Charles James Ball.

The book of Job, a revised text and version online

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This gloss, intended to bring Eyob's worship into conformity with the
Levitical law, may have stood in @'s Hebrew text. It cannot be original.
(The Israelite father appears to have officiated as his own priest from the
earliest period down to the seventh century, when the Deuteronomic
legislation began to be enforced.)

For Eyob said (or thought; said in his heart, i.e. to himself: Ps lo"),
'Perhaps my sons have sinned by cursing God in thought' (lit. and blessed
God in their heart). The context, both here and in the historical parallel,
I K 2ii<'-", demands this sense, although in both instances the verb
^15 ' to bless ' has been substituted for ?.?i? ' to curse ' by some scribe
or editor who shrank even from writing the original phrase, so repellent
to his piety was the idea it conveyed. It is no objection to this assumption
that such a phrase has been suffered to remain in Is 8" (Du), where
perhaps the meaning is rather curse by his King and by his God (cf.
I Sa 1 7"). In other cases also the scribes have not been thorough in
such matters ; e. g. the VWI'iO'^^ of 2 Sa 2'ff- appears in the original and
genuine form dyne's in i C 8^^ and ^yaii survives in Judges (6^2 al.)
although riB'ST' has taken its place in 2 Sa 1 1^' (but cf ® ad loc). Cursing
God (D'ni'N bi'p) is forbidden by the earlier (Ex 2 2") as well as the later
legislation (Le 24"). In the latter th^ penalty is death, which is naturally
absent here, although 2' assumes that God would inflict it (cf Ex 22").
@ paraphrases Q^n^JX 13"131 IXDn by Kaxa kv(.v6i]<jav -n-pbs 6e6v, thought evil
things against God; which at least lends no support to an original
'blessed'; while @ strongly confirms our view by rendering have sinned
and cursed (or reviled) God {^\ = ^)>\> in i Sa 17" Is 8" Le 241= &c.).
The qualifying addition 033^3 in their heart seems very improbable.
If blasphemous thoughts occurred to a party of revellers, they would
probably find an outlet in speech.. We therefore suggest 01313 in their
talk (or perhaps D313 in their quarrelling — a not infrequent issue of

H a


drinking-bouts). The stress laid on the heinousness of improper language
about God (cf. v. 22, 2", and especially 42'f-, where Eyob's three friends
are bidden to offer a burnt-offering of seven bullocks and seven rams for
this very offence) certainly lends colour to the former emendation.

A simpler and perhaps better way of eliminating the difficulty would be
to suppose that 033^3 has been altered from 133^3 (Ps 152), which
originally followed 3VN and got misplaced by some accident. Thus is
restored the appropriate sense : For Eyob said in his heart, ' Perhaps my
sons have sinned by cursing God.'

[The notion that '^13, which appears to be used in the senses of
greeting and taking leave (Gn 47'-'" 2 K 4^8^, might, like our own phrase
' bid farewell to ', have come to mean give up, renounce, or disown, has no
foundation in actual Hebrew usage. 'HI?, like the Assyrian 313 kardhu,
is used of God blessing men and of men blessing God, but never of
renouncing or disowning God ; nor is it easy to see why Eyob should
have entertained any fears on this score. It is evident also that such a
sense is entirely inappropriate in the parallel passage i K 21"-" {'Naboth
hath renounced God and King ! ' — a very unlikely charge against a subject
of Ahab). What our story really intends is rather some rash or petulant
or even sportive utterance of inebriate folly. If there is ' a noteworthy
ivcjjrjixLa avTi(f>paaTLK-ij ' (Du) in these passages, the euphemistic anti-
phrasis belongs to his editors, not to the author. Such a mode of
speaking is unknown to the OT writers.]

So used Eyob to do all the year round; lit. all the days, i.e. always,
or continually, as in Gn 43'' 44'^ (AV 'for ever').

The Hebrew of vv. 4, 5 suggests several other questions. Might not
the successive banquets be birthday celebrations ? And in that case
what is the precise meaning of when the days of {the ?) banquet had gone
round! Is it meant that the rejoicings on each occasion were prolonged
over several days, after which the anxious father performed his atoning
rites ? or does the phrase the days of banquet = the banquet-days as a
whole.? and in that case does Eyob offer his expiatory sacrifice only
once a year, viz. after the celebration of the seventh and last birthday ?
The idea of birthday celebrations brings the narrative nearer to the
bounds of probability; but the picture of a continual round of careless
gaiety harmonizes better with the character of the story as a whole.
(Free potations appear to have been customary with the ancient Hebrews
on occasions of rejoicing.)

vv. 6-12. The motive of Eyob's religion questioned by the Satan
at the Court of Heaven. He receives permission to prove it by calamity.
The scene that follows (repeated 2'-"), upon which Goethe founded the
splendid ' Prologue in Heaven ' to his Faust, is not of course to be taken
as literal history. Even the Talmud can relate that a certain Rabbi


who sat before R. Samuel bar Nachmani said : ' Eyob never was, and
was not created, but was a parable' (^^^ bvD xi'N Kiaj nb) n*n i6 aVN,
Baba Bathra, 15 a). The narrative of the celestial levee is not poetry
either in form or substance. It reflects the conceptions current in the
time of the author, and is essentially similar to the vision of Micaiah ben
Imlah, I K 22"^- : cf. also Ps Sg^''' ; and for the worship in the Temple-
palace of Heaven, Is 6 Ps 29.

V. 6. But the day came when, &c. See Driver ad i Sa i*. The phrase
recurs 2^ 2 K 48-"-i8. Du prefers a different syntax : And it happened
(pri) the day {cas. accus.) ; scil. on which it happened ; the day so well
known from the story — a common Hebrew construction.

The Sons of God. A very inadequate translation ; with which, how-
ever, we must content ourselves, unless we choose simply to transcribe
the Hebrew into Benehaeldhim, or are bold enough to render 'gods'
(cf. Ex 18" Ps 97' 1362), which, after all, comes nearest to the original
meaning. The Hebrew dTipN (^Eldhfm) is a vaguely used generic and
collective expression, denoting all superhuman Agents or spiritual Intel-
ligences (apparently including ghosts, i Sa 28''), as well as the Supreme
Spirit, Who is 'the God of (the) gods' (Ps 136^ Dan 2*'). As such, it is
opposed to CIX 'Man', 'Mankind', 'human beings' (cf. Is 31^). And
as ms p 'a son of Man ', means simply a man (= tJ'JX 13, Dan 7''),
and the plur. DIK ''J3 'the Sons of Man', means either 'men', 'the
human race' (Gn ii^), or 'human beings' as opposed to lahvah
(i Sa 26"), so DTIPN p, which happens not to occur (cf Pi??^ "I?,
Dan 3^'), would naturally mean ' a son of Godkind ', i. e. a god, and the
plur. Din7Nl(n) "1^3 is equivalent to ' (the) celestial or divine beings ',
'the gods'. Cf. Ps 82«-''. 'The Sons of (the) 'Elohim ' are seldom
mentioned elsewhere in the OT (Gn e^-" Jb 38'). Yet the story
evidently assumes that the reader will know who they are without further
explanation. In an ancient fragment of Hebrew folk-lore (Gn I.e.) they
are represented as enamoured of the beautiful ' daughters of Man '
(mxn ni33), who bore them giant offspring ; while in the passage of
Jb 1. c. they, with the ' Stars of Morning ', rejoice at the founding
of Earth. The designation dTi^xn ''J3 is probably a fossilized relic
of primitive Semitic polytheism ; and doubdess the name figured much
more largely in popular (Canaanite ?) myths of the olden time than would
appear from the scanty references of Scripture. It is significant that
although the poet of Job has admitted the BenS 'Elohim to participate,
at least as interested spectators, in the great work of Creation (38'), yet
they are not mentioned by name in either of the two accounts of Gn 1-3.
Their presence, however, may well be implied in i™ 3'' ('one of Us').
In Ps 291 89' we have D''^N ''J3 as a (poetical) synonym of DTIPN ''33
(which should perhaps be restored in both places).


The Bene'Eldhtm here 'came' or 'went in' (scil. into the throne-room
of the celestial palace) 'to take their stand by (beside) lahvah'; i.e. to
stand in waiting or attendance on the heavenly King, as His ministers
and servants, in readiness to receive His commands and ' do His
pleasure' (Ps 10321 ; cf. Zc 6^) ; much as in Micaiah's vision lahvah
was 'seated upon His throne, with all the Host of Heaven standing beside
Him at His right and at His left' (i K 22"). In the equivalence Sons
of Elohim = Host of Heaven = the Stars (38' Dt 4" Ne 9« 'The Host of
Heaven worshippeth Thee'; cf. Is 24") we may discern how these ideas
are blended in primitive Semitic mythology. Cf. the Babylonian Epic
of Creation, Tab. VII. 15-17, where the supreme God is acclaimed as
' ZI-UKKIN, Life of the Host of Heaven, Who established for the gods
the shining heavens, Who chose their way and appointed their path';
also ib. no : 'Of the Stars of Heaven their way may He still uphold!
Like sheep may He shepherd the gods all of them ! ' (cf Is 40™ Ps 147*).
In the same cycle of legends the Assembly of the Gods fulfils an important
function. They gather in a place which bears the Sumerian designation
UB-SHU-GINA-KI, 'The Regions' Gatheringplace ', and there hold
council and feast together and determine destinies, appointing Merodach
as their champion against Tiamat, and (if victorious) their supreme Lord
and King.

We note a difference of ideas between the picture of Heaven, as the
Court of an Oriental monarch, in Jb and i K 22", and the later and
more spiritual representation of the prophet Isaiah, which conceives of
Heaven as an august Temple, where the mystic Seraphim ' raise the
Trisagion ever and aye ' before the throne of lahvah Sabaoth. The
same general conception seems to be reflected in Ps 29.

As lahvah's messengers and ministers in relation to man the celestial
host are. called D'^tSpP 'messengers' (= ciyytAot; cf. ® 01 otyyeXot toC
Qtov = WTh^r\ ijn , Gn 6= and here) ; a designation which displaced all
others in the ordinary use of the developed theology of the OT (cf.Hoi2*-5
D^^^N = ^xIjd ; Gn 32^8). In the poetical sections of our book (51 1515)
we meet with another title of these celestial beings, viz. D''tJ'-p ' Holy
Ones ' (cf Ps %ff-^, where their assembly is called 'np isnp and 'ip niD).
The original implication of this term, derived from the primidve root
KAD which we see in 1p-i ' to burn ' and other cognates (see Hilprecht
Anniversary Volume, p. 48) was bright, pure, physically (cf. is"""); but,
like its synonyms, the word soon came to include the ideas, first of ritual
or ceremonial and then of moral and spiritual purity or ' holiness '.

Among the Bene haeloMm there went in also one who is called
\m}T\ The Adversary or Opposer; who in the sequel justifies this designa-
tion by daring persistently to maintain his own contrary opinion against
lahvah Himself, and by his manifest malignity to Eyob. ®, by its


rendering 6 SidySoXos, seems to identify this ' Adversary ' at once with the
Arch-spirit of Evil, the Enemy of Mankind (cf. Mt 5 8id(3o\o^ =
SaTaras). It is, however, evident that the Satan of our narrative, with
his free access to the Throne of Heaven and direct intercourse with the
Supreme, is a very different figure from the outcast and utterly fallen
Spirit of the later theology, enemy alike of God and man ; although
his unfriendly insinuations against Eyob and the alacrity with which he
sets about the ruin of an innocent person give us more than a hint of
what was to become the salient feature of his character.

It is usual to remark that the presence of the Article in the Hebrew
(iDBTl /he Satan) shows that the phrase has not yet become a Proper
Name. Possibly, however, we have here an instance of that peculiar use
of the Article in Hebrew which must be rendered indefinitely in our
language (a Satan or an adversary > the S., the Adv.); just as in the
parallel passage (i K 22^1) niin the spirit means the spirit who became
known from his part in this vision and may be rendered more naturally
by a spirit in our less vivid and picturesque idiom.

The equivalence IDE* = 8ta/3oAos = Jf^.oiisf'' (© Mt 41) maligner,
slanderer — a conception of Satan which perhaps depends mainly upon
the Prologue of Jb and Zc 31 — may be justified by reference to Ezr 4',
where the cognate njtJB' denotes an accusation or calumny.

V. 7. lahvah's question, Whence earnest thou ? (as though the Omni-
scient required to be informed: Pr 15' Ps 139 Je 23") betrays the
simplicity of the ancient myth. In the sense of the original legend the
question may perhaps indicate surprise. lahvah does not ask whence
' the Sons of God ' in general have come. He knows the stations of
the heavenly host. Perhaps also, although as a Spirit-being it is implied
that the Satan is himself a ben-hd'eloMm, the statement and the Satan too
went in among them implies that there was something unusual in his
attendance at the Divine levee : it was an intrusion ; he made his
way in with the throng. At all events, his reply From roving the earth
and roaming ahout therei^i may suggest that he was not altogether at
home in the celestial sphere, the abode of the Host of Heaven ; either
he is an earthborn spirit, or at least (like the evil spirits of Babylonian
sorcery) his haunt and home is the earth, with its deserts, and caves, and
mountains (cf. Mt 4' 12^^). The restlessness of a Babylonian demon,
wandering about in search of a victim, may be said to characterize him
(cf. also I Pe s'*). The zest with which he falls to ruining the righteous
Eyob bears this out. We can hardly say that, as God's instrument or
minister, his 'own moral character does not come into question', or
that he is neither a good nor a bad angel (Davidson). How can we
conceive of a good spirit as inciting lahvah to suspect a good man's
integrity, and rejoicing in the infliction of unmerited miseries ? He is.

104 THE BOOK OF JOB , 1. 7

in fact, as his name indicates, already the Arch-enemy of man, sceptical
of his goodness, disparaging his motives, eager to do him hurt. Why
this should be so the story gives no hint. And since the author of the
book has no further use for the Satan after the Prologue in Heaven, and
neither Eyob nor any of the other speakers makes any reference to his
instinctive hostility to man in general or to good men in particular as
accounting for the calamities which befell the righteous hero, it is perhaps
hardly worth while to lay much stress upon the details of an ancient
popular legend, which the author chose for the setting of his great
argument simply because it supplied a vivid and dramatic illustration
of the truth which he desired to advocate : the truth, namely, that the
same effects may be due to different causes, and that human suffering,
so far from always being direct evidence of human sin, may sometimes
be due to causes which have no relation at all to conduct. Had the
author regarded Satan's malignity as the true solution of the riddle of
the sufferings of the righteous, his closing Theodicy would hardly have
omitted all reference to the fact {see 38-421*). It has often been pointed
out that to press every detail of a parable is to imperil our perception of
the lesson it was intended to convey ; and it must be admitted that, from
the standpoint of an absolute morality, it is as difficult to justify lahvah's
arbitrary dealing with one whose blamelessness He Himself emphatically
affirms, as it is to account for the character and conduct of the Satan, if
we confine our attention exclusively to OT sources. Qui facit per
alium facit per se ; and although lahvah charges the Satan with urging
Him on against Eyob (2^), the Epilogue plainly speaks of all the evil
which lahvah had caused to come upon him (Eyob) : 42". After all, the
story contains no suggestion that the Satan presented himself before
lahvah with the express purpose of disparaging Eyob's piety. It is
lahvah who first mentions the patriarch, challenging the judgement of
the Satan upon his unique excellence, eliciting a sarcastic expression of
doubt as to its disinterested nature, and then granting permission to the
malign spirit to put it to the proof in his own pitiless way.

V. 8, My servant ; i. e. my worshipper or votary. So in Gn of
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob : cf. 2 K 9'. Very common as an element
in Semitic (Aram., Heb., Phoen., Arab.) Personal Names, e. g. Abdallah,
Servant of Allah, Abdashtart, Servant of Ashtoreth, and the like. Cf. the
cognate verb, 21" Ex 3^2. Here, as in v. 21, the author seems to make
Eyob a lahvah-worshipper, that is, an Israelite. This may have been
a feature of the popular story. In the speeches, however, he is careful
to restrict Eyob and his friends, as non-Israelites, to the more general
terms W, nii'N, U^rbi<, and *nB>.

He has not his like on earth. Eyob, like Noah, with whom Ezekiel
mentions him as a paragon and proverb of righteousness (Ez 14"-™), is NOTES ON THE TEXT 105

the best man alive (Gn 6'), whether in the matter of Cullus or of conduct.
The expression ' My servant' implies also that he is dear to lahvah. The
character of Eyob is repeated from v. i, just as vv. 6-8 are repeated
at 2>~^. These and other similar recurrences of set phrases in the narra-
tive are quite in the manner of the professional storyteller, and they
remind us of the like repetitions of favourite lines and phrases in epic
poetry, whether Semitic (e. g. the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh) or
Aryan (Mahabharata ; the Iliad and Odyssey). Our narrative, however,
is not poetic in form, but rhythmic prose.

V. g. Is it for nothing that Eyob fears God ? A surprising question in
an OT book. Eyob's religious consistency and constancy are admitted,
but the question of motive is raised, and doubt is thrown on his disin-
terestedness. He expects and receives a quid pro quo for his piety. Let
the recompense cease ; and all this calculated goodness will disappear.
Such a suggestion is certainly starding, in view of the fact that the moral
teaching of the Law and the Prophets is everywhere recommended by
the promise of such blessings as Eyob enjoyed. It is the whole burden
of the fervid preaching of the Deuteronomist. The idea that an obedience
consciously rendered with an eye to material benefits was morally worth-
less does not seem to have occurred to the authors of the older scriptures.
The Satan suggests that Eyob is only apparently devoted to God ; he
loves the gifts, not the Giver, and his insincerity will be demonstrated
the moment the gifts are withdrawn. In much the same way, modern
adversaries of the faith have often objected to Christian piety that it really
rests on a foundation of selfishness, viz. the hope of reward and the fear of
punishment either here or hereafter, and cannot therefore claim to repre-
sent the highest ideal of moral excellence. In reply to such carping
criticism it is surely enough to point to that lifelong yearning after the
beauty of holiness, that hungering and thirsting after righteousness,
that unquenchable aspiration to reflect the image of God, which has
characterized the genuine saint in every age of the Church.

V. 10. Made a fence all round him (or hedged him about all round);
like a choice vineyard (Is 5^1^ Mt 21 ^2), to protect it from thieves and wild
beasts (Ps So"-" 89*°"). Eyob's own person, his family, and all his
belongings, are shielded by the Divine favour from all external attack.
As Duhm observes, had there been any hole in the fence, the Satan
would certainly have discovered it. We may remember how the evil
spirits of old Babylonian myth penetrate everywhere, easily making their
way through all obstacles and over all barriers. ' High walls (or fences,
■dre), broad walls, like a flood they surmount ; From house to house they
break thro' ; Them the door shuts not out, the bolt turns not back !
Thro' the door like a serpent they slip ; Thro' the hinge (or by the
pivot) like the wind they blow' (Vtukki LimnM, Tab. V, 24-35): see

io6 THE BOOK OF JOB 1. lo

Thompson, Devils, p. 52). And we have the repeated prayer of the
exorcisms, 'Into my house may they not enter! Into my fence (or
palisade, ilrtd) may they not break through ! ' (4 R i, col. 3, 65-8). .

But not only were Eyob and his dependents secure from personal hurt
and harm. lahvah had also hitherto prospered the work 0/ his hands
(Dt28" Ps 90" 104^^ nE'VO), his tillage and his trading enterprises; and
as for his livestock, it multiplied (Gn 30^° J) in the land. ®: and his
cattle thou didst multiply, &c. (iroXXa eiroir^tras = nSID ; ripS ?). Cf.
Dt 283 ff-.

V. II. Strike, as in v. 19. And he will assuredly, &c. The constr.
is that of an oath. The Satan will take his oath that Eyob will break
out into furious blasphemy, reviling lahvah ; much as barbarians have
been known to abuse and even beat their idols for failing to avert
disaster. {To Thy Face -=1 @ d's tt/doo-cu-jtov o-e evAoy-^o-ei ='31 ^'3D PN,
as 25. So ^N should be read for bv in v. 8, as in 2^ although ® has
Kara in the former case.)

V. 12. lahvah at once accepts the Satan's challenge, and by way of
testing His blameless servant's constancy bids the Adversary work his
will upon ' all that belongs to him ', sparing only himself. The readiness
with which lahvah surrenders one whose innocence He has Himself
asserted to such a merciless probation (cf 2'=) is certainly strange. Is it
meant that the Satan had succeeded in instilling a doubt of Eyob's
disinterestedness into the mind of lahvah (which would imply that
lahvah did not Himself really know the true state of the case ; cf. the
question Whence earnest thou? v. 7, and Gn 18*^ 22''), and that He saw
no other way of reassuring Himself than the drastic method suggested by
the Satan.? or is the idea rather that the Lord desires to vindicate His
own judgement and the character of His servant in the sight of all the
Sons of God (including the Satan) by submitting Eyob to the tests which
the Satan proposes, knowing that His servant's loyalty will emerge
triumphant from any possible trial f It must always be borne in mind that
t'ne manifest import of this parabolic legend is that misfortune does not
necessarily presuppose guilt, but that a perfectly good man may become
involved in it as a consequence of the activities of Powers above man,
and, further, that he will continue steadfast under the most formidable
shocks of calamity. But in spite of this lofty moral the hero appears
too much like a mere pawn on the chessboard of Heaven ; and we are
somehow reminded of Gloucester's despairing cry in Lear : ' As flies to
wanton boys are we to the gods : They kill us for their sport ! '

The Satan then withdrew from the presence of lahvah. Confident of
success, he does not linger in the Court of Heaven, but hurries forth
at once to execute his reluctantly conceded commission. (lahvah's
reluctance is apparently revealed in His anxious prohibition of any attack


upon Eyob himself.) There is an evident reminiscence of the Satan's
obtaining leave to make trial of Eyob's sincerity in the words which our
Lord addressed to St. Peter respecting the Twelve and himself: ' Simon,
Simon, behold the Satan did beg you (/>/«r.) for sifting like wheat ;
but I, I prayed for thee that thy faith fail not. And do thou, once thou
hast returned, confirm thy brethren ! ' (Lk 2 2^^-^'^). That misfortune is
a touchstone of character is a fact of universal experience ; but so also is

vv. 13-22. The first trial fails to shake Eyob's constancy. The fixed
phrases in which Eyob's successive misfortunes are related, belong, as
already noted (v. 8), to the epic style of narration ; and the breathless
haste with which one messenger of evil tidings follows on the heels
of another is profoundly impressive and dramatic. There are four strokes
of calamity (cf. Ez 14'^); and all is accomplished within the compass of
a single day — the very day when, secure in the sense of solemn rites
of expiation duly performed at dawn {see note on v. 5), and wholly
unconscious of impending doom, his children were joyously feasting
together in the house of the eldest-born. The curtain falls upon the
patriarch mourning the loss of all, but bowing to the will of lahvah in
a spirit of pious resignation.

V. 13. And the day came. See note on v. 6. his sons. So SK , it being
obvious from the context that sons of the Satan could not be intended,
although he is the nearest subject. ® ol viol 'Iwj3, to prevent mis-

Online LibraryCharles James BallThe book of Job, a revised text and version → online text (page 9 of 52)