The Book of Job

Traditionally, Job has been dated to the time of the patriarchs, with some commentators arguing that it is the earliest book of the Bible. Those who argue this way offer the following reasons for their position:

1. Job’s sacrifices were according to the patriarchal pattern, with Job acting as the priest for his household.
2. Job lived to be nearly two hundred years old (cf. Abraham, who lived to be one hundred seventy-five).
3. There is no reference to Israel or the miracles accompanying the Exodus.
4. There is no reference to the Law of Moses.

Against this traditional argument, there are strong reasons to suspect that Job actually lived many years after the Exodus, well after the people of Israel had entered the Promised Land, and that the book of Job was, in fact, composed much, much later even than that.

1. The word Rahab (not to be confused with the prostitute in Jericho at the beginning of the book of Joshua; the spelling in Hebrew is different) occurs twice in the book of Job:

If he snatches away, who can stop him?
Who can say to him, “What are you doing?”
God does not restrain his anger;
even the cohorts of Rahab cowered at his feet. (Job 9:12-13)

By his power he churned up the sea;
by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces.
By his breath the skies became fair;
his hand pierced the gliding serpent. (Job 26:12-13)

Those two passages in Job can be profitably compared with some other biblical passages:

to Egypt, whose help is utterly useless.
Therefore I call her Rahab the Do-Nothing. (Isaiah 30:7)

I will record Rahab and Babylon
among those who acknowledge me —
Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush —
and will say, “This one was born in Zion.” (Psalm 87:4)

You rule over the surging sea;
when its waves mount up, you still them.

You crushed Rahab like one of the slain;
with your strong arm you scattered your enemies. (Psalm 89:9-10)

Awake, awake! Clothe yourself with strength,
O arm of the Lord;
awake, as in days gone by,
as in generations of old.
Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces,
who pierced that monster through?
was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep,
who made a road in the depths of the sea
so that the redeemed might cross over? (Isaiah 51:9-10)

From these references, it seems clear that the word Rahab is a reference to Egypt; furthermore, it appears that it is used in Job to refer to the Israelite’s exodus from Egypt. Therefore, the book of Job had to have been written sometime after that event.

Psalm 87 was written by the sons of Korah, dating the Psalm to the time of David or Solomon, according to 1 Chronicles 6:22, 31-46. Psalm 89 was written by Ethen the Ezrahite, who lived close to the time of Solomon, too, since Solomon is favorably compared to him in 1 Kings 4:31. Isaiah lived many years after Solomon. Therefore, an educated date for the time of authorship of the book of Job would seem to place it sometime between the time of David and Isaiah.

But what about the time frame of Job himself? Since the words about Egypt and the exodus are put in his mouth, a time during the patriarchs is completely ruled out. However, if we compare Job’s behavior, in serving as priest to his house, with the time of the Judges, we find definite parallels, because then, too, sacrifice was not exclusively the work of priests in a central tabernacle or temple (see for instance Judges 2:5, 6:25- 27, 11:31, and 13:19-21; see also 1 Samuel 6:14 and 11:15).

Another reason for rejecting the idea that Job dates to the time of the patriarchs or is the earliest book of the Bible is the simple fact that God’s name Yahweh appears in it (see Job 1:6, 1:12, 2:2 etc.). According to Exodus 6:2-3, that name was not used before the time of Moses:

God also said to Moses, “I am the Yahweh. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Yahweh I did not make myself known to them.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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