THE Book of Job is a work which divides itself manifestly into sections. These may be made more or fewer, according to the extent to which the work of analysis is carried out. The least critical reader cannot fail to recognize three divisions:
I. An historical prologue, or introduction;
II. A main body of moral and religious discourses, chiefly in the form of dialogue; and
III. An historical conclusion, or epilogue.
Part I and Part III. of this division, being comparatively brief and concise, do not lend themselves very readily to any subdivision; But Part II., which forms the main hulk of the treatise, and extends from the beginning of Job 3. to ver. 6 of Job 42., falls naturally into several very distinct portions. First there is a long dialogue Between Job and three of his friends — Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar — which reaches from Job 3:1 to the end of Job 31., where a marked line is drawn by the insertion of the phrase, "The words of Job are ended." Then follows a harangue by a new speaker, Elihu, which occupies six chapters (Job 32.-37.). Next comes a discourse ascribed to Jehovah himself, which occupies four chapters (Job 38. -41.); and after this there is a short speech by Job (Job 42:1-6), extending to less than half a chapter. Further, the long dialogue Between Job and his three friends resolves itself into three sections — a first dialogue, in which all the four speakers take part, reaching from Job 3:1 to the end of Job 14.; a second dialogue, in which again all the speakers are engaged, extending from Job 15:1 to the end of Job 21.; and a third dialogue, in which Job, Eliphaz, and Bildad take part, reaching from Job 22:1 to the end of Job 31. The scheme of the book may thus be exhibited as follows: —
I. Introductory historical section. Job 1, 2.
II. Moral and religious discourses. Job 3.-42:6.
1. Discourses between Job and his three friends. Job 3-31.
(1) First dialogue. Job 3. - 14.
(2) Second dialogue. Job 15. - 21.
(3) Third dialogue. Job 22. - 31
2. Harangue of Elihu. Job 32. - 37
3. Discourse of Jehovah. Job 38. - 41
4. Short speech of Job. Job 42:1-6.
III.Concluding historical section. Job 42:7-16
1. The "Introductory section" explains the circumstances under which the dialogues took place. The person of Job is, first of all, set before us. He is a chieftain of the land of Uz, of great wealth and high rank — "the greatest of all the Beney Kedem, or men of the East" (Job 1:3). He has a numerous and flourishing family (Job 1:2, 4, 5), and enjoys in advanced life such a degree of earthly happiness as is accorded to few. At the same time, he is noted for his piety and good conduct. The author of the section declares him to have been "perfect and upright, one that feared God, and eschewed evil" (Job 1:1, and later on adduces the Divine testimony to the same effect: "Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and eschcweth evil?" (Job 1:8; 2:3). Job is living in this prosperous and happy state, respected and beloved, with his family about him, and a host of servants and retainers continually ministering to his wants (Job 1:15-17), when in the courts of heaven a scene occurs which brings this happy condition of things to an end, and reduces the patriarch to extreme wretchedness. Satan, the accuser of the brethren, appears before the throne of God together with the blessed company of the angels, and, having his attention called to Job by the Almighty, replies with the scoff, "Doth Job fear God for nought?" and then backs up his sarcasm with the bold assertion, "Put forth thy band now, and touch all that he hath," i.e. withdraw his blessings, "and he will curse thee to thy face" (Job 1:9-11). The question is thus raised with respect to Job's sincerity, and, by parity of reasoning, with respect to the sincerity of all other apparently religious and God-fearing men — Is there such a thing as real piety? Is not the appearance of it in the world a mere form of selfishness? Are not the so-called "perfect and upright men" mere self-seekers, like others, only self-seekers who add to their other vices the detestable one of hypocrisy? The question is one of the highest moral interest, and, to solve it, or to help towards solving it, God allows the trial to be made in the person of Job. He permits the accuser to strip Job of his earthly prosperity, to deprive him of his property, destroy his numerous offspring, and finally inflict upon him a most loathsome, painful, and terrible disease, from which there was, humanly speaking, no hope of recovery. Under this accumulation of evils, the faith of Job's wife gives way entirely, and she reproaches her husband with his patience and tameness, suggesting to him that he should do, exactly what Satan had declared that he would do, "Curse God, and die" (Job 2:9). But Job remains firm and unmoved. At the loss of his property he says not a word; when he hears of the destruction of his children, he shows the tokens of natural grief (Job 1:20), but only utters the sublime speech, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord" (Job 1:21); when he is stricken with his foul disease, he submits without a murmur; when his wife offers her foolish and wicked counsel, he repels it with the remark, "Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" "In all this did not Job sin with his lips" (Job 2:10), nor did he "charge God foolishly" (Job 1:22). Here the narrative might have ended, Satan being baffled, Job's character vindicated, and the real existence of true and disinterested piety having Been irrefragably manifested and proved. But s new incident supervened, giving rise to the discussions with which the book is mainly concerned, and in which the author, or authors, whoever he or they were, was, it is evident, chiefly anxious to interest readers. Three of Job's friends, hearing of his misfortunes, came to visit him from some considerable distance, to condole with him on his sufferings, and, if possible, to comfort him. After one burst of irrepressible grief on beholding his miserable state, they sat down with him in silence on the ground, "seven days and seven nights," without addressing to him a word (Job 2:13). Then at length he broke the silence, and the discussion began.
2. The discussion opened with a speech from Job, in which, no longer able to control himself, he cursed the day that gave him birth, and the night of his conception, lamented that he had not died in his childhood and expressed a longing to go down to the grave at once, as having no further hope on earth. Eliphaz, then, probably the oldest of the throe "comforters," took the word, rebuking Job for his want of fortitude, and at once suggesting (Job 4:7-11) — what becomes one of the main points of controversy — that Job's calamities have come upon him from God's hand as a punishment for sins which he has committed, and of which he has not repented. On this view he naturally exhorts him to repent, confess, and turn to God, promising him in that case a renewal of all his former prosperity (Job 5:18-26). Job replies (Job 6. and 7.), and then in turn the other two "comforters" address him (Job 8. and 11.), re-echoing in the main the arguments of Eliphaz, while Job answers them severally in Job 9., 10., and 12. - 14. As the discussion continues, the disputants wax hot. Bildad is harsher and blunter than Eliphaz; Zophar, ruder and coarser than Bildad; while Job, on his part, exasperated by his friends' unfairness and want of sympathy, grows passionate and reckless, uttering words which he is obliged to acknowledge to be rash, and retorting upon his opponents their own discourteous language (Job 13:4). The argument makes little progress. The "friends" maintain Job's guilt. Job, while admitting that he is not exempt from human frailty, acknowledging "iniquities of his youth" (Job 13:26), and allowing frequent sins of infirmity (Job 7:20, 21; 10:14; 13:23; 14:16, 17), insists that he "is not wicked" (Job 10:7); that he has not fallen away from God; that, if his cause is heard, he is certain to be justified (Job 13:8). To the "friends" this insistence seems almost blasphemous, and they take a worse and worse view of his moral condition, becoming convinced that he has been secretly guilty of some unpardonable sin, and is hardened in guilt, and irrecoverable (Job 11:20; 15:4-6). The fact of his sufferings, and their intensity, is to them proof positive that he lies under the anger of God, and therefore must have provoked him by some heinous sin or other. Job, in rebutting their arguments, allows himself to be drawn into statements with regard to God's indifference to moral good and evil (Job 9:22-24, 12:6) which are, to say the least, incautious and presumptuous, while he also goes near to tax God with injustice towards himself (Job 3:20-26; 7:12-21; 9:30-35, etc.). At the same time, he in no way renounces God or ceases to trust in him. He is confident that in some way or other and at some time or other, his own innocence will be vindicated, and God's justice manifested. Meanwhile he hangs upon God, turns to him when his friends' words are too cruel, continually prays to him, looks to him for salvation, proclaims that, "though he slay him, yet will he trust in him" (Job 13:15). Finally, he expresses a presentiment that, after death, when he is in the grave, God will find a mode of doing him justice, will" remember him" (Job 14:13), and give him a "renewal" (Job 14:14).
3. A second dialogue begins with the opening of Job 15., and extends to the end of Job 21. Again Eliphaz takes the word, and, after reproaching Job for presumption, impiety, and arrogance (Job 15:1-16), in a tone much more severe than that which he had used previously, resumes the argument, and endeavours to prove, from the authority of the wise men of old, that wickedness is always punished in this life with the utmost severity (vers. 17-35). Bildad follows, in Job 18., with a series of denunciations and threats, apparently assuming the guilt of Job as proved, and maintaining that the calamities which have fallen upon him are exactly what he ought to have expected (vers. 5-21). Zophar, in Job 20., continues the same strain, ascribing Job's calamities to special sins, which he supposes him to have committed (vers. 5-19), and menacing him with farther and worse evils (vers. 20-29). Job makes reply to each of the friends separately (Job 16, 17, 19, and 21.), but at first scarcely deigns to grapple with their arguments, which seem to him "words of wind" (Job 16:3). Instead, be addresses himself to God, describes his sufferings (vers. 6-16), maintains his innocence (ver. 17), and appeals to earth and heaven to declare themselves on his side (vers. 18, 19), and to God himself to be his Witness (ver. 19). "The train of thought thus suggested carries him," as Canon Cook observes, "much further in the way towards the great truth — that, since in this life the righteous certainly are not saved from evil, it follows that their ways are watched, and their sufferings recorded, with a view to a future and perfect manifestation of the Divine justice. This view becomes gradually brighter and more definite as the controversy proceeds, and at last finds expression in a strong and clear declaration of his conviction that at the latter day (evidently the day which Job had expressed a longing to see, Job 14:12-14) God will personally manifest himself, and that he, Job, will then see him in his body, with his own eyes, and notwithstanding the destruction of his skin, i.e. the outward man, retaining or recovering his personal identity. There can be no doubt that Job here (Job 19:25-27)virtually anticipates the final answer to all difficulties supplied by the Christian revelation." On the other hand, provoked by Zophar, Job concludes the second dialogue with a very wrong-headed and overcoloured view of the happiness of the wicked in this life, and maintains that the distribution of good and evil in the present world proceeds on no discoverable principle (Job 21:7-33).
4. The third dialogue, which begins with Job 22. and terminates at the close of Job 31., is confined to three interlocutors — Job, Eliphaz, and Bildad, Zophar taking no part in it, at any rate as the text stands at present. It comprises four speeches only — one by Eliphaz (Job 22.), one by Bildad (Job 25.), and two by Job (Job 23, 24., and Job 26-31.). The speech of Eliphaz is an elaboration of the two points on which he had principally insisted throughout — Job's extreme wickedness (Job 25:5-20), and God's readiness to pardon and restore him if he will humble himself in the dust, repent of his evil doings, and turn to God in sincerity and truth (Job 25:21-30). Bildad's speech consists of a few short reflections on the majesty of God, and the weakness and sinfulness of man. Job, in his reply to Eliphaz (Job 23., 24.), repeats in the main his former statements, enforcing them, however, by new arguments. "His own innocence, his longing for judgment, the misery of the oppressed, and the triumph of the oppressors, are successively brought forward." In his second speech (Job 26. - 31.) he takes a wider and more comprehensive survey. After brushing aside the irrelevant remarks of Bildad (Job 26:1-4), he proceeds to deliver with all solemnity his "last word" (Job 31:40) upon the whole controversy. First of all, he makes a full acknowledgment of 'God's greatness, might, and inscrutableness (Job 26:5-14). Then he addresses himself once more to the question of God's dealings with the wicked in this life, and, retracting his previous utterances on the subject (Job 9:22-24; 12:6; 21:7-33; 24:2-24), admits that, as a general rule, retributive justice overtakes them (Job 27:11-23). Next, he shows that, great as is man's cleverness and ingenuity with respect to earthly things and physical phenomena, with respect to heavenly things and the spiritual world he knows next to nothing. God is inscrutable to him, and his nearest approach to wisdom is, through the fear of the Lord, to direct his conduct aright (Job 28.). Finally, he turns his eye upon himself, and in three touching chapters describes his happy condition in his former life before his troubles came (Job 29.), the miserable state to which he has since then been reduced (Job 29.), and his moral character and condition, as shown by the way in which he has conducted himself under all the various circumstances and relations of human existence (Job 31.). This last review amounts to a complete vindication of his character from all the aspersions and insinuations of his opponents.
5. A new speaker now appears upon the scene. Elihu, a comparatively young man, who has been present at all the colloquies, and heard all the arguments, dissatisfied alike with the discourses of Job and with the replies made to them by his "comforters" (Job 32:2, 3), interposes with a long harangue (Job 32:6 - Job 37.), addressed partly to the "comforters" (Job 32:6-22), but mainly to Job himself (Job 33, 35-37.), and having for its object to shame the "comforters," to rebuke Job, and to vindicate God's ways from the misrepresentations of both parties to the controversy. The speech is that of a somewhat arrogant and conceited young man. It exaggerates Job's faults of temper and language, and consequently censures him unduly; but it adds one important element to the controversy by its insistence on the view that calamities are sent by God, for the most part, as chastisements, not punishment, in love, not in anger, and have for their main object to warn, and teach, and restrain from evil courses, not to take vengeance on past sins. There is much that is elevating and instructive in Elihu's arguments and reflections (Job 33:14-30; 34:5-11; 36.7 - 16; 37:2-13, etc.); but the tone of the speech is harsh, disrespectful, and presumptuous, so that we feel no surprise at Job not condescending to answer it, but meeting it by a contemptuous silence.
6. Suddenly, though not without some preliminary warnings (Job 36:32, 33; 37:1-5), in the midst of a tempest of thunder, lightning, and rain, God himself takes the word (Job 38.), and makes an address which occupies, with one short interruption (Job 40:3-5), four chapters (Job 38. - 41.). The object of the address is not, however, to solve the various questions raised in the course of the controversy, but to bring Job to see and acknowledge that he has been rash with his tongue, and that, in questioning the perfect rectitude of the Divine government of the world, he has trenched on ground where he is incompetent to form a judgment. This is done by "a marvellously beautiful and comprehensive survey of the glory of creation," and especially of the animal creation, with its wonderful variety of instincts. Job is challenged to declare how things were originally made, how they are ordered and maintained, how the stars are kept in their courses, how the various phenomena of nature are produced, how the animal creation is sustained and provided for. He makes a half-submission (Job 40:3-5); and then he is asked two further questions — Will he undertake the government of mankind for a space (Job 40:10-14)? Can he control and keep in order two out of God's many creatures — behemoth and leviathan — the hippopotamus and the crocodile (Job 40:15-24; 41:1-34)? If not, on what grounds does he presume to question God's actual government of the world, which no one is entitled to question who is not competent to take the rule himself?
7. Briefly, but unreservedly, in Job 42:1-6 Job makes his final submission, tie has "spoken unadvisedly with his lips," he has "uttered that which he did not understand" (ver. 3). The knowledge which he had claimed to have is "too wonderful for him;" wherefore he "abhors himself, and repents in dust and ashes" (ver. 6).
8. The entire dialogue being thus ended, a short historical section follows (Job 42:7-16), and terminates the book. God, we are told, having rebuked the arrogancy of Job's utterances, and reduced him to a state of absolute submission and resignation, turned upon the "comforters," condemning them as far more guilty than Job, since they "had not spoken the thing that was right concerning him, as his servant Job had" (vers. 7, 8). The theory by which they had thought to maintain God's perfect justice was unsound, untrue. It was contradicted by the facts of human experience — to maintain it, despite this contradiction, was not to honour God, but to dishonour him. The three "comforters" were therefore required to offer for themselves, in the way of expiation, a burnt offering; and a promise was given them that, if Job would intercede on their behalf, they should be accepted (ver. 8). The sacrifice was offered, and, after Job's intercession had been made, Jehovah "turned his captivity," or, in other words, made restitution to him of all that he had lost, and more. He recovered his health. His wealth was restored to double its previous amount; his friends and relatives flocked around him, and increased his store (ver. 11); he was once more blessed with children, and had the same number as before, viz. "seven sons and three daughters" (ver. 13); and his daughters were women of surpassing beauty (ver. 15). He himself lived, after his restoration, a hundred and forty years, and "saw his sons, and his sons' sons, even four generations." At last he passed from the earth, "being old and full of days" (ver. 17).
2. INTEGRITY OF THE BOOK.
Four principal objections have been taken to the "integrity" of the Book of Job. It has been argued that the difference of style is so great between the two historical sections (Job 1, 2., and Job 42:6-17) and the rest of the work as to render it impossible, or, at any rate, highly improbable, that they proceeded from the same author. Not only is there the radical difference Which exists between Hebrew prose and Hebrew poetry, but the prose of the historical sections is of the plainest and least ornate kind, while the poetry of the body of the book is highly wrought, extremely ornate, and in places over-rhetorical- The historical sections, moreover, are written in pure Hebrew, while the body of the work has many forms and expressions characteristic of the Chaldee. Jehovah is the ordinary name of God in the historical sections, where it occurs twenty-six times; it is found but once in the rest of the treatise (Job 12:9). On the other hand, Shaddai, "the Almighty," which is used to designate God thirty times in the body of the work, does not occur at all in the opening and concluding sections. But, notwithstanding these diversities, it is the present opinion of the best critics, both English and continental, that there are no sufficient reasons for assigning the two portions of the work to different authors. The "prosaic words" of the opening and concluding section, says Ewald, "harmonize thoroughly with the old poem in subject-matter and thoughts, in colouring and in art, also in language, so far as prose can be like poetry." "The Book of Job is now considered," says Mr. Froude, "to be, beyond all doubt, a genuine Hebrew original, completed by its writer almost in the form in which it now remains to us. The questions on the authenticity of the prologue and epilogue, which were once thought important, have given way before a more sound conception of the dramatic unity of the entire poem." "The best critics," observes Canon Cook, "now acknowledge that the style of the historical portions is quite as antique in its severe grandeur as that of the Pentateuch itself — to which it bears a striking resemblance — or as any other part of this book, while it is strikingly unlike the narrative style of all the later productions of the Hebrews ... At present, indeed, it is generally acknowledged that the entire work would be unintelligible without these portions."
A portion of Job 27., extending from ver. 11 to the end, is regarded by some as either a transfer to Job of what was originally a speech of Zophar's or else an absolute interpolation. The ground of this view is the difficulty caused by the contrast between the sentiments expressed in the passage and those to which Job has previously given utterance, especially in Job 24:2-24, joined with the fact that the omission of any speech from Zophar in the third colloquy destroys "the symmetry of the general form" of the dialogue. But ancient and modern ideas of symmetry are not altogether alike; and the Hebrew Writers generally are certainly not among those who regard exact and complete symmetry as imperative, and will not sacrifice it to any other consideration. Zophar's silence at the close of Job 26., like Bildad's short speech in Job 25., is probably intended to mark the exhaustion of Job's opponents in the controversy, and to prepare the way for their entire collapse at the end of Job 31. Zophar's silence is sufficiently accounted for by his having nothing to say; if he had spoken, the place for his speech would have been between Job 26. and 27., where evidently a pause occurred, Job having waited for him to speak, if he were inclined to do so. As for the supposed facility with which speeches in a dramatic form might be transferred from one speaker to another by inadvertence — if the speeches were merely headed by a name, it would, no doubt, be possible; but not where they are introduced, as in the Book of Job, by a formal statement "Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said" (Job 11:1; 20:1). Four consecutive words do not readily drop out; not to mention that, in the case supposed, three more must have fallen out at the beginning of Job 28. Moreover, the style of the disputed passage is entirely unlike that of Zophar's two speeches. As for the marked contrast between the matter of the passage and Job's former utterances, it must be freely and fully admitted; but it is sufficiently explained by the supposition that Job's previous utterances on the subject had been tentative and controversial, not the expression of his real sentiments, and that he would naturally wish to supplement what he had said, and correct what was faulty in it, before he brought his part in the controversy to a close (Job 31:40, "The words of Job are ended"). As for the passage being a mere interpolation, it is enough to observe that no critical basis has been assigned for this view; and that a scholar so competent as Ewald remarks, in winding up his judgment upon the subject, "Only a grievous misunderstanding of the whole book would have misled the modern critics who hold that this passage is interpolated or misplaced."
Another supposed "interpolation" is the passage commencing with ver. 15 of Job 40. and terminating at the end of Job 41. This has been regarded, first, as inferior to the rest of the book in style, and, secondly, as superfluous, not having any bearing upon the argument. The latter objection is certainly strange, since the passage has exactly the same bearing upon the argument as the whole of Job 39., which is not objected to. The argument from supposed difference of style always a delicate one — is sufficiently met by the criticism of Renan, who says, "Le style du fragment dent nous parlons est celui des meilleurs endroits du poeme. Nulle part la coupe n'est plus vigoureuse, le parallelisme plus sonore; tout indique que ce singulier morceau est de la meme main, mais non pas du meme jet, que le reste du discours de Jehovah."
But the principal attack upon the integrity of the Book of Job is directed against the long harangue of Elihu, which commences in Job 32. (ver. 7), and does not terminate until the close of Job 37., thus occupying sir chapters, and forming nearly one-seventh of the entire treatise. It is urged here again that the difference of language and style between these chapters and the rest of the book indicates a totally distinct and much later author, while the tone of thought and the doctrinal views are also thought to be markedly different, and to suggest a comparatively late date. Further, it is maintained that the "long dissertation" adds nothing to "the progress of the argument," and "betrays not the faintest conception of the real cause of Job's sufferings." It is thus otiose, superfluous, quite unworthy of the place which it occupies. Some critics have gone so far as to excise it. It is necessary to consider these arguments seriatim,
(1) The difference of style must be admitted; it is unquestionable, and allowed on all sides. The language is obscure and difficult, the Chaldaisms numerous, the transitions abrupt, the arguments rather indicated than worked out. But these characteristics may have been intentionally given to the speech by the author, who assigns to each of his interlocutors a marked individuality, and in Elihu introduces a young man, impetuous, rude of speech, full of thoughts which struggle for utterance, and embarrassed by the novelty of having to find words for them in the presence of persons superior to him in age and position. That the difference of style is not such as to necessarily indicate another author, may be concluded from the suggestion of Renan — an excellent judge of Hebrew style that the passage was written by the author of the remainder of the book in his old age.
(2) The tone of thought and the doctrinal views, though certainly in advance of those assigned to Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, cannot be truly said to surpass those of Job, though in some points additional to, and an improvement on, them. Job has really a deeper insight into Divine truth, and into the scheme of the universe, than Elihu, and his doctrine of a "Redeemer" (Job 19:25) goes beyond that of the "angel-interpreter" of the Buzzite (Job 33:23).
(3) It may be true, as Mr. Froude says, that Elihu's speech "betrays not the faintest conception of the real cause of Job's sufferings," but this was inevitable, since none of the interlocutors on earth is supposed to have known anything of the antecedent colloquies in heaven (Job 1:7-12; 2:2-6); but it is certainly very far from the truth to say that the speech "adds nothing to the progress of the argument." Elihu brings forward and establishes the view only just indicated (Job 5:17, 18), and never dwelt on, by any other interlocutor, that the afflictions wherewith God visits his servants are, in comparatively few cases, penal, being generally of the nature of chastisements, dealt out in love, and designed to be remedial, to check departures from the right path, to "keep back from the pit" (Job 33:18), to purify, refine, and bring about moral improvement. He opens the view, nowhere else put forward in the book, that life is a discipline, prosperity and adversity being intended equally to serve as "instruction" (Job 33:16), and to subserve the formation in each individual of that character, temper, and frame of mind which God desires to have formed in him, To regard Elihu as "proceeding evidently on the false hypothesis of the three friends," and as echoing their views, is to do him scant justice. He takes an independent line; he is far from regarding Job's sufferings as the penalty of his sins, still further from taxing him with the long catalogue of offences ascribed to him by the others (Job 18:5-21; 20:5-29; 22:5-17). He finds in him two faults only, and they are not faults in his earlier life, whereby he had provoked his visitations, but faults in his existing temper, exhibited in his recent utterances — namely, undue self-confidence (Job 32:2; 33:9; 34:6), and presumption in judging God's ways and charging him with injustice (Job 34:5-12; 35:2, etc.). It is reasonable to regard Elihu as having by his reasonings influenced the mind of Job, convinced him of having transgressed, and disposed him for that humility which secures his final acceptance (Job 40:3-5, 42:2-6). Thus his interposition in the argument is far from being otiose, or superfluous; it is really a step in advance of all that has gone before, and helps towards the final denouement.
It has been much debated whether the Book of Job is to be looked upon as an historical composition, as a work of imagination, or as something between the two. The early Christian Fathers and the earlier Jewish rabbis treat it as absolutely historical, and no whisper arises to the contrary till several centuries after the Christian era. Then a certain Resh Lakish, in a dialogue with Samuel Bar-Nachman, preserved to us in the Talmud, suggests that "Job did not exist, and was not a created man, but is a mere parable." This opinion, however, did not for a long time take any firm hold, even of any Jewish school. Maimonides, "the most celebrated of the rabbis," treated it as an open question, while Hai Gaon, Rashi, and others directly contradict Resh Lakish, and maintain the historical character of the narrative. Ben Gershom, on the other hand, and Spinoza agree with Resh Lakish, regarding the work as one of fiction, intended for moral and religious instruction. The same view is maintained, among Christian writers, by Spanheim, Carpzov, Bouillier, Bernstein, J. D. Michaelis, Hahn, Ewald, Schlottmann, and others.
The arguments in favour of this view are, first, that the work is not placed by the Jews among their historical Scriptures, but in the Hagiographa, or writings intended for religious instruction, together with the Psalms, the Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes. Secondly, that the narrative is incredible, the appearance of Satan among the angels of God, and the familiar dialogues between the Almighty and the prince of darkness being plainly fictions, while the utterance by Job of long discourses, adorned with every rhetorical artifice, and strictly bound by the laws of metre, while he was suffering excruciating agonies from mental grief and sharp physical pains, is so unlikely that it may be pronounced morally impossible. The round numbers (Job 1:2, 3; 42:12, 13), and the sacred character of the numbers — three (Job 1:2, 3, 17; 2:11; 42:13), seven (Job 1:2, 3; 2:13; 42:8, 13), and ten (Job 1:2; 42:13) — are also objected to; the exact doubling of Job's substance (Job 42:10, 12) and exact restoration of the old number of his sons and daughters (Job 1:2; 42:14) are thought most improbable; while an exact doubling of his former term of life is detected in Job 42:16, and pronounced to be another indication of a fictitious, not a real, history. Hence the conclusion is drawn that the story of Job is "no single thing which happened once, but that it belongs to humanity itself, and is the drama of the trial of man, with Almighty God and the angels as spectators of it."
These arguments are met, first, by the remark that in the Hagiographa are contained some admittedly historical books, as Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles; secondly, by the denial that there is anything incredible or unworthy of God in the scenes depicted in Job 1:6-12; 2:1 - 7; thirdly, by the suggestion that Job probably made his speeches in the intervals between his attacks of pain, and that rhythmic utterance is no unusual gift among the sages of Arabia; fourthly, by the observation that there is nothing to prevent round numbers or sacred numbers from being also historical; fifthly, by the remark that the Oriental writers, and indeed historical writers generally, are in the habit of using round numbers instead of exact ones, partly for brevity, partly to avoid the pretence of such an accuracy of knowledge as is scarcely ever possessed by any historian; and sixthly, by the statement that we are not intended to understand an exact doubling of all Job's possessions by what is said in Job 42:10, 12. Further, it is noted that the (assumed) exact duplication of his age before his calamities by the years that he lived after them is a gratuitous supposition of the critics, since Job's age at the time when his misfortunes fell upon him is nowhere stated, and may have been anything between sixty and eighty, or indeed between sixty and a hundred.
In favour of the historical character of the book, it is urged, first, that the real existence of Job as an historical personage is attested by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14:14, 20), by St. James (James 5:11), and by Oriental tradition generally; secondly, that "the invention of a story without foundation in facts, the creation of a person represented as having a real historical existence, is wholly alien to the spirit of antiquity, appearing only in the latest epoch of the literature of any ancient people, and belonging in its complete form to the most modern times;" thirdly, that had the work been a fiction of a late period (as supposed by the sceptical school) it could not possibly have presented so vivid, so true, and so harmonious a picture of the patriarchal times, no ancient writer having ever succeeded in reproducing the manners of a past age, or in avoiding allusion to those of his own, antiquity not having, in M. Renan's words, "any idea of what we call local colouring." Further, it is remarked that the book at once professes to be historical, and carries with it such internal evidence of truthfulness and reality as is entirely unmistakable. "This effect of reality," says Canon Cook, "is produced by a number of internal indications which can scarcely be accounted for save by a faithful adherence to objective truth. In all the characters there is a thorough consistency; each agent in the transaction has peculiarities of thought and feeling, which give him a distinct and vivid personality; this is more especially the case with Job himself, whose elm-racier is not merely drawn in broad outlines, but, like that of David and others, whose history is given with most detail in Scripture, is developed under a variety of most trying circumstances, presenting under each change new aspects, but ever retaining its peculiar and most living individuality. Even the language and illustrious of the several speakers have distinct characteristics. The incidents, moreover, which in a fiction would probably have been noted in a vague and general manner, are narrated with minuteness and an accurate observance of local and temporary conditions. Thus we may remark the mode in which the supernatural visitation is carried into execution, by natural agencies and under circumstances peculiar to the district, at a season when the inroads of Chaldean and Sabean robbers were customary and peculiarly dreaded; by fire and whirlwinds such as occur at intervals in the desert; and lastly by elephantiasis, of which the symptoms are described so accurately as to leave no doubt that the writer must have recorded what he actually observed, unless indeed he inserted them with the special intention of giving an air of truthfulness to his composition. Were such a supposition in itself plausible, in this case it would be confuted by the fact that these symptoms are not described in any single passage, so as to attract the attention of the reader, but are made out by a critical and scientific examination of words occurring at distant intervals in the complaints of the sufferer. The most refined art could scarcely produce this result; it is rarely attempted, still more rarely, if ever, attained in the most artificial ages; it was never dreamed of by ancient writers, and must be regarded in this case as a strong instance of the undesigned coincidences which sound criticism accepts as a sure attestation to the genuineness [authenticity?] of a work."
If, however, on these grounds the general historical character of the Book of Job be admitted, it still remains to be considered whether human ingenuity and imagination has any part in it. Nothing was more common in antiquity than to take a set of historical facts, and expand them into a poem, whereof the greater portion was the creation of the brain and genius of the author. In the poem of Pentaur, ascribed to the fourteenth century B.C. a set of incidents are taken from the Hittite-Egyptian War, and so poeticized as to cover Rameses the Great with a manifestly unreal halo of glory. The Homeric poems, and the entire series of works belonging to the epic cycle, proceed upon the same system — on a basis of fact is erected a superstructure the larger portion of which is fiction. There is reason to believe the same of the Maha-Bharata and Ramayana of the Hindoos. Greek tragedy furnishes another instance. Looking to these precedents, to the general cast of the work, and to the difficulty of supposing that a real historical report of such long speeches as those of Job and his friends could have been made and handed down by tradition even to the earliest time at which any one supposes that the Book of Job could have been written, critics generally have come to the conclusion that, while the narrative rests on a solid substratum of fact, in its form and general features, in its reasonings and representations of character, the book is a work of creative genius. From this conclusion the present writer is not inclined to dissent, though he would incline to the views of those who regard the author of Job as largely guided by the traditions which he was able to collect, and the traditions themselves as to a large extent trustworthy.
4. PROBABLE DATE AND AUTHOR.
The indications of date derived from the matter of the book, from its tone, and from its general style, strongly favour the theory of its high antiquity. The language is archaic, more akin to the Arabic than that of any other portion of the Hebrew Scriptures, and full of Aramaisms which are not of the later type, but such as characterize the antique and highly poetic style, and occur in parts of the Pentateuch, in the Song of Deborah and in the earliest Psalms. The style has a "grand archaic character," which has been recognized by almost all critics. "Firm, compact, sonorous as the ring of a pure metal, severe and at times rugged, yet always dignified and majestic, the language belongs altogether to a period when thought was slow but profound and intensely concentrated, when the weighty and oracular sayings of the wise were wont to be engraved on rocks with a pen of iron, and in characters of molten lead. It is a truly lapidary style, such as was natural only in an age when writing, though known, was rarely used, before language had acquired clearness, fluency, and flexibility, but lost much of its freshness and native force."
The manners, customs, institutions, and general mode of life described in the book arc such as belong especially to the times which are commonly called "patriarchal." The pastoral descriptions have the genuine air of the wild, free, vigorous life of the desert. The city life (Job 29.) is exactly that of the earliest settled communities, with councils of grey-bearded elders, judges in the gate (Job 29:7), the chieftain at once judge and warrior (Job 29:25), yet with written indictments (Job 31:35) and settled forms of legal procedure (Job 9:33; 17:3; 31:28). The civilization, if such it may be called, is of the primitive type, with rock-inscriptions (Job 9:24), mining such as was practised by the Egyptians in the Sinaitic peninsula from B.C. 2000, great buildings, ruined sepulchres, tombs watched over by sculptured figures of the dead (Job 21:32). The historical allusions touch nothing of a recent date, but only such ancient things as the Pyramids (Job 3:14), the apostasy of Nimrod (Job 9:9), the Flood (Job 22:16), the destruction of the "cities of the plain" (Job 18:15), and the like; they include no mention — not the faintest hint — of any of the great events of Israelite history, not even of the Exodus, the passage of the Red Sea, or the giving of the Law on Sinai, much less of the conquest of Canaan, or of the stirring times of the judges and the first great kings of Israel. It is inconceivable, as has been often said, that a writer of a late date, say of the time of Captivity, or of Josiah, or even of Solomon, should, in a long work like the Book of Job, intentionally and successfully avoid all reference to historical occurrences, and to changes in religious forms or doctrines of a date posterior to that of the events which form the subject of his narrative.
It is a legitimate conclusion from these facts, that the Book of Job is probably more ancient than any other composition in the Bible, excepting, perhaps, the Pentateuch, or portions of it. It must almost certainly have been written before the promulgation of the Law. How long before is doubtful. Job's term of life (two hundred to two hundred and fifty years) would seem to place him in the period between Eber and Abraham, or at any rate in that between Eber and Jacob, who lived only a hundred and forty-seven years, and after whom the term of human life seems to have rapidly shortened (Deuteronomy 31:2; Psalm 90:10). The book, however, was not written until after Job's death (Job 42:17), and may have been written some considerable time after. On the whole, therefore, it seems most reasonable to place the composition towards the close of the patriarchal period, not very long before the Exodus.
The only tradition which has come down to us with respect to the authorship of the Book of Job ascribes it to Moses. Aben Ezra declares this to be the general opinion of "the sages of blessed memory." In the Talmud it is!aid down as undoubted, "Moses wrote his own book (i.e. the Pentateuch), "the section about Balaam, and Job." The testimony may not possess much critical value, but it is the only tradition that we have. Apart from this, we float upon a sea of conjecture. The most ingenious of the conjectures put forward is that of Dr. Mill and Professor Lee, who think that Job himself put the discourses into a written form, and that Moses, having become acquainted with this work while he was in Midian, determined to communicate it to his countrymen, as analogous to the trial of their faith in Egypt; and, in order to render it intelligible to them, added the opening and concluding sections, which, it is remarked, are altogether in the style of the Pentateuch A far less probable theory assigns the authorship of the bulk of the book to Elihu. Those who reject these views, yet allow the antiquity of the composition, can only suggest some unknown Palestinian author, some
τροπος, who, like the old hero of Ithaca,
and who, "having broken free from the narrow littleness of the peculiar people, divorced himself from them outwardly as well as inwardly," and having "travelled away into the world, lived long, perhaps all his life, in exile.'' Such vague fancies are of little value; and the theory of Dr. Mill and Professor Lee, though unproved, is probably the nearest approach to the truth that can be made at the present day.
5. OBJECT OF THE WORK.
The author of the Book of Job, though dealing with historical facts, is scarcely to be termed, in the ordinary sense of the word, an historian. He is a didactic writer, and comes forward with a moral and religious object. Placing the complicated problem of human life before him, he sets himself to inquire into a number of its most hidden and abstruse mysteries. Why are some men especially and exceptionally prosperous? Why are others crushed and overwhelmed with misfortunes? Does God care for men, or does he not? Is there such a thing as disinterested goodness? What is this life to lead to? Is the grave the end of everything, or is it not? If God rules the world, does he rule it on the principle of absolute justice? If so, how, when, and where is this justice to appear? Further and deeper issues are the questions — Can man be just before God? and can he comprehend God?
First and foremost is placed the question — Is there such a thing as disinterested goodness? This Satan by implication denies ("Doth Job fear God for nought?" Job 1:9), and we know how persistently it has been denied by worldly and wicked men, the servants of Satan, ever since. This question is answered by the entire narrative, considered as a history. Job is tried and tested in every possible way, by unexampled misfortunes, by s most painful and loathsome disease, by the defection of his wife, by the cruel charges of his friends, by the desertion of his relatives, by the insulting language and actions of the rabble (Job 30:1-10); yet he retains his integrity, he remains faithful to God, he continues to place all his hope and trust in the Almighty (Job 13:15; 31:2, 6, 23, 35). A crucial experi-merit has been made, and Job stands the test — there is no reason to believe that with any other good and righteous man the result would be different.
A secondary position is occupied by the inquiry concerning the grounds upon which prosperity and adversity, happiness and unhappiness, are distributed to men in this life. To this question the three friends have a very short and simple answer — they are distributed by God in exact accordance with men's deserts — "God being just and righteous, temporal prosperity and wretchedness are dealt out by him immediately by his own will to his subjects according to their behaviour." This theory Job strenuously com-bats — he knows that it is not true — in the inmost depth of his consciousness he is certain that be has not provoked the calamities which have fallen upon him by his sins. But if so, how are his sufferings to be accounted for? What other theory of the distribution of temporal good and evil is there? Can it be that God does not care? that goodness and wickedness are indifferent to him (Job 9:22, 23)? If not, why do so many of the ungodly prosper (Job 12:6; 21:7-33)? Why is the just, upright man so often oppressed and laughed to scorn (Job 12:4)? Job despairs of solving the problem, and is almost driven to question the justice of God. But Elihu is brought forward to furnish another and a truer answer, though it may not be a complete one. God sends calamities on good men by way of chastisement, not of punishment; in love, not in anger; to purify and strengthen them, to purge out faults, to "save from the pit" (Job 33:8, 28), to purify them and enlighten them (see the Exposition of Job 33., introductory paragraph). To teach this is certainly one of the main purposes of the book, and one to which considerable space is devoted.
Another purpose which the writer must certainly have had in view was to raise the question concerning man's future destiny. Was death the end of all things? What was Sheol? and what was the condition of those who dwelt in it? Sheol is mentioned by name no fewer than eight times in the book, and referred to, and to some extent described, in other passages (Job 10:21, 22; 18:18). Job looks upon it as about to become his abode (Job 17:13), and even entreats to be sent there (Job 14:13). He speaks of being kept there secretly for some indefinite time, after which he looks for a "renewal" (Job 14:13). Moreover, in one passage, where "a clear, bright hope, like a sudden gleam of sunlight between clouds," bursts upon him, he expresses his conviction that "in another life, when his skin is wasted off his bones, and the worms have done their work on the prison of his spirit," he will be allowed to see God his Redeemer — to "see him, and have his pleadings heard." A purpose to penetrate, if possible, the darkness of the tomb must therefore be ascribed to the writer, and a desire at once to cheer men by the glorious hope of a future life, and to clear God of any suspicion of unjust rule by pointing to a time when justice will be done, and the inequalities of the existing condition of things redressed by the permanent establishment of conditions entirely new.
Can man be lust before God? This is another question raised; and it is answered by a distinguo. Absolutely just he cannot be. Sins of infirmity must attach to him, sins of his youth (Job 13:26), sins of temper, sins of rash speech (Job 6:3, 26; 33:8-10), and the like. Bat just, in the sense of "honest," "sincere," "bent on serving God," he may be and he must be, unless he is to be a hypocrite and a castaway (Job 9:21; 10:7; 12:4, etc.). Job holds fast by his innocency, and is pronounced by God himself to be "perfect and upright, one that feared God and eschewed evil" (Job 1:1; 2:3). He is ultimately approved by God, and accepted (Job 42:7, 8), while those who have tried their best to make him confess himself a sinner are condemned, and only pardoned on his intercession (Job 42:3, 4). Men are thus taught by this book, not certainly without the express intention of the writer, that they can do right if they try, that they can purify themselves, and live noble and worthy lives, and that they are bound to do so.
Lastly, there is the question of man's power to know God, which occupies considerable space, and is answered, like the preceding question, by drawing a distinction. That man has a knowledge of God to a large extent, knows him to be just, wise, and good, eternal, almighty, omniscient, is assumed throughout the book, and written on almost every page of it. But that man can fully comprehend God is denied, and disproved by very cogent and valid reasonings (Job 28:12-28; 36:26-33; 37:1-23; 38:4-41; 39; 40; 41.). Man, therefore, must not presume to sit in judgment upon God, who "doeth great things, which man cannot comprehend" (Job 37:5), and "whose ways are past finding out." His attitude must be one of submission, reserve, and reverence. He must continually bear in mind that he has no faculties to grasp the whole range of actual facts and consider their relations one to another, no power to comprehend the scheme of the universe, much less to sound the depths of the being of him who made it. As Bishop Butler points out, in two chapters of his 'Analogy,' that the ignorance of man is a sufficient answer to most of the objections which men are in the habit of urging against the wisdom, equity, and goodness of the Divine government, whether as made known to us by reason or by revelation, so the author of 'Job' is evidently bent on impressing strongly upon us, as one of the main lessons to be learnt from reflection and experience, and one of the main teachings which he would enforce upon us by his treatise, that we are quite incompetent to understand the general scheme of things, and therefore quite unfit to criticize and judge God's doings. He has revealed himself to us, not for speculative, but for practical purposes, and it is our true wisdom to know that we only know him sufficiently for our practical guidance (Job 28:12-28).
6. LITERATURE OF JOB.
The earliest commentary on Job is that by Ephrem Syrus, PresByter of Edessa, who lived in the fourth century after Christ. This work was translated from the Syriac into Latin by Petrus Benedictus, and will be found in his 'Opera Syriaca,' vol. 2. pp. 1-20. It is scanty, and of little value. Jerome's translation, which forms a part of the Vulgate, is, on the contrary, of the highest importance, and should be consulted by all students, as, practically, a most valuable commentary. The work called Jerome's 'Commentary on Job,' appears not to be genuine, and may safely be neglected. Some 'Annotations' by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo about A.D. 390-410, are interesting, and will be found in most editions of that author. The most important, however, of the patristic commentaries is that by Gregory the Great, entitled, 'Expositiones in Job, sire Moralium Libri 35.,' published separately at Rome in 1475, and at Paris in 1495. This exposition throws little light on the text, but is valued for moral and spiritual purposes. It belongs to the end of the sixth century.
Among Jewish comments the most valuable are those of Aben Ezra, Nachmanides, and Levi Ben Gershon. An Arabic paraphrase by Saadia, and an Arabic commentary by Tanchum, are praised by Ewald. The commentary by Cardinal Caietan, the paraphrase of Titelmann, the commentary of Steuch, the partial commentary of De Huerga, and the complete one of Zuniga, evince the industry, and in some respects the learning, of scholars belonging to the unreformed Church during the course of the sixteenth century, but are unsatisfactory, since their writers were wholly unacquainted with Hebrew. The Best work of this period, written at the very close of the century, and displaying considerable knowledge of the original, is that of De Pineda, which contains a resume of all that is most valuable in the labours of his Roman Catholic predecessors. Among the early Reformers, Bucer, , which was followed in 1737 by the great work of A. Schultens, to which the present writer begs to acknow. ledge his great obligations. Rosenmuller says, in his notice of this work, "Schultens surpasses all the commentators who have preceded him in an exact and refined knowledge of the Hebrew tongue, and also of the Arabic, as well as in varied erudition and acuteness of judgment. His chief faults are prolixity in the statement and examination of the views of others, and an indulgence in etymological fancies which have no solid foundation."
In England, the earliest work on Job of any importance was that of Samuel Wesley, published in 1736, almost simultaneously with the magnum opus of Schultens. This book was not one of much value, but it was followed, in 1742, by the scholarly production of Dr. Richard Grey, in which the Latin version of Schultens, and a large number of Schultens's notes, were reproduced for the benefit of his own countrymen, while the text also was placed before them, both in Hebrew type and in Roman characters. Attention having been thus drawn in England to the labours of foreign scholars on the Book of Job, several other works on the subject were published by Englishmen in rapid succession, as especially the following: 'A Dissertation on the Book of Job, its Nature, Argument, Age, and Author,' by John Garnett, B.D.; 'The Book of Job, with a Paraphrase from the third verse of the third chapter, where it is supposed the metre begins, to the seventh verse of the forty-second chapter, where it ends,' by Leonard Chappelow, B.D., Arabic Professor; and 'An Essay towards a new English Version of the Book of Job, from the original Hebrew, with a Commentary,' by Thomas Heath. It cannot be said that these books were of any great importance, or advanced much either the critical knowledge of the text of Job or a correct and judicious exegesis.
No great progress was made in either of these two respects until the commencement of the present century. Then, in 1806, Rosenmuller published the first edition of his remarkable work, which he afterwards, in 1824, republished in an enlarged form, in his ' Scholia in Vetus Testamentum,' pars quinta. This was a great advance on all previous efforts; and it was shortly followed by the even more striking production of Ewald, 'Das Buch Ijob' — a work exhibiting profound learning and great originality of genius, but disfigured by many wild speculations, and involving an entire denial of the inspiration of Scripture. Comments by Umbreit, Hahn, Hirzel, and Dillmann have since issued from the German press, which are generally characterized by diligence and ingenuity, but lack the genius of Ewald, while they avoid, however, some of his eccentricities. The latest German comment of importance is that of Merx, a well-known Orientalist, which contains a Hebrew text, a new translation, and an introduction, together with critical notes. This work exhibits much learning, but a singular lack of judgment.
M. Renan's 'Livre de Job' is the last word of French scholarship on the subject before us. It has all his merits, but also all his defect. The style is clear, eloquent, brilliant; the appreciation of the literary excellences of Job, keen; the scholarship advanced, if not faultless; bat the exegesis leaves much to be desired.
In England, during the present century, the most important work which has appeared, dealing exclusively with Job, is that of Dr. Lee Published in the year 1837, after the second edition of Rosenmuller had seen the light, bat before the great work of Ewald, this volume is deserving of the attentive consideration of all students It is the composition of an advanced Hebraist, and of one well versed, besides, in other Oriental studies. It exhibits much critical acumen, and great independence of thought and judgment. No subsequent commentary wholly supersedes it; and it will probably long retain a special value on account of its copious illustrations from the Persian and the Arabic. Other useful English commentaries are those of Bishop Wordsworth, Canon Cook, and Dr. Stanley Leathes. Canon Cook also published an important article on Job (not altogether superseded by the Introduction to his 'Commentary') in Dr. William Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' in the year 1863. An article of less value, but still of some interest, will Be found in Kitto's 'Biblical Cyclopaedia'. Mr. Froude's essay on 'The Book of Job' belongs to the year 1853, when it appeared in the Westminster Review. Highly ingenious, and characterized by his wonted vigour and eloquence, it will always be read with pleasure and advantage, but is unsatisfactory from a deficiency of critique, and a rather narrow prejudice against orthodoxy. Among other minor works on Job are 'Quaestionum in Jobeidos Locos Vexatos,' by Hupfeld, published in 1853; 'Animadversiones Philologicae in Jobum,' by Schultens; 'Jobi Physica Sacra,' by Scheuchzern; 'Kleine Geographisch-historische Abhandlung zur Erlauterung einiger Stellen Mosis, und Vornehmlich des ganzen Buchs Hiob,' by Koch; 'Observationes Miscellaneae in Librum Job,' by Bouillier; 'Animadversiones in Librum Job,' by Eckermann; 'Notes on the Book of Job by the Rev. A. Barnes; 'Comment on Job,' by Keil and Delitzsch (in T. Clark's series), Edinburgh, 1866; 'The Book of Job, as expounded to his Cambridge Pupils,' by Hermann Hedwig Bernard; and 'Commentary on Job,' by the Rev. T. Robinson, D.D., in the 'Preacher's Commentary on the Old Testament'.