Legends of Old Testament Characters/Chapter 30



JOB was the great grandson of Esau. He was the son of Amos, the son of Zara, the son of Esau, and he had to wife Rahma, daughter of Ephraim, son of Joseph. Ephraim left two sons who were prophets after him; but amongst the children of Esau there was no prophet, saving Job.

Job was more patient than any other prophet; therefore it is said of him in the Koran, "Certainly we have found this excellent servant patient."[1]

The Rabbis say that Job, Jethro, and Balaam were King Pharaoh's three councillors, and they were also his chief magicians. They, by their enchantments, drew a line round the land of Egypt, so that no slave could escape out of it; for when he came to the line, he was held back and could not overleap it. But when the Israelites broke away and disregarded the enchanted line, Job, Jethro, and Balaam gave up their witchcrafts, and turned to the service of the living God.[2]

Job lived in Bashan, which lies between Damascus and Ramla, and there he reigned as a prince. Job had five hundred yoke of oxen, and to every yoke there was a she-ass to carry the instruments of husbandry. He had also a thousand flocks of sheep, and a thousand sheep in each flock. He had ten children, seven sons and three daughters; all were grown up.[3]

In the "Testament of Job,"[4] we read that this great man, illumined by the Divine light, comprehended that the idols which his people adored were no gods, and that there was but one only true God, the Creator and Preserver of all things. There was near his house an idol which attracted great worship. He prayed the Lord to show him whether this idol were a demon or not; and he promised, in that case, to destroy it and purify the place; and this he was able to do, being a sovereign.

God sent him an angel, who illumined him, and strengthened him in his resolution. So he destroyed the idol, and abolished its worship. But this act drew upon him the wrath of Satan. The angel had foreseen the disasters which would befall Job if he resolved to strive against the Evil One, and he had warned Job what to expect; but Job answered that, being convinced of the truth, he was ready to suffer for it.

Satan presented himself at the door of Job's house. He had taken upon him the form of a pilgrim, and he said to the portress, "I desire to see the faithful servant of the Most High."

Now Job, who had received the gift of prophecy, knew that this was the Evil One, and he refused to see him, saying to the gate-keeper when she brought the message, "Tell him that I am occupied, and that I cannot receive him."

Satan retired, but he returned soon after, disguised as a beggar, and he said to the portress, "Go and ask Job to give me a morsel of bread."

"Tell him," replied Job, "that I will not give him of the bread I eat, because I will not have anything in common with him. But offer him this burnt crust, that he may not say I sent him empty away."

The servant, not venturing to give the burnt crust, because she was not aware who the beggar was, offered him some good bread. But Satan, who knew what Job had commanded, thrust it away, saying, "Begone, bad servant, and bring me the bread you were told to give me."

The portress replied: "You say well, I am a bad servant, for I have not done that which I was commanded to do. Here is the crust my master ordered me to give you. He will not have anything in common with you; no! not even the bread he eats; but he sends you this, that it may not be said of him that he dismissed thee empty from his door. without an alms."

Satan took the charred crust, and bade the servant tell Job that he would soon render to him such measure as he had dealt to him.[5]

Then Satan ascended to God, and desired permission to afflict and prove Job. And when leave was given him, he descended to earth, and breathed such a hot blast, that all the cattle, and sheep, and servants of Job were burnt up. Then Satan took the form of a slave, and ran and told the prophet. Job answered, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!"

Then Satan went and shook the earth under the house where the sons and daughters of Job were assembled, and the house fell and destroyed them all.

Satan immediately hastened in the disguise of a servant to Job, and told him what had taken place. He said, "O Job! God has shaken down the house about your children, and they are dead. Had you seen their bleeding faces and broken limbs, and their brains bespattering the stones, and had heard their piercing cries, you would have been heart-broken."

Job wept, and lifted his eyes to God; and he knew who addressed him, and he said, "Satan! it is thou who comest to tempt me and to cast doubt into my heart, and mistrust in the wisdom and goodness of God; get thee hence."

Satan then blew a hot breath up the nose of Job, and poisoned all his blood. His body became scarlet next day, and the day after was covered with ulcers from head to foot; there was no whole place in him, except the head, the tongue, the eyes, and the heart; for over these portions God had not given Satan power.

All Job's friends deserted him and fled; Rahma,[6] his wife, alone remained, and she spent on him the rest of his possessions, but he was not cured of his disease. And this was why all his possessions went—Satan stole them away; and thus in a short time he was reduced to penury, and Rahma went from house to house begging alms for his support.

Satan saw that he could not triumph so long as the wife remained with her husband; she was a comfort and joy to him, and he cared not for possessions, or children, or health, so long as his wife was at his side; therefore, he sought occasion to separate them. One day, as Rahma was carrying food to Job, Satan presented himself before her in the form of an old man, and asked her, "O Rahma! art thou not the daughter of Ephraim, the son of Joseph?" She replied, "I am."

Then said the Evil Angel, "In what condition do I see thee?" She answered, "My husband Job has fallen into poverty, and I serve him."

He said, "Do not serve him, for when thou touchest him, the poison of his disease passes into thy veins."

She replied, "He is my husband, and I must attend on him as long as I live, in health or sickness."

Then Satan retired, despairing of seducing her from her duty. Rahma told Job all that had been said to her.

The prophet said, "O woman! he whom you have seen is Satan, and he desired to separate us. Do not speak to him again when he addresses you."

Some time after, the Evil One presented himself before the faithful wife under the form of a beautiful youth; and said to her, "What woman art thou, who art so radiant in beauty?" She answered, "I am the wife of a poor man, named Job."

He said, "O woman! what hast thou, with thy wondrous beauty, to do with a poor sick husband? Go, be divorced from thy husband, and marry me. I have great possessions, and I will treat thee as a queen."

She answered, "I am the wife of a prophet; I desire nothing higher."

Then Satan withdrew, despairing of seducing her from her duty. Rahma told Job all that had been said to her.

Job said, "O woman! did I not tell thee to speak with him no more; why hast thou disobeyed my voice? That was Satan, and he sought to separate us. Do not speak to him again when he addresses thee."

Some time after, the Evil One presented himself before the faithful wife, under the form of an angel; and said to her, "O woman, daughter of a prophet! I am an angel sent from God with a message to thee."

She said, "What message?"

He said, "Behold the Most High is wroth with Job, for he renders no thanks for all the good things He gave to him; therefore hath the Lord rejected him from being a prophet, and he shall fall from worse to worse, till he is cast into the flames of hell; we, the angels of God, curse him, and do thou, daughter of a prophet, avoid him, lest thou come into the same condemnation."

When Rahma heard these words, she wept, and said, "After so many afflictions, shall the name of Job be taken from the number of the prophets? And after so many sufferings shall he perish everlastingly?"

Then she went to Job and told him all that had been said to her.

Job was greatly angered when she told him the tenor of the words, and he cried out, "Have I not warned thee these two times not to speak with him, who is the author of my affliction? Wait till I am well, and I will give thee a hundred strokes with a rod."[7]

But the story is told differently by others. It is said that the third time Satan appeared as a baker, and Rahma wanted bread, but had nought to pay. Then said the pretended baker, "Thou hast locks of very beautiful hair; cut off thy hair and give it me, and thou shalt take the largest of my loaves."

Then she cut off three locks and gave them to him.

And when Job saw that she had done this, he was filled with fury, and he swore that when he was well he would beat her for having cut off her hair.[8]

Thus Satan triumphed in making Job to sin by swearing, and threatening to ill-treat a true and good woman.

Next the Evil One went as an angel, and announced to all the people of the land that he came from God to declare to them that Job was no more reckoned among the prophets; and that they were not to trust his words and believe his doctrine, but were to return to the worship of those gods he had blasphemed and cast out.

Soon after, Job heard his three friends, Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar, converse together, and repeat what had been told them by Satan; and the thought that he was supposed to be rejected by God from among His prophets, was so distressing to him, that he cried out, "Truly, O God! evil has befallen me; but Thou art the most merciful of those who show mercy."[9] That is, the words of men are cruel, but Thou, O God, wilt deliver me out of all my evils.

Job was sick for seven years, and all that while his wife ministered to him.

But the mediæval commentators draw a very different picture of this wife, relying on the words of Scripture which make her tempt Job to "curse God and die." They say that her tongue was one of the plagues of Job. That he bore patiently the loss of his cattle, of his children, and of his health, was indeed wonderful; but that he also endured the nagging of his wife with equanimity,—that was the most wonderful of all.

Then God looked on Job and had compassion upon him, and he said to him, "Strike the earth with thy foot."[10] Job stamped, and from the dung-heap on which he had been seated a clear stream of water issued, the sweetest that there is, and the water continued to flow. Then God said to Job, "Wash in this water."

Rahma, the wife of Job, poured the water upon his head and over his body, and he washed himself. All the sores that were on his flesh disappeared, and he was healed; there was not a scar left, and he appeared more beautiful than before he was afflicted.

Then God said to Job, "Drink of the water."

Then all the worms that were in the inside of Job died, and he was quite whole. Now this took place in Bashan, and the fountain remains to this day, and is called Qarya-Aïyub, and the city near which it is, Aïrs-Aïyub. "I have seen the city of the fountain," says the Persian translator of Tabari: "every person who goes there, affected by internal or external maladies, and washes and drinks of that water, is healed of his disease."[11]

Then God said to Job, "Fulfil thy vow, and take in thine hand a bundle of rods."[12] But the rods God told him to take were light sticks; and he took a hundred of these, and bound them together and smote Rahma with them, and he did not hurt her. By this action of Job, the Mussulman doctors support their advice to those who have taken rash oaths to clear themselves by a subterfuge. Thus, if a man has sworn he will not enter his house again, he is recommended to allow himself to be bound hand and foot and be carried into his home. Or, if he has sworn to recite the whole Koran, it will be sufficient for him to say the word "Koran," and listen to the imaum reading before the assembly.

Then God restored to Job double all that he had lost; and Job lived, after he was recovered of his disease, twenty years, and he died at the age of ninety-three.

The worms which had devoured the body of the prophet, God turned into silk-worms; and the flies which had bitten him and tormented his sores, converted He into honey-bees; and before this there were neither silk-worms nor honey-bees on the earth. Also the rain and the snow which fell within his possessions, were grains of gold and pearl.

Isidore of Seville places the fountain which cured Job in Idumæa. He says, it is clear during three months of the year, troubled during the next three, then for three months it is green, and for the last three, it is red.

In the "Testament of Job," we read some details concerning his death, written by his brother Nahor.

After three days of sickness, Job, lying on his bed, saw the angels come to receive his soul. After having divided his substance between his seven sons (for, after his troubles, he became the father of seven sons and three daughters), he gave his daughters three mantles of inestimable price, which he had received from heaven. To the eldest, Heinera (Jemima), he gave his harp; to the second, Cassia (Keziah), he handed his censer; to the third, Keren-happuch, he remitted his tambourine: and as he sang his last hymn to the Most High on his death-bed, Hemera and Keren-happuch accompanied him with harp and timbrel, and Cassia cast up fumes of sweet incense. Thus they greeted the messengers of heaven who came for the soul of Job.

  1. Koran, Sura xxxviii. v. 43-4. Job in Arabic is Aïub.
  2. Eisenmenger, ii. p. 439.
  3. Tabari, i. p. 256.
  4. Maï (Angelus), Test. Job; Romæ, 1839.
  5. Maï (Angelus), Test. Job; Romæ, 1839.
  6. In the "Testament of Job" she is called Sitis.
  7. Tabari, i. c. lxvi; Abulfeda, pp. 27-29.
  8. Testament of Job.
  9. Koran, Sura xxi. v. 83.
  10. Koran, Sura xxxviii. v. 41.
  11. Tabari, i. p. 263.
  12. Koran, Sura xxxviii. v. 43.