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DATE OF THE BOOK OF JOB.
There appeared in a late number of the German periodical, the Studien und Kritiken, the following ingenious and erudite disquisition, from the pen of F. G. Vaihinger, on the vexed but interesting subject of the age of the Book of Job. An excellent version of it soon after appeared in the London Biblical Review, which we have preferred substantially to copy, to translating it anew. Though not entirely conclusive, yet it cannot fail to be regarded as an important contribution to the literature of this difficult subject. --Ed.
Of all the Old Testament writings, the book of Job, as to its spirit, its contents, and its language, is the greatest production of the Hebrew people; it is the true Epopée of the nation ; that in which the theocracy is exhibited in the clearest manner; and in which the deepest thoughts of the human soul, clothed naturally and beautifully in a dress of the most gorgeous poetry, present themselves to our view, and struggle with intense earnestness for the solution of the great enigma of the world's history. In the case of such a book, the date of its composition must be of the greatest value; because, when placed in the light of its own age, it speaks to us a more intelligible language; and its full comprehension becomes so much the more perfect. How difficult it is to determine this point in the case before us, is proved by the simple fact, that the critics of more recent times, from Eichhorn and Berthold, down to Vatke and Ernst Meier, vary respecting the date no less than a thousand years, inasmuch as the former place it in the period before Moses, and the others at some time after the Babylonish captivity, namely, in the fifth century before Christ. As I now propose to make some attempt at fixing the real age of the book of Job, I shall begin by endeavoring to place certain limits on both sides, by means of which the investigation can go forward with security. In this way we shall at length fix upon a given period, which still affords a tolerable latitude. Intelligent critics must not be vexed at this indefinite result, since even Ewald, who seeks to fix the time of its composition very precisely, says, “The age of the book can only be known by approximation, even as regards centuries.”
I begin, then, by laying down, in the outset, these two propositions :
1. That the book of Job cannot have been composed before the time of Solomon. And,
2. That the book of Job must have been written before Jeremiah, consequently before the time of King Josiah.
Before I attempt to narrow this period, which comprehends full three centuries, I will offer some evidence for both propositions. And, first, the earlier critics, who fix the date of the composition before the time of Moses, or between Moses and Solomon, have almost all started with the common error of not separating the time of Job's life from that of the composition, which treats of him and of his destiny. The necessity of making this distinction, however, must be at once obvious. That Job, whose life most evidently belonged to patriarchal times, himself wrote the document which bears his
name, no one will now in good earnest maintain, much less undertake to prove. On this point, therefore, there is no need to insist. But there are positive marks, which render the idea of its being written before Solomon altogether impossible. These lie (to pass by the other reasons which have either often been urged before, as those derived from the progress of religious ideas, and from political relations, or which are not very conclusive, as the influence of foreign culture), these lie, we. say, in the language of the book, both in general, and also in its particular features. I do not now refer to the so-called Aramæisms, of which we shall speak by-and-by, but rather to the whole figurative construction of the poem, and its by no means polished and artistic, yet, at the same time, pure and flowing diction. When we compare with this the well-attested relics of the earlier poetry, such as the fragments in the twenty-first of Numbers, and the song of Deborah, we must feel convinced that the earlier poetical diction was much more rough and unpolished, and that it was first brought into form and pliancy by David and Solomon, or at least during their glorious age; as we find it, for example, in the Psalms and Proverbs. The prose, in like manner, appears to have received at that time a beneficial modification; at any rate, it is not easy to assert anything in opposition to Ewald's remarks on the re-elaboration of the earlier historical books, by some author of that period. (See Ewald's Geschichte des Volkes Israel, vol. i. p. 72.) But, to come to examples, the expression roix (Ophir), occurs twice in the book of Job, namely, 22:24, and 28:16, an expression which it is vain to search for in the Pentateuch, though it often makes mention of gold; as also in the Psalms of David, which, in the same manner as the Pentateuch, only speaks of , and 79. It is true that the region itself is mentioned in the register of the peoples of the earth (Gen. 10:29); but Ewald has proved beyond a doubt, in his Israelitish History, that this register does not represent the ideas of the Israelites at the time of Moses, but the later geographical ideas of the age of Solomon. At any rate there was no trade to Ophir, and no gold from Ophir, in Israel before the time of Solomon; and on that account we find it first mentioned in the later Psalms, as 45:10. No one, at least, can very well deny that the two passages, 1 Kings 9 : 28, and i Kings 10:11, express the first acquaintance of Israel with this distant land. If, then, the book of Job is an Israelitish production,
as is now universally acknowledged, the very circumstance that the gold of Ophir is mentioned in it-gold which first became known in the time of Solomon, is a striking proof that the composition of the book of Job cannot fall before the time of Solomon, to say nothing of the many other objections, which stand in the way of an earlier authorship.
But however certain it may be that the book of Job was not written before the time of Solomon, it is equally evident that it was written before the time of the prophet Jeremiah, and of King Josiah. If we carefully compare the passagein Jer. 20:14-18, with Job 3:3—10, and Jer. 17:1, with Job 19: 24, we cannot but observe striking relationship. If this relationship indicates the acquaintance of the one author with the writings of the other, there can be
no hesitation in asserting, both from the thorough originality of , the author of Job, and from the circumstance that Jeremiah, in
other places, quotes the earlier writings in his work, that the book of Job was known by Jeremiah, and consequently, was written previous to his prophecies.
This becomes so much the clearer when we observe how closely the Lamentations of Jeremiah are related to Job in many points, both of language and subject; so that, from these circumstances together, we may conclude with tolerable certainty, upon Jeremiah's acquaintance with the book of Job. The relationship in the subject-matter presents itself throughout the whole work; but as an instance of it in expression, any one may compare Lam. 3: 7,9, with Job 19:8; Lam. 2 : 15, with Job 12:4, 17: 6,30 : 1.
Contemporary with Jeremiah, was the prophet Ezekiel. If this author (see Ezek. 14 : 15) knew Job as a very pious and devotional man, there must certainly have been before his imagination, not a mere traditionary character, but the distinct person whose life is contained in the work before us; more especially with reference to the passage in Job 42:8. These reasons may be sufficient to lead any unprejudiced mind to regard it as morally certain, not only that Job lived before the age of both these prophets, but that his life had also been depicted in the book which we now possess.
A similar reference to the book of Job appears also to be contained in Isa. 40: 2, as compared with Job 7: 1, also in Zech. 14:5, as compared with Job 5:1.
We are now in a position to advance somewhat farther, and to narrow our first supposition. In the book of Amos there are two passages which coincide in a very striking manner with the book of Job. In Amos 4: 13, this expression is used respecting Jehovah, yw unda-by 771, the very same which we find in Job 9: 8, only in this case, instead of the expression p7%, we find the term ' employed. In the same manner, in Amos 5:8, we find the names
which we also meet with ,כסיל and כימה ,of two constellations
in Job 9:9, and 38: 21. These coincidences can hardly be fortuitous; they seem to indicate either that Amos had known the author of the book of Job, or that that author had known him. At the first view of the case, it may seem difficult to arrive at a decision on this point; but other points have yet to come before us, which will throw much light upon it. In consideration of the acknowledged originality of the book of Job, we should more safely conclude, at the first blush of the question, that the simple shepherd Amos had yielded his mind to the influence of so profound a writing as that of Job, rather than imagine the contrary. (Compare the expression in Micah 1:3, and a similar one, Isa. 58 : 14, and Deut 32 : 13.) For example, the heights of the sea (that is, of the sea of clouds above us), as used by Job, is manifestly a stronger and bolder expression than the heights of the earth, which are familiar to the eyes of every one. Since, however, it is clearly shown in other cases that the weaker term is also the later, it seems more natural to suppose that the weaker term was imitated by Amos, than the stronger by the author of Job.
If, on the one hand, the acknowledged critical canon, that the stronger expression is the original, goes to prove that the book of Job was used by the prophet Amos; the other critical rule, namely, that that expression is the more original, which has most decidedly the whole connection on its side, decides for the same conclusion. (Compare Amos 5 : 8, with Job 9:9, and 38: 31.) This is, without question, the case with Job. The subject, in the instance above referred to, is a representation of the power of God in the heavens (verses 7-9); how he darkens the sun with clouds; how in the tempest he lets down the heavens nearer to the earth (compare Psalm 18:30), and treads upon the heights of the cloud-sea with his thunder (compare 36 : 30); but how also, in the serene night, he leads forth the glorious stars, and exhibits in them at once his grandeur and his majesty. The poet, therefore, describes in its entire connection the power of God, first upon earth, and then in the heavens. Exactly the same is the case in Job 38 : 31. Here the poet, from the 22d verse, presents a series of questions on the phenomena of the heavens, and comes in due connection to the planets, naming not only these, but other constellations also. Now, in the case of Amos (5:8), this close connection is entirely wanting. In verses 7 and 10, the subject is respecting the sins of the people; and between these, the description of Jehovah, as seen in verse 8, is interposed, in order to show how rash a thing it is to sin against so powerful a God. Here the expression S'p3•a no'n nvy is one, which is by no means called forth by the construction of the subject, but appears rather as a thought derived from some other source; and the relation of Amos to Job is the same as that which we have already THIRD SERIES, VOL. III. NO. I.
acknowledged in the case of Jeremiah. But if we admit, as we reasonably must, that the passages in Jeremiah evidence reminiscences from Job, there is no reason to deny this, nay, there is every reason to admit it in the case of Amos. But, however certain it is that Jeremiah knew the biography of Job, equally so is it that the above-mentioned passages in Amos point to some acquaintance with the same author. If therefore Amos knew and made use of the book of Job, the period we at first supposed is narrowed almost 200 years, and we can now without hesitation place the composition in the time between Solomon and king Amaziah, so that we have now only to hover over a period of about 150 years.
From the time of Joash, in which, according to the best ac counts, the prophet Joel flourished, the style of writing became more lively. In this time, a number of poems fall, which have been generally referred to the time of the Maccabees, but which Ewald refers to the latter age of the Persian empire. In this time also, the new recension of the four books of Moses, by what Ewald calls the third historian, was made, as also parts of the larger book of Kings. It was a time in which the better spirit of Israelitism struggled powerfully against the growing corruption. I should not hesitate to fix the composition of the book of Job in this period (about fifty years before Amos) if there were not reasons for assigning to it an earlier date.
The century between Rehoboam and Joash is entirely devoid of all literary productions. There is not a single psalm which can be attributed with any certainty to this period; no prophecy of this age is handed down; neither can any historical book, or any continuation of one, be safely referred to it; nay, it is with great hesitation that even Ewald conceives the probability of the continuation of the book of Kings being composed about this time, that is in the reign of Asa or Jehoshaphat. We will not of course affirm that there was absolutely no literature in Israel during this age; but assuredly, after the mental activity of the time of David and Solomon, after the lofty tone which the spirit and literature of the age then assumed, it must be regarded as a time of, comparatively speaking, insignificant productions, and of degenerating taste-a state of things to which the disappointment felt at the disruption of their once flourishing kingdom, and the despair occasioned by their losses and humiliation, greatly contributed.
With the reign of Joash and Amaziah on the one side, of Jehu and Jeroboam II. on the other, it is true, both a religious and a political excitement came upon the people; but is it probable that so deep and thoughtful a work as the book of Job can have been composed at the beginning of this period? In other nations we always find that great poets have appeared at the end of a remarkable era--at the conclusion of an historical age of development;