John Kitto Evening Bible Devotions: January 6

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John Kitto Evening Bible Devotions: January 6

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The Land of Uz


It is very important to the right understanding of the Book of Job, that we should if possible ascertain where the scene of it is laid. At first view this may not seem difficult, for we are plainly told that he “dwelt in the land of Uz.” Yes; but where was this land of Uz?

The names of countries in the early books of Scripture are mostly the names of heads of the families or tribes by whom those lands were inhabited. This is so true, that the names in the long list of persons in the tenth chapter of Genesis can be identified as the names of countries. To find the locality of a country, otherwise obscure, we should therefore look for the corresponding name of the founder of a family, and then find out where that family was settled. The land of Uz is thus, in fact, the land of the tribe or family whose founder was Uz, and which bore his name. Now, in the present case, there is no difficulty in discovering a family head of the name of Uz. The difficulty lies in our finding so many of the name that the critical judgment is perplexed as to the right choice between them. The first Uz is mentioned Note: Gen_10:23. as the grandson of Shem. Much later Note: Gen_22:21. another Uz (given in the English Bible as Huz), is mentioned as the son of Nahor the brother of Abraham; and later still, Note: Gen_36:28. one more Uz occurs as among the descendants of Esau. There has lately been a strong leaning towards the latter Uz, and consequently a disposition to find the land of Uz in the country of Edom, and to make Job an Edomite. The critical grounds of this preference seem to be, that one of Job’s three friends was a Temanite, and Teman was of Edom; and that “the land of Uz” is mentioned by Jeremiah (Lam_4:21) as being in the land of Edom. This last point may seem at first conclusive; but it is far from being so when closely examined. As there was a family chief named Uz among the Edomites, there might be a land of Uz in Edom; yet, as the whole is greater than the part, it would be inexpressibly awkward to describe Edom, the nation, as dwelling in “the land of Uz,” which, if Edomite at all, could only be a district of the same. The text is this—“Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, that dwellest in the land of Uz.” There is, therefore, much probability in the conjecture that even this land of Uz was not in Edom, but that the Edomites had at that time gained possession of a country which did not originally belong to them. Thus understood, the text becomes more emphatic and significant—the prophet speaking of the Edomites as dwelling in a foreign country which did not originally belong to them, but of which they had somehow gained possession. To this it may be added, that the determination of the name to the remote descendant of Esau, as the founder of the family giving its name to the land, would make the time of the Book of Job considerably later than the other circumstances already indicated will allow.

This last consideration also applies, though in a somewhat less degree, to the Uz who was Abraham’s nephew; but this consideration is of less importance here, because it may be seen that any land to which Nahor’s son may have given name must have coincided with or lain in that land to which the more ancient grandson of Shem may have given his name. And here it may be remarked that, other things being equal, the most ancient possessor of a name is by far the most likely to have had a district or country called after him.

We are thus led back to the grandson of Shem. His father was Aram. This Aram gave his name to Syria, which clearly indicates that this region was settled by him or the family of which he was the head. Syria is throughout the Scriptures called Aram; and so, indeed, is Upper Mesopotamia, which is simply distinguished as Aram-Naharaim, or Aram between the Rivers (Euphrates and Tigris). The mere fact that Nahor’s son was called by the same name, may furnish another probability for the fact, that the regions were really one, and that the name of Uz predominated already in it. Indeed, the name of another of Nahor’s sons, Buz, is a farther indication of the prevalence of this name. It means “in Uz;” and such a name was not likely to be given with reference to the previous son called Uz, but from the fact of his being, like him, born in that land of Uz to which the son of Aram had given his name. It is indeed a remarkable fact, that the two names Uz and Buz, occur in the same connection in the Book of Job as they do in the account of Nahor’s children. Job is in the land of Uz; and present at the discussion carried on between him and his friends, is a young man called Elihu, who is described as a Buzite, that is, a son or descendant of Buz; and he is not one of the friends who came from a distance to condole with Job, but obviously appears as a neighbor who, probably with many others, had been eager listeners to this grand controversy, in which he eventually interposed.

From this it is obvious to infer, that the land of Uz was that land in Pandan-Aram where the elder branches of Abraham’s family remained after his departure for Canaan, and many circumstances concerning which are known to us from the visits of old Eliezer to seek a wife for Isaac, and from Jacob’s sojourn there with Laban; and this amounts almost to a demonstration, when we find good reason to suppose that this very region was that which was settled by the grandson of Shem, and to which he gave his name. This personage is believed to have eventually founded Damascus, to which perhaps the name of the land of Uz may have reached; but the next previous stage to which, in the Semitic migration from the north-east (from Armenia) previously to crossing the Euphrates, would well have been in Pandan-Aram.

We find this opinion supported by Col. Chesney in his work on the Expedition to the Euphrates, by illustrations drawn from the physical condition of this region. His view is, that the land of Uz was in all probability in the neighborhood of Orfah, where a brook and a well on the road to Diarbekir, with other localities, are “consecrated to the memory of the great patriarch.”

It is admitted that Teman, to which one of Job’s friends belonged, was in Edom; and the objection derivable from this to the assumed allocation of the land of Uz is fairly met by the remark, that as a constant political intercourse appears to have been maintained between the central government of Assyria on the one hand, and the dependent provinces about the borders of Assyria on the other, it can scarcely be doubted that tribal, and still more strongly kindred ties, would be equally maintained between the descendants of Shem, living in Mesopotamia, and those who occupied the borders of Syria and Arabia. And it may be observed, that agreeably to the prevailing customs of the East, such a journey as that from Idumea to the supposed rendezvous of Orfab, would only be an ordinary circumstance, willingly undertaken in order to mourn with and comfort the distinguished tribal chief who had fallen into this great affliction. Some distance is implied by the necessity of making an express appointment.

With reference to the localities mentioned in the book, it is evident that Job lived in a town in which active employments were carried on, and situated in a productive country, having wine-presses and oil-presses, Note: Job_26:11. with mines of silver, brass, and iron, in the neighborhood. Note: Job_28:1. The tract in question, we are told, was wet with the showers of the mountains, Note: Job_26:8. and it enjoyed the fertilizing effects of the small and great rain, having at other times its waters bound in thick clouds. Note: Job_26:8. Proximity to high mountains would cause these changes; and that the country was likewise exposed to an extreme climate, is manifest from the repeated allusions to the severity of the winter—such as treasures of snow and hail, Note: Job_38:29. cold from the north, snow in the earth, and ice straitening the breadth of the waters; Note: Job_37:6-10. and again, being hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep frozen. Note: Job_38:30. Now, in consequence of lying at the foot of Taurus, this region, the ancient Osroëne, is subject to all these physical conditions, as is certainly not the case with Idumea, or with the country between Damascus and the Euphrates, where some seek “the land of Uz.” It appears likewise to correspond with all the circumstances incidentally mentioned in the Book of Job. Here, in north lat. 37° 9' 44", the twilight Note: Job_3:9. is lengthened, and the clusters or constellations designated the Pleiades, Orion, Mazzaroth, and Arcturus, would be constantly in view. Note: Job_38:31-32. The idolaters of the day, Note: Job_31:26-27. the Sabeans of Haran, too, were at hand to fall upon the oxen plowing, Note: Job_1:14-15. nor were the Chasdim (“Chaldeans”), whether those of the Taurus, or, more probably, another branch of the same people from the adjoining plains of Dura, too distant to carry off the camels from the neighboring desert. Note: Job_1:17. The topaz of Asiatic Cush Note: Job_28:19. would likewise come within Job’s knowledge; moreover, he has extensive mines of native steel and iron near Marash on one side, and of copper, silver, and gold, on the other, both at Kebban Maden and near Diarbekir.

It appears to us that the view respecting the land of Uz, which we have thus endeavored to enforce and illustrate, is well worthy of attention. Reasons against it may no doubt be found; we are aware of them, but they seem to us fewer than apply to any other locality; and although there may be good arguments for other districts, they are also fewer and less various than may be produced in favor of Osroëne. The recent popularity of the Idumea hypothesis may, we apprehend, be in part ascribed to the interest awakened in favor of the region of Seir, by the discoveries of Burckhardt and Laborde, and the researches of later travellers—for it is the habit of our minds to concentrate upon a locality which has recently become known to us, all the interests which wander unappropriated, and which may by any possibility have once belonged to it.