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dium and conclusion, I agree, are distinct from the poem itself, and stand in the place of an argument or illustration: to, must long since have been decided in favour of those who assert it to be a real history.
With me I confess, on the other hand, it is no longer matter of opinion, but I feel very little doubt that the subject of the poem is altogether fabulous, and designed to teach us, that “the rewards of virtue being in another state, it is very possible for the good to suffer afflictions in this life; but that, when it so happens, it is permitted by Providence for the wisest reasons, though they may not be obvious to human eyes.” But before I proceed to examine the grounds of this opinion, it may be necessary to premise a few remarks in reply to those who may think the divine authority of the book affected by the supposition of its not being founded in fact. For my own part, I cannot conceive that the sanctity, the dignity, or the utility of that book will be in the least affected, though we should suppose no such person as Job had ever existed.
If moral precepts, conveyed in the garb of fabulous narrations, allure the hearers by the pleasure they afford; if they strike the mind more forcibly, are more easily understood, and better retained, than abstract sentiments—I see po reason why this mode of writing should be deemed unworthy of inspiration. Indeed, on the contrary, we find it made use of by Christ himself; nor does it at all derogate from his force as a moral teacher, that the good Samaritan, the rich man and Lazarus, &c. were not real persons.
I shall not, however, rest here; for I assert further, that the book of Job is more instructive as a fable, than it could possibly be as a true history. Taken as a mere relation of a matter of fact, it is necessary to suppose that the sentiments and conversations are exhibited exactly as they were spoken, and are the sentiments of mere mortals not actuated by the Spirit of God: for we find that God has reproved both Job and his friends as being severally mistaken. It would then be impossible to determine what was true or what false: no doctrine of religion, no precept of morality, could with certainty be deduced from these conversations. In the whole book, the historical part, (and how short is that!) and the words attributed to God himself, would be alone divine, or of divine authority; the rest would be all human. Considered as a fable, the case is different. The author, composing under the influence of divine inspiration, we may reasonably suppose has attributed to the fictitious characters such sentiments as were proper and natural to their state and circumstances : We have then, in the first place, a picture of the human mind drawn by the finger of God; and, in the next, we may rest satisfied that Job and his friends err only in the principal matter upon which they dispute, and only on the points for which God has reproved them; but that whatever is said exclusive of this is founded on divine truth : such is the mention of the angels by Eliphaz, and the assertion of Job, that there is none pure among mortals. Finally, we are by these means enabled both to determine what are the sentiments which inmediately meet with the approbation of God, and what are the errors which are intended to be exposed. An able writer in dialogue never fails to discover his own sentiments: as from the books of Cicero on the Nature of the Gords, we may collect with ease what the author thought, or rather doubted upon the subject; which would have been impossible if he had only reported the actual words of the philosophers who are supposed to have conversed on that subject.
I will now proceed freely to explain what at first I undertook to prove concerning the book in question. It is surely more becoming 10 consider the exordium, in which Satan appears as the accuser of Job, rather in the light of a fable than of a true narrative. It is surely incredible that such a conversation ever took place between the Almighty and Satan, who is supposed to return
that they are, however, coeval with the poetical part, and the work of the same author, is evident, since they are
with news from the terrestrial regions. Indeed the commentators who have undertaken to vindicate this part of the book, have done it with so much aspe, rity, that they seem conscious of the difficulty under which it labours.
Nor will it suffice to answer, as some temperate and rational commentator like our Author probably will, and indeed as he himself hints, that the great outline of the fact only is true; and that the exordium is set off with some poetical ornaments, among which is to be accounted the conversation between God and Satan: for on this very conversation the whole plot is founded, and the whole story and catastrophe depends. One of the best of men is thrown into so many unexpected and undeserved evils, that neither he nor his adversaries are able to conceive how it can be consistent with a benevolent Being to plunge a good man into so great afflictions; nor has God condescended to explain the motives of it to them, but reproves them all for investigating matters beyond their reach, But the author of the book undoes the knot which is left unresolved in these conversations, and gives the reader to understand how indifferently those reason concerning the divine providence, and the happiness or misery of mankind, who are only partially informed of causes and events. The Almighty acts for the honour of Job, of human nature, and of piety itself; he permits Job to be unhappy for a time, and refutes the accusations of Satan even by the very ineans which he himself pointed out. Suppose, therefore, that what is thus related of Satan be fictitious, and all the rest truç, instead of the difficulty being done away, the consequence will be, that the whole plot remains without any solution whatever. What our Author has added concerning one of the historical books of Scripture, in which a similar passage occurs, 1 Kings xxii. 19–22. appears not at all to the purpose. It is not a history related by the author, nor does the author speak in his own person, but a prophet explains a vision which he has had. But those who suppose the book of Job to be founded upon fact, allow that the historian speaks in the first and second chapters, who, if he did invent, would certainly, one would think, take that liberty only in matters which did not affect the great scope of the history, and not in a matter which, if it be supposed fictitious, reduces the whole book to nothing.
Moreover, the style of the whole book being poetical, and so sublime, that I defy any inan to imitate it in any extempore effusion, is an irrefragable proof in favour of my opinion. Our Author, indeed, pleads a very specious excuse : he thinks that the conversation and speeches of the different characters have been poetically ornamented. And this argument I do not wish to confute. There are however others, who defend the bistorical truth of the poem in a manner not quite so modest. Among the rest, the famous Schultens alleges it not to be incredible that these are the actual words of the disputants, if we consider the amazing faculty which the Arabiairs possess of making extempore verses. In answer to this I must confess, that all be can urge on this subject will never persuade me, that poetry, which is confessedly superior to all that human genius has been able to produce, is nothing more than an extempore effusion. Indeed, nothing can be more ridiculous than to suppose men in circumstances of so great distress, in the midst of difficulties and afflictions, capable of amusing themselves with making extempore verses.
These objections which I have just stated are well known to the commentators; but there are others not quite so common, which induce me to suppose the subject of this poem not historical but fabulous. So many round numbers and multiplications of them occur in the life of Job, as to be quite incompatible with mere chance. Ten children perish, seven sons (which, though it be
indispensably necessary to the unravelling of the plot, which is not developed in the body of the poem. There are, it is
not a round number, is yet held sacred and mysterious by the orientals) and three daughters ; 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 1000 oxen, and exactly half the number of asses. In lieu of these, there are restored to him 14,000 sheep, 6000 camels, 2000 oxen, and 1000 asses, exactly the duplicate of the former numbers ; together with exactly the same number of children as he had lost, seven sons and three daughters, and these from one wife. The same principle is found to extend to the years of Job's prosperity, which are multiplications of the number 70. These circumstances betray art and fiction in the narrator who has introduced these round numbers, which we know are the first to present themselves to the mind; it bears no appearance of chance or casualty, which, when it predominates in a series of events, produces a wonderful variety, but very little of regularity or equality. The name of Job too, which, in the Arabic, means returning to God, and loving him, and hating whatever is contrary to him, is so adapted to the character of his latter years, that we can never suppose it a name given to him by his parents, but invented by the author of the story.
A fourth argument is, that the scene is laid in Arabia, yet the poem abounds so much in imagery borrowed from Egypt, that it is plain that country must have been extremely well known to the author, and indeed predominant in his mind, as I have endeavoured to prove in a Dissertation recited before the R. S. of Gottingen.
But the most powerful of all proofs is, that some things appear in the book of Job which could not possibly bave place in a true history. At a period when the longevity of the Patriarchs was reduced within the limit of two hundred years, Job is said to have lived 140 years after his malady, and therefore could not be very ancient when he fell into this malady: nevertheless he upbraids his friends with their youth, (who, by the way, could not be very young, since Elihu, ch. xxxii. 6, 7. 9. reverences their hoary age), and adds, that “ he would have disdained to set their fathers with the dogs of his flock," ch. xxx. I. But what is more extraordinary, these saine men boast of their own age, and seem to exact a degree of reverence from Job as their junior: thus Eliphaz, ch. xx. 10. “ With us are both the grey-headed and the very aged men much older than thy father.” These passages, therefore, so directly contradict each other, that they cannot be connected with true history. The opprobrium which he casts upon the birth of his friends seems also an inconsistency, cb. xxx. 1-6. as it is incredible that so noble and rich a man should ever have chosen bis friends from the meanest of the people.
It remains only to remove one objection, with which those who contend for the historical truth of the book of Job may press us. Job is quoted by Ezekiel along with Noah and Daniel, whom we know to have been real persons, and they are proposed by James as an example of patience, (Ezek. xiv. 14. 20. James v. 11.); as if it were improper or indecent to recommend the virtues of fictitious characters to our imitation, or as if this were not in fact the end of delineating such characters. Neither is there the least impropriety in instancing the same virtues in real and fictitious characters. Suppose a father to recommend to his daughters the examples of Lucretia and Pamela, as models of chastity and virtue, who would esteem such a discourse reprehensible, or think that it either took from the truth of the bistory, or gave a reality to the fiction?
To return to the point from which we set out: This poem seems to treat of the affliction which may sometimes bappen to good men, at the same time that the author seems to wish to accommodate the consolation to the people of God, and to represent their oppression under the character of Job. To this opinion
true, phrases extant in the exordium, in which some critics have pretended to discover the hand of a later writer: the
it is objected by our Author, that there appears nothing in the book like an allusion to the manners, rites, or affairs of the Israelites. Of the latter I shall treat, when we come to speak of the application of this poem to the history of the Israelites. As to the manners, they are what I called Abrahamic, or such as were at that period common to all the seed of Abraham at that time, Israelites, Ishmaelites, and Idumæans. But perhaps it may be thought necessary to instance those customs which were peculiar to the Israelites, and by which they were distinguished from the Arabians: this, however, would not display much judgment in the author of a poem, the scene of which lies in Arabia; besides, that most of the peculiar customs of the Israelites, those I mean which distinguished them from the other descendants of Abraham, were either derived from the Egyptians, or were taught them by Moses: and who would require, that such things as the paschal lamb, and the Mosaic feasts and priesthood, should be introduced into such a poem? The frequent allusions, however, to the country and the productions of Egypt abundantly answer this objection; insomuch, that though the scene is laid in Arabia, one would imagine the actors had been Egyptians. Nor are there wanting allusions to the circumstances of the Israelites. These, like Job, lost their children and possessions by the tyranny of Pharaoh ; and, if I am not mistaken, the disease is the same which affected Job, with that which prevailed among the Egyptians by the command of Moses.
From these circumstances I am much inclined to the opinion which attributes this book to Moses. For is it to be imagined, that a native of Idumæa should crowd his poem with images and figures borrowed from Egypt? Or what native of Arabia (for it must be allowed that the book of Job has some allusions peculiar to Arabia) was so likely to intermingle the imagery of both countries as Moses? To these may be added the allusions to the Isles of the Blessed, which common to the book of Job and the Mosaic writings. I am well aware that there is more of the tragic, more of strong poetic feeling in this book, than in the other relics of Mosaic poetry, which has induced our Author to remark the discrepancy of style. But how different are the language and sentiments of a man raging in the heights of despair, from those which are to be sung in the temple of God? We must also remember, that the poetic style of an author in the flower of his youth is very different from that of his latter days. If Moses were really the author of this poem, he composed it about the age of forty years; but the rest of his poems were written between the 85th and 120th year of his age: at which period I am often surprised to meet with so much vigour of language and sentiment; and no other difference of style have I been able to discover.-M.
If I might hatter myself that the reader would not be wearied with replications and rejoinders, I would request bis attention to a few animadversions on these remarks of the Gottingen Professor. For, though I thought it my duty to state bis arguments as fully as I could, consistently with the limits of this work, I must confess that I do not myself feel by any means convinced; nor dare I venture to affirm, upon any such presumptive proofs, that the book of Job is altogether fabulous. I think it by no means follows, that because a book contains some things which may with propriety be termed poetical fictions, it has no foundation whatever in fact. The poems of Homer contain more fictions of this kind than any commentator has pretended clearly to discover in the book of Job; and yet no sober critic has denied that there ever was such an event as the Trojan war, on which those poems are founded.
I cannot help thinking with our Author, that such a man as Job might very
arguments however of these critics, I cannot esteem of any great force or importance.
That these points should be accounted of a very ambigupossibly have existed, and that the leading facts concerning his sudden depression and consequent misfortunes might really have bappened; and yet that the poet, in relating these facts, may have added such machinery, and other poetical ornaments, as appeared necessary to enliven the story, and illustrate the moral. Though we should not contend with the learned Professor for the literal acceptation of the exordium; though we should even admit with him, that it is not probable any such conversation ever took place between the Al mighty Governor of the universe and the great enemy of mankind, as is related in the first chapter; yet it by no means follows, that the inspired writer had no grounds whatever for what he describes perhaps poetically. The manner in which the Deity and the other celestial intelligences are spoken of in this poem appcars necessary, when the human mind is called upon to contemplate their actions; and may be considered as a kind of personification in accommodation to our limited faculties, and is common in many other parts of Scripture.
With regard to the objection founded on the round numbers, I think it very weak when applied to the children of Job; and as to the cattle, the event being recorded some time after it took place, it is hardly reasonable to expect that the numbers should be specified with the utmost exactness : indeed, nothing could be more awkward or ungraceful, in a poetical narration, than to descend to units; and when the numbers are doubled at the conclusion, I look upon it as no more than a periphrasis, expressing, that the Lord gave to Job twice as much as he had before.
As to the name; it is well known that all the names of the ancients were derived from some distinguishing quality, and not always given at their birth, as with us. (See Essays Historical and Moral, Ess. vi. p. 119.) Nay, the objection, if admitted, would strike at the authority of a considerable part of Holy Writ; for, not only many of the persons recorded there take their names from circumstances which occurred late in life, but, in some instances, from the very circumstances of their deaths, as Abel from Habal, vanity or nothingness, because he left no offspring.
There appears, at first sight, something more formidable in the argument founded on the inconsistencies which he boasts of having detected; nevertheless, I can by no means grant it all the credit which its author seems to claim. Both the expressions of Elihu and those of the other friends are very general, and I think improperly applied by the Professor ; for the passage referred to, chap. xv, 10. by no means proves that the friends of Job were older than he : “ with us or among us,” seems to imply no more than this, " older persons than either you or we are with us, or of our sentiments.” Still more general is the complaint of Job, chap. xxx. I.; indeed so general, that to a fair examiner it is impossible it should appear to have any relation at all to the friends of Job, as he is simply complaining of his altered state, and among other evils mentions the loss of that respect which he was accustomed to receive from all ranks of people, insomuch, that now even the young, the children, presume to hold him in derision. The other argument is by no means conclusive, namely, that which is founded on the supposed opprobrium on the birth of his friends, as really I cannot conceive any part of this speech to have the least reference to them; or, if it have, it is easy enough to suppose, that their fathers or themselves might have been raised to opulence from a mean station : and indeed such a supposition is absolutely necessary to give any point to the sarcasm of Job, admitting that it ought to be understood in the light our commentator seems to intend.-T.