Book of Job
Just reading the book of Job at the moment and a number of questions are swimming around in my mind… 1. As Job is the oldest book in the bible (what I was told) whereabouts does it fit in with the biblical timeline? It talks about Job giving a burnt offering (1v5) so I would assume after Moses because didn’t the whole sacrificing animal come after the exodus? 2. If it is the oldest book, why is it where it is in the bible? Shouldn’t it be near the start of the bible? 3. If God allowed Satan to torment Job (1v12), does God allow Satan or his forces to torment us? Or do we bring that upon ourselves, through our sin? Will probably add more questions to this as I delve further into the book! Thanks Phil!
The EVENTS of the Book of Job:
Let’s start with putting the events of the book into the Biblical Timeline:
There is a reference to Job in Ezekiel, (14 20) where he is named among the three most righteous men who have lived (the others were Noah and Daniel). We know Ezekiel lived and wrote in the time of the Babylonian Captivity around 590 to 565 BC. So he must have known the Book of Job before that.
Moreover, it’s unlikely to be after Moses, because there is no reference in the book to the requirements of the Mosaic Law. The fact there is a sacrifice is insignificant. Sacrifice happened before Moses; Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering, (Gen 22) In any case, Job served as his own priest in Job 1 5, which he could not have done under Mosaic Law.
It is unlikely to be in the Egyptian exile period, because Job is not in captivity; he owns his own land, and is his own master. His friends are free to join him and spend time with him.
In addition, wealth is reckoned in cattle which suggests a date prior to the Egyptian exile. So the date for the events is likely to be before Jacob.
Going back further, it is unlikely to be just BEFORE Noah, because Job is evidently righteous, and the people of Noah’s time were universally evil, apart from Noah himself.
In fact Job 22 16 suggests the Flood has already happened: 15 Will you keep to the old path that evil men have trod? 16 They were carried off before their time, their foundations washed away by a flood. 17 They said to God, ‘Leave us alone! What can the Almighty do to us?’
Shortly after the time of Noah, mankind was dispersed around the world after they tried to build a Tower to heaven – the Tower of Babel. As Job is recorded as living in “Uz”, this is probably a land to which people were dispersed.
A friend of Job was called Bildad. This was short for Yabil Dadum, a name found in cuneiform writings of between 2000 and 1000 BC
Job’s name is found in the Babylonian cuneiform writings called the “Babylonian Job”, written at a similar date, in the Amarna letters (c. 1350 B.C.) and the Egyptian Execration texts (c. 2000 B.C.)
So Phil’s final best guess for the events of the Book of Job is between the Tower of Babel incident and the time of Jacob.
The PLACE of the Events of the Book of Job
The land of “Uz” is named after the grandson of Shem, Noah’s son. We don’t know directly where Uz was, but his friend Eliphaz, came from Teman (Job 4:1). This has been identified as Idumea, named after Esau, which is just east of the Dead Sea, in what is now West Jordan.
Another friend, Elihu came from the Buzites who lived near to the Chaldeans – Babylonians in other words.
So Uz was probably near to, but not at, West Jordan and Babylonia. It was also attacked by Chaldeans (Job 1 17), and also Sabeans (Job 1 15), who lived on the Arabian peninsula south of Chaldea. In addition, Uz would have to be particularly fertile to support the large number of animals Job owned, so it couldn’t be in the desert region between West Jordan and Babylonia.
This narrows down the location of Uz to the Northwest Fertile Crescent, what is now Southern Syria and Galilee.
The WRITING of the Book of Job
The traditional Jewish view is that Moses wrote down a well-known story. So the EVENTS of the book may have happened at a different time from the WRITING DOWN of the book. This would put the date of authorship at around 1450BC. Others suggest Solomon, which dates the writing at just before 900BC.
[By the way, though we might accept that the writing of the book may have occurred a long time after the events of the story, this doesn’t mean the book is not “God’s Word”. Ancient peoples were experts at remembering large portions of text verbatim, and accurately. It was normal for boys to know the whole Torah (the first five books of the Bible) off by heart, and be able to recite parts accurately on request. Stories such as this were regularly told, remembered, and retold accurately.]
However, neither of these two authorship suggestions are convincing, because the use of Arabic terms in the book suggests that it was written by someone from that part of the world. The best guess would be Job himself, or one of his friends.
Where Job is in the Bible
On your second question, Job is where it is in our Bible because it is recognised as Israelite Poetry, and so put in with the other books of poetry (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon).
The Jewish Bible (our Old Testament) is in a slightly different order. This is demonstrated by their nickname for it – the “Tanakh”. This is an acronym, TNK, which stands for:
Torah – The Law
Nevim – The Prophets
Kethuvim – the Writings
This latter group consists of (in this order):
Song of Songs
Your final fascinating question is: “If God allowed Satan to torment Job (1:12), does God allow Satan or his forces to torment us? Or do we bring that upon ourselves, through our sin?”
The answer has to START with the following assertion: God is GOOD. In Him there is NO evil at all.
That means that nothing he does is without good reason, and the reason is always for our good.
Even when evil happens, yes, God will have allowed it, in the sense of not actively preventing it, but he still wishes good upon us through it.
So some evil comes through our own sin – if you like, we have “stepped out from under the umbrella of God’s protection” – thus evil can befall us, and since we have chosen it of our own free will, God cannot – on His own Freewill principles – intervene.
Of course this is NOT Job’s case. He was one of the three most “sinless” people in History, as Ezekiel says.
Nevertheless, Job – like us – lived in a fallen world, with a fallen angel who is currently overstepping the mark, and condemning himself to his fate.
So we can see Job’s afflictions not as stemming from his own sin, but from the general state of a fallen world, with an enemy who wishes us evil. But all the time – and we see this in Job – God is twisting the purposes of satan for the good of those who love Him, and the destruction of His, and our, enemies!