Bible Study: Old Testament Books
The Book of Job
What is the cause of afflictions which beset the just?
THE OUTLINE OF THE BOOK
The Book of Job is arranged as a drama, and the various stages in its development may be presented as follows:
A. Chapters 1-2. The Prologue. Job's prosperity; Satan obtains from God power to touch first his substance and then his person.
B. Chapters 3-31. The dialogue between Job and his three friends.
a. Chapters 3-14. The First Scene.C. Chapters 32-37. A new speaker now appears upon the scene. Eliu has been a silent listener to the dispute, but can now contain himself no longer. He argues that Job is wrong in failing to recognize that God's punishments may often be rather medicinal than vindictive, they may be meant as a timely reminder to a man that he is in God's hand.Chapter 3. Job curses the day of his birth; his three friends, each in turn, insinuate that he must have sinned, else God could not so afflict him.b. Chapters 15-21. The Second Scene. The three friends return to the charge and, each in turn, insist in yet stronger terms that Job has sinned.
Chapters 4-5. Eliphaz rebukes him for his want of patience, 4:6, urges that he must have sinned, and, 5:17, bids him confess.
Chapters 6-7. Job answers Eliphaz; 6:11, he has not lost patience; 6:25-30, he maintains his innocence.
Chapter 8. Baldad takes up the thread; Job must have sinned, 8:6.
Chapters 9-10. Job answers Baldad; no man is justified before God, 9:2, cf. 14:16; he insists on this, 9:20; but he confesses that he is puzzled, 10:2-14.
Chapter 11. Saphar takes up the charge, and, in explicit terms, accuses Job of sin; xi. 4, Job has insisted on his innocence, yet Baldad hopes that God will convince Job of sin, 11:5-6.
Chapters 12-14. Job answers Baldad; his friends mock him, 12:4; they lie, 13:4; but his trust is absolute, 13:15; he reiterates his innocence, 13:18.Chapter 15. Eliphaz declares that he is wicked and blasphemous, 15:5; he paints in awful colors the fate of the wicked.c. Chapters 22-31. The Third Scene. Definite charges are now brought against Job.
Chapters 16-17. Job is content to reiterate his innocence, 16:18, 17:2.
Chapter 18. Baldad angrily insists that Job is a wicked man; he again, in vivid colors, paints the lot of the wicked.
Chapter 19. Job once more replies that he is innocent, 19:6; he complains of his friends treatment of him, 19:21; he makes an explicit declaration of his faith in the existence of his Redeemer, and in his own future Resurrection, 19:25-29.
Chapter 20. Sophar accuses Job of pride, and he too insists on the awful fate which awaits the wicked.
Chapter 21. Job retorts that if their doctrine is true they must further explain why the wicked are not, as a matter of fact, punished in this world, rather they prosper.Chapter 22. Eliphaz brings four accusations against him, 22:5-9; he urges him to submit, 22:21.
Chapters 23-24. Job repeats that he is innocent, and demands to be tried before God's tribunal, 23:3-7; he asserts that the wicked will be ultimately punished, 23:8-24:25.
Chapter 25. Baldad briefly declares himself mystified; he repeats Job's assertion that no man is justified in the sight of God. Sophar attempts no reply.
Chapters 26-31. Job's final answer.Chapter 26. God has no need of such pleaders of His cause as these three friends.
Chapter 27. Job again asserts his innocence and dwells upon the fate of the wicked.
Chapter 28. Men search after the precious metals, but who searches after true wisdom?
Chapters 29-30. He contrasts his present state with his former affluence and high position; God has changed in his regard, 30:21.
Chapter 31. He describes in dignified terms the virtues of his past life.
D. Chapters 38-42. 6. God speaks out of the storm. No attention is paid to what Eliu has said, and indeed 38:1, takes up the thread of 31:35, where Job craves that the Almighty may hear him.Chapter 32. Verse 2. Eliu is angry with Job because he had said he was just; he is angry with the three friends because they had given no reasonable answer but had only condemned.
Chapter 33. Verses 12-13. Job is wrong in complaining that God has not answered him.
Chapter 33. Verses 14-30. Sufferings are God's medicine for ,our souls, cf. 36:9-10.
Chapter 34. Verses 9, 37. Job has blamed God.
Chapter 35. Verses 3-7. He has demanded an answer. The dramatic character of the whole is strikingly brought out in 36:27-37:24, where the first mutterings of the storm are heard, cf. Ps. 28. 18??
E. Chapter 42:7-16. The Epilogue. The three friends are sternly rebuked by God; the latter days of Job are more prosperous than those preceding his trials.Chapter 38. What is Job in comparison with his Creator? Beginning with the inanimate creation, 38:4-38, the power of God and the nothingness of man are wonderfully depicted. Next, the animal creation is presented; the lion, the wild goat, the wild ass, the wild ox, the ostrich, the horse, the hawk, the hippopotamus, and the crocodile, 38:39-41:25. In these passages we have the most wonderfully vivid descriptions of the various animals, and some of these descriptions, notably that of the horse, have become classical. Chapter 42. Verses 1-6. Job repents in dust and ashes.
THE OBJECT OF THE BOOKIt may be gauged by the foregoing sketch of its contents. The same problem seems to be proposed as in Pss. 36 and 72, and in Jer. 12, viz. What is the cause of the afflictions which beset the just man?
Job's friends regard all suffering as punishment for sin, and in consequence they look upon God solely as the Judge. Eliu, looking upon God rather as a Father, considers that the sufferings which afflict the just man are God's mercies, they are His medicines so to speak, admonitions which humble a man and so keep him from sin. The Prologue, on the other hand, clearly views the just man's sufferings as probative, they are destined to show forth his virtue and his patience to a wondering world. And this view is tacitly endorsed in the Epilogue. At the same time, three subsidiary lessons are inculcated:
(a) when the just man is afflicted we are not to see in his sufferings the punishment of sin, cf. St. John 9:1-3;
(b) it is foolish for the sufferer to call God in question, and this seems to have been Job's mistake, cf. chapter 3 and 39:22;
(c) God will finally have mercy, and it is here that Job so signally triumphs; he is downcast and puzzled but he never for an instant loses faith.
THE HISTORICAL CHARACTER OF THE BOOKThree main views have been held:
(a) the whole is strictly historical, some of the Rabbis appear to have held this;Thus note:
(b) there is nothing historical about it, it is the creation of a poetical mind and simply intended to point a moral, so Theodore of Mopsuestia, d. 428, he regarded the book as pure fiction, and thought it was modeled upon some of the Greek dramas;
(c) the more probable view is that the story has a historical foundation in the sense that Job actually existed, cf. Ezech. 14:14, 20, Tob. 2:12, 15; St. Jas. 5:11., but that the treatment is not historical.
(a) the artificial character of the Prologue,At the same time, that the main features are historical may be argued from the definite mention of the land of Hus, cf. Gen. 22:21, 36:28, Lam. 4:21. The attempt has been made to identify Job with the Jobab who reigned in Edom, Gen. 36:33-34, 1 Paral. 1:44-45; but this is due to the LXX. addition, from the Syriac, to the closing chapter of Job, it is apparently nothing more than a guess.
(b) the way in which God is introduced as disputing with Job;
(c) the dramatic introduction of the storm;
(d) the symbolic numbers in the Prologue, Epilogue, and the three friends;
(e) the ideal nature of the calamities;
(f) the artificial and highly-wrought dialogues.
THE DATE OF THE BOOKThe Hebrew of the book is exceedingly difficult, and often very archaic in form; hence, in default of any evidence to the contrary, it is legitimate to argue an early date for the composition. The arguments from internal evidence are precarious; critics who hold that the Pentateuch is in the main a post-Exilic work and that Deuteronomy only dates from about 621 B.C., urge that the similarities between Job and Deut. 28 make for the late date of the former. It is also urged that the minute and thorough discussion of so complex a moral problem demands a long previous history. Striking parallels can be shown between Job and the Psalter, the Book of Proverbs and the Prophecies of Jeremias, but it is next to impossible to say with which lies the priority. Whoever the author was, and at what ever time he lived, he must have been well acquainted with the desert, thus note the similes drawn from the desert-life and the vivid pictures of desert scenery; 6:5, 4:10-11, 6:15, 7:2, 8:10-11, 9:26, etc. Note, too, the description of the Bedouin tribes, 24:2-13, 30:1-8; the picture of patriarchal life, 29; the living pictures of the desert animals, 28:39-42:5; the description of the working of the mines, 28:1-11; the whirlwind, 3:6, 9:17, 38:1. At the same time the author knows of agriculture, 5:5, 26, 6:5, 24:3-4; he is acquainted with life in cities, 29:7, 24:12, 31:21, 39:7; and he has seen the ships of the sea, 9:26.
THE STYLEThe dramatic form of the book causes it to stand apart in the Bible, and, as we have no other example of the Hebrew dramatic style, the difficulty experienced in following the thought is very great. Add to this that the style is often involved, while the sudden changes of speaker, the interrogations and exclamations which abound, increase the difficulty. The Prologue and the Epilogue are in prose, but the body of the Book is in poetical form as Origen and St. Jerome remarked long ago. The latter, indeed, regards it as composed in hexameters and other meters. It is interesting to compare the style of Job's speeches with those put in the mouths of his friends; the latter are often intentionally turgid while the former, though impassioned, have a dignity about them which is very striking. The construction of the drama is peculiar. As already pointed out, the solution of the problem is plainly indicated at the outset in the Prologue and is only tacitly assumed in the Epilogue. But a great deal of difficulty is caused by the intrusion of Eliu; there are not wanting critics who hold that his speeches did not form part of the original book, but were inserted later. The reasons alleged are that:
(a) his name is not mentioned either in the Prologue or in the Epilogue,On the other hand, it must be confessed that without Eliu's speeches the discussion would be very incomplete, for the notion that sufferings might be due to God's Fatherly desire to prevent a man from sinning would naturally occur to the framer of the drama. Moreover, Eliu's references to the storm which is rapidly coming up prepare the way for God's address from the whirlwind. And there would seem to be great dramatic skill in the omission of all reply to, Eliu, for he was not wrong, his doctrine was sound. Lastly it should be noted that his speeches are couched in very obscure and very unusual Hebrew and are therefore, presumably, equally ancient with the rest of the Book.
(b) Neither does Job reply to his charges,
(c) The divine answer in 38 completely disregards Eliu and takes up the thread from 31:35.
(d) Unlike the friends he addresses Job by name and even seems, 33:9-11, to quote his actual words as though he had read the book.
St. Jerome translated the Book of Job twice, first from the LXX., adding those portions which were in the Hebrew, but omitted in the Greek; and later, directly from the Hebrew. In his Preface to the former translation he says:
"Such is the force of custom that even errors confessed to be such please some folk; they would rather have their books beautiful than correct! Wherefore, my Paula and Eustochium, receive with joy Job entire and unspotted, after, among the Latins, lying so long on his dunghill befouled with the worms of error... Wherever you see obeli in this my text know that the passage which follows is not in the Hebrew; and where you see asterisks know that what follows is added from the Hebrew."In his Preface to the later translation, direct from the Hebrew, he says:
"If you take away the portions marked with asterisks you will cut away the larger part of the book -- I am speaking only of the text the Greeks have. But as to that which the Latins have, previous to the publication of my recent translation, with obeli and asterisks, practically seven or eight hundred verses were wanting."He then gives a most interesting account of his method in translating:
"This translation follows no one ancient interpreter, but you will find in it now the very words, now the sense, of either the Hebrew or the Arabic, or sometimes even of the Syriac. For even the Hebrews allow that there is an indirectness and a slipperiness about the book. It is what the Greek Rhetoricians describe as: tricked out with figures of speech, and while it says one thing it does another. To translate it is like trying to hold fast an eel or a lamprey, the tighter you grasp it the more it slips away. I remember that when I wanted to understand this book, I paid no trifling sum to a teacher from Lydda who was considered by the Hebrews to be one of the best. Whether I profited by his teaching I know not; one thing, however, I do know: I could not translate it till I understood it."
THE THEOLOGYThe problem discussed in the book necessarily involves much theological teaching. The old patriarchal name for God, El-Shaddai, or the Almighty, frequently occurs, and there is a constant parallelism between this title and the name God, cf. 6:10, etc. Nowhere in the Bible have we such clear teaching regarding the divine attributes, 9:1-15, 10, 12, 23, 26. The underworld, hell or the grave, is spoken of again and again, 7:9, 10:21-22, 14:13, 17:13, 24:16, 26:5-6, 38:17. The fate of the wicked is plainly set forth by Job, 21, 27:8-23, and still more plainly by his friends. Job expresses his belief in a judgment to come, 19:29; and in 14:13-16, 16:22-23, hopes that his innocence will then be declared. And it should be noticed that, while most strenuously maintaining his innocence, Job never denies the innate sinfulness of man, cf. 9:2, etc.; his doctrine is that sinful man has nothing to do but trust, and his own declarations of trustfulness are wonderful, 13:15, 16:18-23, 19:25-27, 23:3-4. The picture of the court of heaven with its angels, and the intrusion of Satan, 1:6, 2:1, 4:18, 15:15, 38:7, should be compared with that in 3 Kings 22.
THE NATURAL HISTORYWe have already referred to the pictures of animal life which abound; it remains to note that the rhinoceros, in 29:9, etc., is more probably the wild-ox; the translation cock in 38:36, is much disputed; some take it to be the "human mind," so R.V., but in the margin meteor; St. Jerome derived his translation presumably from his Hebrew teacher, for in the Rabinical treatises the Hebrew word here used means "a hen." The Douay version is often obscure, and in some places needs emendation, cf. 5:7, 12:5, 32:21-22, 41:23, 42:6, in D.V. and in R.V.
By Very Rev. Hugh Pope, O.P., S.T.M.
Doctor in Sacred Scripture,
Member of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, and
late Professor of New Testament Exegesis at the Collegio Angelico, Rome.
FR. R. L. JANSEN, O.P.
S. THEOL. LECT.; SCRIPT. S. LICENT. ET PROF.
FR. V. ROWAN
S. THEOL. LECT.; SCRIPT. S. LICENT. ET VET. TEST. PROF. AGGREG. IN UNIV. FRIBURGENSI (HELVET).
FRANCISCUS CARDINALIS BOURNE