Book Of Job
From Bible Encyclopedia
The Book of Job (איוב) is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible. The name Job or Yob ("Yobe") means Hostility in Hebrew. Job is a didactic poem set in a prose framing device.
The Book of Job has been called the most difficult book of the Bible. The numerous exegeses of the Book of Job are classic attempts to reconcile the co-existence of evil and God (for which Leibniz coined the term theodicy). Job appears ambiguously as an invocation to righteousness, as a cynical outlook on the idea of righteousness, and as a response to the problem of evil. Scholars are divided as to what the original intent of the poem was, and a few even suggest it was meant as a satire against more puritanical upholding of religion.
The subject is the trial of Job, its occasion, nature, endurance, and issue. It consists of
- An historical introduction in prose (ch. 1,2).
- The controversy and its solution, in poetry (ch. 3-42:6). Job's desponding lamentation (ch. 3) is the occasion of the controversy which is carried on in three courses of dialogues between Job and his three friends. The first course gives the commencement of the controversy (ch. 4-14); the second the growth of the controversy (15-21); and the third the height of the controversy (22-27). Job puts God on trial through an "Oath of Innocence" (Job 27-31). This is followed by a solution of the controversy in the speeches of Elihu and the address of YHWH, followed by Job's humble confession (Job 42:1-6) of his own fault and folly. Some read Elihu's speeches as a false climax since he repeats the arguments of Job's friends which God condemns (Job 42:7-8). Job's repentance is controversial and may imply only a change of course in his prosecution of God and not a moral confession of sin.
- The third division is the historical conclusion, in prose (Job 42:7-15).
It is possible that the introductory and concluding sections of the book were composed by a different author than the body of the book.
It is also possible that the words of Elihu were interpolated, since he is nowhere mentioned before Chapter 32 or after Chapter 37.
Job, living in the land of "Uz", was a man of great probity, virtue, and piety. He possessed much riches in cattle and slaves, which at that time constituted the principal wealth even of princes in Arabia and Edom. He had seven sons and three daughters and was in great repute among all people, on both sides of the Euphrates.
His sons made entertainments for each other; and when they had gone through the circle of their days of feasting, Job sent to them, purified them, and offered burnt-offerings for each one in order that God might pardon any faults unintentionally committed against him during such festivities. He was wholly averse from injustice, idolatry, fraud, and adultery. He avoided evil thoughts, and dangerous looks, was compassionate to the poor, a father to the orphan, a protector to the widow, a guide to the blind, and a supporter to the lame.
God permitted Satan to put the virtue of Job to the test, at first by giving him power over his property, but forbidding him to touch his person. Satan began by taking away his oxen: a company of Sabeans slew his husbandmen and drove off all the beasts; one servant only escaping to bring the news. While he was reporting this misfortune, a second came, and informed Job that fire from heaven had consumed his sheep, and those who kept them; and that he alone had escaped. A third messenger arrived, who said "The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!"
He had scarcely concluded, when another came, and said, "While your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking in their eldest brother's house, an impetuous wind suddenly overthrew it, and they were all crushed to death under the ruins; I alone am escaped to bring you this news."
Job rent his clothes and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground saying, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord."
As Job endured these calamities without reproaching Divine Providence, Satan solicited permission to afflict his person as well, and the Lord said, "Behold he is in your hand, but don’t touch his life." Satan, therefore, smote him with a dreadful disease, probably leprosy, and Job, seated in ashes, scraped off the corruption with a potsherd. His wife incited him to "curse God, and die" but Job answered "Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?"
In meantime, only three of his friends, having been informed of his misfortunes, came to visit him - Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. A fourth was Elihu the Buzite, who from chapter 32 bears a distinguished part in the dialogue.
They continued seven days sitting on the ground by him, without speaking, but at last Job broke silence, and complained of his misery. From the fact that no one spoke to him, a Jewish halakha may be derived. When one goes to visit someone in mourning, they should not speak to the person in mourning, until they are spoken to.
Speeches of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar
Job's three friends do not waver from their belief that God is right, and that anyone who has such poor fortune as Job is necessarily being punished for disobeying God's law. As the poem progresses Job's friends increasingly berate him for refusing to confess his sins, although they themselves are at a loss as to what sort of sins he has committed. The three friends continue to assume that Job was a sinner and therefore deserving of all punishments. By the conclusion, they apologize to Job and offer him sacrifices.
Speeches of Job
Job, convinced of his own innocence, maintains that his suffering cannot be accounted for by his few sins, and that there is no reason for God to be punishing him thus. However, he refuses to curse God's name.
Speech of Elihu
Elihu takes a middle path, maintaining the sovereignty of God. Elihu strongly condemns the approach taken by the three friends. He is a much younger person than the other three friends, but is convinced that he is much wiser and that age makes no difference when it comes to insights and wisdom. In his speech, Elihu discusses God's omnipotent nature and how he continuously warns man throughout their lives in their sleep. There are many times when a man has a "close call", but is rescued by God at the last moment. There are times when God puts man to the test, and even though he does not know why he is suffering, there is a greater reason behind the scenes.
After several rounds of debate between Job and his friends, a divine voice, parenthetically described as coming from a "cloud" or "whirlwind", comes down against all sides, demanding why they pretend to understand God's will. Job acknowledges his mistakes and asks forgiveness.
In the epilogue, which may have been written separately from the poem, God condemns Job's friends for their insistence on the wrong answer, and commands them to make extensive animal sacrifices at Job's house. God restores Job to health, gives him double the riches he before possessed, blesses him with a beautiful and numerous family. His daughters were the most beautiful in the land, and were given inheritance while they were still alive. Job is crowned with a holy life and with a happy death.
Satan in the book of Job
The name Satan appears in the prose prologue of Job, with his usual connotation of "the adversary," as a distinct being. He is shown as one of the celestial beings or "sons of God" before the Deity, replying to the inquiry of God as to whence he had come, with the words: "from going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it" (Job 1:7). Both the question and the answer, as well as the dialogue that ensues, characterize Satan as that member of the divine council who watches over human activity, but with the evil purpose of searching out men's sins and appearing as their accuser. He is, therefore, the celestial prosecutor, who sees only iniquity; for he persists in his evil opinion of Job even after the man of Uz has passed successfully through his first trial by surrendering to the will of God, whereupon Satan demands another test through physical suffering (Job 2:3-5). Satan challenges God by saying that Job's belief is only built upon what material goods he is given, and that his faith will disappear as soon as they are taken from him. And God accepts the challenge.
The introduction of "the adversary" occurs in the (very short) framing story alone: he is never alluded to in the (very long) central poem at all. Many conjecture that the framing prose was written by a different author, and from a different theological point of view, from the central poem.
Job's wife is only mentioned once in the book of Job in Chapter 2. The Testament of Job fills in the story about her. In the Testament of Job, Sitis, Job's wife, sold her hair to Satan in exchange for food and money. In the end, she cursed God and died.
The Book of Job takes place in the land of Uz. There is no agreement on where this location is.
Standard formulas of religion
An important theme in the book is that there is no set formula for religion. When bad things happen, it is impossible to set an explanation for them. Job's three friends were guilty of this; they immediately assumed that if Job was getting punished, that meant that he was guilty of wrong-doing. They assumed this, because they have been taught that all people who get punished are guilty of certain sins. Through Elihu's discourse, we see that Job did not sin and still suffered. One may suffer even without sinning, as a test from God. It is impossible to understand why bad things happen, and it is wrong when people make believe that they know why certain bad things happen.
A great diversity of opinion exists as to the authorship of this book. From internal evidence, such as the similarity of sentiment and language to those in the Psalm and Proverbs (see Psalms 88 and 89), the prevalence of the idea of "wisdom," and the style and character of the composition, it is supposed by some to have been written in the time of King David and King Solomon. Some, however place it in around the time of the Babylonian exile. Talmudic tradition treats the story of Job as a parable, while Biblical literalists maintain that it is a historic account.
In contrast, secular examinations of the text more generally conclude that, though archaic features such as the "council in heaven" survive, and though the story of Job was familiar to Ezekiel (Chapter 20 verse 14), the present form of Job was fixed in the 4th century BC. Ezekiel places Job in comparison with other righteous figures such as Noah and "Dan-el". The story of Job apparently originated in the land of Edom, which has been retained as the background. Fragments of Job are found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Job remains prominent in haggadic legends. The later Greek Testament of Job figures among the apocrypha. Secular scholars agree that the introductory and concluding sections of the book, the framing devices, were composed to set the central poem into a prose "folk-book," as the compilers of the Jewish Encyclopedia expressed it. In the prologue and epilogue, the name of God is YHWH, a name that even the Edomites use. Secular scholars agree that the central poem is from another source.
Exegesis of the Book of Job
Exegesis largely concerns the question, "Is misfortune always a divine punishment for something?" Job's three friends argued in the affirmative, stating that Job's misfortunes were proof that he had committed some sins for which he was being punished. His friends also advanced the converse position that good fortune is always a divine reward, and that if Job would renounce his supposed sins, he would immediately experience the return of good fortune.
In response, Job asserted that he was a righteous man, and that his misfortune was therefore not a punishment for anything. This raised the possibility that God acts in capricious ways, and Job's wife urged him to curse God, and die. Instead, Job responded with equanimity: "The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord." The climax of the book occurs when God responds to Job, not with an explanation for Job's suffering but rather with a question: Where was Job when God created the world?
God's response itself may be read in a variety of ways. Some see it as an attempt to humble Job. Yet Job is comforted by God's appearance, and the fact that he 'saw God and lived', suggesting that the author of the book was more concerned with whether or not God is present in people's lives, than with the question of whether or not God is just. Job chapter 28 rejects these efforts to fathom divine wisdom.
The framing story complicates the book further: in the introductory section God, during a conversation with Satan, allows Satan to inflict misery on Job and his family. The appended conclusion has God restoring Job to wealth, granting him new children, and possibly restoring his health, although this is not implied or explicitly stated. This may suggest that the faith of the perfect believer is rewarded. However, God speaks directly to this question, condemns Job's friends, and says that Job is the only man who has faithfully represented the true nature of God - that all his friends were wrong to say that faith and righteousness are rewarded. Only after Job's friends make a sacrifice to God in front of afflicted Job - as God's appointed priest - does God restore all Job's good fortune.
The Testament of Job
The Testament of Job, a book found in the Pseudepigrapha, have a parallel account to the narrative to the book of Job. There are more details such as the fate of Job's wife, the inheritance of Job's daughters, and the ancestry of Job.
In folktale manner in the style of Jewish haggada, it elaborates upon the Book of Job making Job a king in Egypt. Like many other Testament of ... works in the Old Testament apocrypha, it gives the narrative a framing-tale of Job's last illness, in which he calls together his sons and daughters to give them his final instructions and exhortations. The Testament of Job contains all the characters familiar in the Book of Job, with a more prominent role for Job's wife, given the name Sitidos, and many parallels to Christian beliefs that Christian readers find, such as intercession with God and forgiveness.
Unlike the Biblical Book of Job, Satan's vindictiveness towards Job is described in the Testament as being due to Job destroying a non-Jewish temple, indeed Satan is described in a far more villainous light, than simply being a prosecuting counsel. Job is equally portrayed differently; Satan is shown to directly attack Job, but fail each time due to Job's willingness to be patient, unlike the Biblical narrative where Job falls victim but retains faith.
The latter section of the work, dedicated like the Biblical text to Job's comforters, deviates even further from the Biblical narrative. Rather than complaining or challenging God, Job consistently asserts his faith despite the laments of his comforters. While one of the comforters gives up, and the others try to get him medical treatment, Job insists his faith is true, and eventually the voice of God tells the comforters to stop their behaviour. When most of the comforters choose to listen to God's voice, they decide to taunt the one remaining individual who still laments Job's fate.
Medieval Views of Job
Throughout the Middle Ages, Job was portrayed as someone who was a patron of music. There is a 15th century painting (Brussels, Belgium) where Job handed out gold coins to musicians in order for them to play music. According to a legend, Job took off the boils from his body, and as soon as it left his hands, it turned into gold coins, which he handed to musicians.
The Talmud occasionally discusses Job. Classical Torah scholarship has not doubted Job's existence. He was seen as a real and powerful figure. Some scholars of Orthodox Judaism maintain that Job was in fact one of three advisors that Pharaoh consulted, prior to taking action against the increasingly multiplying "Children of Israel" mentioned in the Book of Exodus during the time of Moses' birth. The episode is mentioned in the Talmud (Tractate Sotah): Balaam gives evil advice urging Pharaoh to kill the Hebrew male new-born babies; Jethro opposes Pharaoh and tells him not to harm the Hebrews at all, and Job keeps silent and does not reveal his mind even though he was personally opposed to Pharaoh's destructive plans. It is for his silence that God subsequently punishes him with his bitter afflictions.
There is a minority view among Rabbinical scholars, for instance that of Rabbi Simeon ben Laqish, that says Job never existed (Midrash Genesis Rabbah LXVII). In this view, Job was a literary creation by a prophet who used this form of writing to convey a divine message. On the other hand, the Talmud (in Tractate Baba Batra 15a-16b) goes to great lengths trying to ascertain when Job actually lived, citing many opinions and interpretations by the leading sages. Job is further mentioned in the Talmud as follows:
- Job's resignation to his fate (in Tractate Pesachim 2b)
- When Job was prosperous, anyone who associated with him even to buy from him or sell to him, was blessed (in Tractate Pesachim 112a)
- Job's reward for being generous (in Tractate Megillah 28a)
- King David, Job and Ezekiel described the Torah's length without putting a number to it (in Tractate Eruvin 21a)
Two Talmudic traditions hold that Job either lived in the time of Abraham or of Jacob. Levi ben Laḥma held that Job lived in the time of Moses, by whom the Book of Job was written. Others argue that it was written by Job himself (see Job 19:23-24: Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!), or by Elihu, or Isaiah.
One midrashic view is that Job was the Pharaoh of Egypt during the time of Moses. Therefore there would be a justification for why Job was punished. Since he allowed the Israelite people to suffer and enslaved them, therefore he deserved everything that happened to him. From this, we learn a lesson. If someone has the ability to prevent suffering, they should.
According to the Talmud, Moses is the author of the book of Job.
According to one opinion of the Talmud, Job is a parable and never actually existed. (Midrash Genesis Rabbah LXVII, Talmud Bavli, Bava Batra 15a.)
According to the Talmud, Job was seventy years old when the book started.
The Book of Job is rarely used in Jewish liturgy. However, there are some Jews who read the book of Job on the Ninth of Av fast; a day of mourning over the destruction of the Jewish Temples and other tragedies.
The cantillations for the book of Job, according to the Sephardic traditions, differs from the rest of the books in the Bible. A sample of how the cantillations are chanted is found below.
Many quotes from the book of Job are used throughout Jewish liturgy, esspecially at funerals and times of mourning.
Philosophical Approach to Job
Maimonides, in his work "Guide to Perplexed" discusses Job. According to the Guide of the Perplexed, Chapter 22 and 23, each friend of Job represents famous distinct schools of thought concerning God and divine providence.
The view of Aristotle is reflected in Chapter 9 when Job states that God destroys both the innocent and the wicked together. If he held this point of view, this means that he did not believe in Divine Providence, even though he did believe in the existence of a God.
The standard Jewish view, of a righteous man being rewarded is portrayed by the words of Bildad in Chapter 8 verses 6-8. Job says that he's righteous and that eventually he will have to be rewarded. According to Bildad, you have to be patient and the reward will undoubtedly will come later on.
According to Maimonides, the correct view of providence lies with Elihu. He agrees with the notion that "the only worthy religion in the world is an examined religion". A habit religion, such as that originally practiced by Job, is never enough. One has to look deep into the meaning of religion in order to full appreciate it and make it part of life. Elihu believed in the concepts of divine providence, rewards to individuals, as well as punishments. He believed, according to Maimonides that you have to practice religion in a rational way. The more you investigate religion, the more you will be rewarded or find it rewarding. In the beginning, Job was an unexamined pious man, not a philosopher, and he didn't have providence. He was unwise, and was simply grateful for what he had. In Chapter 33, Elihu teaches Job that you have to examine your religion. God, according to Elihu, did not single out Job for punishment, rather abandoned him and let him be dealt with by natural unfriendly forces.
Conversely, in more recent times, the Jewish Philosopher, Lev Shestov, viewed Job as the embodiment of the battle between reason, which offers general and seemingly comforting explanations for complex events; and faith, in the personal god, and one mans desperate cry for him. In fact, Shestov used the story of Job as a central signifier for his core philosophy; the vast critique of the history of Western philosophy which he saw broadly as a monumental battle between Reason and Faith, Athens and Jerusalem, secular and religious outlook:
"The whole book is one uninterrupted contest between the "cries" of the much-afflicted Job and the "reflections" of his rational friends. The friends, as true thinkers, look not at Job but at the "general." Job, however, does not wish to hear about the "general"; he knows that the general is deaf and dumb - and that it is impossible to speak with it. "But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God" (13:3). The friends are horrified at Job's words: they are convinced that it is not possible to speak with God and that the Almighty is concerned about the firmness of His power and the unchangeability of His laws but not about the fate of the people created by Him. Perhaps they are convinced that in general God does not know any concerns but that He only rules. That is why they answer, "You who tear yourself in your anger, shall the earth be forsaken for you or the rock be removed from its place?" (18:4). And, indeed, shall rocks really be removed from their place for the sake of Job? And shall necessity renounce its sacred rights? This would truly be the summit of human audacity, this would truly be a "mutiny," a "revolt" of the single human personality against the eternal laws of the all-unity of being! (LEV SHESTOV, Speculation and Apocalypse)
Mystical Approach to Job
Nachmanides offers a mystical commentary on the book of Job. According to the mystical approach to the book of Job, Job is being punished because he is a heretic. One reason why he can be seen as a heretic is because in Chapter 3, he automatically assumed and was convinced that he did not sin and God therefore has no right to punish him. Another reason why he can be viewed as a heretic is because he did not believe in reincarnation. He believes that once a person dies, it is all over for them, without any mention of an afterlife.
According to Job, who reflected the views of Aristotle, God gave the world over to astrology. This can be seen in Chapter 3 verse 2, when he said "Curse the day I was born on". He cursed his birthday because he believed that his birthday was bad luck, in the astrological sense.
According to Nachmanides, Job's children did not die in the beginning of the story, but rather were taken captive and then return from captivity by the end of the story.
James 5:11 cites Job the man as a shining example of patience in suffering. Revelation 9:6 alludes to Job 3:21; compare 2 Thessalonians 2:8 to Job 4:9; 1 Corinthians 3:19 quotes Job 5:13; Hebrews 12:5, James 1:12, and Revelation 3:19 all parallel Job 5:17 and Job 23:10; compare James 4:14 to Job 7:6; compare Hebrews 2:6 with Job 7:17; compare Hebrews 12:26 with Job 9:6; Romans 9:20 alludes to Job 9:32; Romans 11:33 parallels Job 10:7; compare Acts 17:28 with Job 12:10; compare 1 Corinthians 4:5 with Job 12:22; compare 1 Peter 1:24 with Job 14:2; compare Luke 19:22 with Job 15:6; Romans 1:9 parallels Job 16:19; compare 1 John 3:2 with Job 19:26; Revelation 14:10, Revelation 19:15 parallel Job 21:20; both Romans 11:34 and 1 Corinthians 2:16 quote Isaiah 40:13, which parallels Job 21:22; Matthew 25:42 alludes to Job 22:7; James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 both quote Proverbs 3:34, which parallels Job 22:29; compare Acts 1:7 with Job 24:1; Hebrews 4:13 parallels Job 26:6; Matthew 16:26 alludes to Job 27:8; compare James 1:5 with Job 32:8; 1 John 1:9 alludes to Job 33:27-28; James 5:4 alludes to Job 34:28; Revelation 16:21 alludes to Job 38:22-23; Matthew 6:26 alludes to Job 38:41; and finally, Romans 11:35 quotes Job 41:11.
The book of Job narrates the tragedy of the loss of his children, wealth, and physical soundness. The book begins with an introduction to Job's character, stating that he was a blameless and upright man who feared God and shunned evil, and gives an overview of his riches. It chronicles a dialogue between Satan and God; Satan challenges Job's integrity, ending in God giving Job into Satan's hand. The main portion of the text consists of the discourse of Job and his three friends, ending in God answering Job. Themes of the book include restoration and the omnipotence of God.
Some hold that Job was not a real historical figure. In this view, the narrative is a parable, written under divine inspiration in order to teach theological truths, but was never meant to be taken as literally true in a historical sense.
A great diversity of opinion exists as to the authorship of this book. From internal evidence, such as the similarity of sentiment and language to those in the Psalms and Proverbs (see Ps. 88 and 89), the prevalence of the idea of “wisdom,” and the style and character of the composition, it is supposed by some to have been written in the time of David and Solomon. Others argue that it was written by Job himself, or by Elihu, or Isaiah, or perhaps more probably by Moses, who was “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22). He had opportunities in Midian for obtaining the knowledge of the facts related. But the authorship is altogether uncertain.
As to the character of the book, it is a historical poem, one of the greatest and sublime poems in all literature. Job was a historical person, and the localities and names were real and not fictitious. It is “one of the grandest portions of the inspired Scriptures, a heavenly-replenished storehouse of comfort and instruction, the patriarchal Bible, and a precious monument of primitive theology. It is to the Old Testament what the Epistle to the Romans is to the New.” It is a didactic narrative in a dramatic form.
This book was apparently well known in the days of Ezekiel, 600 BC (Ezekiel 14:14). It formed a part of the sacred Scriptures used by our Lord and his apostles, and is referred to as a part of the inspired Word (Hebrews 12:5; 1 Corinthians 3:19).
The subject of the book is the trial of Job, its occasion, nature, endurance, and issue. It exhibits the harmony of the truths of revelation and the dealings of Providence, which are seen to be at once inscrutable, just, and merciful. It shows the blessedness of the truly pious, even amid sore afflictions, and thus ministers comfort and hope to tried believers of every age. It is a book of manifold instruction, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).
It consists of,
(1) An historical introduction in prose (Job 1, Job 2:1-13).
(2) The controversy and its solution, in poetry (Job 3 - 42:6). Job's desponding lamentation (Job 3) is the occasion of the controversy which is carried on in three courses of dialogues between Job and his three friends. The first course gives the commencement of the controversy (Job 4 - 14); the second the growth of the controversy (Job 15 - 21); and the third the height of the controversy (Job 22 - 27). This is followed by the solution of the controversy in the speeches of Elihu and the address of Jehovah, followed by Job's humble confession (Job 42:1-6) of his own fault and folly.
(3) The third division is the historical conclusion, in prose (Job 42:7-15). Sir J. W. Dawson in “The Expositor” says: “It would now seem that the language and theology of the book of Job can be better explained by supposing it to be a portion of Minean [Southern Arabia] literature obtained by Moses in Midian than in any other way. This view also agrees better than any other with its references to natural objects, the art of mining, and other matters.”
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 3rd section, the “writings” (kethūbhīm) or Hagiographa, next after the two great anthologies Psalms and Proverbs; apparently put thus near the head of the list for weighty reading and meditation. In the Greek Canon (which ours follows), it is put with the poetical books, standing at their head. It is one of 3 Scripture books, the others being Psalms and Proverbs, for which the later Hebrew scholars (the Massoretes) employed a special system of punctuation to mark its poetic character.
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 YHWH (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 YHWH, 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 māshāl (see under Proverb), which, in continuous series of couplets, is admirably adapted alike to imaginative sublimity and impassioned address. Beginning with Job's curse of his day (Job 3), Job and his three friends answer each other back and forth in three rounds of speeches, complete except that, for reasons which the subject makes apparent, Zophar, the third friend, fails to speak the third time. After the friends are thus put to silence, Job speaks three times in succession (Job 26 through 31), and then “the words of Job are ended.” At this point (Job 32) a fourth speaker, Elihu, hitherto unmentioned, is introduced and speaks four times, when he abruptly ceases in terror at an approaching whirlwind (Job 37:24). YHWH speaks from the whirlwind, two speeches, each of which Job answers briefly (Job 40:3-5; Job 42:1-6), or rather declines to answer. Such, which we may summarize in Prologue (Job 1; Job 2:1-13), Body of Discussion (Job 3:1), and Epilogue (Job 42:7-17), is the literary framework of the book. The substance of the book is in a way dramatic; it cannot, however, be called so truly a drama as a kind of forum of debate; its movement is too rigid for dramatic action, and it lacks besides the give-and-take of dialogue. In a book of mine published some years ago I ventured to call it “the Epic of the Inner Life,” epic not so much in the technical sense, as in recognition of an underlying epos which for fundamental significance may be compared to the story underlying the Prometheus Bound of Aeschylus. It will not do, however, to make too much of either of these forms as designating the Book of Job; either term has to be accommodated almost out of recognition, because the Hebrew literary forms were not conceived according to the Greek categories from which our terms “epic” and “dramatic” are derived. A greater limitation on our appreciation of its form, I think, is imposed by those who regard it as a mixture of forms. It is too generally divided between narrative and didactic debate. To the Hebrew mind it was all a continuous narrative, in which the poetic discussion, though overweighting the current of visualized action, had nevertheless the movement and value of real events. It is in this light, rather than in the didactic, that we may most profitably regard it.
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 Book Of Proverbs), and that this is manifest in its visible rewards. This period of his life Job describes afterward by retrospect as his “autumn days,” when the friendship or intimacy (סוד, ṣōdh) of God was over his tent (see Job 29:4, and the whole chapter). Nor are we left without a glimpse into his heart: his constant attitude of worship, and his tender solicitude lest, in their enjoyment of the pleasures of life, his sons may have been disloyal to God (Job 1:4, Job 1:5). It is easy to see that not Job alone, but Wisdom as embodied in Job, is postulated here for its supreme test.
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 YHWH'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 YHWH 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. YHWH 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, YHWH'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, “YHWH gave, and YHWH hath taken away; blessed be the name of YHWH,” Job, as the writer puts it, 'sinned not, nor attributed aught unbeseeming (תּפלה, tiphlāh, literally, “tasteless”) to God.' Such is the first onset of Job's affliction and its result. It remains to be seen what the long issue, days and months of wretchedness, will bring forth.
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 YHWH and set himself to bear in silence now opens his mouth to curse. His curse is directed, not against YHWH 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 YHWH 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 (tūshīyāh; see under Book Of Proverbs) is driven away from him; see Job 6:13. He is irritated by the insinuating way in which the friends beg the question of his guilt; longs for forthright and sincere words (Job 6:25). It is this quality of their speech, in fact, which adds the bitterest drop to his cup; his friends, on whom he had counted for support, are deceitful like a dried-up brook (Job 6:15-20); he feels, in his sick sensitiveness, that they are not sympathizing with him but using him for their cold, calculating purposes (Job 6:27). Thus is introduced one of the most potent motives of the story, the motive of friendship; much will come of it when from the fallible friendships of earth he conquers his way by faith to a friendship in the unseen (compare Job 16:19; Job 19:27).
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 Go'el (גּאלי, gō'alī), or next of kin, the person whose business in the old Hebrew idea was to maintain the rights of an innocent wronged one and avenge his blood. He does not recede from the idea that his wrong is from God (compare Job 19:6, Job 19:21); but over his dust stands his next of kin, and as the result of this one's intercession Job, in his own integral person, shall see God no more a stranger. So confident is he that he solemnly warns the friends who have falsely impeached him that it is they, not he, who are in peril (Job 19:28, Job 19:29; compare Job 13:10, Job 13:11).
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 (Job 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 (Job 40:6 through Job 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 YHWH 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 turn out after all that the last edition is the best.
3. The Book's Own Import of Purpose:
We are not left in the dark as to the large purpose of the Book of Job, if we will follow its own indications consistently. Satan's question at the beginning, “Doth Job fear God for nought?” sets us on the track of it. To give that question a Godlike and not a Satanic answer, to prove in the person of Job That man has it in him to make his life an unbought loyalty to the Divine, is a purpose large enough to include many subsidiary purposes. But behind this appears, on the part of the author, a purpose which relates his story intimately to the intellectual tendencies of his day. The book embodies, especially in theories of the friends, a searching epitome of the status to which the wisdom philosophy of his time had arrived. That philosophy was a nobly founded theory of life; Job himself had been and continued (compare Job 28:28) thoroughly at one with it. Soundly identified with righteousness and piety, Wisdom had in religious idiom defined the elements of right and wrong living, and had in no uncertain terms fixed its sanctions of reward and penalty. But from a warm, pulsating life it had become an orthodoxy. Its rigid world had room for only two classes of men: the righteous, bound for the sure rewards of life; the wicked, bound for sure failure and destruction. It brooked no real exception to this austere law of being. But two grave evils were invading its system. One was its hard blindness to facts, or, what is as bad, its determination at all hazards to explain them away. From the psalms of the period (compare e.g. Psalms 37; 49; 73) we can see how the evident happiness and prosperity of the wicked was troubling devout minds. The other was that under this prevailing philosophy life was becoming too cold-blooded and calculable a thing, a virtual feeder of self-interest. The doubt lay very near whether conduct so sanctioned was a thing intrinsic and sincere or a thing bought and sold. This equivocal state of things could not long endure. Sooner or later Satan's question of motive must stab it to the heart; and we may be sure that to the author of the book the impulse to ask the question was not all Satanic. The interests of true wisdom, no less than of skepticism, demanded that the question of inner motive be raised and solved. Nay, YHWH Himself, whom Satan mocked as abettor of the situation, was on trial. Have we not material here, then, for a sublime purpose, a mighty epic of test and trial and victory? Out of it, not Job alone, but Wisdom must emerge purified, enlightened, spiritualized.
4. Problem of the Intrinsic Man:
So much for the purpose of the book. The problem corresponds to it. If we take it as the baffling problem of suffering, or more specifically why God afflicts the righteous, the sufficing answer is, Job is why. To give such essential integrity as his its ultimate proof and occasion is worth the injustice and the unmerited pain. In other words, the problem is more deeply concerned with man's intrinsic nature than with God's mysterious dealings. When God created man in His own image, did He endow him most fundamentally with the spirit of commercialism, or with the spirit of unbought loyalty to the Godlike? And when created man was made fallible and mortal, did that mean an inescapable inherent depravity, or was the potency of noblest manhood still left at the center of his being? Here again Job is the embodied answer. The friends, veritable Calvinists before Calvin, urge depravity; they would exalt God by making man His utter contrast. But Job's stedfast integrity proves that man, one man at least, is at heart sound and true. And if one man, then the potency of soundness exists in manhood. The book is indeed a theodicy; but still more truly it is a boldly maintained anthropodicy, a vindication of the intrinsic worth of man.
V. Considerations of Age and Setting.
1. Shadowy Contacts with History:
The questions who was the personal author of the Book of Job, and what was its age, are at best only a matter of conjecture; and my revised conjecture, arrived at since I wrote my Epic of the Inner Life, must go for what it is worth. It seems to me much better to regard a story so homogeneous and interrelated as in the main the composition of one mind than to distribute it, as some critics do, among various authors, supplementers, and editors. As to its age, there is so little identifiable contact with political or ecclesiastical history that its composition has been ascribed to many periods, from the time of Abraham to late in post-exilic times. The fact that its scene is laid in the patriarchal past and in a land outside of Palestine indicates the author's design to dissociate it from contemporary events and conditions; such contact with these as exist, therefore, must be read between the lines. The book does not hold with full consistency to patriarchal conditions. Job's friends appeal with the complacency of wisdom-prospered men to the ancient tenure of the land (Job 15:19); and yet, as Job complains, the heartless greed of the landholding class in removing landmarks and oppressing the poor (Job 24:2-12) connotes the prevalence of such outrages as were denounced by Isaiah and Micah before the Assyrian crisis. Such evils would not decrease under Manasseh and Jehoiakim, and might well be portrayed in reminiscence by an exilic writer. On the top of this consideration may be cited the most definite reference to a historical event that the book contains: the passage Job 12:17-25, which vividly describes, by an eyewitness (“Lo, mine eye hath seen all this,” Job 13:1), a wholesale deportation and humiliation of eminent persons, just like that told of Jehoiachin and his court in 2 Kings 24:13-15. To my mind this is illuminative for the age of the book. It seems to have been written by one who saw the Chaldean deportation of 587 BC. May I be suffered to carry the suggestion a step farther? It will be remembered that the chief personage of that deportation was for 37 years a state prisoner in Babylon, at the end of which time he was “taken from durance and judgment” (compare Isaiah 53:8 the King James Version) and lived thenceforth honored with kings (2 Kings 25:27-30 = Jeremiah 52:31-34). I take him to have been the original of the individualized Servant of YHWH described and describing himself in Second Isaiah. In one of his self-descriptions he says that YHWH has given him “the tongue of them that are taught” (Isaiah 50:4); in another that YHWH has made his “mouth like a sharp sword” and himself “a polished shaft” (Isaiah 49:2). What he said or wrote is of course unidentifiable; but it is certain that in some cultural way he was a hidden power for good to his people. What if this Book of Job were a prison-made book, like Pilgrim's Progress and Don Quixote, but as much greater as the experience that underlay it was more momentous? I do not see but this suggestion is as probable as any that have been made; and some expressions of the book become thereby very striking, as for instance, the reference to prisoners (Job 3:18, Job 3:19), to the servant longing for release (Job 7:2), the general sense of being despised, the several references to Job as “my servant Job” (Job 1:8; Job 2:3; Job 42:7, Job 42:8), the description of his restoration as a turned captivity, and his successful intercession for the friends (Job 42:10; compare Isaiah 53:12). I would merely suggest the idea, however, not press it.
2. Place in Biblical Literature:
If the Book of Job is a product of the time of Jehoiachin's imprisonment, it is in worthy and congenial literary company. Isaiah, fostering the faith of a new-born spiritual “remnant,” had gathered the elements of that sublime vision (Isaiah 1:1) of Israel's mission among the nations which a later hand was even now, four generations after, working to supplement and finish, in a prophecy (Isa 40 through 66) which, as all recognize, constitutes the closest parallel in spirited idea to our book. Seers, priests and singers had long busied themselves with the literary treasures of the past; drawing out of dusty archives and putting into popular idiom the ancient laws and counsels of Moses (Deuteronomy; see under Josiah); Collecting and adapting the old Davidic psalms and composing new ones, as Hezekiah's reorganization of the worship required. Ezekiel was at Tel Abib planning for the reconstruction of the temple, and perhaps by his use of the name “Job” veiling a cryptic reference (Ezekiel 14:14, Ezekiel 14:20). The affiliations of the Book of Job, however, were more specifically, with the wisdom literature; and long before this the “men of Hezekiah” (Proverbs 25:1) had gathered their aftermath of the Solomonic proverbs, to supplement the maxims which had been the educative pabulum of the people (see under Book Of Proverbs). It was with the care and principle of this diffused instruction, now the most popular vein of literature, that the Book of Job concerned itself. That had become apparent as soon as the maxims were coordinated in an anthology, and an introduction to the collection had been composed, extolling Wisdom as the guide and savior of life. To a spiritually-minded thinker with the Hebrew genius for religion the motivation of Wisdom must sooner or later come. With its values should be apprehended also its unguarded points and tendencies. It was exposed to the one-sided drift of all popular things. In an age when revision and deeper insight were the literary order of the day, Wisdom would come in with the other strains of literature for purification and maturing; and there was not wanting an experience, the basis of an almost unbelievable report (compare Isaiah 53:1) to give depth and poignancy to Job's personal story of suffering and integrity.
3. Parallels and Echoes:
In the amazing sureness and vigor. of its message the Book of Job stands out unique and alone; but it is by no means without its lesser parallels in faith and doubt, above which it rises like a mountain above its retinue of foothills. Mention has been made above of a number of Psalms (e.g. Psalm 37:1; Psalm 49:1; Psalm 73:1) which with different degrees of assurance witness to the struggle of faith with the problem of the rampant and successful wicked. Psalm 49, one of the psalms of the sons of Korah, is especially noteworthy, because it expressly employs the popular māshāl, that is, the Wisdom vehicle, to convey a corrective lesson about unblest riches, drawing a conclusion not unlike that of Job 27:8-23, though in milder tone. Not less noteworthy also is the note of suffering and its mysteriousness which pervades many of the psalms, especially of Asaph and Heman; Psalms 88 and 102 might both have been composed with special reference to Hezekiah's sickness and set beside his psalm in Isa 38, but also they are so fully in the tone of Job's complaint, especially Psalms 88, that Professor Godet, not unplausibly, conjectures that the Book of Job was written by its author Heman. Hezekiah's deadly sickness itself (Isa 38), which was of a leprous nature, banishing him from the house of God, and which was miraculously healed - an experience regarding which Hezekiah's own writing (Isaiah 38:10-20) is strikingly in the key of Job's complaint - furnishes the nearest parallel to, or adumbration of, Job's affliction; but also in the accounts of the Servant of YHWH there are hints of a similar stroke of God's judgment (compare Isaiah 52:14; Isaiah 53:3). The passage Job 7:17, Job 7:18 has been called “a bitter parody” of Psalm 8:4; it may be so, but the conditions are in utter contrast, and nothing can be concluded as to which is original and which echo. As to expression, the most remarkable parallel to Job, perhaps, is the passage Jeremiah 20:14-18, in which, like Job, the prophet Jeremiah curses the day of his birth. This curse in Job would naturally be remembered by all readers as one of the most characteristic features of the book; and in like manner the curse in Jeremiah may have stood out in the memory of his disciples, of whom the writer of Job may have been one, and figure in a similar literary situation. Ezekiel's naming of Job along with Noah and Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14, Ezekiel 14:20), as a type of atoning righteousness, is doubly remarkable if the writer of Job was a contemporary; he may have taken the name from a well-known legend, and there may have underlain it a double meaning, known to an inner circle, referring cryptically to one whose real name it might be impolitic to pronounce. Whenever written, the outline and meaning of Job's momentous experience must have won speedily to a permanent place in the universal Hebrew memory; so that centuries afterward James could write to the twelve tribes scattered abroad (James 5:11), “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord.”
A.B. Davidson, “The Book or Job” (Cambridge Bible for Schools), 1884; A.S. Peake, “Job” (New Century Bible), 1905; S.R. Driver, The Book of Job in the Revised Version, 1906; J. T. Marshall, The Book of Job, 1904; J.F. Genung,. Epic of the Inner Life, 1891; G.G. Bradley, Lectures on Job in Westminster Abbey, 1887; F.C. Cook in The Speaker's Commentary, 1882. Among German writers, A. Dillmann, Hiob erklart, 1891; K. Budde, Das Buch Hiob ubersetzt und erklart, 1896 (see The Expositor T, VIII, iii); B. Duhm, Das Buch Hiob erklart, 1897; G. Beer, Der text des Buches Hiob untersucht, 1897; Gibson, “The Book of Job” (Oxford Commentaries), 1899.