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ART. V. --THE BOOK OF JOB.
els , Hrustad heee The Book of Job. Part I. The Common English Version,
the Hebrew Text, and the Revised Version, with Critical and Philological Notes. By THOMAS J. CONANT, D.D., Professor of Sacred Literature in Rochester Theological
Seminary. N. Y.: American Bible Union. 1856. 4to. The Book of Job. Part II. A Translation from the Orig
inal Hebrew, on the Basis of the Common and Earlier English Versions. With an Introduction and Explanatory Notes for the English Reader. For the American Bible Union. By THOMAS J. CONANT, D.D., Professor of Sacred Literature in Rochester Theological Seminary. 1856. 4to.
THE Book of Job must be regarded as in many respects the most remarkable literary production which has come down to our age. Its great antiquity, the obscurity in which every topic connected with its history is involved, the interesting nature of the subject discussed, the sublimity of its ideas, the beauty and purity of its diction, the marks of genius and erudition displayed by the author, the dignified and lofty character of its hero, and the religious and ethical instruction which it imparts, render it peculiarly attractive and valuable to the Christian, the scholar, and the man of cultivated taste and feeling. The book is unique, the only one of the kind with which antiquity has furnished us. There is nothing like it in the range of Grecian, Roman or modern literature. It stands isolated and alone, unrivalled as a work of art among the inspired pages of Hebrew Scripture. di
in this book,” says Herder, “are pearls from the depths of the ocean, loosely arranged, but precious; treasures of knowledge and wisdom in sayings of the olden times.” “ The Book of Job,” says Dr. Conant, “stands at the head of the poetical portions of the Old Testament, in respect to unity of conception and sustained dignity, beauty, and power of execution. The sublime religious lessons which it is
designed to teach, take form in a dramatic poem, whose strains of tragic grandeur and elegiac tenderness, its magnificent pictures of nature, and perpetually varied graces of imagery and expression, claim for it a place among the brightest gems of literature. The inexhaustible richness of poetic material must impress every attentive reader. All along the main track of thought, the virgin soil throws up unnumbered flowers to delight and prolong the way.”
If the origin of this poem is rightly ascribed to a period antecedent to the exode of the Israelites from Egypt, then it is not only the earliest composition in the Old Testament, but the most ancient book in existence. Every thing relating to the literature and interpretation of such a book cannot fail to be of interest. Accordingly no part of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Psalter excepted) has more occupied the attention, and exercised the skill and ingenuity of critics and commentators than this. Many are the inquiries in respect to it, upon which a vast amount of literary labor and erudition have been expended. The time of its composition, its author, the country in which the scene is laid, the nature of the poem, and its design,—these are among the numerous points on which a diversity of opinion has existed, and still exists, among the learned.
The first question of interest which is suggested to the mind of the reader on opening the book is, to what department of literature does this poem belong; to that of history or of fiction ? Had Job, whose trials and sufferings are here recorded, a real existence, and are the circumstances related concerning him substantially true? Has the work an historical basis; or is it purely the product of the imagination? Some have regarded it as a parable, constructed by the pious and ingenious author, to inculcate in the most impressive manner, certain great religious principles and duties. In the earliest Rabbinical notice of the book which has reached us, it is thus spoken of: “Job never was created; these things are a parable.”—(Babylonish TalmudBara Batha.) This opinion was revived by the celebrated Maimonides in the twelfth century, and has been adopted in later times by Le Clerc, Semler, Michælis, Stock, and others. About the middle of the last century the notion prevailed to some extent in England, that the Book of Job is an allegory. In 1749 Garnett, in a dissertation on the
book, endeavored to show that it is an allegory in a dramatic form; that the Babylonish captivity is its principal subject, and that the three friends who came to visit Job in his affliction, represent the children of Edom condoling with the Hebrews in their captivity. Soon after followed the celebrated Bishop Warburton, in his learned and ingenious work on the Divine Legation of Moses. He maintained with Garnett, that the book is an allegory and a drama; that it was composed after the return of the Jews from Babylonia; and that its design was to symbolize the national troubles at that period of Jewish history. Job, according to the Bishop, represents the Jewish people; his wife the idolatrous women, (compare Ezra, ix: 1–2, with whom the Jews had contracted marriage ; his daughters, the daughters of Ishmael ; his three friends, the three chief enemies of the Jews, who obstructed their efforts to re-build the temple ; namely, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem; (compare Neh. ii: 19) while Elihu designates the author of the poem himself. About the same time, Dr. Hodges published a work entitled, “Elihu ; or, an Inquiry into the Principal Scope and Design of the Book of Job.” With Jerome, he held that Job is a type of Christ; that Elihu was the Son of God himself; and that the object of the book is to reveal and establish the doctrine of justification! After such ridiculous trifling on the part of Christian expositors, we are not surprised at the confession of Warburton himself, contained in a letter to his friend, Bishop Hurd. 6 Poor Job! It was his eternal fate to be persecuted by his friends. His three friends passed sentence of condemnation upon him, and he has been executed in effiyy ever since. He was first bound to the stake by a long catena of Greek Fathers; then tortured by Pineda ; then strangled by Caryl; and afterwards cut in pieces by Weslėy, and anatomized by Garnett. I only acted the tender part of his wife, and was for making short work with him. But he was ordained, I think, by a fate like that of Prometheus, to lie still upon his dunghill,
, and have his brains sucked out by owls." The question relative to the character of the work, as historical or fictitious, is not, we apprehend, so vital a one as many are dis
posed to regard it. It is not material to the correct interpretation of the poem generally, nor to its practical utility; nor does it affect its canonical authority, or its divine inspiration. Even our Saviour, we know, frequently employed the vehicle of parable and fiction for the illustration and enforcement of divine truth. No doubt, however, the moral impression is greatly heightened by the conviction, that the circumstances related in the book actually occurred. And this we believe to be the fact. We have not been able to discover any substantial reason for regarding the hero of this book as a fictitious personage. The fact of his existence is expressly asserted in the beginning of the book, and the narrative respecting him, written in simple and unadorned prose, and not in poetry, as Stock, Good, and a few others have imagined, has every appearance of being a veritable record of actual occurrences. Job, moreover, is spoken of in such a manner by the inspired writers of the Scriptures, as to leave no reasonable doubt, that they regarded him as a historical personage. The prophet Ezekiel thus speaks of him: “ Though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job, were in it, (the land,) they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God.”—(xiv: 14; compare v. 16-20.) No one ever doubted that Noah and Daniel are historical persons. Is it not equally clear that Ezekiel believed in the actual existence of Job also ? Take a parallel passage in Jeremiah : (xV: 1) “ Then said the Lord unto me, though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be towards this people.” Here Moses and Samuel are spoken of as real characters, in the same way as Job is alluded to in Ezekiel. The appeal in Ezekiel would have been of no force in reference to a fictitious person. And the supposition that the prophet would unite real and fictitious persons in this way, is destitute of all probability. Not a solitary instance, unless this be one, can be found in the sacred volume, of such a juxtaposition. We have here, then, the testimony of the prophet Ezekiel, or rather of Jehovah himself speaking by the prophet, that Job was a real person. The following passage occurs in the Epistle of James : (v: 11) “ Ye have heard of the
tience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord ; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.”
Is there any reason to doubt that James, in this passage, intended to refer to the actual sufferings and patience of a real person, and to the happy termination which the Lord put to those sufferings? The Apostle speaks of Job here just as he does of Elijah in verse seventeen. It has been said, indeed, that if James had not only written, “Ye have heard of the patience of Job," but also, “ Ye have heard of the benevolence of the good Samaritan,” no reader would have felt surprised, or considered himself authorized to infer that James regarded the good Samaritan as a historical person. But has James done this? Or has any other sacred writer done the like? Most certainly not. It will be time enough to admit the truth of the allegation, after the fictitious character of Job,—the thing here taken for granted,-has been proved, or when the appeal can be made to an analogous
If we examine the book itself, we shall find that it bears all the marks of being a true history. Not only is the name of the suffering hero given, and the place of his abode, but his possessions and family are minutely described, and all the prominent traits of his character,—his piety, his integrity, his faith, his patience, his dignity, his fortitude,-are distinctly exemplified. The numerous localities specified in the book are all real, and the names are none of them significant, except, perhaps, Job, which is supposed to mean the persecuted. The book, taken as a whole, has none of the characteristic marks of a parable. Parables are always concise. We do not find, or expect to find, in this species of composition, a minute specification of particulars respecting the parties concerned, which have no bearing on the point specially aimed at, such as their genealogy, the circumstances of their families, their childdren, friends, age, wealth, etc., which we meet with here. Details of this description are omitted, and such only as are immediately connected with its scope and design, or are indispensable to the verisimilitude of the parable, are introduced. The reason for such omission is obvious. To dwell