostly subjective it seems to me, coming from a too restricted view of its problem and purpose, or from lack of that long patient induction which will not be content until it sees all the elements of its creative idea in fitting order and proportion. To limit the purpose to the issue of a debated theodicy, is to put some parts in precarious tenure; accordingly, there are those to whom the Epilogue seems a superfluity, the Prologue an afterthought, Job 28 a fugitive poem put in to fill up - not to go on to still more radical excisions. On the score of regularity of structure, too, this limitation of design has had equally grave results. Elihu has perhaps fared the worst. He must go, the critics almost universally say, because forsooth he was not formally introduced in the Prologue; and naturally enough, as soon as he has received notice to quit, the language which in one view fits him so dramatically to his part begins to bristle with Aramaisms ('of the kindred of Ram,' Job 32:2 ) and strange locutions, the alleged marks of a later bungling hand. Then, further, Zophar must needs round out the mechanical three-times-three of structure by coming up the third time; accordingly, Job is levied upon to contribute some of his words (Job 27:13-23 ) to help him out. I need not go into further detail. The foregoing section has done something, I hope, to justify my conviction that the book has a homogeneous design and structure just as it is. Whatever its vicissitudes since the first draft was made, it may tur
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Job, Book of'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/j/job-book-of.html. 1915.