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country, all originally of the race of Abraham. The language is pure Hebrew, although the author appears to be an Idumaan; for it is not improbable that all the posterity of Abraham, Israelites, Idumæans, and Arabians, whether of the family of Keturah or Ishmael, spoke for a considerable length of time one common language. That the Idumæans, however, and the Temanites in particular, were eminent for the reputation of wisdom, appears by the testimony of the prophets Jeremiah and Obadiah :* Baruch also particularly mentions them amongst “ the authors (or expounders) of fables, and searchers out of understanding.”+ The learned are very much divided in their sentiments concerning the author of this book. Our Lightfoot conjectures, that it is the production of Elihu; and this conjecture seems at first sight rather countenanced by the exordium to the first speech of Elihu, in which he seems to assume the character of the author, by continuing the narrative in his own person. That passage, however, which appears to interrupt the speech of Elihu, and to be a part of the narrative, is, I apprehend, nothing more than an apostrophe to Job, or possibly to himself; for it manifestly consists of two distichs; while, on the contrary, it is well known that all the narrative parts, all in which the author himself appears, are certainly written in prose.
Another opinion, which has been still more generally received, attributes the work to Moses. This conjecture, however, for I cannot dignify it with any higher appellation, will be found to rest altogether upon another, namely, that this poem was originally a consolatory address to the Israelites, and an allegorical representation of their situation: And I must confess I can scarcely conceive any thing more futile than such an hypothesis, since it is impossible to trace, throughout the whole book, the slightest allu
who lived in Idumæa and its neighbourhood, should instantly be informed of all that could happen to Job in the Desert of Arabia and on the confines of Chaldea, and immediately repair thither? Or whether it be reasonable to think, that, some of them being inhabitants of Arabia Deserta, it should be concerted among them to meet at the residence of Job; since it is evident that Eliphaz lived at Theman, in the extreme parts of Idumæa? With respect to the Aisitas of Ptolemy (for so it is written, and not Ausitas), it has no agreement, not so much as in a single letter, with the Hebrew Gnutz. The LXX indeed call that country by the name Ausitida, but they describe it as situated in Idumæa; and they account Job himself an Idumæan, and a descendant of Esau. See the Appendix of the LXX to the book of Job, and Hyde, Not. in Perilzol. chap. xi. - Author's Note.
* Jer. xlix. 7.; Obad. 8. + Baruch iii. 22, 23. Job xxxii. 15, 16.
sion to the manners, customs, ceremonies, or history of the Israelites. I will add, moreover, that the style of Job appears to me materially different from the poetical style of Moses; for it is much more compact, concise, or condensed, more accurate in the poetical conformation of the sentences: as may be observed also in the prophecies of Balaam the Mesopotamian—a foreigner indeed with respect to the Israelites, but neither unacquainted with their language, nor with the worship of the true God. I confess myself, therefore, on the whole, more inclined to favour the opinion of those who suppose Job himself, or some contemporary, to be the author of this poem: for that it is the most ancient of all the sacred books, is I think manifest from the subject, the language, the general character, and even from the obscurity of the work.* Concerning the time also in which Job lived,
* In opposition to the antiquity of the poem, and to what I have urged above, that it appears to have no connexion with, or relation to, the affairs of the Israelites, appeals have been made to Job xxxi. 28. See A free and candid Eramination of the Bishop of London's Sermon, Anonymous, p. 165. in which the author inquires, “ In what nation upon earth idolatry was ever accounted a crime but under the Jewish economy? His argument is proposed as unanswerable, and is thought to be sufficiently confirmed by the authority of Mr Locke. I will however appeal to a higher authority than that of Locke, namely, that of reason and the sacred writings; and will answer the question in a few words: Under the Patriarchal economy, in every tribe and family under Abraham, Melchizedec, Job, and the rest. On the increase of idolatry Abralam was called by the divine command from Chaldea, to the end that from him should proceed a nation separate from all others, who should worship the true God, should afford a perfect example of pure religion, and bear testimony against the worship of vain gods. Was it not, therefore, the duty of Abraham, who in his own tribe or family possessed all the attributes of sovereignty, to punish idolatry as well as homicide, adultery, or other heinous crimes? Was it not the duty of Melchizedec, of Job, of all those patriarchal princes who regarded the worship of the true God, sedulously to prevent every defection from it; to restrain those who were disposed to forsake it, and to punish the obscinate and the rebellious? In fact, in this allusion to the exertion of the judicial authority against idolatry, and against the particular species which is mentioned here, namely, the worship of the Sun and Moon, (the earliest species of idolatry), consists the most complete proof of the antiquity of the poem, and the decisive mark of the patriarchal age. But if it should be suspected, that the ingenuity of the poet might lead him to imitate with accuracy the manners of the age 1 which he describes, this indeed would be more to the purpose, and a more plausible argument against the antiquity of the poem : but I cannot possibly attribute such address and refinement to a poet in a barbarous age, and after the Babylonish captivity. Further than this, the style of the poem savours altogether of the antique ; insomuch, that whoe ver could suppose it written after the Babylonish captivity, would fall little short of the error of Hardouin, who ascribed the golden verses of Virgil, Horace, &c. to the iron age of monkish pedantry and ignorance.
With regard to the other difficulty, the solution of which appears so embar
although not directly specified, I see no great room for doubt. The length of his life evinces that he was before Moses, and probably contemporary with the patriarchs. Not, however, to dwell upon the innumerable hypotheses of the learned on this subject, I will only mention, that there is the utmost probability of his having lived prior to the promulgation of the Law, from the nature of the sacrifice which he institutes conformably to the command of God, namely, seven oxen and seven rams; for it is plain, from the example of Balaam, that a respect for that number prevailed in those countries and at that period, from the traditional accounts which were still preserved among them of the seven days of creation.* The truth of the narrative would never, I am persuaded, have been called in question, but from the immoderate affection of some allegorizing mystics for their own fictions, which run to such excess as to prevent them from acceding to any thing but what was visionary and typical. When I speak of the poem as founded in fact, I would be understood no further than concerns the general subject of the narrative; for, I apprehend, all the dialogue, and most likely some other parts, have partaken largely of the embellishments of poetry; but I cannot allow that this has by any means extended so far as to convert the whole into an allegory. Indeed, I have not been able to trace any vestige of an allegorical meaning throughout the entire poem. And should even the exordium be suspected to be of this nature,t we must recollect, that the historical books are not destitute of similar narratives. The exor
rassing, namely, how any person not acquainted with the Jewish economy could assert that “ God visits the sins of the fathers upon the children," Job xxi. 19. let the candid observer for the present content himself with this verse of Horace:
“ Delicta majorum immeritus lues,
Roman, 'tis thine, to latest times,
The vengeance of the gods to bear.” Francis. - Author's Note. Job xlii. 8. Compare Numb. xxiji. I, &c. • There seems to be but little weight in this reasoning, because Job, as an Idumæan, might have been a worshipper of the true God, like Balaam the Mesopotamian; and therefore, though the law had been given to the Israelites, continued, notwithstanding, to offer sacrifice according to the traditionary mode of his progenitors.-S. H.
+ Job i. 6, &c. ii. 1, &c. Compare 1 Kings xxii. 19–22.
# It has long been a dispute among the learned, whether the poem of Job consists of fable or a true history: this question, if authority alone be applied
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