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less than a thousand years; some placing it anterior to Moses, and others subsequent to the Babylonish exile. And, as to its authorship, it has been ascribed, among others whose names are unknown, to Job himself, to Elihu, to Moses, to Solomon, and to Ezra.
“The name of our minstrel sage,” says Umbreit, “has perished in the oblivion of antiquity ; but his brilliant genius, like a star of the first magnitude, points from the shades to the Almighty brightness, which spreads over all worlds the etherial light of Divine love." Herder, “will point us to the grave of him whose soul kindled with these Divine conceptions, to whom was vouchsafed such access to the counsels of God, to angels, and the souls of men, who embraced in a single glance the heavens and the earth, and who could send forth his living spirit, his poetic fire, and his human affections to all that exists, from the land of the shadow of death, to the starry firmament, and beyond the stars ? No cypress, flourishing in unfading green, marks the place of his rest. With his unuttered name he has consigned to oblivion all that was earthly, and leaving his book for a memorial below, is engaged in a yet nobler song, in that world where the morning stars sing together.”
From a misapprehension of the meaning of chap. xxxii: 16—17, Lightfoot supposed that Elihu composed or arranged the dialogue in its present form. But the passage, accurately rendered, does not imply any claim to authorship. The opinion was early entertained, that Ezra composed the book subsequent to the return of the Jews from the Babylonish exile. This opinion, after being permitted to sleep for many years, was revived by Le Clerc, and warmly supported by Warburton. But no one who has compared the acknowledged writings of Ezra with Job, can for a moment soberly entertain such an idea. Several recent-critics have assigned the composition of the poem to the period of the exile, without being able to arrive at any definite result as to its author. But a decisive argument against this position is derived from the language in which it is written, which is remarkably pure, and free from those Chaldaisms which constantly occur in the books written about that time. The alleged Chaldaisms which have been pointed out, may be explained equally well as Arabisms, and these indicate a very early, instead of a modern origin. Eichhorn remarks in reference to this point: “Let him who is qualified for such researches, only read first a writing tainted with Aramæisms, and next the Book of Job, and he will find them di
verging as east from west. There is no example of an independent original work composed in pure language after the exile." Equally conclusive is the finished poetical character of the book. The force of this argument is acknowledged even by Ewald, who says: “The high skill displayed in this book cannot be well expected from later centuries, when poetry had by degrees generally declined, and particularly in the higher art required by large compositions ; and language so concise and expressive as that of our author, is not found in writings of later times.” The assertion of several recent expositors, that the doctrine of Satan, who is introduced in the prologue of the book, was of Chaldæan origin, and obtained credit among the Jews during the Babylonish exile, and that consequently we must assign a very late period to the composition of Job, has been shown by Hengstenberg and other interpreters to be undoubtedly erroneous.
We have historical evidence of the existence of this book at an earlier period than the exile. That it must have been written and well known before the time of Jeremiah, and consequently before the time of King Josiah and the Babylonish captivity, is evident from the following considerations. The book was undoubtedly known to Jeremiah. Compare Jer. xx: 14-18, with Job, iïi : 3—10; and Jer. xvii: 1, with Job, xix: 24. There are also passages in the Lamentations of Jeremiah, in which allusion is clearly made to this book. Compare Lam. iii: 7-9, with Job, xix : 8; and Lam. ii: 15—16, with Job, xii : 4. That Job was the earlier composition is evident from a comparison of the writings of each respectively, Jeremiah shows himself throughout dependent on previous authors; while Job, on the contrary, exhibits decided marks of originality and independence. It is clear, therefore, that the writer of Job did not imitate Jeremiah, but the reverse.
Cotemporary with Jeremiah was Ezekiel. The passage (xiv : 14—20) in the writings of this prophet, already alluded to, proves, we think, conclusively that Job was well known to him as an eminently pious man, that he and his cotemporaries were acquainted with the remarkable circumstances of his history, and that his information was obtained
not from uncertain tradition, but from an authentic source. It would seem to be morally certain not only that Job lived prior to the age of both these prophets, but that his life had then been depicted in the book which we possess. In the book of Amos, still earlier, there are two passages which correspond in a striking manner with the Book of Job. Compare Amos, iv: 13, (also Isa. xl: 22,) with Job, ix :8; and Amos, v: 8, with Job, ix : 9. The coincidences in these cases are such as could hardly have been fortuitous, but indicate either that Amos was acquainted with the Book of Job, or that the author of the Book of Job was acquainted with the Book of Amos. That Job, and not Amos, is the original, is evident from the fact that the expressions in Job are much stronger and bolder than in Amos, and have also the whole connexion on their side. Now Amos prophesied nearly two hundred years earlier than Jeremiah, (B. C., 798—784,) and the Book of Job must have been composed considerably earlier than that of Amos. The coincidence between the Book of Job and that of Proverbs, both in the general views of the Divine administration indicated in the two works, and in numerous forms of expression, shows that the former must have been written before the time of Solomon, and that the royal poet was quite familiar with it. Some critics have in ferred from this resemblance that Solomon was the author of Job. But besides the fact that no mention is made of Job among the works of Solomon, (1 Kings, v: 12—13; iv: 32–33,) the poetical style and the manner of thinking are totally different in Job from what they are in the acknowledged productions of Solomon. The poetry of the latter is characterized by brilliancy; that of the former by sublimity. Several of the Davidic Psalms (xxxvii and xxxix) are so nearly related to the Book of Job in respect to the leading thought and the form of expression, that we can hardly doubt the royal Psalmist was acquainted with the latter. It would seem, then, from what has been said, that the Book of Job had been committed to writing, and was considered as authoritative before the times of David and Solomon. And on examining the book itself, we discover nothing which could not have been written be
fore the exodus from Egypt, but very much which goes to show that it must have been written prior to that event. There are various allusions to historical.circumstances which occurred anterior, but to none which transpired in connexion with or subsequent to the exodus. “Now it is improbable,” says Jahn, “that a writer posterior to this event should have possessed so much ingenuity and art, as to transfer himself entirely to such a remote antiquity, and, altogether unmindful of the events of his own age, to write as if he had lived antecedently to the exode. Nor is it easy to conceive that a Hebrew of Palestine should acquire such a profound knowledge of Egypt and Arabia, as the author of this book exhibits.” The writer appears to have at least heard of the river Jordan, (xl: 23,) but there is no such reference to Palestine, as would lead us to suppose that he was an inhabitant, or had ever been a visitor, of that country. We must look beyond the Holy Land, then, for the author of this book, and to a period antecedent to the exode. In the earliest Jewish mention of the book which has come down to our times, (the Babylonish Talmud,) it is ascribed to Moses as its author. This opinion prevailed with the Jewish Rabbins, and with many of the Greek and Syrian Fathers. And it has been adopted in modern times by Michaelis, Kennicot:, Jahn, Dathe, Good, Dr. Conant, and other distinguished scholars. If the great Jewish lawgiver was the author of the work, it must have been written by him before the departure of Israel from the land of Egypt. There is very much to favor this opinion. Midian, where Moses resided for a considerable time, was conterminous with the land of Uz. He was favorably situated, therefore, to become acquainted with the facts relative to the patriarch, whose death could not have occurred long before. He was eminently qualified for the composition of such a work. His education, his poetic genius, his thorough knowledge of the Hebrew language, his intimate acquaintance with the scenery and natural history both of Arabia and Egypt, admirably fitted him for the undertaking. The book appears well adapted to console the Israelites under the yoke of Egyptian bondage, and to impress on their minds the great duties of submission to the will of God in
adversity, and implicit confidence in his over-ruling Providence. The hypothesis that it was written by Moses, antecedently to the promulgation of the law, furnishes us also with a satisfactory explanation of the fact, that a work having nothing whatever to do with the Jewish religion, polity, or manners, should have been admitted into the sacred canon, and regarded with such veneration by that remarkable people. An objection, however, has been urged against this view, founded on the style which characterizes the
poetic portion of the work. Bishop Lowth, whose judgment in regard to a question of this kind is entitled to high respect, does not hesitate to pronounce the style of Job to be materially different from that of Moses, even in his poetic compositions. Michaelis also admits the force of this remark. Herder says:
“I rank Moses very high as a poet, but find no more evidence that he wrote the Book of Job than that Solon wrote the Iliad, or the Eumenides of Æschylus. I can boast, I believe, of having studied the poetry of Moses, and this, also, without prejudice. I make allowance, too, for the difference which a change of circumstances, age, occupation, etc., would produce. Still they appear to me as directly opposed to each other as the east and the west. The poetical style of Job is throughout concise, full of meaning, forcible, heroic, always, I may say, in the loftiest tone of expression and the boldest imagery. Moses, even in the sublimest passages, has a more flowing and gentle style. The very peculiarities in the style of Moses, and in the arrangement of his imagery, are foreign to this book. The voice to which we are here listening, comes forth in rough and interrupted tones from among the rocks, and can never have been trained in the low and level plains of Egypt.”
In view of this objection, Lowth, Magee, Lee, Barnes and many others, have adopted the opinion that the body of the work was written by Job himself, and fell into the hands of Moses while in Midian, who, perhaps, wrote the introduction and conclusion, and published it among the Hebrews as a part of Divine revelation. We are furnished with the most direct and positive testimony in the poem itself, that the writing as well as publishing of books was known in the time of Job.-(xix: 23—24; xxxi: 35.) Job, moreover, lived after his calamities one hundred and forty years, during which ample leisure would be found by him to make a record of his trials. The sufferings he endured, also, were so peculiar, and the lessons they were designed to teach