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THE BOOK OF JOB

GEORGE A. BARTON

INTRODUCTION

THE book of Job belongs to the “Wisdom" literature of the Hebrews. Other books belonging to this class of writings are Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, among canonical books; Ecclesiasticus (or the Wisdom of the Son of Sirach) and the Wisdom of Solomon, among Old Testament Apocrypha. Of all these books Job is the greatest both in religious depth and in literary power. The “ Wisdom” literature was produced by Israel's sages. In their way they made a contribution to Israel's religious thought as important as that of priests or prophets.

GENERAL ANALYSIS OF THE BOOK As the text of the Book of Job stands it falls into the following divisions :

1. The Prologue; chs. I, 2. This is in prose. 2. Job's Wail of Despair; ch. 3.

3. The great Debate between Job and his Friends on Suffering; chs. 4-31. Chs. 3–31 are in poetry.

4. The Elihu Speeches. Chs. 32-37. Of these 32:1-6a are in prose and the rest in poetry.

5. Jehovah's Address and the final Colloquy between Jehovah and Job; 38:1-42:6, in poetry.

6. The Epilogue; 42:7-17, in prose.

THE STORY OF JOB AND THE POEM BY DIFFERENT AUTHORS

It requires no very profound study of Job to convince one that the prologue and epilogue are not the work of the poet who wrote the bulk of the book, but that they belong to an old folk tale which he found already in circulation and which he selected to form the plot of his poem. The reasons for this conclusion are: (1) The prologue and epilogue are in prose, while the body of the work is in poetry. (2) In the prologue and epilogue the divine name used is Jehovah, while in the rest of the work it is El, Eloah, and Shaddai, as if Jehovah had been purposely avoided. Once or twice only the author has used Jehovah, apparently by slip of memory. (3) The Job of the prologue differs fundamentally from the Job of the poem. He is patient, submissive, and resigned; the latter is impatient, bitter, and defiant. (4) The words attributed to Jehovah in 42: 7 are incompatible with the present discussion which precedes them. They imply that Eliphaz and his friends had spoken in the strain of Job's wife in 2:9 and that Job had maintained throughout the attitude described in 1:21 and 2:10. (5) The discussion of the poem moves in the realm of spiritual religion and ethical endeavor only. Even Job's friends, who represent the orthodox theology of the day, never suggest that Job should offer sacrifices to atone for his sins; Job in the moment of his repentance never thinks of such a thing. Right doing and a right attitude of soul toward God are in the poem all that is necessary for reconciliation to God. This is the point of view of the great prophets and of the greatest psalmists, such as the authors of Psalms 50 and 51. The prologue and epilogue, on the other hand, represent the old popular, unspiritual ritualistic side of religion in which animal sacrifices formed a prominent feature. (6) The epilogue rewards Job with a double measure of earthly blessings, implying that such blessings are the ultimate rewards of virtue - a doctrine which the poem has vigorously combated. We conclude, therefore, that the prologue and epilogue belonged to an old folk tale and that there once stood between them a description of Job's demeanor under suffering different from that which we now find there - a description which also portrayed the three friends in a different way.

Some confirmation of this view exists in outside sources. Ezekiel 14 : 14 quotes Job, as he does Noah and Daniel (probably Enoch originally stood where Daniel now stands), as examples of men who had been righteous and exemplary under trial. The Job of our poem was certainly not always exemplary, and it is most probable that Ezekiel knew a different form of the story. The author of the Epistle of James (Jas. 5:11), says, “Ye have heard of the patience of Job.” The Job of our poem was anything but patient, and it is probable that the New Testament writer had in mind the same form of the story as Ezekiel. Theodore of Mopsuestia, who died about 428 A.D., bears witness (cf. Migne, LXVI, cols. 697, 698) to the existence in his time of a story of Job as a holy and great prophet, and Theodore charges the author of Job with having taken undue liberties with the story. Mohammed in the Coran (Suras 21:83, 84 and 38:40-44) alludes to Job as to a holy man who was especially favored by God

apparently having in mind this story; and a long Arabic, story about Job in Ath-Thalabi's (died 1035, 1036) Stories of the Prophets exhibits a curious blending of strands from this old popular story and our canonical Job. A translation by Professor Macdonald of this story may be found in the American Journal of Semitic Languages, XIV, 145161. The conclusion reached by a study of the internal evidence is thus confirmed by external testimony. This story the poet took and, substituting his own poetic and powerful treatment of the problem of suffering for the older picture, gave us the work which we now have.

THE ORIGINAL HOME OF THE STORY OF THE PROLOGUE AND

EPILOGUE

In the library of Assurbanipal, king of Assyria from 668 to 626 B.C., a text has been preserved of a story strikingly parallel to the story of Job. It was, as the colophon to the tablet tells us, the second tablet of a series entitled

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