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Job (Biblical figure)

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Job (Hebrew אִיּוֹב Arabic loan?, Standard Hebrew Iyyov, Tiberian Hebrew ʾIyyḇ), was the protagonist of the Book of Job in the Hebrew Bible.

Job lived in the land of Uz, the location of which can only be speculated by scholars. He was an extremely wealthly man for his time and was declared to be the greatest man amongst the people of the East.


In the Hebrew Bible and Talmud

Classical Torah scholarship has not doubted Job's existence. He was seen as a real and powerful figure. Why else would an entire volume of the Tanakh have been written about someone who was not "real" ? The scholars of Orthodox Judaism maintain that Job was in fact one of three advisors that Pharaoh consulted, prior to taking action against the increasingly multiplying Children of Israel mentioned in the Book of Exodus during the time of Moses' birth. The episode is mentioned in the Talmud (Tractate Sotah): Balaam gives evil advice urging Pharaoh to kill the Hebrew male new-born babies; Jethro opposes Pharaoh and tells him not to harm the Hebrews at all, and Job keeps silent and does not reveal his mind even though he was personally opposed to Pharaoh's destructive plans. It is for his silence, that God subsequently punishes him with his bitter afflictions. [1].

There is a minority view, for instance that of Rabbi Simeon ben Laquish who said that Job "never existed" (Midrash Genesis Rabbah LXVII). In this view Job was a literary creation by a prophet who used this form of writing to convey a divine message.

On the other hand the Talmud (in Tractate Baba Batra 15a-16b) goes to great lengths trying to ascertain when Job actually lived citing many opinions and interpretations by the leadings sages:

"[2]... This supports the opinion of R. Joshua b. Levi b. Lahma who said that Job was contemporary with Moses...A certain Rabbi was sitting before R. Samuel b. Nahmani and in the course of his expositions remarked, Job never was and never existed, but is only a typical figure. He replied: To confute such as you the text says, There was a man in the land of Uz, Job was his name. But, he retorted, if that is so, what of the verse, The poor man had nothing save one poor ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up etc. Is that anything but a parable? So this too is a parable. If so, said the other, why are his name and the name of his town mentioned? R. Johanan and R. Eleazar both stated that Job was among those who returned from the [Babylonian] Exile, and that his house of study was in Tiberias. An objection [to this view] was raised from the following: 'The span of Job's life was from the time that Israel entered Egypt till they left it.'...[3] Said R. Johanan: Greater praise is accorded to Job than to Abraham. For of Abraham it is written, For now I know that thou fearest God, whereas of Job it is written, That man was perfect and upright and one that feared God and eschewed evil. What is the meaning of 'eschewed evil'? — R. Abba b. Samuel said: Job was liberal with his money. Ordinarily, if a man owes half a prutah [to a workman], he spends it in a shop, but Job used to make a present of it [to the workman]...[4] Raba said: Job sought to exculpate the whole world. He said: Sovereign of the Universe, Thou hast created the ox with cloven hoofs and thou hast created the ass with whole hoofs; thou hast created Paradise and thou hast created Gehinnom: thou hast created righteous men and thou hast created wicked men, and who can prevent thee? His companions answered him: Yea, thou doest away with fear' and restrainest devotion before God. If God created the evil inclination, He also created the Torah as its antidote..."

In the Jewish Talmud, Job is further mentioned as follows [5]:

  • Job's resignation to his fate (in Tractate Pesachim 2b)
  • When Job was prosperous, anyone who associated with him even to buy from him or sell to him, was blessed (in Tractate Pesachim 112a)
  • Job's reward for being generous (in Tractate Megillah 28a)
  • King David, Job and Ezekiel described the Torah's length without putting a number to it (in Tractate Eruvin 21a)

Job is mentioned in the book of Ezekiel (xiv. 14, 20) in the company of Noah and Daniel as among the three most righteous men.

See more about Job at [Themes of Job] and Summary of Job's life.

In Christianity

The book of Job is referred to in the Epistle to Hebrews 12:5; and in the First Epistle to the Corinthians 3:19.

Some hold that Job was not a real historical figure. In this view, the narrative is a parable, written under divine inspiration in order to teach theological truths, but was never meant to be taken as literally true in a historical sense.

Other Christians believe that Job was a real historical figure. Such literalist beliefs accept the narrative statements in the book which treat Job as an actual person; this belief is also based on the references to Job in the Book of Ezekiel and in the Epistle of James. Independent verification of Job's historicity is lacking, though that is perhaps unsurprising when one considers that almost no citizen of the ancient world has left any trace by which his existence might be proven today.

In Islam

In the Qur'an he is known as Ayub and is considered a prophet in Islam.

External links

Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04