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An Introduction to the Book of Job

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I. TITLE:

A. In Hebrew the name is boYa! probably from the root meaning “to come back,” or “repent,” thus describing one who “comes back” or “returns to” God.1

B. In Greek LXX the name is transliteration of the Hebrew consonants IWB.

II. AUTHOR: Possibly Job, Elihu, or a contemporary of Job

A. The author of the book is unknown

1. The text does not identify its author

2. Rabbinic tradition does not attempt to identify an author other than suggesting that the writer must have preceded Moses

B. Ones understanding of Date (below) contributes to one’s understanding of the author

C. Jacques Bolduc suggested in his commentary of 1637 that the book of Job may have been authored in a secondary way by Moses who found it in its original Aramaic form and translated it into Hebrew2

1. This could account for:

a. Its being possessed by the Hebrews

b. Its attaining a canonical status

c. The Aramaic tone in some of the terms and modes of expression in the text

2. But the style of Job is not really Mosaic; Moses uses the name of Yahweh often whereas Job uses other names, Job uses Arabic words unlike Moses, Moses would not have been familiar with Arabic customs, opinions, and manners

D. Job, Elihu, or a contemporary of Job:

1. The date of the book leans toward a patriarchal age

2. The foreign tone of the book allows for it to have been written by Job (Arabic words, nomadic habits, illustrations from sandy plains, awareness of nature and the arts)

III. DATE:

A. Date of the Events: Probably pre-Mosaic, even patriarchal from the second Millennium B.C.

1. Job is lacking references to historical events and reflects a non-Hebraic cultural background which little is known about

2. Location:

a. Uz was located in northern Arabia3

b. Job’s friend, Eliphaz, came from Teman, a city in Edom

c. Elihu came from the Buzites who lived next to the Chaldeans in northeast Arabia4

3. Support for a pre-Mosaic date:

a. The patriarchal family-clan organization reflects the time of Abraham rather than after the Exodus

b. The offering of sacrifice by the head of the family rather than a priest reflects a time before the Exodus

c. The mention of a qesitah as a type of money (Job 42:11) suggests a date which is at least during the time of Joshua (cf. Jos. 24:32), if not during the patriarchal period (cf. Gen 33:19)5

4. Support for an early second millennium date of Job as a contemporary with the patriarchs:

a. The reference in Ezekiel 14:14 to Job and Daniel may be a reference to the ancient Canaanite hero Dan’el who was a prominent figure in the Ugaritic epics rather than to the contemporary prophet, Daniel6

b. Other names in Job are authentic for the second millennium B.C.:

1) Bildad was short for Yabil Dadum, a name found in cuneiform sources of the second millennium B.C.

2) Job is found in the “Babylonian Job”, a cuneiform composition7

B. Date of Composition: Possibly during the time of the Patriarchs (Second Millennium B.C.)

1. The Patriarchal Age:

a. This was the view of the Talmud

b. This helps support the accuracy of the conversations between Job and his friends; but this is not necessary since portions of Genesis were accurately transmitted by mouth until Moses wrote them down

c. The addition of 42:16-17 could have been added shortly after Job’s death

d. The lifestyle and longevity of Job are similar to that of the patriarchs found in Genesis

e. The moving bands of Sabaeans and Chaldeans (Job 1:15, 17) matches the early second millennium B.C.

f. The literary genre of Job (below) matches that of the patriarchal era

g. The name of Job is found in the Amarna letters (c. 1350 B.C.) and the Egyptian Execration texts (c. 2000 B.C.)8

h. Although the evidence does not demand a second millennium B.C. date, it certainly allows for it. “9

2. The Reign of Solomon:

a. This was the view of Gregory Nazianzen (fourth century A.D.), Martin Luther, Haevernick, Keil and Delitzsch, Raven, Young, and Unger10

b. Solomon’s age was a peaceful one and thus particularly interested in wisdom’s approach to the deepest, practical problems of life (e.g., Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Proverbs)

c. The wisdom of Proverbs 8 and Job 28 is similar

d. While the above arguments are plausible, they are not determinative; as Archer writes, “most of the ... features above mentioned are reconcilable with an earlier date as well, particularly if the account was composed by a non-Israelite author on non-Israelite soil”11

e. In addition a delay of four centuries from the actual experience to the writing down of the experience raises the question of accuracy12

3. The Reign of Manasseh:

a. This was the view of Ewald and Hitzig.

b. Since this was a time of injustice, the thought is that Job fits the social setting well (cf. Job 9:24)

c. But Job does not present trouble that is any greater than could be found at any time in human history, and here the hardship is individual and private rather than national

4. The Reign of Jeremiah:

a. This was the view of J. E. Steinmueller

b. Similarity in language with Job and the writings of Jeremiah are cited as the basis for this time of composition (cf. Jer. 12:1-3 & Job 21:7; Jer. 20:14-18 & Job 3:3; the land of Uz is only mentioned outside of Job in Jeremiah 25:20 and Lamentations 4:21)

c. But the comparisons and language are not determinative since they can be found in other writings (cf. Ps 37), and it is also possible that Jeremiah borrowed from Job to express his themes of suffering and, “the fact that Uz is mentioned in Jeremiah 25:20 is hardly of pivotal significance unless it can be proved by other evidence that the name had not arisen until the age of Jeremiah or else was unknown to the Hebrews before his time”13

5. During or after the Exile (sixth century B.C.):

a. This was the view of Genung in ISBE, Driver, Budde, Cheyne

b. Arguments and Solutions are as follows:14

1) The book is understood to be legend and a depiction of the imprisonment and eventual release of king Jehoiachin
But Jehoiachin was not a righteous men and was not ever restored to his kingdom prior to his death

2) Although the problems of suffering was severe for the nation at the time of the exile, the exile was not the only time the nation suffered, and again the suffering in the book is personal rather than national15

3) The identification of the tempter as “Satan” was Persian, but it was also an identification under David (1 Chron 21:1; Ps 109:6)

4) The Aramaisms in the book suggest a late date, but Aramaic was used for hundreds of years before the Exile

5) Although several passages seems to refer to a national tragedy (9:24; 12:6, 13-25; 24:12) they are not clear enough, nor particular enough to demand an exilic interpretation

6. Conclusion: Although it is not possible to be certain, a patriarchal date is reasonable and perhaps best explains the material as we have it

IV. CANONICAL CONSIDERATIONS:

A. Job is placed in different places in different canons:

1. In the Talmud: Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations

2. In the LXX: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Job

3. In the Peshitta: Deuteronomy, Job, Joshua

4. In the Council of Trent and Most English Bibles: Job, Psalms, Proverbs

5. In most Hebrew Bibles: Psalms, Proverbs, Job

6. In Kittel’s Biblica Hebraica (3rd edition) and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: Psalms, Job, Proverbs

B. Except for Theodore of Mopsuestia of the Antiochian school (A.D. 350-428) the book of Job has not been questioned with respect to its canonicity16

V. LITERARY GENRE:

A. Job is wisdom literature

B. Some wisdom literature of the Ancient Near East dealt with the same philosophical questions as Job:17

1. A Sumerian work entitled “Man and His God” (Ur III period, c. 2000 B.C.)

2. An Akkadian monologue entitled “Ludlul bel Nemeqi” (“I will praise the lord of Wisdom” dating to the end of the second millennium B.C.

3. “The Babylonian Theodicy” dated about 1000 B.C.

C. The similarity of Job with the Mesopotamian pieces with the use of dialogue (Job 4--27), soliloquy (Job 3), discourse (Job 29--41), narrative (Job 1--2), and poetic skill may argue against Job being a stage play even though it may have been used in this way later on in history

VI. PURPOSES:

A. To demonstrate that God is worthy of love apart from the blessings He provides18

B. To explain that God may allow suffering as a means to purify and strengthen a person in godliness19

C. To emphasize that man is unable to view life from God’s vast perspective20

D. To explore the justice of God who treats the righteous with suffering21

E. To demonstrate to the evil angels (Satan) that God’s practice of blessing the righteous is not a hindrance to the development of true righteousness22

F. To address Mankind’s wrestling with affliction which defies human explanation23


1 Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 462. He notes that while another possible etymology for the name could be assailed one or one who is the object of enmity, the Arabic etymology matches better since the whole setting of the story is Arabic rather than Hebrew (Ibid.).

2 Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 464.

3 Archer writes, the Septuagint refers to it as the land of the Aistai, a people whom Ptolemy the geographer locates in the Arabian desert adjacent to the Edomites of Mount Seir (Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 464).

4 Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 464.

5 Archer writes, But if the scene was laid in North Arabia near Edom, a clan type of society may well have persisted there as late as the time of the Hebrew monarchy. Possibly private sacrifices by the heads of families persisted alongside the official tribal priesthood.

The foreign locale would also account for the comparative rarity of the name Yahweh in most chapters of the book. Job shows a distinct preference for the pan-Semitic term, 'Eloah or 'Elohim, for God ... Interestingly enough, the title Shaddai, the Almighty, occurs no less than thirty-one times in Job as against its sixteen occurrences in the rest of the Old Testament. This evidence from the use of the divine names certainly tends to confirm the theory of a non-Israelite background (Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 464-65).

6 Archer considers this dubious (Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 465), but Taylor writes, Daniel alone is unknown from the Bible. He can hardly be Ezekiel's contemporary in exile: in any case the word used here is 'Dani'el' and not 'Daniyye'l' as in the book of that name. The likelihood is that this is the 'Dan'el' of the ancient Canaanite epic discovered in 1930 at Ras Shamra, the ancient Ugarit, on the north Syrian coast, and dating form about 1400 B.C. [The Tale of Aqhat: see DOTT, pp. 124-128; ANET, PP. 149-155]. he appears there mainly as the dispenser of fertility, but also as the upright one, judging the cause of the widow and of the fatherless. We must suppose either that this early Semitic literature was known to later Hebrew generations or, more likely, that ancient Hebrew traditions which have not survived incorporated material centered around a character of the same name and similar character to the Ugaritic Dan'el (John B. Taylor, Ezekiel: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries [Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1969], 129).

7 Archer writes, This is the story of a righteous man who underwent the bitterest agony of body and spirit, even though he was conscious of having lived an upright life, and nevertheless remained steadfast in the midst of his affliction. Ultimately he was granted a happier life than ever, to the glory of Marduk, the god of Babylon. This Babylonian account may go back to 1200 B.C., and may rest upon materials even earlier (Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 465).

8 LaSor, Hubbard, and Bush, Old Testament Survey, 560.

9 Archer writes, We may conclude therefore that there is no convincing evidence for either denying or insisting upon a pre-Mosaic date of composition (A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 466)

Likewise Hill and Walton write, There are no real problems with this view, though it must be recognized that the evidence is scant (A Survey of the Old Testament, 264).

10 Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 467.

11 Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 467.

12 See Archer's discussion where he allows for the form of the book to express the sense of what happened without insisting that it be a verbatim account of the words of the characters (Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 467-68). See also Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton, who say, Once it is recognized that Job is part of the corpus of wisdom literature, it is possible to accept, as most scholars do, that the dialogue presented is not offered as a reporter's transcript quoting the precise words of each person involved. A high view of biblical inspiration requires one to take into consideration the literary genre of a book in order to understand how it ought to be interpreted (A Survey of the Old Testament, 263-64).

13 Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 469.

14 Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 469; Roy Zuck, Introductory Questions about Job (unpublished class notes in 303 Old Testament History II. Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1981), 6-7).

15 Walton and Hill write, the book of Job may have become of interest to the Israelites who were experiencing the Babylonian exile and trying to reconcile that event with their view of God.

Although the book unquestionably contains discussion and information that would be invaluable to the exiles (especially the idea that God's wisdom is the basis on which his justice may be vindicated), the scenario in Job seems too unlike Israel of the sixth century to invite too close a correlation. Most obviously, the book is insistent on Job's absolute innocence and vindicates him in the end. Such could hardly be said of Israel. Undoubtedly, however, the minority who were righteous in Israel may well have taken solace and found comfort in the teachings of the book of Job (Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament, 268; see also LaSor, Hubbard, and Bush, Old Testament Survey, 561-62).

16 LaSor, Hubbard, and Bush, Old Testament Survey, 561, n. 2.

17 Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament, 264-67. All of these deny such a thing as a righteous sufferer. See also LaSor, Hubbard, and Bush, Old Testament Survey, 562, 572-82.

18 Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 462.

19 Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 462.

20 Archer writes, God's thoughts and ways are moved by considerations too vast for the puny mind of man to comprehend, since man is unable to see the issues of life with the breadth and vision of the Almighty; nevertheless God really knows what is best for His own glory and for our ultimate good. This answer is given against the background of the limited concepts of Job's three comforters, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.

An adequate psychological motive for their persistence in carrying on the controversy with Job over so many chapters is to be found in the dilemma into which his catastrophic disaster had placed them. If a man of such high reputation could suffer so devastating a misfortune, their own security was imperiled by the possibility that the same thing could happen to themselves. Their basic motive in attempting to elicit from Job a confession of sin was to establish their own sense of security. If in point of fact Job had been guilty of some grievous sin of which they public had not knowledge, his overwhelming disaster could be easily understood as the retribution of the righteous god. Failing to secure from him any such confession despite all their diligent efforts to compel from him an admission of guilt, they felt unable to return home relieved and reassured that calamity would be kept from their door if they only lived a good life (Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 462-63).

21 Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament, 268.

22 Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament, 268.

23 Childs writes, The primary effect of the concluded dialogue is to register the failure of human wisdom in its ability to penetrate into the mystery of human suffering (Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, 536). Later he writes, Job argues from his personal conviction of his innocence which refused to be coerced by deductions from an application of traditional wisdom. Yet his own experience also fails to penetrate the darkness (Ibid.).

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines