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It seems there are so many instances in the Book of Job that could force interpreters to classify it as a parable/allegory.

Let me point out one of them here. There seems to be a sharp literary contrast between Job 1:3 and 42:12.

He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. (Job 1:3 ESV)

And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. (Job 42:12)

If Job is a real account, then how do we chart the descent of Eliphaz the Temanite; Bilhad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite characterization?

If the book is not a parable/allegory, then, what would be the best way to contrast and interpret Job 1:3 and 42:12?

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  • It classified as Wisdom, and as such we need to understand the moral and not seeking for historical truths.
    – A. Meshu
    Oct 14, 2018 at 17:07
  • It is unclear what exactly you are asking here. Especially: 1. You seem to have some concept of "Jewish fables" that I'm not familiar with. What would make a text a "Jewish fable"? 2. If you consider that one of the defining characteristics of Judaism is the existence of a scriptural tradition, then Judaism proper did not begin until somewhere during the Babylonian exile at the earliest. While the date of Job is debated, an earlier origin is very likely, so the book can't have resulted in "Jewish culture".
    – user2672
    Oct 14, 2018 at 19:09
  • Good point, @Keelan. Expand on it and I would upvote it.
    – user25930
    Oct 14, 2018 at 19:44
  • @Keelan: As Dr Peter McGowan has observed, you raised a thoughtful point here. What I am asking is this! 1. How do we reconcile the contrast between Job 1:3 and 42:12? 2. If the book couldn't have resulted in "Jewish culture," how do we reconcile the names that are used in the book. Some of those names are traceable to Judaism? Oct 14, 2018 at 21:56
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    At the beginning, Job had such and such, And after all his afflictions, God blessed him and he had much, much more. And the possessions are listed. I don't see a problem, myself.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 15, 2018 at 21:23

5 Answers 5

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The Septuagint version of Job contains a conclusion that indicates that Job was a real, historical person:

This man is described in the Syriac book as living in the land of Ausis, on the borders of Idumea and Arabia: and his name before was Jobab; and having taken an Arabian wife, he begot a son whose name was Ennon. And he himself was the son of his father Zare, one of the sons of Esau, and of his mother Bosorrha, so that he was the fifth from Abraam. And these were the kings who reigned in Edom, which country he also ruled over: first, Balac, the son of Beor, and the name of his city was Dennaba: but after Balac, Jobab, who is called Job: and after him Asom, who was governor out of the country of Thæman: and after him Adad, the son of Barad, who destroyed Madiam in the plain of Moab; and the name of his city was Gethaim. And his friends who came to him were Eliphaz, of the children of Esau, king of the Thæmanites, Baldad sovereign of the Sauchæans, Sophar king of the Minæans*


* Brenton translation

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  • This has helped to answer a part of my question @Keelan: 1. Will it be justified to classify the Book of Job as a parable or a real account? 2. Can we trace Eliphaz the Temanite; Bilhad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite to some pedigrees in Judaism? I would appreciate it if you could do some edits to touch on the other phase of the question when I said what generates a lot of interest in this investigation is the multiplier significance viz-a-viz the numerical precision in the restoration of Job's material losses. Does that not establish the connotative essence of a literary masterpiece? Oct 17, 2018 at 19:39
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The Book of Job was unquestionably written in a poetic style. But being poetry does not mean it is fiction. Ruth and Esther both have some poetic elements as well, and no one questions their historicity.

The Book of Job, however, was not written in the time period suggested by its placement among the books in the Old Testament. Being written by Moses, it is reasonable to conclude that it was written during his 40 years of tending sheep for his father-in-law in the land of Midian.

Moses' father-in-law went by more than one name, including Jethro (see Exodus 3:1), Reuel (Exodus 2:18), and Hobab (Judges 4:11; Numbers 10:29). Notably, he is called "the priest of Midian" (Exodus 3:1).

Midian was a grandson of Abraham, a second-cousin of Jacob, and it was the Midianites who traded Joseph into slavery in Egypt.

Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. (Genesis 25:1, KJV)

And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah. (Genesis 25:2, KJV)

Job is first mentioned in the Book of Genesis as a son of Issachar, who was one of Jacob's sons. This would have placed Job among those who lived in Egypt during the seven years of famine, and he would have been among those who tended the flocks and herds of the family there.

And the sons of Issachar; Tola, and Phuvah, and Job, and Shimron. (Genesis 46:13, KJV)

He is later said to have come from the land of Uz, so he must have taken his share of the animals and moved to Uz before the slavery in Egypt had begun.

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. (Job 1:1, KJV)

Uz was one of the sons of Shem, from whom Abraham also descended.

The sons of Shem; Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad, and Lud, and Aram, and Uz, and Hul, and Gether, and Meshech. (1 Chronicles 1:17, KJV)

So the land of Uz would be a Semitic territory. Looking at a map, the land of Midian would have been nearly halfway from Egypt to the land of Uz.

Both Job and Moses were descendants of Jacob.

Jacob Jacob
Levi Issachar
Kohath Job
Amram
Moses

Putting the details together, we could place Job as almost a contemporary of Moses, with but two generations separating them; Job being Moses' elder. In fleeing to Midian, Moses would have been nearer to the extended family in that direction, and very likely became acquainted with Job's story during those years as a shepherd--which is when he would have written the book, along with the book of Genesis.

Evidence from the story of Job itself confirms this time period:

These were dukes of the sons of Esau: the sons of Eliphaz the firstborn son of Esau; duke Teman, duke Omar, duke Zepho, duke Kenaz, (Genesis 36:15, KJV)

This shows that Eliphaz and Teman were both descendants of Esau, Jacob's brother, and Job's reference to "Eliphaz the Temanite" would refer to a descendant from that family.

Conclusion

It appears that, yes, Job was a real man, the cousin of Moses' grandfather, and his story is true, even if the rich, liturgical dialogues of the book of Job may have been written with a touch of poetic license.

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  • Very interesting answer. Thank you.
    – CMK
    Aug 3, 2022 at 21:35
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I don't think "sharp literary contrast" is an accurate description for the passage where God restores double for Job's material losses, especially if the description was from a literal event as opposed to a purely literary event.

Also consider Torah, the Law that was later delivered to Moses by God, required a similar double restitution from a thief in certain conditions, which is exactly what ha satan was guilty of in Job. Compare the conditions in Exodus 22:4 and 22:7.

Note that the earlier Pharaonic penalties were usually triple. See http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/law_and_order/index.html

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  • What generates a lot of interest in this investigation is the multiplier significance viz-a-viz the numerical precision in the restoration of Job's material losses. Does that not establish the connotative essence of a literary masterpiece? Oct 15, 2018 at 23:07
  • In context, Torah and similar previous ANE documents primarily connote a legal rather than a literary value. You might be able to argue that the precise factor of two demonstrates a simpler, stronger commitment than a more nuanced factor of, let's say, one-and-five-sixths or two-and-one-fifth.
    – Dieter
    Oct 16, 2018 at 3:23
  • You are right on point here and thanks to @ Pascal's Wager. Oct 16, 2018 at 7:40
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Ezekiel and James mention Job as a real person:-

Ezekiel 14:14 Even if these three men—Noah, Daniel, and Job—were within it, they would be able to save only themselves because of their righteousness,’ . . .

James 5:11 Look! We consider happy those who have endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job . . .

Therefore he must be real and the Bible book named after him.

Further to the above is the fact The God himself spoke about the man Job; see Job 1:8-9 & 2:3!

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  • Please don't add signatures. See the help center.
    – user2672
    Oct 16, 2018 at 19:48
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    On topic, that those other books mention Job does not mean he cannot be a fictitious role model.
    – user2672
    Oct 16, 2018 at 19:51
  • Good point, @Keelan. It sounds good to note that those other books mention Job. I'm afraid! I would accept this answer, if it it is expounded to chart the descent of Eliphaz the Temanite; Bilhad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite? Oct 16, 2018 at 20:03
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    I think Jesus can have the last word. John 17:17 "Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth. No room for fiction I think.
    – user26950
    Oct 17, 2018 at 17:26
  • I also believe the Bible is inherent. The historicity of Job is a subject of debate within Jewish Tradition @Alex. But we can chart the descent of Eliphaz the Temanite; Bilhad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite? – Oct 18, 2018 at 18:45
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I have studied and preached on the book of Job for many years. It is clear to me that there was indeed a real man named Job. The words that God gave to the writer were given notice that it is true:

  1. The book starts with "There was a Man", this was God saying I know this man
  2. God said he was upright and that he feared God. That alone speaks volumes of what God feels about Job. Therefore God has the writer call Job his name speaks volumes that this man Job is truly a real man.

The end of the book says Job lived 140 years and he saw his sons' sons and died.

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  • @ Mark Riel - Job certainly is a tome of sermon material that is quite edifying! However, concerning this question, by simply quoting verses in Job, you have only used "internal evidence" to bolster your view as to whether it is parable or history. Literary and historical evidence is needed to really substantiate a view, though. You might study what scholars have concluded, as well. Keep studying--and preaching--the Bible. it is Light for a dark world!
    – ray grant
    Nov 30, 2023 at 22:48

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