A great diversity of opinion exists as to the authorship of this book. From internal evidence, such as the similarity of sentiment and language to those in the Psalms and Proverbs (see Psalms 88 and 89), the prevalence of the idea of "wisdom," and the style and character of the composition, it is supposed by some to have been written in the time of David and Solomon. Others argue that it was written by Job himself, or by Elihu, or Isaiah, or perhaps more probably by Moses, who was "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and mighty in words and deeds" (Acts 7:22). He had opportunities in Midian for obtaining the knowledge of the facts related. But the authorship is altogether uncertain.
As to the character of the book, it is a historical poem, one of the greatest and sublimest poems in all literature. Job was a historical person, and the localities and names were real and not fictious. It is "one of the grandest portions of the inspired Scriptures, a heavenly-repleished storehouse of comfort and instruction, the patriarchal Bible, and a precious monument of primitive theology. It is to the Old Testament what the Epistle to the Romans is to the New." It is a didactic narrative in a dramatic form.
This book was apparently well known in the days of Ezekiel, B.C. 600 (Ezekiel 14:14). It formed a part of the sacred Scriptures used by our Lord and his apostles, and is referred to as a part of the inspired Word (Hebrews 12:5; 1 Corinthians 3:19).
The subject of the book is the trial of Job, its occasion, nature, endurance, and issue. It exhibits the harmony of the truths of revelation and the dealings of Providence, which are seen to be at once inscrutable, just, and merciful. It shows the blessedness of the truly pious, even amid sore afflictions, and thus ministers comfort and hope to tried believers of every age. It is a book of manifold instruction, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).
It consists of,
An historical introduction in prose (ch. 1,2).
The controversy and its solution, in poetry (ch. 3-42:6).).
Job's desponding lamentation (ch. 3) is the occasion of the controversy which is carried on in three courses of dialogues between Job and his three friends. The first course gives the commencement of the controversy (ch. 4-14); the second the growth of the controversy (15-21); and the third the height of the controversy (22-27). This is followed by the solution of the controversy in the speeches of Elihu and the address of Jehovah, followed by Job's humble confession (42:1-6) of his own fault and folly.
The third division is the historical conclusion, in prose (42:7-15).
Sir J. W. Dawson in "The Expositor" says: "It would now seem that the language and theology of the book of Job can be better explained by supposing it to be a portion of Minean [Southern Arabia] literature obtained by Moses in Midian than in any other way. This view also agrees better than any other with its references to natural objects, the art of mining, and other matters."
Job, the Book of [SBD]
This book has given rise to much discussion and criticism, some believing the book to be strictly historical; others a religious fiction; others a composition based upon facts. By some the authorship of the work was attributed to Moses, but it is very uncertain.
Luther first suggested the theory which, in some form or other, is now most generally received. He says, "I look upon the book of Job as a true history, yet I do not believe that all took place just as it is written, but that an ingenious, pious and learned man brought it into its present form."
The date of the book is doubtful, and there have been many theories upon the subject. It may be regarded as a settled point that the book was written long before the exile, probably between the birth of Abraham and the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt -- B.C. 2000-1800. If by Moses, it was probably written during his sojourn in Midian.
"The book of Job is not only one of the most remarkable in the Bible, but in literature. As was said of Goliathís sword, íThere is none like it;í none in ancient or in modern literature." -- Kitto.
"A book which will one day, perhaps, be seen towering up alone far above all the poetry of the world." -- J.A. Froude.
"The book of Job is a drama, and yet subjectively true. The two ideas are perfectly consistent. It may have the dramatic form, the dramatic interest, the dramatic emotion, and yet be substantially a truthful narrative. The author may have received it in one of three ways: the writer may have been an eyewitness; or have received it from near contemporary testimony; or it may have reached him through a tradition of whose substantial truthfulness he has no doubt. There is abundant internal evidence that the scenes and events recorded were real scenes and real events to the writer. He gives the discussions either as he had heard them or as they had been repeated over and over in many an ancient consensus. The very modes of transmission show the deep impression it had made in all the East, as a veritable as well as marvellous event." -- Tayler Lewis.
The design of the book. --
Stanley says that "The whole book is a discussion of that great problem of human life: what is the intention of Divine Providence in allowing the good to suffer?"
"The direct object is to show that, although goodness has a natural tendency to secure a full measure of temporal happiness, yet that in its essence it is independent of such a result. Selfishness in some form is declared to be the basis on which all apparent goodness rests. That question is tried in the case of Job." -- Cook.
Structure of the book.
The book consists of five parts: --
I. Chs. 1-3.
The historical facts. II. Chs. 4-31.
The discussions between Job and his three friends. III. Chs. 32-37.
Jobís discussion with Elihu. IV. Chs. 38-41.
The theophany -- God speaking out of the storm. V. Ch. 42.
The successful termination of the trial.
It is all in poetry except the introduction and the close.
1. One question could be raised by envy: may not the goodness which secures such direct and tangible rewards be a refined form of selfishness? Satan, the accusing angel, suggests the doubt, "Doth Job fear God for nought ?" and asserts boldly that if those external blessings were withdrawn, Job would cast off his allegiance" he will curse thee to thy face." The problem is thus distinctly propounded which this book is intended to discuss and solve: can goodness exist irrespective of reward ? The accuser receives permission to make the trial. He destroys Jobís property, then his children; and afterward, to leave no possible opening for a cavil, is allowed to inflict upon him the most terrible disease known in the East. Jobís wife breaks down entirely under the trial. Job remains steadfast. The question raised by Satan is answered.
2. Then follows a discussion which arises in the most natural manner from a visit of condolence on the part of three men who represent the wisdom and experience of the age. Jobís friends hold the theory that there is an exact and invariable correlation between sin and suffering. The fact of suffering proves the commission of some special sin. They apply this to Job, but he disavows all special guilt. He denies that punishment in this life inevitably follows upon guilt, or proves its commission. He appeals to facts. Bad men do sometimes prosper. Here, at ch. 14, there is a pause. In the second colloquy the three friends take more advanced ground. They assume that Job has been actually guilty of sins, and that the sufferings and losses of Job are but an inadequate retribution for former sins. This series of accusations brings out the in most thoughts of Job. He recognizes Godís hand in his afflictions, but denies they are brought on by wrong-doing; and becomes still clearer in the view that only the future life can vindicate Godís justice. In his last two discourses, chs. 26-31, he states with incomparable force and eloquence his opinion of the chief point of the controversy: man cannot comprehend Godís ways; destruction sooner or later awaits the wicked; wisdom consists wholly in the fear of the Lord and departing from evil."--Cook.
3. Elihu sums up the argument "The leading principle of Elihuís statement is that calamity, in the shape of triad, is inflicted on comparatively the best of men; but that God allows a favorable turn to take place as soon as its object has been realized." The last words are evidently spoken while a violent storm is coming on.
4. It is obvious that many weighty truths have been developed in the course of the discussion: nearly every theory of the objects and uses of suffering has been reviewed, while a great advance has been made toward the apprehension of doctrines hereafter to be revealed, such as were known only to God. But the mystery is not us yet really cleared up; hence the necessity for the theophany. ch. (Job 38:41) From the midst of the storm Jehovah speaks. In language of incomparable grandeur he reproves and silences the murmurs of Job. God does not condescend, strictly speaking to argue with his creatures. The speculative questions discussed in the colloquy are unnoticed, but the declaration of Godís absolute power is illustrated by a marvellously beautiful and comprehensive survey of the glory of creation and his all-embracing providence. A second address completes the work. It proves that a charge of injustice against God involves the consequence that the accuser is more competent that he to rule the universe.