1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Job
JOB. The book of Job (Heb. אִיּוֹב ’Iyyob, Gr. Ἰώβ), in the Bible, the most splendid creation of Hebrew poetry, is so called from the name of the man whose history and afflictions and sayings form the theme of it.
Contents.—As it now lies before us it consists of five parts. 1. The prologue, in prose, chr. i.–ii., describes in rapid and dramatic steps the history of this man, his prosperity and greatness corresponding to his godliness; then how his life is drawn in under the operation of the sifting providence of God, through the suspicion suggested by the Satan, the minister of this aspect of God’s providence, that his godliness is selfish and only the natural return for unexampled prosperity, and the insinuation that if stripped of his prosperity he will curse God to His face. These suspicions bring down two severe calamities on Job, one depriving him of children and possessions alike, and the other throwing the man himself under a painful malady. In spite of these afflictions Job retains his integrity and ascribes no wrong to God. Then is described the advent of Job’s three friends—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite—who, having heard of Job’s calamities, come to condole with him. 2. The body of the book, in poetry, ch. iii.–xxxi., contains a series of speeches in which the problem of Job’s afflictions and the relation of external evil to the righteousness of God and the conduct of men are brilliantly discussed. This part, after Job’s passionate outburst in ch. iii., is divided into three cycles, each containing six speeches, one by each of the friends, and three by Job, one in reply to each of theirs (ch. iv.–xiv.; xv.–xxi.; xxii.–xxxi.) third speaker Zophar fails to answer (unless his answer is to be found in ch. xxvii.). Job, having driven his opponents from the field, carries his reply through a series of discourses in which he dwells in pathetic words upon his early prosperity, contrasting with it his present humiliation, and ends with a solemn repudiation of all the offences that might be suggested against him, and a challenge to God to appear and put His hand to the charge which He had against him and for which He afflicted him. 3. Elihu, the representative of a younger generation, who has been a silent observer of the debate, intervenes to express his dissatisfaction with the manner in which both Job and his friends conducted the cause, and offers what is in some respects a new solution of the question (xxxii.–xxxvii.). 4. In answer to Job’s repeated demands that God would appear and solve the riddle of his life, the Lord answers Job out of the whirlwind. The divine speaker does not condescend to refer to Job’s individual problem, but in a series of ironical interrogations asks him, as he thinks himself capable of fathoming all things, to expound the mysteries of the origin and subsistence of the world, the phenomena of the atmosphere, the instincts of the creatures that inhabit the desert, and, as he judges God’s conduct of the world amiss, invites him to seize the reins, gird himself with the thunder and quell the rebellious forces of evil in the universe (xxxviii.–xlii. 6). Job is humbled and abashed, lays his hand upon his mouth, and repents his hasty words in dust and ashes. No solution of his problem is vouchsafed; but God Himself effects that which neither the man’s own thoughts of God nor the representations of the friends could accomplish: he had heard of him with the hearing of the ear without effect, but now his eye sees Him. This is the profoundest religious deep in the book. 5. The epilogue, in prose, xlii. 7–17, describes Job’s restoration to a prosperity double that of his former estate, his family felicity and long life.although in the last cycle the
Design.—With the exception of the episode of Elihu, the connexion of which with the original form of the poem may be doubtful, all five parts of the book are essential elements of the work as it came from the hand of the first author, although some parts of the second and fourth divisions may have been expanded by later writers. The idea of the composition is to be derived not from any single element of the book, but from the teaching and movement of the whole piece. Job is unquestionably the hero of the work, and in his ideas and his history combined we may assume that we find the author himself speaking and teaching. The discussion between Job and his friends of the problem of suffering occupies two-thirds of the book, or, if the space occupied by Elihu be not considered, nearly three-fourths, and in the direction which the author causes this discussion to take we may see revealed the main didactic purpose of the book. When the three friends, the representatives of former theories of providence, are reduced to silence, we may be certain that it was the author’s purpose to discredit the ideas which they represent. Job himself offers no positive contribution to the doctrine of evil; his position is negative, merely antagonistic to that of the friends. But this negative position victoriously maintained by him has the effect of clearing the ground, and the author himself supplies in the prologue the positive truth, when he communicates the real explanation of his hero’s calamities, and teaches that they were a trial of his righteousness. It was therefore the author’s main purpose in his work to widen men’s views of the providence of God and set before them a new view of suffering. This purpose, however, was in all probability subordinate to some wider practical design. No Hebrew writer is merely a poet or a thinker. He is always a teacher. He has men before him in their relations to God, and usually not men in their individual relations, but members of the family of Israel, the people of God. It is consequently scarcely to be doubted that the book has a national scope. The author considered his new truth regarding the meaning of affliction as of national interest, and as the truth then needful for the heart of his people. But the teaching of the book is only half its contents. It contains also a history—deep and inexplicable affliction, a great moral struggle, and a victory. The author meant his new truth to inspire new conduct, new faith, and new hopes. In Job’s sufferings, undeserved and inexplicable to him, yet capable of an explanation most consistent with the goodness and faithfulness of God, and casting honour upon his faithful servants; in his despair bordering on unbelief, at last overcome; and in the happy issue of his afflictions—in all this Israel may see itself, and from the sight take courage, and forecast its own history. Job, however, is not to be considered Israel, the righteous servant of the Lord, under a feigned name; he is no mere parable (though such a view is found as early as the Talmud); he and his history have both elements of reality in them. It is these elements of reality common to him with Israel in affliction, common even to him with humanity as a whole, confined within the straitened limits set by its own ignorance, wounded to death by the mysterious sorrows of life, tortured by the uncertainty whether its cry finds an entrance into God’s ear, alarmed and paralysed by the irreconcilable discrepancies which it seems to discover between its necessary thoughts of Him and its experience of Him in His providence, and faint with longing that it might come into His place, and behold him, not girt with His majesty, but in human form, as one looketh upon his fellow—it is these elements of truth that make the history of Job instructive to Israel in the times of affliction when it was set before them, and to men of all races in all ages. It would probably be a mistake, however, to imagine that the author consciously stepped outside the limits of his nation and assumed a human position antagonistic to it. The chords he touches vibrate through all humanity—but this is because Israel is the religious kernel of humanity, and because from Israel’s heart the deepest religious music of mankind is heard, whether of pathos or of joy.
Two threads requiring to be followed, therefore, run through the book—one the discussion of the problem of evil between Job and his friends, and the other the varying attitude of Job’s mind towards God, the first being subordinate to the second. Both Job and his friends advance to the discussion of his sufferings and of the problem of evil, ignorant of the true cause of his calamities—Job strong in his sense of innocence, and the friends armed with their theory of the righteousness of God, who giveth to every man according to his works. With fine psychological instinct the poet lets Job altogether lose his self-control first when his three friends came to visit him. His bereavements and his malady he bore with a steady courage, and his wife’s direct instigations to godlessness he repelled with severity and resignation. But when his equals and the old associates of his happiness came to see him, and when he read in their looks and in their seven days’ silence the depth of his own misery, his self-command deserted him, and he broke out into a cry of despair, cursing his day and crying for death (iii.). Job had somewhat misinterpreted the demeanour of his friends. It was not all pity that it expressed. Along with their pity they had also brought their theology, and they trusted to heal Job’s malady with this. Till a few days before, Job would have agreed with them on the sovereign virtues of this remedy. But he had learned through a higher teaching, the events of God’s providence, that it was no longer a specific in his case. His violent impatience, however, under his afflictions and his covert attacks upon the divine rectitude only served to confirm the view of his sufferings which their theory of evil had already suggested to his friends. And thus commences the high debate which continues through twenty-nine chapters.
The three friends of Job came to the consideration of his history with the principle that calamity is the result of evil-doing, as prosperity is the reward of righteousness. Suffering is not an accident or a spontaneous growth of the soil; man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upwards; there is in human life a tendency to do evil which draws down upon men the chastisement of God (v. 6). The principle is thus enunciated by Eliphaz, from whom the other speakers take their cue: where there is suffering there has been sin in the sufferer. Not suffering in itself, but the effect of it on the sufferer is what gives insight into his true character. Suffering is not always punitive; it is sometimes disciplinary, designed to wean the good man from his sin. If he sees in his suffering the monition of God and turns from his evil, his future shall be rich in peace and happiness, and his latter estate more prosperous than his first. If he murmurs or resists, he can only perish under the multiplying chastisements which his impenitence will provoke. Now this principle is far from being a peculiar crotchet of the friends; its truth is undeniable, though they erred in supposing that it would cover the wide providence of God. The principle is the fundamental idea of moral government, the expression of the natural conscience, a principle common more or less to all peoples, though perhaps more prominent in the Semitic mind, because all religious ideas are more prominent and simple there—not suggested to Israel first by the law, but found and adopted by the law, though it may be sharpened by it. It is the fundamental principle of prophecy no less than of the law, and, if possible, of the wisdom of philosophy of the Hebrews more than of either. Speculation among the Hebrews had a simpler task before it than it had in the West or in the farther East. The Greek philosopher began his operations upon the sum of things; he threw the universe into his crucible at once. His object was to effect some analysis of it, so that he could call one element cause and another effect. Or, to vary the figure, his endeavour was to pursue the streams of tendency which he could observe till he reached at last the central spring which sent them all forth. God, a single cause and explanation, was the object of his search. But to the Hebrew of the later time this was already found. The analysis resulting in the distinction of God and the world had been effected for him so long ago that the history and circumstances of the process had been forgotten, and only the unchallengeable result remained. His philosophy was not a quest of God whom he did not know, but a recognition on all hands of God whom he knew. The great primary idea to his mind was that of God, a Being wholly just, doing all. And the world was little more than the phenomena that revealed the mind and the presence and the operations of God. Consequently the nature of God as known to him and the course of events formed a perfect equation. The idea of what God was in Himself was in complete harmony with His manifestation of Himself in providence, in the events of individual human lives, and in the history of nations. The philosophy of the wise did not go behind the origin of sin, or referred it to the freedom of man; but, sin existing, and God being in immediate personal contact with the world, every event was a direct expression of His moral will and energy; calamity fell on wickedness, and success attended right-doing. This view of the moral harmony between the nature of God and the events of providence in the fortunes of men and nations is the view of the Hebrew wisdom in its oldest form, during what might be called the period of principles, to which belong Prov. x. seq.; and this is the position maintained by Job’s three friends. And the significance of the book of Job in the history of Hebrew thought arises in that it marks the point when such a view was definitely overcome, closing the long period when this principle was merely subjected to questionings, and makes a new positive addition to the doctrine of evil.
Job agreed that afflictions came directly from the hand of God, and also that God afflicted those whom He held guilty of sins. But his conscience denied the imputation of guilt, whether insinuated by his friends or implied in God’s chastisement of him. Hence he was driven to conclude that God was unjust. The position of Job appeared to his friends nothing else but impiety; while theirs was to him mere falsehood and the special pleading of sycophants on behalf of God because He was the stronger. Within these two iron walls the debate moves, making little progress, but with much brilliancy, if not of argument, of illustration. A certain advance indeed is perceptible. In the first series of speeches (iv.–xiv.), the key-note of which is struck by Eliphaz, the oldest and most considerate of the three, the position is that affliction is caused by sin, and is chastisement designed for the sinner’s good; and the moral is that Job should recognize it and use it for the purpose for which it was sent. In the second (xv.–xxi.) the terrible fate of the sinner is emphasized, and those brilliant pictures of a restored future, thrown in by all the speakers in the first series, are absent. Job’s demeanour under the consolations offered him afforded little hope of his repentance. In the third series (xxii. seq.) the friends cast off all disguise, and openly charge Job with a course of evil life. That their armoury was now exhausted is shown by the brevity of the second speaker, and the failure of the third (at least in the present text) to answer in any form. In reply Job disdains for a time to touch what he well knew lay under all their exhortations; he laments with touching pathos the defection of his friends, who were like the winter torrents looked for in vain by the perishing caravan in the summer heat; he meets with bitter scorn their constant cry that God will not cast off the righteous man, by asking: How can one be righteous with God? what can human weakness, however innocent, do against infinite might and subtlety? they are righteous whom an omnipotent and perverse will thinks fit to consider so; he falls into a hopeless wail over the universal misery of man, who has a weary campaign of life appointed him; then, rising up in the strength of his conscience, he upbraids the Almighty with His misuse of His power and His indiscriminate tyranny—righteous and innocent He destroys alike—and challenges Him to lay aside His majesty and meet His creature as a man, and then he would not fear Him. Even in the second series Job can hardly bring himself to face the personal issue raised by the friends. His relations to God absorb him almost wholly—his pitiable isolation, the indignities showered on his once honoured head, the loathsome spectacle of his body; abandoned by all, he turns for pity from God to men and from men to God. Only in the third series of debates does he put out his hand and grasp firmly the theory of his friends, and their “defences of mud” fall to dust in his hands. Instead of that roseate moral order on which they are never weary of insisting, he finds only disorder and moral confusion. When he thinks of it, trembling takes hold of him. It is not the righteous but the wicked that live, grow old, yea, wax mighty in strength, that send forth their children like a flock and establish them in their sight. Before the logic of facts the theory of the friends goes down; and with this negative result, which the author skilfully reaches through the debate, has to be combined his own positive doctrine of the uses of adversity advanced in the prologue.
To a modern reader it appears strange that both parties were so entangled in the meshes of their preconceptions regarding God as to be unable to break through the broader views. The friends, while maintaining that injustice on the part of God is inconceivable, might have given due weight to the persistent testimony of Job’s conscience as that behind which it is impossible to go, and found refuge in the reflection that there might be something inexplicable in the ways of God, and that affliction might have some other meaning than to punish the sinner or even to wean him from his sin. And Job, while maintaining his innocence from overt sins, might have confessed that there was such sinfulness in every human life as was sufficient to account for the severest chastisement from heaven, or at least he might have stopped short of charging God foolishly. Such a position would certainly be taken up by an afflicted saint now, and such an explanation of his sufferings would suggest itself to the sufferer, even though it might be in truth a false explanation. Perhaps here, where an artistic fault might seem to be committed, the art of the writer, or his truth to nature, and the extraordinary freedom with which he moves among his materials, as well as the power and individuality of his dramatic creations, are most remarkable. The rôle which the author reserved for himself was to teach the truth on the question in dispute, and he accomplishes this by allowing his performers to push their false principles to their proper extreme. There is nothing about which men are usually so sure as the character of God. They are ever ready to take Him in their own hand, to interpret His providence in their own sense, to say what things are consistent or not with His character and word, and beat down the opposing consciences of other men by His so-called authority, which is nothing but their own. The friends of Job were religious Orientals, men to whom God was a being in immediate contact with the world and life, to whom the idea of second causes was unknown, on whom science had not yet begun to dawn, nor the conception of a divine scheme pursuing a distant end by complicated means, in which the individual’s interest may suffer for the larger good. The broad sympathies of the author and his sense of the truth lying in the theory of the friends are seen in the scope which he allows them, in the richness of the thought and the splendid luxuriance of the imagery—drawn from the immemorial moral consent of mankind, the testimony of the living conscience, and the observation of life—with which he makes them clothe their views. He remembered the elements of truth in the theory from which he was departing, that it was a national heritage, which he himself perhaps had been constrained not without a struggle to abandon; and, while showing its insufficiency, he sets it forth in its most brilliant form.
The extravagance of Job’s assertions was occasioned greatly by the extreme position of his friends, which left no room for his conscious innocence along with the rectitude of God. Again, the poet’s purpose, as the prologue shows, was to teach that afflictions may fall on a man out of all connexion with any offence of his own, and merely as the trial of his righteousness; and hence he allows Job, as by a true instinct of the nature of his sufferings, to repudiate all connexion between them and sin in himself. And further, the terrible conflict into which the suspicions of the Satan broughtcould not be exhibited without pushing him to the verge of ungodliness. These are all elements of the poet’s art; but art and nature are one. In ancient Hebrew life the sense of sin was less deep than it is now. In the desert, too, men speak boldly of God. Nothing is more false than to judge the poet’s creation from our later point of view, and construct a theory of the book according to a more developed sense of sin and a deeper reverence for God than belonged to antiquity. In complete contradiction to the testimony of the book itself, some critics, as Hengstenberg and Budde, have assumed that Job’s spiritual pride was the cause of his afflictions, that this was the root of bitterness in him which must be killed down ere he could become a true saint. The fundamental position of the book is that Job was already a true saint; this is testified by God Himself, is the radical idea of the author in the prologue, and the very hypothesis of the drama. We might be ready to think that Job’s afflictions did not befall him out of all connexion with his own condition of mind, and we might be disposed to find a vindication of God’s ways in this. There is no evidence that such an idea was shared by the author of the book. It is remarkable that the attitude which we imagine it would have been so easy for Job to assume, namely, while holding fast his integrity, to fall back upon the inexplicableness of providence, of which there are such imposing descriptions in his speeches, is just the attitude which is taken up in ch. xxviii. It is far from certain, however, that this chapter is an integral part of the original book.
The other line running through the book, the varying attitude of Job’s mind towards God, exhibits dramatic action and tragic interest of the highest kind, though the movement is internal. That the exhibition of this struggle in Job’s mind was a main point in the author’s purpose is seen from the fact that at the end of each of his great trials he notes that Job sinned not, nor ascribed wrong to God (i. 22; ii. 10), and from the effect which the divine voice from the whirlwind is made to produce upon him (xl. 3). In the first cycle of debate (iv.–xiv.) Job’s mind reaches the deepest limit of estrangement. There he not merely charges God with injustice, but, unable to reconcile His former goodness with His present enmity, he regards the latter as the true expression of God’s attitude towards His creatures, and the former, comprising all his infinite creative skill in weaving the delicate organism of human nature and the rich endowments of His providence, only as the means of exercising His mad and immoral cruelty in the time to come. When the Semitic skin of Job is scratched, we find a modern pessimist beneath. Others in later days have brought the keen sensibility of the human frame and the torture which it endures together, and asked with Job to whom at last all this has to be referred. Towards the end of the cycle a star of heavenly light seems to rise on the horizon; the thought seizes the sufferer’s mind that man might have another life, that God’s anger pursuing him to the grave might be sated, and that He might call him out of it to Himself again (xiv. 13). This idea of a resurrection, unfamiliar to Job at first, is one which he is allowed to reach out of the necessities of the moral complications around him, but from the author’s manner of using the idea we may judge that it was familiar to himself. In the second cycle the thought of a future reconciliation with God is more firmly grasped. That satisfaction or at least composure which, when we observe calamities that we cannot morally account for, we reach by considering that providence is a great scheme moving according to general laws, and that it does not always truly reflect the relation of God to the individual, Job reached in the only way possible to a Semitic mind. He drew a distinction between an outer God whom events obey, pursuing him in His anger, and an inner God whose heart was with him, who was aware of his innocence; and he appeals from God to God, and beseeches God to pledge Himself that he shall receive justice from God (xvi. 19; xvii. 3). And so high at last does this consciousness that God is at one with him rise that he avows his assurance that He will yet appear to do him justice before men, and that he shall see Him with his own eyes, no more estranged but on his side, and for this moment he faints with longing (xix. 25 seq.).
After this expression of faith Job’s mind remains calm, though he ends by firmly charging God with perverting his right, and demanding to know the cause of his afflictions (xxvii. 2 seq.; xxxi. 35, where render: “Oh, that I had the indictment which mine adversary has written!”). In answer to this demand the Divine voice answers Job out of the tempest: “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” The word “counsel” intimates to Job that God does not act without a design, large and beyond the comprehension of man; and to impress this is the purpose of the Divine speeches. The speaker does not enter into Job’s particular cause; there is not a word tending to unravel his riddle; his mind is drawn away to the wisdom and majesty of God Himself. His own words and those of his friends are but re-echoed, but it is God Himself who now utters them. Job is in immediate nearness to the majesty of heaven, wise, unfathomable, ironical over the littleness of man, and he is abased; God Himself effects what neither the man’s own thoughts of God nor the representations of his friends could accomplish, though by the same means. The religious insight of the writer sounds here the profoundest deeps of truth.
Integrity.—Doubts whether particular portions of the present book belonged to the original form of it have been raised by many. M. L. De Wette expressed himself as follows: “It appears to us that the present book of Job has not all flowed from one pen. As many books of the Old Testament have been several times written over, so has this also” (Ersch and Gruber, Ency., sect. ii. vol. viii.). The judgment formed by De Wette has been adhered to more or less by most of those who have studied the book. Questions regarding the unity of such books as this are difficult to settle; there is not unanimity among scholars regarding the idea of the book, and consequently they differ as to what parts are in harmony or conflict with unity; and it is dangerous to apply modern ideas of literary composition and artistic unity to the works of antiquity and of the East. The problem raised in the book of Job has certainly received frequent treatment in the Old Testament; and there is no likelihood that all efforts in this direction have been preserved to us. It is probable that the book of Job was but a great effort amidst or after many smaller. It is scarcely to be supposed that one with such poetic and literary power as the author of chap. iii–xxxi., xxxviii.–xli. would embody the work of any other writer in his own. If there be elements in the book which must be pronounced foreign, they have been inserted in the work of the author by a later hand. It is not unlikely that our present book may, in addition to the great work of the original author, contain some fragments of the thoughts of other religious minds upon the same question, and that these, instead of being loosely appended, have been fitted into the mechanism of the first work. Some of these fragments may have originated at first quite independently of our book, while others may be expansions and insertions that never existed separately. At the same time it is scarcely safe to throw out any portion of the book merely because it seems to us out of harmony with the unity of the main part of the poem, or unless several distinct lines of consideration conspire to point it out as an extraneous element.
The arguments against the originality of the prologue—as, that it is written in prose, that the name Yahweh appears in it, that sacrifice is referred to, and that there are inconsistencies between it and the body of the book—are of little weight. There must have been some introduction to the poem explaining the circumstances of Job, otherwise the poetical dispute would have been unintelligible, for it is improbable that the story of Job was so familiar that a poem in which he and his friends figured as they do here would have been understood. And there is no trace of any other prologue or introduction having ever existed. The prologue, too, is an essential element of the work, containing the author’s positive contribution to the doctrine of suffering, for which the discussion in the poem prepares the way. The intermixture of prose and poetry is common in Oriental works containing similar discussions; the reference to sacrifice is to primitive not to Mosaic sacrifice; and the author, while using the name Yahweh freely himself, puts the patriarchal Divine names into the mouth of Job and his friends because he regards them as belonging to the patriarchal age and to a country outside of Israel. That the observance of this rule had a certain awkwardness for the writer appears perhaps from his allowing the name Yahweh to slip in once or twice (xii. 9, cf. xxviii. 28) in familiar phrases in the body of the poem. The discrepancies, such as Job’s references to his children as still alive (xix. 17, the interpretation is doubtful), and to his servants, are trivial, and even if real imply nothing in a book admittedly poetical and not historical. The objections to the epilogue are equally unimportant—as that the Satan is not mentioned in it, and that Job’s restoration is in conflict with the main idea of the poem—that earthly felicity does not follow righteousness. The epilogue confirms the teaching of the poem when it gives the divine sanction to Job’s doctrine regarding God in opposition to that of the friends (xlii. 7). And it is certainly not the intention of the poem to teach that earthly felicity does not follow righteousness; its purpose is to correct the exclusiveness with which the friends of Job maintained that principle. The Satan is introduced in the prologue, exercising his function as minister of God in heaven; but it is to misinterpret wholly the doctrine of evil in the Old Testament to assign to the Satan any such personal importance or independence of power as that he should be called before the curtain to receive the hisses that accompany his own discomfiture. The Satan, though he here appears with the beginnings of a malevolent will of his own, is but the instrument of the sifting providence of God. His work was to try; that done he disappears, his personality being too slight to have any place in the result.
Much graver are the suspicions that attach to the speeches of Elihu. Most of those who have studied the book carefully hold that this part does not belong to the original cast, but has been introduced at a considerably later time. The piece is one of the most interesting parts of the book; both the person and the thoughts of Elihu are marked by a strong individuality. This individuality has indeed been very diversely estimated. The ancients for the most part passed a very severe judgment on Elihu: he is a buffoon, a boastful youth whose shallow intermeddling is only to be explained by the fewness of his years, the incarnation of folly, or even the Satan himself gone a-mumming. Some moderns on the other hand have regarded him as the incarnation of the voice of God or even of God himself. The main objections to the connexion of the episode of Elihu with the original book are: that the prologue and epilogue know nothing of him; that on the cause of Job’s afflictions he occupies virtually the same position as the friends; that his speeches destroy the dramatic effect of the divine manifestation by introducing a lengthened break between Job’s challenge and the answer of God; that the language and style of the piece are marked by an excessive mannerism, too great to have been created by the author of the rest of the poem; that the allusions to the rest of the book are so minute as to betray a reader rather than a hearer; and that the views regarding sin, and especially the scandal given to the author by the irreverence of Job, indicate a religious advance which marks a later age. The position taken by Elihu is almost that of a critic of the book. Regarding the origin of afflictions he is at one with the friends, although he dwells more on the general sinfulness of man than on actual sins, and his reprobation of Job’s position is even greater than theirs. His anger was kindled against Job because he made himself righteous before God, and against his friends because they found no answer to Job. His whole object is to refute Job’s charge of injustice against God. What is novel in Elihu, therefore, is not his position but his arguments. These do not lack cogency, but betray a kind of thought different from that of the friends. Injustice in God, he argues, can only arise from selfishness in Him; but the very existence of creation implies unselfish love on God’s part, for if He thought only of Himself, He would cease actively to uphold creation, and it would fall into death. Again, without justice mere earthly rule is impossible; how then is injustice conceivable in Him who rules over all? It is probable that the original author found his three interlocutors a sufficient medium for expression, and that this new speaker is the creation of another. To a devout and thoughtful reader of the original book, belonging perhaps to a more reverential age, it appeared that the language and bearing of Job had scarcely been sufficiently reprobated by the original speakers, and that the religious reason, apart from any theophany, could suggest arguments sufficient to condemn such demeanour on the part of any man. (For an able though hardly convincing argument for the originality of the discourses of Elihu see Budde’s Commentary.)
It is more difficult to come to a decision in regard to some other portions of the book, particularly ch. xxvii. 7–xxviii. In the latter part of ch. xxvii. Job seems to go over to the camp of his opponents, and expresses sentiments in complete contradiction to his former views. Hence some have thought the passage to be the missing speech of Zophar. Others, as Hitzig, believe that Job is parodying the ideas of the friends; while others, like Ewald, consider that he is recanting his former excesses, and making such a modification as to express correctly his views on evil. None of these opinions is quite satisfactory, though the last probably expresses the view with which the passage was introduced, whether it be original or not. The meaning of ch. xxviii. can only be that “Wisdom,” that is, a theoretical comprehension of providence, is unattainable by man, whose only wisdom is the fear of the Lord or practical piety. But to bring Job to the feeling of this truth was just the purpose of the theophany and the divine speeches; and, if Job had reached it already through his own reflection, the theophany becomes an irrelevancy. It is difficult, therefore, to find a place for these two chapters in the original work. The hymn on Wisdom is a most exquisite poem, which probably originated separately, and was brought into our book with a purpose similar to that which suggested the speeches of Elihu. Objections have also been raised to the descriptions of leviathan and behemoth (ch. xl. 15–xli.). Regarding these it may be enough to say that in meaning these passages are in perfect harmony with other parts of the Divine words, although there is a breadth and detail in the style unlike the sharp, short, ironical touches otherwise characteristic of this part of the poem. (Other longer passages, the originality of which has been called into question, are: xvii. 8 seq.; xxi. 16–18; xxii. 17 seq.; xxiii. 8 seq.; xxiv. 9, 18–24; xxvi. 5–14. On these see the commentaries.)
Date.—The age of such a book as Job, dealing only with principles and having no direct references to historical events can be fixed only approximately. Any conclusion can be reached only by an induction founded on matters which do not afford perfect certainty, such as the comparative development of certain moral ideas in different ages, the pressing claims of certain problems for solution at particular epochs of the history of Israel, and points of contact with other writings of which the age may with some certainty be determined. The Jewish tradition that the book is Mosaic, and the idea that it is a production of the desert, written in another tongue and translated into Hebrew, want even a shadow of probability. The book is a genuine outcome of the religious life and thought of Israel, the product of a religious knowledge and experience that were possible among no other people. That the author lays the scene of the poem outside his own nation and in the patriarchal age is a proceeding common to him with other dramatic writers, who find freer play for their principles in a region removed from the present, where they are not hampered by the obtrusive forms of actual life, but are free to mould occurrences into the moral form that their ideas require.
It is the opinion of some scholars, e.g. Delitzsch, that the book belongs to the age of Solomon. It cannot be earlier than this age, for Job (vii. 17) travesties the ideas of Ps. viii. in a manner which shows that this hymn was well known. To infer the date from a comparison of literary coincidences and allusions is however a very delicate operation. For, first, owing to the unity of thought and language whichthe Old Testament, in which, regarded merely as a national literature, it differs from all other national literatures, we are apt to be deceived, and to take mere similarities for literary allusions and quotations; and, secondly, even when we are sure that there is dependence, it is often uncommonly difficult to decide which is the original source. The reference to Job in Ezek. xiv. 14 is not to our book, but to the man (a legendary figure) who was afterwards made the hero of it. The affinities on the other hand between Job and Isa. xl.–lv. are very close. The date, however, of this part of Isaiah is uncertain, though it cannot have received its final form, if it be composite, long before the return. Between Job iii. and Jer. xx. 14 seq. there is, again, certainly literary connexion. But the judgment of different minds differs on the question which passage is dependent on the other. The language of Jeremiah, however, has a natural pathos and genuineness of feeling in it, somewhat in contrast with the elaborate poetical finish of Job’s words, which might suggest the originality of the former.
The tendency among recent scholars is to put the book of Job not earlier than the 5th century B.C. There are good reasons for putting it in the 4th century. It stands at the beginning of the era of Jewish philosophical inquiry—its affinities are with Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus, Ecclesiastes, and the Wisdom of Solomon, a body of writings that belongs to the latest period of pre-Christian Jewish literary development (see Wisdom Literature). Its points of connexion with Isa. xl.–lv. relate only to the problem of the suffering of the righteous, and that it is later than the Isaiah passage appears from the fact that this latter is national and ritual in scope, while Job is universal and ethical.
The book of Job is not literal history, though it reposes on historical tradition. To this tradition belong probably the name of Job and his country, and the names of his three friends, and perhaps also many other details impossible to specify particularly. The view that the book is entirely a literary creation with no basis in historical tradition is as old as the Talmud (Baba Bathra, xv. 1), in which a rabbi is cited who says: Job was not, and was not created, but is an allegory. This view is supported by Hengstenberg and others. But pure poetical creations on so extensive a scale are not probable in the East and at so early an age.
Author.—The author of the book is wholly unknown. The religious life of Israel was at certain periods very intense, and at those times the spiritual energy of the nation expressed itself almost impersonally, through men who forgot themselves and were speedily forgotten in name by others. Hitzig conjectures that the author was a native of the north on account of the free criticism of providence which he allows himself. Others, on account of some affinities with the prophet Amos, infer that he belonged to the south of Judah, and this is supposed to account for his intimate acquaintance with the desert. Ewald considers that he belonged to the exile in Egypt, on account of his minute acquaintance with that country. But all these conjectures localize an author whose knowledge was not confined to any locality, who was a true child of the East and familiar with life and nature in every country there, who was at the same time a true Israelite and felt that the earth was the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, and whose sympathies and thought took in all God’s works.
Literature.—Commentaries by Ewald (1854); Renan (1859); Delitzsch (1864); Zöckler in Lange’s Bibelwerk (1872); F. C. Cook in Speaker’s Comm. (1880); A. B. Davidson in Cambridge Bible (1884); Dillmann (1891); K. Budde (1896); Duhm (1897). See also Hoekstra, “Job de Knecht van Jehovah” in Theol. Tijdschr. (1871), and, in reply, A. Kuenen, “Job en de leidende Knecht van Jahveh,” ibid. (1873); C. H. H. Wright in Bib. Essays (1886); G. G. Bradley, Lects. on Job (2nd ed., 1888); Cheyne, Job and Solomon (1887); Dawson, Wisd. Lit. (1893); D. B. Macdonald, “The Original Form of the Legend of Job” in Journ. Bib. Lit. (1895); E. Hatch, Essays in Bib. Gk. (1889); A. Dillmann, in Trans. of Roy. Pruss. Acad. (1890). (A. B. D.; C. H. T.*)
- Exceptions must be made in the cases of Esther and the Song of Songs, which do not mention God, and the original writer in Ecclesiastes who is a philosopher.
- This remarkable passage reads thus: “But I know that my redeemer liveth, and afterwards he shall arise upon the dust, and after my skin, even this body, is destroyed, without my flesh shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger; my reins within me are consumed with longing.” The redeemer who liveth and shall arise or stand upon the earth is God whom he shall see with his own eyes, on his side. The course of exegesis was greatly influenced by the translation of Jerome, who, departing from the Itala, rendered: “In novissimo die de terra surrecturus sum . . . et rursum circumdabor pelle mea et in carne mea videbo deum meum.” The only point now in question is whether: (a) Job looks for this manifestation of God to him while he is still alive, or (b) after death, and therefore in the sense of a spiritual vision and union with God in another life; that is, whether the words “destroyed” and “without my flesh” are to be taken relatively only, of the extremest effects of his disease upon him, or literally, of the separation of the body in death. A third view which assumes that the words rendered “without my flesh,” which run literally, “out of my flesh,” mean looking out from my flesh, that is, clothed with a new body, and finds the idea of resurrection repeated, perhaps imports more into the language than it will fairly bear. In favour of (b) may be adduced the persistent refusal of Job throughout to entertain the idea of a restoration in this life: the word “afterwards”; and perhaps the analogy of other passages where the same situation appears, as Ps. xlix. and lxxiii., although the actual dénouement of the tragedy supports (a). The difference between the two senses is not important, when the Old Testament view of immortality is considered. To the Hebrew the life beyond was not what it is to us, a freedom from sin and sorrow and admission to an immediate divine fellowship not attainable here. To him the life beyond was at best a prolongation of the life here; all he desired was that his fellowship with God here should not be interrupted in death, and that Sheol, the place into which deceased persons descended and where they remained, cut off from all life with God, might be overleapt. On this account the theory of Ewald, which throws the centre of gravity of the book into this passage in ch. xix., considering its purpose to be to teach that the riddles of this life shall be solved and its inequalities corrected in a future life, appears one-sided. The point of the passage does not lie in any distinction which it draws between this life and a future life; it lies in the assurance which Job expresses that God, who even now knows his innocence, will vindicate it in the future, and that, though estranged now, He will at last take him to His heart.