When was the Book of Job written?
by Rick Brentlinger
(Pace, FL, USA)
Job, painted between 1500-1503
by Albrecht Dürer, 1471-1528
I believe the Book of Job was written during the time of the patriarchs, 1900 to 1700 BC. This date makes the most Biblical and historical sense given the evidence, some of which I will list below.
Liberal scholars insist the Book of Job was written around the 6th or 5th century BC. They believe that Sumerian stories containing themes similar to the Book of Job were written around 1700 BC. Therefore, because both the Sumerian and the Job stories wrestle with similar questions, liberal scholars conclude the Job story MUST be derivative from the Sumerian stories.
On the other hand, many conservative scholars date the book of Job to 1900-1700 BC, the time period known as the time of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If Job can reasonably be dated in the time of the patriarchs, it becomes a very real possibility that the Sumerian stories derived from Job via oral tradition, instead of vice versa. So the question before us is:
Based on the evidence, can we
reasonably date the Book of Job
to the time of the patriarchs?
- Eusebius, AD 263–339, places events in the Book of Job two ages before Moses, that is, in the patriarchal period, eighteen hundred years before Christ and six hundred years after Noah’s flood.
- Job is written in Hebrew, with some Syriac and Arabic expressions. Linguistically this indicates a use of language similar to the time of the Jewish patriarchs, when the Shemitic tribes spoke a common tongue and had not branched into different dialects, Hebrew, Syriac and Arabic.
- The religion of Job is that practiced among the patriarchs before God gave His law to Moses: sacrifices performed by the head of the family; no officiating priesthood, no tabernacle or temple, no consecrated altar.
- In the Hebrew text, Job 42:11 uses the word, קְשִׂיטָה qesiytah, meaning piece of silver or piece of money to describe the offerings brought to Job. Qesiytah is only used two other times in the Hebrew Old Testament, Genesis 33:19 and Joshua 24:32, both times referencing money in the lifetime of the patriarch Jacob.
- In Job 42:15, Job allowed his daughters an inheritance along with their brothers. Hundreds of years later, under the law of Moses, if a man’s sons were living, they received the inheritance, not the daughters, Numbers 27:8.
- If Job was written in the 6th - 5th century BC, it is reasonable to believe there would be some mention of the priesthood, the law of Moses, the temple, Jewish religious feasts. Because these are not mentioned, it is reasonable to conclude that Job was written before God gave Moses the law around 1450 BC.
- According to Job 42:16, Job lived another 140 years after the events described in the Book of Job. Because he already had immense wealth and a large family, Job must have been at least 40 years old when events in Job began. 40 + 140 = 180 years old. That long a life matches the long lives of the patriarchs. Abraham lived 175 years according to Genesis 25:7.
- The Bible describes Job's immense wealth by numbering his herds, Job 1:3; 42:12. The patriarch Abraham’s wealth is also described in relation to his vast herds, Genesis 12:16, 13:3, 5ff. The patriarch Jacob’s wealth is also described in relation to his herds, Genesis 30:33-43.
- That Sumerian and Egyptian literature bearing some similarity to Job were written around the time of the patriarchs indicates similar age for the Book of Job rather than indicating that Job is a thousand year younger derivative work.
- Some personal names in the book of Job were common names during the patriarchal period: Sheba (Job 6:19), Genesis 10:7, 28; also Abraham’s grandson Sheba, Genesis 25:3; Tema (Job 6:19), Genesis 25:15, another of Abraham’s grandsons; Eliphaz (Job 42:9), the son of Esau, Genesis 36:4; Uz (Job 1:1), Abraham’s nephew, Genesis 10:23
Our common sense conclusion is that the liberal scholars are wrong. The Book of Job was written in the time of the patriarchs, 1900-1700 BC. This link about Job from Ancientopedia
provides solid reasons why Job is not derivative from the Sumerian stories. And if you want to do more in depth study, here is the best list of online commentaries on the Book of Job. What is justification by faith, part 1?
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