Job

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Job is a book found in the Hebrew Tanakh and the Old Testament of the Christian Bible that tells the story of a man named Job. It has been traditionally and historically considered one of the oldest books in the Bible, though recent scholarship has moved the date of composition to the 4th century B.C.[1]

The Story

Job was a righteous man who feared God and whom God had blessed greatly. God was pleased with Job and spoke highly of him in front of the host of angels, but Satan challenged that Job was not deserving of God's accolades and was only righteous because God put a hedge around him so that his life went well, but Job would quickly turn on God in time of hardship. God removed his hedge of protection and allowed Satan to put his accusation to the test. A series of 4 servants came to Job one after the other telling him of disasters that had befallen his household. When they were done Job knew he had lost his children, flocks, and servants, everything but his own health (which God had forbidden Satan to touch) and his wife. Filled with grief, Job still reacted with righteousness and fell to the ground to worship. "Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." [2]

At another gathering of the host of angels, God commended Job and his righteousness, but Satan again accused him saying that if his own body was touched, then he would curse God to his face. The Lord allowed Satan to act upon his accusation, but commanded the accuser to spare Job's life. Job was afflicted with painful itching sores ("sore boils" [3]) from the soles of his feet to the top of his head, which he scratched constantly with a piece of broken pottery. Job's wife told Job to "Curse God and Die" [4], apparently believing that God would immediately punish blasphemy with death, and that, by this indirect means of committing suicide, death would mercifully end his suffering, but Job refused. (See suicide by cop.)

Three of Job's friends, Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuh, and Zophar from Naamath, all from Edom, came to talk to him, and in a three-fold cycle of long discourses that Job answered, each of them addressing him three times one by one, they implored to him to admit his sins had caused this. Job could not understand what was happening, but he knew it was not due to his sin. He maintained he had been righteous, and heartily desired, even demanded, that God would let him know why all this had happened. Then Elihu, a younger man, having listened to them until Job by his replies had silenced them, and impelled by "the breath of the Almighty", then declares that both Job and his three friends are not right to find fault with God and attribute their limited understandings of justice to the understanding of God; and he concludes his discourse against them by saying of God (37:24b), "he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit" (RSVCE)–the King James Version says, "he respecteth not any that are wise of heart".[5] Finally, at this point, God himself came down in a storm (theophany) to talk to Job. Instead of answering Job's challenges to explain his actions, He asked Job questions such as "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions?" [6]. Job actually saw God with his own eyes speaking out of the whirlwind of the storm,[7] and realized he had no answers for God and could not begin to question things he could not understand.

God then tells Job's three friends that he is enraged with them for their false theology about him, unlike that of Job, and He commands them to give to Job seven bulls and seven rams and offer up for their offense against Him a burnt offering of reparation, and then the prayer of Job in intercession for them will persuade God to not deal with them according to their folly.[8]

And God restored, consoled and blessed Job all of his remaining years, giving him twice the flocks he had before, and 7 new sons and 3 new daughters to match the number he had before.

Historical setting

The author of the book of Job is not known; evidence shows it was composed some time between the 7th and 5th centuries B.C.[9][1]
Some scholars see the story itself as very ancient, even if it was written down in a composition centuries after the events occurred.[10][11]

  • The theophany of Job 37:2–38:2; 42:5-6 is almost identical to the theophany of Ezekiel 1:4, possibly indicating the time of the Exile 6th–5th centuries B.C. "a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness round about it", "Hearken to the thunder of his voice and the rumbling that comes from his mouth", "Out of the north comes golden splendor; God is clothed with terrible majesty" and "The LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind". This is highly speculative. Similarity of phenomena demonstrates nothing about the period of time.
  • The only historical reference is to the Sabeans/Sabaeans and the Chaldeans (a word denoting the Babylonians according to Habakkuk 1:6-11, since he was not referring to the Assyrians). Job 1:13-17. Sabaean rulers are mentioned in Assyrian annals of the late 8th and early 7th centuries B.C. (although some scholars date Sabaean inscriptions to about the 6th century B.C.) [12]
  • The Bible does not say that Job אִיוב and Jobab יובב, the ancient ruler of Edom, are different persons, it does not say they are the same. Genesis 36:33-34. Evidence one way or the other cannot be drawn from the letter of the text of the Bible alone. "This man was the greatest of all the people of the east." Job 1:3. This indicates that Job was a powerful middle-eastern chieftain or prince over vast herds and pasturelands whom only an army would dare attack with impunity. Compare the treaty that King Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army made with Abraham, and that later, accompanied by his royal advisor Ahuzzath and Phicol, Abimelech made with Isaac. Both Abraham and Isaac are said to have been mighty princes. Genesis 21:22-32; 23:5-6; 26:12-14. The Sabaeans who dared to attack Job were a significant power in the east only in the 7th–6th centuries B.C., around the time period of the Babylonian Captivity of the Jews.[13][14][15][16] The Bible speaks of the Sabeans, but this historical fact, the most significant period of their power and influence 7th–6th centuries B.C., cannot be drawn from the letter of the text of the Bible alone. There is archaeologically and historically no evidence of the existence of the Sabaeans as a people predating the 16th century B.C., that is, not before the time of the Exodus from Egypt 1577 B.C. according to a literalist dating of the Bible.[17] (See Literalist Bible chronology.)
  • Job destroys and brings to nothing the wisdom and understanding of the men of Edom, exactly as promised in the Book of Obadiah (v.8) "on that day, says the LORD". God's wrath is kindled against the visiting wise men for not speaking of God what is right, even though their counsels to Job are represented almost verbatim in the books of Psalms and Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, and later in the books of Sirach and Wisdom. They had abused the inspired wisdom sayings that had come from God by applying them wrongly and falsely to an innocent man, according to his outward appearance and his condition, and according to their belief that God will not allow any righteous individual to suffer so terribly. In the canon of the Christian Old Testament Job is placed first, before Psalms and Proverbs. The Jewish Tanakh has Psalms and Proverbs before Job, a rabbinical tradition indicating a later composition of the book after the reigns of David and Solomon.
  • The Book of Obadiah historically appears to belong to the early postexilic period at the end of the 6th century (c. 525–501).[18]
  • Among the heads of their fathers' families who came up from Babylonia to Jerusalem with Ezra the priest in the reign of Artaxerxes the king was Obadiah the son of Jehiel of the sons of Joab. Among those who set their seal to the covenant of obedience to the law written and set down by Ezra was Obadiah (Nehemiah 9). And Obadiah was among the gatekeepers standing guard at the storehouses of the gates of the governor in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua the son of Jozadak the high priest, in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra the priest-scribe. If this Obadiah is the prophet, then the Book of Obadiah dates to the late 6th century B.C., and not to the mid-9th century (845 B.C.), during the reign of Jehoash/Joash of Judah, as some suppose, and not to the earliest decades of the 6th century (586 B.C.), immediately after the fall of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple, as others suppose. The Bible does not say this Obadiah and the prophet of the Book of Obadiah are different persons, it does not say they are the same. No evidence one way or the other can be drawn from the letter of the text of the Bible alone.[13]
  • All of these facts taken together, according to an historical-grammatical method, point to the post-exilic period, around the reign of Cyrus the Persian or later, about the time of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, (Obadiah?), Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. But this cannot be drawn from the letter of the text of the Bible alone. The Book of Job offered devout Jews among the people some explanation for their sufferings during the Exile and after their return to Jerusalem.
  • The Wycliffe Bible Commentary on Obadiah confirms that judgment came upon Edom, starting with the Nabatean invasion soon after the time of Obadiah. Indications that this was already happening at the time the book was written can be seen in Obadiah 1, 6-7.[19]
    According to Strabo, XVI.iv.21 "The Nabataeans and Sabaeans, situated above Syria, are the first people who occupy Arabia Felix. They were frequently in the habit of overrunning this country before the Romans became masters of it, but at present both they and the Syrians are subject to the Romans. The capital of the Nabataeans is called Petra …" (boldface emphasis added)
  • Edom was pushed out of its ancient home by the Arabian tribe of the Nabateans, who seized power, so that many Edomites had to move to the west side of the Dead Sea, to newly acquired land in the northern Negev. Hebron was made the new capital of displaced Edom's new home in exile in south Judah. Other towns were Marisa and Beth-Sur. In the Hellenistic age (which starts with the conquests of Alexander the Great in 333), the name "Idumea" refers to the Negev. The Edomite homeland had been taken over by the Nabataeans, who repelled Greek attacks. The Maccabees, especially John Hyrcanus (c. 125 BC), subdued and Judaized the Edomites.
  • The widely disparate datings of Job himself back to the times of Abraham, or Jacob, or Joseph, or their sons, or Moses, as predating the Exodus, originally comes from the speculations of various rabbis in the Talmud.[20] Most Protestants believe and teach that the Book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible, probably written around the time of Abraham.[21] This has become a traditional teaching. But it cannot be drawn from the letter of the text of the Bible alone. The historical Sabeans are not discussed in Bible studies of the Book of Job.
  • See Pseudepigrapha.
  • Testament of Job

See text of Bible references in this section:
Genesis 21:22-32, Genesis 23:5-6, Genesis 26:12-14, Genesis 36:33-34, Ezra 8:9, Ezra 10:10-12, Nehemiah 9, Nehemiah 10:1-5, Nehemiah 12:25-26, Obadiah 1:1 Obadiah 6-17Job 1:1-3, Job 1:13-15, Job 1:17, Job 37:2–38:2, Job 42:5-6, Ezekiel 1:4, Obadiah 8, Habakkuk 1:6-11

Interpretation

Christian theology often views the fact that God gave Job twice the material possessions he had, but exactly the same number of children as an indication of heaven. Job was only given the same number of children as before instead of double because he would see his original children again in heaven. Job clearly demonstrates the limitations of wisdom, the evil of rash judgment of innocent victims of devastating losses, and the need for patient humility in the midst of persecution. It offered devout Jews among the people some explanation for their sufferings during the Exile and after their return to Jerusalem. James in his New Testament letter "to the twelve tribes of the dispersion" urges his Hebrew Christian brethren suffering persecution to not be discouraged, citing Job as a lesson in patient waiting for the reward of righteousness (James 5:7-11) and not giving up the faith.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Chronology of Jewish literature
  2. Job 1:21
  3. Mayo Clinic.org: Boils and Carbuncles.
    MedlinePlus Trusted Health Information for You. A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. From the National Institutes of Health. Boils. (nlm.nih.gov)
  4. Job 2:9
  5. Job 32–37
  6. Job 38:4-5
  7. Job 42:5-6
  8. Compare James 5:16multiple translations.
  9. New American Bible, Book of Job, prefatory notes. Catholic commentary on Job, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (usccb.org)
  10. Truth Behind Reality: The Biblical Book of Job – Is It Old or Real Old? Posted on March 29, 2011
  11. Jewish Encyclopedia: The Book of Job
  12. Encyclopedia Phoenicia: Sabaeans (phoenicia.org)
    Encyclopaedia Britannica: Sabaeans.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "The Bible is not completely self-interpreting. We can gain much from thorough reading of the text itself, and frequently from comparison of various passages in the Bible. Still, we often require aid from outside the Bible itself." Hyatt, The Heritage of Biblical Faith , p. 45.
  14. (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary © 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers) Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Bible Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8054-2836-0. 
  15. "Generation", Trent C. Butler, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, pp. 634–635.
  16. The period of Job cannot reliably be drawn from a calculation of the generations in the Torah.
    Genesis 15:13-16 apparently equates 400 years with four generations.
    Numbers 32:11-13 may reckon a generation as 60 years; it included people 20 and above giving them 40 more years to die; or a generation may be interpreted as the 40 years of adulthood between ages 20 and 60.
    Job 42:16 states that after his tragedies Job lived 140 years and saw four generations, making a generation about 35 years.
    2 Kings 10:30 and 2 Kings 15:12 relate God's promise to Jehu that his sons would rule to the fourth generation, apparently meaning four sons: Jehu began ruling about 841 B.C., his first son Jehoahaz about 814 B.C., and in the fourth generation Zechariah of Israel died about 752 B.C.: five generations ruling less than 90 years, the four sons (four generations) ruling about 60 years, a generation averaging fewer than 20 years.
    The text of Psalms 49:11 (49:12) יב קִרְבָּם בָּתֵּימוֹ, לְעוֹלָם-- מִשְׁכְּנֹתָם, לְדוֹר וָדֹר; קָרְאוּ בִשְׁמוֹתָם, עֲלֵי אֲדָמוֹת. in the literal Hebrew expression "generation דור and generation דור " actually means in its most literal sense "through all generations" or "forever". In Numbers 10:8 "to your (his, their) generations" similarly means forever. This is a peculiarly Hebrew idiom.
    Source—"Generation", Trent C. Butler, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, p. 634b.
    In Strong's Concordance, Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary of the Old Testament, the sign × (multiplication) denotes a rendering in the KJV that results from an idiom peculiar to the Hebrew:
    "GENERATIONS
    ". . .
    "Psalm 49:11 and their dwelling places to all g.......1755.
    1755. דור dôre, dore; or (shortened) דר dôr, dore...× evermore, generation, [n-]ever, posterity."
  17. THE SABAEAN INSCRIPTIONS AT ADI KAWEH–EVIDENCE SUPPORTING THE NARRATIVE OF THE SHEBA-MENELIK CYCLE OF THE KEBRA NAGAST (earliest datings 1400 B.C.)
  18. "Obadiah", Leslie C. Allen, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, p.1205.
  19. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, June 1, 1962, by Charles F. Pfeiffer (Editor), Everett F. Harrison (Editor) 1552 pages. Publisher: Moody Publishers; 1st edition (June 1, 1962) ISBN-10: 0802496954 ISBN-13: 978-0802496959.
  20. Jewish Encyclopedia: Job
  21. LaVista Church of Christ: Which Book is the Oldest in the Bible? Posted November 3, 2007 (lavistachurchofchrist.org)
    The Scroll Eaters: The Oldest Book: Job 1–5. Posted on January 24, 2011 (thescrolleaters.wordpress.com)
    Job the man – Web encyclopedia – Christian answers.net