Introduction to the Book of Job

 Translated from the German of Ludwig Hirzel, By Rev. William C. Duncan, M. A. of New Orleans 1


1. Contents of the Book

General View. — Jehovah resolves to test the virtue of the pious Job by misfortune and sufferings, and executes his determination. This divine purpose, however, is not discerned upon the earth. For, upon the earth, misfortune and sufferings are regarded as the necessary consequence of sin, in conformity with the ancient doctrine of Mosaism, that Jehovah rewards according to works, that happiness is the lot of the pious, unhappiness of the wicked. This maxim is, accordingly, brought to bear against Job; misfortune is, in the estimation of his friends, an infallible proof of guilt, and he over whom it has rolled in such a tide, must, in their firm conviction, have committed, either openly or secretly, the most grievous sins; so would indicate that law of divine justice which rules everywhere in the destiny of man. Job, on the other hand, constantly opposes to this argument his consciousness of innocence, and firmly contests the principle adduced and supported by his friends; he finds fault with God, who has permitted him to suffer undeservedly; he knows not how to account for the bitterness of his fate, except on the repeated experience, that the pious are unhappy, the wicked, on the contrary, happy; and he opposes this experience to the assertion of his friends, in order to convince them of the uncertain foundation of their accusations. But this explanation is so ill adapted to illumine the darkness which hangs over the reason of his sufferings, that it provokes him so much the more to the most violent complaints and the most preposterous decisions respecting the moral government of the world, to the most intemperate attacks upon the divine justice, — which become the more bitter and the more violent, the more positively he sees his innocence called in question, and the more constantly the strict justice of God, even in his fate, is asserted by his friends.

To this same God, however, of whom the unhappy man complains, and whose justice he impeaches, he, nevertheless, again has recourse, partly because from Him alone can come the explanation of the enigma by which he suffers; partly because the world will only then be convinced of his innocence, when God himself bears witness to it — so that Job longs for nothing more anxiously, than that God may appear to him, to give him an opportunity of justifying himself before Him respecting his conduct, and to reveal to him the reasons why he permits him to feel His anger, — partly, in fine, because Job is not yet completely under the influence of unbelief and doubt, but, in his lucid hours, the ancient faith in God again awakes in his soul. Upon his Intercessor in heaven, the witness of his innocence, he rests again his hope (16:19. 13:712. 27:7–10); and this hope rises on one occasion (19:25) to such a certainty, that he declares in the language of a conviction which nought can destroy, that God will not, God cannot? allow him to die, without having, at least,— even though the enigma should not be explained,—borne witness before all the world to his unjustly questioned innocence.—And, even though, after such lucid moments, all may again become as dark as before, in him and around him, and the gloomy forms of doubt and despondency, — nay, though even entire disbelief in a justice that governs the world, — overcome him anew, he is enabled, at last, to struggle forth into freedom; faith finally obtains the mastery, and, in its exercise, he flees to the conception of that higher Wisdom which is inscrutable to man, which has ruled the world from the beginning, but to fathom whose depths is not granted to the human understanding. There, then, in those concealed depths, and not in his guiltiness, should his would-be-wise friends seek for the cause of his misfortune; but be convinced, that they, as little as he, are able to reach the bottom of those depths.

At last Jehovah actually appears, rebuking the presumption and folly of Job for wishing to dispute with Him respecting the government of the world, and to contest the justice therein administered. Two long discourses in which He exposes to the view of Job the entire greatness and majesty of His operations and government in nature, bring him to the mortifying confession of the weakness and folly of all human knowledge in respect to superior things, and of the incomprehensibility of the divine omnipotence and wisdom; to the avowal that he will never again allow himself to contend with God, and to a recantation of the grounds of his complaint. Finally, Jehovah decides between the friends and Job, assigning error to the former and truth to the latter, as well as delivering him from his sufferings, and compensating him richly for all that he had lost in property, domestic happiness, and years of life.

2. Doctrine And Object Of The Book

First of all, it cannot be doubted that the author would prove, by an ocular demonstration, in the case of Job’s undeserved sufferings, the weakness and untenableness of the ancient Mosaic doctrine of retribution [rather, a misinterpretation of it]. In this view, the book is closely connected with Ps. 37. and 63. While these Psalmists [David and Asaph], however, perceiving indeed the impossibility of establishing that doctrine by an appeal to experience, held to it, notwithstanding, as true in itself, our author deprives it of one point of support after another. Should it be represented to him, in order to account for the misfortune of one esteemed righteous, that he has sinned in secret, so that God alone is aware of his sins (11:7–12), or should it be said, that his sufferings are meant only to discipline him, and will continue only so long as will suffice to effect their object, the production of repentance and reformation, when so much the greater happiness will ensue as a recompense (5:17 seq. 11:13 seq.); then can Job adduce, in opposition to such assertions, as well the witness of his good conscience as the feeling of sorrows daily multiplying and the certain prospect of approaching death, and not less the experience (21:25 et al.) that righteous men die without having obtained the reward of their righteousness. And, further, he even points to the experience which proves the contrary (for example, 12:6. 21:6 seq. ch. 24.), when, in order to maintain the position that the wicked are unhappy, it is asserted by his friends, that though many of them do, to be sure, enjoy happiness, it does not endure (8:11 seq. 18:5 seq. et al.), or that they are, if indeed outwardly, not inwardly happy, since they tremble continually in dread of punishment (15:20 seq.) And when, in the end, the frequent occurrence of the very opposite of their assertions cannot be denied by the friends, and they betake themselves to the position, that the divine punishment is at least executed upon the children of the wicked; it is responded, on the other hand, that that is neither justice, nor a punishment of the wicked themselves (21:19–21).2

But the poet will not merely overturn an untenable doctrine; he will establish a tenable in its place. If one is compelled to reject that strong doctrine of retribution, there are only two ways open which it is possible to follow: the one, which lies nearer (because with the rejection of the doctrine of retribution, the justice of God is called in question), is the way of unbelief, indifferentism; the other, which lies farther off, and, because it leads to no result satisfactory to the understanding, the more difficult and the less trodden, the way of faith. To exercise this faith in all cases in which the moral government of the world appears, to human view, to be destroyed, and when the sense of justice feels itself violated, whether by some grievous misfortune which happens to the pious man, or by some undeserved blessing which the godless enjoys; to renounce all claims to that higher wisdom whose works lie before man in the wonders of nature, recognizable also in the moral world, as there so here, by a knowledge of the laws by which it acts, but to be satisfied with the certainty of its existence, and, on the other hand, to refrain from all murmuring against God and his providences, —this is the positive doctrine which the poet will establish in the room of that negative. It is contained partly in Job’s speech in ch. 28; partly in the two discourses of Jehovah, 38 and 42:16; expressed nowhere, indeed, formally in set phrase, but it is left to the reader to draw the proper inference from the opposition of the human to the divine wisdom, and from the descriptions of the wonderful works of divine power and wisdom, while the poet only briefly hints (28:28. 38:2. 40:2, 4, 5. 42:2, 3, 6) what application he desires to have made.

This speech of Job’s has been charged with being destructive of the design of the whole, because an anticipation of the discourse of Jehovah, but not justly , for, since Job himself succeeds, at last, after a long wandering in the realm of unbelief and of doubt, in fleeing to that conception of the inscrutable depths of the divine wisdom, there is declared, by that fact, as lying in the will and the power of man, the possibility of a final victory, to be obtained only by hard struggles, over those internal enemies, — in opposition to the delusion that whoever has been once seized by them, is irrecoverably lost, and must become subject to internal compulsion. But the discourses of God have as their object the confirmation of the opinion forced from Job, as alone true and alone fitted for man to believe, and the exhibition of its indispensable necessity to them in the more convincing light. It follows, however, spontaneously, as well from the confutation of the ancient doctrine of retribution as from the declaration of faith in the government of a superior wisdom, that the poet thinks sufferings without guilt, possible; and the proving of this possibility, which is also declared by the divine vindication of Job in the Epilogue, is an advance which positive knowledge makes in the book. The author, moreover, discovers in the Prologue what he supposes may possibly be the object of such sufferings,— the testing of the firmness of virtue; but he gives this thought no farther development in the poem itself, since it is not his design to open a way for speculation but rather to exclude it, as leading to no good effect.

3. Unity Of The Book

Justly in some measure, and in some measure unjustly, have several larger and smaller divisions of the book been considered interpolations. The discourses of Elihu, alone (ch. 32 and 38), are rightly so considered, the proof of which is given in the Commentary;3 unjustly, on the other hand, 1) the Prologue and the Epilogue, ch. 1, 2, 42:7–17; 2) the Section, 27:7–23. 28:3) the Description of the hippopotamus and crocodile, 40:15 and 41:34.

1. Against the genuineness of the Prologue and Epilogue it is urged (by Hasse, Conjectures on the Book of Job in the Magazine for Oriental Biblical Literature, 1. 162 ss., Stuhlmann Translation of the Book of Job, Hamburg, 1804, introduction, p. 23 ss., Bernstein on the Age, Contents, Object, and present Form of the Book of Job in the Analecta of Keil and Tzschirner pt. 3. p. 122 ss.):(a) that they stand in opposition to the idea of the Book; for, in the Prologue, the object and signification of the sufferings of Job are revealed, whereas the design of the poet was, on the contrary, to warn against the attempt to fathom the divine Dispensations; and, in the Epilogue, Job obtains as his portion a double recompense for his sufferings, so that, in his fate, the old doctrine of retribution, according to which the pious cannot always be unhappy, but will, at last, again become happy, is confirmed, whereas the poet would prove the weakness and untenableness of this doctrine; (b) that, in the Epilogue v. 7, the right is assigned by God to Job, in opposition to his three friends, while he has, nevertheless, in the poem? accused God of injustice; (c) that, in these two divisions, a high value is assigned to sacrifice, but in the entire poem, as if to shun everything theocratic in general, so, in particular, is there nowhere made mention of such practices; (d) that these parts are written in prose, and the name Jehovah, as an appellation of God occurs therein, whereas, in the poem itself, God is called El or Eloah. Against (a) it is to be observed that neither the Prologue nor the Epilogue are to be considered part of the didactic portion of the book; on which account they differ from the didactic poem itself by being written in prose. That the reader is initiated by the Prologue into the divine secret, but must observe how, in the poem itself, all the attempts of Job and his friends to ascertain the cause of his unhappiness, are frustrated, should be received by him as a hint to attempt the investigation of that which has been determined upon in the counsel of God. By the restoration of Job’s happiness in the Epilogue, the poet performs a duty to the feelings of the reader, as is most clearly evident, if one reflect what would have been his feelings had the advent been different, had the poet reported the endless duration of Job’s unhappiness, and consider the impression which such a conclusion would have left upon the mind of the reader. Is Job recompensed for undeserved sufferings and losses, the reader is left reconciled with the divine arrangement of things, and retains with so much the more confidence the belief which the poet would teach him; while, in the opposite case, the book must rather have excited new complaints? new despondency, and new opposition on the part of man to the decrees of God. To (b) it may be replied that Job is justified in the place referred to merely as regards the assertion of his innocence in opposition to the accusations of his friends. This point the poet must treat, if the reader is not to go away from the book dissatisfied; for, respecting the main question of the long contest, Job’s guilt or innocence, God had not until now decided, but had only reproved Job for his presumption. To (c) the important part which sacrifices have assigned them, accords with the worship of the patriarchal time, in which the poet allows his heroes to appear. To (d) that in these two divisions יְהֹוָה is the principal name applied to God depends upon the rule which the poet observes in the use of the name of God. Where he relates, he uses the name יִהֹוָה; hence this appellation is also found out of the Prologue and Epilogue, 38:1. 40:1, 3, 6. 42:1; besides, in a few places, אֱוֹּהִים occurs, 1:5, 22. 2:9., and in the combinations בְּנֵי אֱוֹּהִים 1:6. 2:1 ירֵא אֱוֹּהִים Job 1:1 שׁ אֱוֹּהִים 1:16. Where, on the other hand, Job and his friends are introduced in conversation, they use, as in the language of the pæe-Mosaic time, in which the name יְהֹוָה was not yet known (Ex. 3:13 ss.), the common and ancient name ל or אֱלוֹץַ, also ׃שַדַּי Hence the name יְהֹוָה can only once, 1:21, where it occurs in the Prologue, appear strange; but the same exception is found in a few passages of the poem also, 12:9. 28:28. The Prologue and Epilogue in their present form are inseparable from the whole; without the one the poem itself would be unintelligible, and without the other the poet would have left the reader in ignorance respecting the two questions, which present themselves at 42:5, to every one as yet unanswered, respecting the manner in which Jehovah may decide between Job and his friends, and the issue of Job’s fate.

2. Against the division 27:7-28:28, it is remarked (by Bernstein, on the passage, p. 133-135), (a) that Job admits, in the first part of it, 27:7–23, what his friends had hitherto asserted, but he had constantly denied and contested, that the sinner receives the reward of his deeds; (b) that, in the second part, ch. 28., the reference to the wisdom of God, is just as little suitable in the mouth of Job, since it savors of humility rather than of the overweening confidence, which, even up to this point, must have had the mastery in Job’s mind; this reference reminds one of the discourses of Elihu, and the bombastic language of the chapter brings to mind the grandiloquence of his speeches, with which, therefore, it may have the same author. The contradiction noticed under (a), cannot, indeed, be denied; but just as little can it be denied, that, without it, as Umbreit (Comment, p. 261.) has correctly remarked, the dispute would have gone on without end. It is not to be overlooked, moreover, that especially with ch. 27. commences the change in Job’s frame of mind and views, as well as, that, notwithstanding that concession, Job still differs from his friends in this, — he opposes the converse of the conceded point. [As Job has up to this point affirmed his innocence, and adduced internal evidence in proof of the error of his opponents, he can now, when they have nothing more to respond, and when his justice is secure against their attacks, grant them, without danger, what is true in their representations, and what, notwithstanding the opposition which it has hitherto met from him, is recognized as such by him also. That, namely, the sinner does not remain unpunished in life, is a truth which he cannot contradict, and so little will he do it, that, in the sequel (vs. 13–23), he depicts the unhappy end of the sinner in still stronger colors than his opponents had done. While, however, his opponents perseveringly turned this truth against him, fancying, that, because the sinner is unhappy, every unhappy man must be a sinner, Job was compelled, in order to avoid the inference which his misfortune would seem to authorize respecting his guilt, up to this point, to deny, contrary to his better knowledge, the whole principle; and he could do this, since his opponents made it a rule firmly approved, verifying itself always and everywhere, by a reference to the numerous instances of the contrary, which, inexplicably to the human understanding, the experience of all times afforded. Now, therefore, he proceeds to enlighten his friends by means of this two-fold reference; in the first place, acknowledging to them that they had correctly apprehended the general law according to which the fate of the sinner is decided (v. 12. 1st member), with which is connected as proof the description, vs. 13–23, which agrees with the representations they have so far made; but next, drawing their attention to the fact that they, notwithstanding this correct view, had nevertheless fallen into an error (v. 12. 2nd member), with which is connected ch. 28, which, in general has for its object the referring of his opponents to the inscrutable depths of the divine wisdom and the limitations of human knowledge. Thus, it would seem, that the certainly striking contradiction, which exists between the confession of Job which follows in vs. 23–23, and his earlier discourses, 12:6. ch. 21. 24:22 ss. must be explained, and which has from an early period been an impediment in the way of interpreters. Renouncing the possibility of an explanation, Kennicott (Diss. Gen. in V. T. ed. Bruns. p. 539), Eichhorn (Conjee, on Passages in Job, Gen. Lib. of Bib. Lit. II. p. 613), have assigned this division to Zophar, who has not yet, as the other two friends, spoken three times, but only twice; so that he would now appear for the third time. Stulhmann (on the Book of Job in Keil and Tzschirner’s Analecta, I. pt. 3 p. 134.) makes the third speech of Zophar begin with v. 11. But, (1) vs. 11 and 12 cannot have been spoken by Zophar, since the discourse is not, according to the custom of the opponents, addressed to Job, but to several; (2) “Zophar cannot have appeared a third time, since, in that case, Job, by not replying, would, in some measure, have yielded him the field,” De Wette Hall. Encycl. II. vol. 8. p. 293. It is clear that the poet leaves him, when he does so, with the intention that he shall not speak again: the way is prepared for the silence of this third opponent by the barrenness of Bildad’s last reply, ch. 25.; the embarrassment of this latter as regarded matter for the treatment of his subject was so great, that he had to borrow it from the earlier discourses of Eliphaz: so Zophar, at best the weakest of three, is entirely silent, because he knows nothing more which he can adduce. Later, Eichhorn (Job Trans. Gott. 1824, p. 97.) substituted the following for his former view, that vs. 13–23, belong indeed to Job; he does not, however, speak his opinion therein, but only repeats that of the opponents: this, say you, is the fate of the sinner, etc. So also Böckel. But this understanding of the passage is opposed to v. 11, which is certainly intended to introduce the description begun at v. 13.]4 (b) Chap. 28 cannot have proceeded from the author of the discourses of Elihu, since such an isolated insertion would have been altogether superfluous and without an object.

3. The refutation of the objections urged by Ewald against the description of the hippopotamus and the crocodile, see at the end of chap. 41. [Ewald (in the Theol. Stud, and Krit., 1829, p. 766 ss., Comm. on Job, p. 320 ss.) following Be Wette, who (Introd. to the O. T. § 288) calls the description of these two animals, the hippopotamus and the crocodile, a dragging and bombastic piece, declares this entire division, 40:15–41:26, not genuine, but composed by the author of Elihu’s discourses, mainly on the following grounds: (1) On account of its position; because the second discourse of Jehovah, which is incorporated in this division, has as its object, to reply to Job’s doubts concerning the justice of God. This description of the two animals, however, can only serve to describe Jehovah’s power, which was the office of the first discourse; and, moreover, not even the loosest and finest internal bond of union connects this piece with 40:6—14. (2) On account of the different character existing between these two and the earlier descriptions of animals, chap, 38. and 39. (a) In object; in the earlier descriptions, to show Job, that man, and therefore he himself, cannot attain to the power and wisdom of God, appears to be, everywhere, the object; here, however, this object is wanting, the entire representation being nothing more than a description of the many wonderful peculiarities of the two animals, but nowhere is an inference from it and an application of it brought to bear upon Job. (b) in the plan, in poetic representation, and even the language; there the several descriptions are short and hasty, the particular wonder merely indicated, the representation powerful, original, the delineations almost entirely arrayed in questions; here the description is prolix, long-winded, stiff, the representation feeble, having the character of imitation, narrative, rather than interrogative; as a single peculiarity of language the lengthened query without the interrogative ft, 40:25, is to be noticed, which calls 37:18 to mind. These grounds, however, so far as they are of a historic kind, are untenable; so far as they are aesthetic, they are not decisive, because they rest upon merely a subjective judgment. For, as to what relates to the historic, (a) the beginning as well as the conclusion of the challenge to Job, 40:9—14, shows that the poet does not intend the object of Jehovah’s second discourse to be seized so sharply as Ewald has seized it. Verse 9 passes over from the reference in the speeches of Job which call in question the justice of God, immediately to the challenge to him, to show at once what he is able to perform, how great his power when compared with God’s; and Jehovah declares himself ready, when the proof is adduced, to acknowledge, on his part, Job’s power (not, as one might have expected, his justice). Proceeding on Ewald’s supposition respecting the subject of this second speech of Jehovah’s, we must necessarily declare this challenge, vs. 9–14, also not genuine, because it refers as little to the supposed object; so that only vs. 7 and 8 would be left as the discourse of Jehovah, (b) Moreover, 41:28, where the poet stops in the midst of his description of the leviathan, and Jehovah draws Job’s attention from the creature to the Creator and man’s relation to him, shows that even this description is not destitute of the higher, religious-didactic object; nay, a reference is made just here to the distinctive idea of the second discourse of Jehovah, cf. obs. at the place. (c) The adduced lengthened query without the interrogative הֲ, 40:25, has its counterpart (even stronger, as in 37:18.) in the description, 39:1, 2. But, were it not so, how could a single linguistic peculiarity, and one so entirely unimportant, form the foundation of a critical decision? And how inconsistent, on the other hand, not to give any weight to unusual expressions and forms of words which this description has in common with the earlier portions of the book! cp. עַפְעַי־שַׁהר, 41:10, with 3:9:בְּנֵי־שַׁחַחּ, 41:26, with 28:8; יָצוּק, 41:15, 16, ” with מֻצָק, 11:15; the similar change in the second member of 41:6, and 39:20; the form עָשׂוּ, 41:25, with ׃עָפוּ 15:22. (d) That the descriptions of the two animals are connected with 40:14, is indicated by the course of thought and by the remark at 40:15, as well as the reason of the greater particularity of representation. Ewald’s aesthetic grounds Umbreit has properly estimated in the Theol. Stud, and Krit. 1831, p. 833 ss.]5 On the alleged transposition of 31:38—40, and 38:36, see the explanation at the passages.

4. General Plan

The whole book is divided into four principal parts, of which the first and the last are composed in prose, the two middle, as the proper didactic portion of the work, in poetry. (1) The Prologue, or the history of Job’s misfortunes, chap. 1:2. (2) The conversation respecting his misfortune, or the contest between Job and his friends, chap, 3–31, beginning (chap, 3.) and ending (chap. 29–31) with a monologue from Job. The poet allows the friends to appear as the defenders of the common doctrine of retribution, and to make a gradual application of it to Job, whence arise progress in the action, and the dialogue is distributed into three acts, chap. 4–14. 15–21. 22–28. In the first, the friends admonish to resignation and repentance, since the sinner that reforms may expect with certainty a return of happiness, and only the perverse transgressor is lost without remedy; in the second, since their admonitions appear to be fruitless, they speak no more of a return of happiness, but they place before Job’s eyes, as a warning, that fearful end of the transgressor which is grounded on the justice of God; in the third, they accuse him openly of the most odious sins, and declare, at the same time, that his misery is the punishment of his guilt. (3) The appearance of God for Job’s instruction, chap, 38–42. (4) The Epilogue, or the history of the Divine decision of the dispute, and the deliverance of Job, 42:6–17. Moderns have called the book the Hebrew Tragedy, to which name it seems to have a claim, as well on account of its dramatic form, as because the fundamental idea is that of the struggle of virtue with misfortune. Since, however, the object of the poet was purely instructive, the production of a religious-philosophic conviction, this appellation is suited only to a portion, and the book is more correctly called a didactic poem.

5. Subject Of The Poem

Whether the historic frame with which the author has encompassed his didactic poem, is his own invention, or borrowed from the traditional history of his people, has been a disputed question from an early to the present time; but it is of no importance to the understanding of the book. The question turns upon the existence of Job’s person, since, if this be denied, all that is related of him appertains to a free poetic invention. The Talmud (Baba batra, chap. 1, sec. 15.) first advanced the assertion that Job is only a feigned, not a historic person; of the same opinion among moderns are Bernstein, Augusti, (Introd. to the O. T. 2. A.), De Wete (Encyc. of Ersch and Gruber, art. Job), who, therefore, treat as poetry all the history that forms the basis of the book. Now, it is true, the mention of Job by Ezekiel, 14:14, 16, 20, Tobit, (Latin text) 2:12, 15, James 5:11, proves nothing in favor of his historic existence, since the books in question are all later than our book, and their knowledge of Job is more than probably obtained from it;6 still less, the spots pointed out in different places in the East as the grave of Job (v. Winer Bib. Real. 1. p. 581). But just as little can one, in order to prove that the relation is a fiction, refer to the appellative signification of the name Job,7 as containing in itself the part assigned to him by the poet; since, with equal justice, the names שָׁאוּל, שְׁוֹּמֹה, and many others might also be used to transform historic personages into feigned; such names were formed in the mouths of the people, possibly even by contemporaries, and supplanted the original personal names; for the memory of a man could be more easily preserved and handed down to posterity, by an appellation expressive of his character or destiny, than by his original personal name. Further reason, however, to cast doubt upon the existence of Job, does not exist. Since, however, the historic truth of all that is related of him is not involved in the historic truth of his personal existence, since, indeed, the free creative hand of the poet is plainly enough discernible in the prologue (cf. obs. at 1:2, 3, and 1:2, with 42:13.) and epilogue, the correct answer to the question spoken of above is that which Luther has already generally indicated (Table Talk, p. 318): “I hold that the book of Job is a history, in a poetic form, of what happened to a person, but not in such words as those in which it is written.” The most of modern interpreters, however, have expressed themselves firm in the opinion, that the poet has freely elaborated an historical subject found in the popular traditions, and has inserted what thoughts he desired to utter, within a frame compounded of elements partly his own and partly received.

It may with great probability be inferred that Job’s name and residence in particular were given to the poet by the tradition, since the former occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament, and the latter, the land of Uz, was too obscure to render it probable that the poet’s choice would have fallen upon it in preference to other countries. The tradition, moreover, appears to have placed Job’s existence in remote antiquity, which explains the endeavor of the poet to represent the life and manner of his hero, as well as the relations in which he appears, in conformity with the character of the patriarchal times; we find parallels to Job’s wealth in flocks in Gen. 12:16. 24:35. 26:13 s. 30:43; to his authority 30:[29] 7 ss. 21 ss. in Gen. 23:6; to his performance of priestly functions 1:5. 42:8. in Gen. 22:13. 31:54; to the great age which according to 42:16 s. he attained, in Gen. 25:7, 8. 35:28 s. 50:26 s.; to the immediate appearance of God which, according to 38:1, cp. with 42:5, was granted him, in Gen. 18. 32:30. 35:9 ss., as well as to the vision of Eliphaz 5 [4]:12 ss. in Gen. 15:1 ss. 28:10 ss.; here too belongs the mention of the Kesita 42:11; in the poem itself, although here the poet desires nothing less than to conceal his own era, but rather allows it frequently and evidently enough to appear (cp. 9:24. 12:18, 23. 20:19. 21:7 ss. 22:15 ss. 24:2–17. 27:16. 20:24. 39:21 ss. 23:10. 28:1 ss. 31:11, 28), there are not wanting passages in which the coloring of Job’s mode of life and the neighborhood in which he lived are firmly retained, as 29:6. 30:1. 31:26 s. 5:22 ss. 21:10 s. Finally, it is manifest in itself that the poet would not have chosen the tradition respecting Job for elaboration, if he had not been represented by it as an innocent man, visited, notwithstanding his especial piety, by the most grievous misfortune; and, since the disease under which Job appears as suffering was, on the one hand, of an unusual kind, and hence lay farther from the poetic fiction, than to many other diseases, and since, on the other, the description given of it in the discourses of Job is carefully and accurately retained, cp. 6:7. 7:4, 5. 13:27. 16:13 ss. 19:19. 30:17, 30. 18:13, we may admit with Ewald, that this feature also in the history of Job was delivered to the poet in the tradition. All the rest, however, that is related of Job in the Prologue and Epilogue, as well as the principal scene itself, the visit of the friends, the dispute between them and Job, and Jehovah’s final appearance, must be considered as appertaining to the free elaboration of the poet; in addition to which it may be granted, that the name of the three and their residence, were not invented by the poet himself, but were found by him in another tradition, and adopted on account of the geographic suitableness of the names of the places attached to their personal names to the land of Uz.

6. Time And Place Of The Composition Of The Book

The time of the composition of the book can be determined only by internal evidence; but these point with some degree of certainty to the last times of the kingdom of Judah, more precisely, perhaps, to the borders of the 6th and 7th centuries before Christ. That the book was written at a time when the connection of the Hebrew with the nations of eastern Asia was not only commenced, but when many of the religious conceptions prevalent there had become incorporated with the Hebrew ideas, is widened by the enlargement of the doctrine of spirits in the representations of Satan, occurring here for the first time, and of the interceding angels, whom man addressed in order to obtain their mediation with God, 1:6. 5:1. On the other hand the mention of star-worship, 31:26, does not refer necessarily to the spread of the Zoroastic doctrine among the Hebrews, since this worship had its home also in Arabia, the theatre of Job’s life. The era of the poet is designated 15:18 s, as a time when foreigners had already penetrated the country, the Hebrews no longer the sole possessors of their fatherland, and when those were seldom found by whom the wisdom of their ancestors had been preserved pure and unmixed. Expressions, as 9:24. 12:6, questions, as 21:7, 16–18. 24:1, descriptions, as 12:14–25, bespeak evidently a time of long-continued misfortune, rilled with distress and oppression, disheartening the pious and causing them to go astray; and it can scarcely be doubted that his own experience had made the poet acquainted with that power “which binds kings in chains, carries off counsellors and priests as booty, and causes people to go away into captivity.” If the appearance of these points to very late times in the history of the kingdom of Judah, the passages Jer. 20:14–17, (cp. with Job 3:3–10), Jer. 20:18, (cp. with Job 10:18), Jer. 17:1, (cp. with Job 19:24), presuppose the existence of the-book of Job, since they clearly have the character of imitations, or reminiscences; and similar ones from other books are also to be met with in Jeremiah. The same is made to appear by a comparison of Jer. 31:29, 30, Ezek. 18:1, with Job 21:19; for, upon the assertion which is established by Job by a reference to the divine justice, that the sinner meets personally the reward of his deeds, but that the children do not atone for the sins of their parents, — a thought uttered here for the first time, — Jeremiah founds his promise that it shall proceed still further; and by Ezekiel the doctrine hitherto current is without hesitation declared to be erroneous and antiquated.

If now the book of Job was written in Egypt, as will be shown further on to be probable, it is quite possible that the author was carried away into Egypt at the time of the deportation of king Jehoahaz in the year 611, by Pharaoh Necho; and the composition of the book, which, on account of the varied knowledge of Egypt which it exhibits, pre-supposes a long residence of the author in that country, would have taken place accordingly, at the point of time above designated. The language, indeed, agrees with a late age of the book, but brings it down not later than the time mentioned; for, by far the greater number of expressions and words belonging to the Aramaic dialect, which have been discovered and adduced in order to prove a post-exile origin of the book (Bernstein, in the work quoted, p. 49—79), are rather to be considered peculiarities of the poetic language, which employs foreign modes of expression as ornaments of discourse; and not seldom does the parallelism of ideas render it necessary to encroach upon the linguistic territory of the Aramaic dialect; and, there is no doubt, that the foreign linguistic ingredients in Job would not seem so unusually abundant and striking, if other poems of the same extent had been preserved. As actual Aramaisms, not poetical peculiarities, is to be noticed the manner of writing the following words: דּישון 8:8; מאום 31:7, elsewhere only in Dan. 1:4; גוה 22:29, (also by Elihu 33:17), cp. Dan. 4:34; נכאו 30:8; רים 39:9; חין 41:4; moreover, the use of ל as a sign of the accusative, 5:2. 21:22, עַל for אֶל 22:2. 31:5, 9; also, in 2:10, the occurrence (in prose) of the expression קִל; the form שֹׁד for שַׁד 24:9, only again Isa. 60:16; finally, the peculiar use of the following words: נָדִיב 21:8, in a bad sense as the synonym of רָשׁע, a use which pertains to a time when men had become accustomed by experience to consider the ideas of prince and sinner as interchangeable; parallel in (later) Isaiah 13:2. 14:5; פֶחּ 21:21. 22:3, in the sense of affair, business, elsewhere only in Ecclesiastes and (later) Isaiah; גָּזַר 22:28, in the sense of to determine, to resolve, elsewhere only by Daniel and in the Targums; אָחַז 26:9, in the sense of the Aramaic אֲהַד to shut, again only in Nehemiah.

Very different opinions have been entertained respecting the age of this book. For, while some, as Carpzov among the more ancient, and among the moderns Eichhorn, John, Stuhlmann, Bertholdt, assign it to the prae-Mosaic time, transferring erroneously the- age of Job to the poet himself (the complete refutation of this view which is now rapidly disappearing, see in De Wette, as quoted), Vatke (Bib. Theol. Berlin, 1835, Vol. I, p. 563), brings its composition down as low as the fifth century before Christ, independent, however, of any reason derived from the language or the historical framework of the book, but only on account of the internal relation to the Proverbs, which with an appeal to Hartmann (Intimate Connection of the Old Testament with the New Testament. Hamburg, 1831. p. 148, and A. K. Z., Theol. Lit. Bl., 1838, No. 89), are referred in the gross to the century above mentioned. The addition (Elihu’s discourse) can scarcely be assigned to so low a date; for, although the language of it has a strong Aramaic coloring (cp. obs. at 32:6. 36:2, 19, 22. 37:6), and although the passage 33:23 shows an advance in the development of the doctrine respecting angels, yet it ranks in point of literary merit and poetical contents too much above the other writings of the fifth century, with which in particular begins the period of the decline of Hebrew poetry and prose writing. Ewald places the composition of the book in the commencement of the seventh century, Elihu’s discourse one or two centuries later. The conjecture expressed above, that the author of the book was a Hebrew carried away under Pharaoh Necho, is confirmed by the fact that the most striking signs point to Egypt as the place of its composition. The author has at command a knowledge of this country which is founded on something more than mere hearsay in Palestine, respecting Egyptian affairs, but pre-supposes a long personal observation. There certainly proceeded from a personal view, the description of the working of mines (28:1–11), which in connection with the remaining references point first of all to Egypt, of whose gold mines Diodorus Sicidus 3, 12, gives an account, cp. also Josephus, Bell. Jud. vi. 9, § 2; the same is to be inferred from the description of the hippopotamus and the crocodile, cp. obs. on 41:11. The Nile is also known to the author; whence the pictures borrowed from it, 9:26. 8:lis. 7:12; the poet has seen the mausoleum of the Egyptian kings, 3:14 s; he is acquainted with the Egyptian fable of the phoenix, 29:18 (cp. Von Bohlen Ancient India, ii. p. 238 ss.); the mode of justice practised in Egypt, 31:35; finally, the description of the war-horse, 39:19–25, reminds one in particular of Egypt, renowned above other countries for her cavalry (cp. the interpreters on Isaiah 2:7. 31:1, et al.) Hitzig also places the composition of the book in Egypt; see his Prophet Isaiah, Heidelberg, 1833, p. 285.8


1) L. Hirzel is professor of theology in the university at Zurich, Switzerland. His Commentary on the book of Job, the Introduction to which is here given, forms the second part of the “Condensed Exegetical Manual to the Old Testament,” which has been in the process of publication for several years, at Leipsic. The Introduction is inserted in our pages as the fruits of the studies of an able and experienced critic, and not because we are prepared to accord with all his views. Indeed we decidedly dissent from some of them. But it is not necessary here to state the grounds of this dissent, as we hope, on a future occasion, to take up the subject, somewhat at large. To the author’s objections to the genuineness of the Elihu-Section, so called, we have appended some things from the replies of Prof. Stickel of Jena. — E.

2) As to how far 27:13–23 and Job’s indemnification in the epilogue are to be harmonized with the object proposed, see in the sequel.

3) The proof of the interpolation of Elihu’s discourses is stated as follows in the Commentary. It is introduced here to give completeness to the Article.— Trans.

1. They destroy the connection between Job’s last speech and the discourse of Jehovah, ch. 38. The beginning of Jehovah’s discourse necessarily presupposes that Job had spoken immediately before, cf. obs. on 38:2, and the broken-off conclusion of the discourses of Job 31:38—40, can only be explained on the supposition that Job, while engaged in the course of his speech, is interrupted by Jehovah. 2. They not only enfeeble the discourse of Jehovah, since they anticipate (ch. 36–37) the reference (contained in ch. 38 and 41) to God’s power and wisdom, but they render it almost superfluous, since they give the solution of the proposed enigma by the means of knowledge; while the discourse of Jehovah requires unqualified submission to his omnipotence and concealed wisdom. Why this requirement, if man knows that sufferings are the means of moral improvement, as they are here, in ch. 33 and 36, represented? “It is,” as De Wette on the passage has appropriately remarked, “the same as though one, after giving a clear knowledge of a matter, should then require one not to understand, but to believe.” This objection however does not, by any means, apply to the reference to the secrets of the divine wisdom, already anticipated by Job in ch. 27 and 28. 3. There is no mention made of Elihu, either in the Prologue, which is preparatory to the whole drama, and introduces by name the persons who are to appear therein; or in the Epilogue, which announces unto those who have appeared in the drama, Job and his three friends, the divine decision: This latter is the more remarkable since, as Elihu’s discourse is founded on the same supposition as those of the three, — that Job suffers on account of his guilt, — the same reproof which was bestowed (42:7) upon them should be bestowed upon him. 4. A peculiar use of language distinguishes these discourses from the rest of the book, with which whatever that is peculiar may be found in the discourses of the others cannot, in any manner, be compared. Not only has the language (as is admitted by Umbreit, who defends the genuineness of these speeches, Introd. to his Com. p. 2) a strong dramatic coloring, but Elihu uses uniformly certain expressions, forms, and modes of speech, for which, just as uniformly, and without distinction as regards the different speakers, other expressions are found in the rest of the book, which indicate not merely a difference of parts (Umbreit), but a difference of authors. Cf. obs. on 32:3, 6. 33:18, 19, 25. 34:13, 19, 25, 32. 35:9, 14. 36:2, 19, 31. On other linguistic peculiarities of these discourses, cf. obs. on 32:8. 33:6, 9, 10, 16, 18, 28, 30. 34:8, 12, 37. 36:19, 22. 5) Correspondences in the rest of the book excite the suspicion that parts of them are copied; such is evidently the case as respects the whole division 36:28 and 37:18, which is first touched upon in the discourse of Jehovah, ch. xxxviii seq., and also as regards many details in thought and expression, cf. on 33:7, 15. 34:3, 7. 36:25. 37:4, 10, 22. To these are to be added, 6. various single circumstances, which have weight with the critic chiefly on account of their coincidence with the other arguments; as, a) the isolated situation of these discourses; they receive no reply from Job; the accusations of the three Job had refuted as often as they were repeated, but against Elihu, who does not less accuse him, he does not defend himself, but bears with the accusation, b) In these discourses alone, Job is addressed by name, 33:1, 31. 37:4. c) The remarkable contrast which is observable between the prolix and tedious introduction of Elihu, as a character, 32:2—6, and the simple announcement of the three, 2:11. The genuineness of these discourses has been disputed by Eichhorn, Introd. to O. T. Vol. V. § 644. b.; Stuhlmann, Transl. of the Book of Job, p. 20 seq.; Bernstein, in Keil and Tschirner’s Analecta, Vol. I. pt. 3. p. 133 seq.; De Write, Introd. to O. T. § 287, and in the Encyc.of Ersch and Gruber, art. Job; Ewald, Commentary, p. 296 seq.; defended, on the other hand, (not, however, against all the objections here adduced, in particular not against 1. and 2.; against 4 very unsatisfactorily); by Scharius, Commentary, I. p. Ix.; Stäudlin, Contrib. to the Philos. and Hist, of Religion and Ethics, II. p. 133 seq.; Bertholdt, Introd. to the Writings of the 0. T. and N. T. p. 2185; Jahn, Introd. to 0. T. p. 776; Rosenmüller, Commentary on ch. xxxii; Umbreit, Introd. to his Commentary, p. xxv. Arnheim, in his Commentary, tacitly takes their genuineness for granted.

[In opposition to HirzePs objections, the following arguments, among others, seem to be conclusive.

1. All this [Hirzel’s first objection] rests at last on an incorrect application to the words 38:2, of the grammatical remark that the participle denotes the continuance of action, “and in connection with other propositions, a condition continuing during another action.” Ewald § 350. The מַחְשׁיךְ certainly expresses here the continuous darkening, by Job, of the divine counsel, but the words do not affirm that God interposed and spoke during that darkening process; the interruption begins with ch. 38; if the interruption had taken place while Job was speaking, the sentence would have been מַהְשִׁיךְ וגו וַיַּעַן־יְהוָֹה (הָיהָ) אִיּוֹב. Since the question, vs. 1, forms a new, independent proposition, consequently the connection of several propositions wherein the contemporaneousness of God’s speaking and the darkening of the counsel alone could lie, is wanting. The necessity that Job should have spoken immediately before Jehovah, disappears consequently. The conclusion also, 31:38—40, is by no means abrupt. It is fit that Job should conclude his words with adjurations; but still these could not go on without end. The מַהְשִׁיךְ, 38:2, takes up מִפְּנֵי־חשֶׁךְ from the close of Elihu’s speech, 37:19, and his last word, 37:22, 24, is the theme, which Jehovah finally carries through with the full chorus of creation’s voices. Thus Jehovah’s words accord very well with Elihu’s. 2. There is, in the speeches of Elihu and in the words of Jehovah, less in common than has been usually asserted. The contact is only partial. Of the righteousness of the divine government with which Elihu is thoroughly occupied, nothing at all is said in Jehovah’s words; these only adduce the infinite distance of human insight and power from the omniscience and omnipotence of God j thus the presumption of a mortal who would find fault with God is presented with such overpowering evidence, that Job is forced to open his lips in confession of his groundless pride. Elihu’s aim is to show the real untenableness of the complaint; but the tendency of Jehovah’s words is to exhibit; the impious temerity which lies even in the first raising of the complaint. 3. It is necessary that the three friends should be mentioned in the prologue, as they were to enter at once into the controversy; but it was not necessary that Elihu should be named. Jehovah, the principal personage, is not named. The silence of Job, after Elihu had spoken, is explained by the fact that Elihu had the better of the argument; and also in the confirmatory words of the Almighty, which only sound in a loftier tone. A condemnation of Elihu would not be possible. The silence of Job is accounted for by the fact qui tacet consentit. 4. It is hardly necessary to reply to this and the remaining objections. If the poet has given to the three opponents of Job favorite words and forms, as is acknowledged, then it is not strange that Elihu, who in other respects is so unlike the rest, should in this matter have a more marked character. This would be in perfect accordance with the entire structure and with the art of the poet. Besides, every unprejudiced reader must have observed that the words and forms used by Elihu which are peculiar and belong to the Aramaean, are not found equally in all the sections but are assembled in particular places, while other sections are free; the first chapters are mostpeculiar. This difference would be designed. An interpolator would have made no distinction of this kind. Positive arguments for the genuineness of the passage are not wanting. Words, forms, connections, entirely peculiar to Job, or found but seldom elsewhere, occur in the Elihu section. In both parts the same rare grammatical forms, constructions and anomalies occur, e. g. the connection of the auxiliary with the principal verb without the intervention of a particle, 32:22. 10:16. There is a striking analogy between Job and Proverbs in the use of language. This similarity is found in the Elihu-section as well as in the other parts of Job. The structure of the poetry is also the same throughout.]

4) The portion of the text included in brackets is taken from the Commentary on 27:1–10, to which reference is made at the place in the Introduction in which it has been introduced by us, for the sake of giving Hirzel’s full answer to the objection he is considering. — Trans.

5) What is contained in brackets is introduced from the Commentary. — Trans.

6) [From the mention of Job, along with Noah and Daniel, Ezek. 14:14, 20, it would seem to follow that Job’s history was as well known as that of the two others. Since these two are historical names, so that of Job would not have been added, if his memory rested on a groundless myth, and not on credible tradition. The mention of Job in Tobit 2:11, and James 5:11, show at least that the historical recognition of the person of Job as one who had undergone great sufferings, remained unimpaired.— Vaihinger.]

7) The derivation and signification of the name אְיּוֹב is not certain. Since the older explanations (v. J. H. Michaelis, Adnott. in Hagiogrr. Voll.II. pref. 3.) have been given
up as inadmissible, the derivation wavers at present between איּב and ,used as the Heb. שׁיוּב to return, tropically, to turn one’s self, to be con-verted, and אָיַב, to persecute; consequently, אִיוֹב, either, who returns (to God) is converted, as Job did, after he had a long time contended against God, or, the persecuted (of God), hostilely persecuted, chap. 13:24. 30:21. The first explanation originated with Cromaier and J. D. Michaetis, and has been lately adopted by Ewald, after the modern interpreters and lexicographers had almost unanimously acceded to the latter, which was proposed by Augusti (Introd. to O. T.). The latter lies nearer, and has in its favor the analogy of רלּוֹד, natus, שִׁכּוֹר, ebrius, whilst a corresponding noun-formation from a 15 verb is not so natural in Hebrew. When Ewald remarks, in opposition, that “the persecuted would be an extremely indefinite, but little significant, appellation,” it must, on the other hand, be remembered, that the name which Job received in the mouth of the people, surely connects itself far more readily with the unexampled misfortune which befel him, the guiltless, than with his “conversion after wicked despondency.” Luther introduced the mode of writing Hiob, departing from the LXX. and the Vulg ue (᾿Λώβ, Job), as it seems, in order to distinguish איּוֹב from יוֹב, Gen. 46:13, whose name he writes Job.

8) [ Hirzel’s proofs that the book of Job was written in Egypt do not strike us as very weighty. It would have been perfectly easy for a native of Palestine to have obtained ail the knowledge of Egypt, which appears in the book, from commercial intercourse, from the reports of travellers, from a personal visit, etc. Palestine was the centre of a most active traffic between Egypt, Syria, Babylonia, etc. Caravans were in constant motion. The writer’s acquaintance with mining, ch. 28, it is thought, presupposes a residence in Egypt, in the upper part of which there were mines. But he could have obtained all his knowledge of the subject by the reports of travellers, and from other countries, where there were mines, eg, Arabia. In short, there seems no ground to doubt that the book was written by a Hebrew in Palestine. It appears to be genuine in all its parts, complete in itself, forming a beautiful whole. — E.]