Job – Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary

Home/Kline’s Works/Articles and Essays/Job – Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary

Meredith G. Kline, Job in The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, ed. by M.C. Tenney. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1963, pp. 443-444.

JOB (job, Heb. ‘iyov, meaning uncertain). The formal kinship of Job is with eastern hokmay (wisdom) literature. Within the canon of the OT, the function of the wisdom books (cf. also Prov., Eccl., and in a sense S. of Sol.) was to apply the foundational Mosaic revelation to the problems of human existence and conduct as they were being formulated in the philosophical circles of the world. A figure like Job, standing outside the Abrahamic-Mosaic administrations of the Covenant, was an ideal vehicle for Biblical wisdom doctrine, concerned as it was with the common ways and demands of God rather than His peculiarly theocratic government of Israel.

Even the approximate date of the anonymous author is uncertain. The events he narrates belong to the early patriarchal period, as is evident from features like Job’s longevity, revelation by theophany outside the Abrahamic Covenant, the nomadic status of the Chaldeans, and early social and economic practices. But the question is: When was the Joban tradition transformed by the inspired author into the canonical book of Job?

Modern discussions of authorship and date are perplexed by critical doubts concerning the unity of the book. Most widely suspected of being interpolations into an original poem are the prologue-epilogue, the wisdom hymn (chap. 28), the discourse of Elihu (chaps. 32-37), and parts at least of the Lord’s discourses (chaps. 38-41). The LXX text of Job is about one-fifth shorter than the Massoretic but the LXX omissions exhibit an editorial pattern of reduction. The argument for interpolations, therefore, leans primarily on internal considerations – language, style, alleged inconsistencies of viewpoint. Conservative scholars, however, agree that the internal evidence points compellingly to the book’s integrity, though they of course allow for corruption in textual details.

Dates have been assigned by 20th century critics all the way from the Mosaic to the Maccabean ages. The early extreme is obviated by the nature of the development of the OT canon; the late extreme, for one thing, by the discovery among the Dead Sea Scrolls of fragments of a Joban manuscript in old Hebrew script. The majority of negative critics favor an Exilic or post-Exilic date. Conservatives favor the pre-Exilic era, especially the Solomonic age because Biblical hokma flourished then, and there arc close affinities in sentiment and expression between Job and Psalms (cf. Pss. 88, 89) and Proverbs produced at that time. The same evidence indicates an Israelite identity for the anonymous author, conceivably one of Solomon’s wisdom coterie (cf. I Kings 4:29-34). The theory that he was an Edomite has found little support; that he was Egyptian, still less.

Outline:

I. DESOLATION: The Trial of Job’s Wisdom. 1:1- 2:10.

II. COMPLAINT: The Way of Wisdom Lost. 2:11- 3:26.

III. JUDGMENT: The Way of Wisdom Darkened and Illuminated. 4:1-41:34.

A. The Verdicts of Men. 4:1-37:24.

1. First Cycle of Debate. 4:1-14:22.
2. Second Cycle of Debate. 15:1-21:34.
3. Third Cycle of Debate. 22:1-31:40.
4. Ministry of Elihu. 32:1-37:24.

B. The Voice of God. 38:1-41:34.

IV. CONFESSION: The Way of Wisdom Regained. 42:1-6.

V. RESTORATION: The Triumph of Job’s Wisdom. 42:7-17.

Stylistic comparison of other ancient wisdom writings with Job reveals similarities but also Job’s uniqueness. The dialogue form of Job is paralleled to an extent in Egyptian and Babylonian wisdom poetry, and the various individual literary genres employed in Job (psalms of lament and thanksgiving, proverb, covenant oath, etc.), were not novelties. Nevertheless, as a masterly blend of a remarkably rich variety of forms, within a historical framework, with exquisite lyric and dramatic qualities, and all devoted to didactic purpose, Job creates its own literary species. Of particular significance is the bracketing of the poetic dialogue within the prose (or better, semi-poetic) prologue and epilogue. This ABA structure is attested elsewhere (e.g., Code of Hammurabi, The Eloquent Peasant) and thus supports the book’s integrity.

The Joban revelation is a reproclamation of the fundamental stipulation of the Covenant, a call for perfect consecration to the covenant Suzerain. This call is issued through a dramatization of a crisis in redemptive history. God challenges Satan to behold in Job the triumphing of divine grace. This faithful servant epitomizes the fulfillment of God’s evangelical decree, which even in its initial enunciation had taken the form of an imprecatory challenge to the tempter (Gen. 3: 15). By proving under fierce temptation the genuineness of his devotion to God, Job is to vindicate the veracity of his God as the author of redemptive promise and His sovereignty in putting enmity between His people and Satan. Prostrated by well-nigh total bereavement, he utters doxology. While hopelessly despondent and protesting passionately against what he interprets as an unjust divine sentence upon him, it is still to God that Job turns and cries. And he repentantly commits himself anew to his Lord, although the Voice from the whirlwind has offered neither explanation of the mystery of his past sufferings nor promise of future restoration from his desolation. By following the covenant way, Job shows himself ready by God’s grace, and contrary to Satan’s insinuations, to serve his lord for nought.

The particular purpose of Job as hokma is to articulate this covenant concept in terms of the current discussions of eastern sages, indicating the religious perspective which must inform the philosophical quest; in short, to point the direction for a true apologetic for the faith. The doctrine of God as incomprehensible Creator and sovereign Lord is offered, therefore, not only as the fundamental reality man must reckon with as a religious being serving God amid the historica1 tensions of this life, but also as the presupposition he must start with as a philosophical being bent on the interpretative adventure. This enterprise is illustrated by the debate of Job and his friends over the problem of theodicy, and the folly of the traditional methodology founded on human observation and speculation is portrayed by the silencing of the trio who represent it. The book of Job identifies the way of the covenant with the way of wisdom (cf. 28:28) and so brings philosophy under the authority of divine revelation.

No comprehensive answer is given to the problem of suffering since theodicy is not the book’s major theme; nevertheless, considerable light is afforded. In addition to the prologue’s contribution is that of Elihu, who traces the mystery to the principle of divine grace; sufferings are a sovereign gift, calling to repentance and life. Moreover, impressive assurance is given that God as a just and omnipotent covenant Lord will ultimately visit both the curses and blessings of the covenant on His subjects according to righteousness. Especially significant are the insights Job himself attains into the role God will playas his heavenly vindicator, redeeming his name from all calumnies and his life from the king of terrors. Job utters in raw faith what progressive revelation elaborates in the doc- trines of the eschatological theophany, resurrection of the dead, and final redemptive judgment. This vision does not reveal the why of the particular sufferings of Job or any other believer, but it does present the servants of God with a framework for hope.

M.G.K.

Scanned and Edited by Robert A. Lotzer on July 04, 2006.