I. The Prologue (1:1-2:13)Job’s Good Life 1
1:1 2 There was a man 3 in the land of Uz 4 whose 5 name was Job. 6 And that man was pure 7 and upright, 8 one who feared God and turned away from evil. 9 1:2 Seven 10 sons and three daughters were born to him. 11 1:3 His possessions 12 included 13 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys; in addition he had a very great household. 14 Thus he 15 was the greatest of all the people in the east. 16
1:4 Now his sons used to go 17 and hold 18 a feast in the house of each one in turn, 19 and they would send and invite 20 their three 21 sisters to eat and to drink with them. 1:5 When 22 the days of their feasting were finished, 23 Job would send 24 for them and sanctify 25 them; he would get up early 26 in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to 27 the number of them all. For Job thought, “Perhaps 28 my children 29 have sinned and cursed 30 God in their hearts.” This was Job’s customary practice. 31
[1:1] 1 sn See N. C. Habel, “The Narrative Art of Job,” JSOT 27 (1983): 101-11; J. J. Owens, “Prologue and Epilogue,” RevExp 68 (1971): 457-67; and R. Polzin, “The Framework of the Book of Job,” Int 31 (1974): 182-200.
[1:1] 2 sn The Book of Job is one of the major books of wisdom literature in the Bible. But it is a different kind of wisdom. Whereas the Book of Proverbs is a collection of the short wisdom sayings, Job is a thorough analysis of the relationship between suffering and divine justice put in a dramatic poetic form. There are a number of treatises on this subject in the ancient Near East, but none of them are as thorough and masterful as Job. See J. Gray, “The Book of Job in the Context of Near Eastern Literature,” ZAW 82 (1970): 251-69; S. N. Kramer, “Man and His God, A Sumerian Variation on the ‘Job’ Motif,” VTSup 3 (1953): 170-82. While the book has fascinated readers for ages, it is a difficult book, difficult to translate and difficult to study. Most of it is written in poetic parallelism. But it is often very cryptic, it is written with unusual grammatical constructions, and it makes use of a large number of very rare words. All this has led some scholars to question if it was originally written in Hebrew or some other related Semitic dialect or language first. There is no indication of who the author was. It is even possible that the work may have been refined over the years; but there is no evidence for this either. The book uses a variety of genres (laments, hymns, proverbs, and oracles) in the various speeches of the participants. This all adds to the richness of the material. And while it is a poetic drama using cycles of speeches, there is no reason to doubt that the events represented here do not go back to a real situation and preserve the various arguments. Several indications in the book would place Job’s dates in the time of the patriarchs. But the composition of the book, or at least its final form, may very well come from the first millennium, maybe in the time of the flowering of wisdom literature with Solomon. We have no way of knowing when the book was written, or when its revision was completed. But dating it late in the intertestamental period is ruled out by the appearance of translations and copies of it, notably bits of a Targum of Job in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Among the general works and commentaries, see A. Hurvitz, “The Date of the Prose Tale of Job Linguistically Reconsidered,” HTR 67 (1974): 17-34; R. H. Pfeiffer, “The Priority of Job over Isaiah 40-55,” JBL 46 (1927): 202ff. The book presents many valuable ideas on the subject of the suffering of the righteous. Ultimately it teaches that one must submit to the wisdom of the Creator. But it also indicates that the shallow answers of Job’s friends do not do justice to the issue. Their arguments that suffering is due to sin are true to a point, but they did not apply to Job. His protests sound angry and belligerent, but he held tenaciously to his integrity. His experience shows that it is possible to live a pure life and yet still suffer. He finally turns his plea to God, demanding a hearing. This he receives, of course, only to hear that God is sovereignly ruling the universe. Job can only submit to him. In the end God does not abandon his sufferer. For additional material, see G. L. Archer, The Book of Job; H. H. Rowley, “The Book of Job and Its Meaning,” BJRL 41 (1958/59): 167-207; J. A. Baker, The Book of Job; C. L. Feinberg, “The Book of Job,” BSac 91 (1934): 78-86; R. Polzin and D. Robertson, “Studies in the Book of Job,” Semeia 7 (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1977).
[1:1] 4 sn The term Uz occurs several times in the Bible: a son of Aram (Gen 10:23), a son of Nahor (Gen 22:21), and a descendant of Seir (Gen 36:28). If these are the clues to follow, the location would be north of Syria or south near Edom. The book tells how Job’s flocks were exposed to Chaldeans, the tribes between Syria and the Euphrates (1:17), and in another direction to attacks from the Sabeans (1:15). The most prominent man among his friends was from Teman, which was in Edom (2:11). Uz is also connected with Edom in Lamentations 4:21. The most plausible location, then, would be east of Israel and northeast of Edom, in what is now North Arabia. The LXX has “on the borders of Edom and Arabia.” An early Christian tradition placed his home in an area about 40 miles south of Damascus, in Baashan at the southeast foot of Hermon.
[1:1] 6 sn The name “Job” is mentioned by Ezekiel as one of the greats in the past – Noah, Job, and Daniel (14:14). The suffering of Job was probably well known in the ancient world, and this name was clearly part of that tradition. There is little reason to try to determine the etymology and meaning of the name, since it may not be Hebrew. If it were Hebrew, it might mean something like “persecuted,” although some suggest “aggressor.” If Arabic it might have the significance of “the one who always returns to God.”
[1:1] 7 tn The word תָּם (tam) has been translated “perfect” (so KJV, ASV). The verbal root תָּמַם (tamam) means “to be blameless, complete.” The word is found in Gen 25:27 where it describes Jacob as “even-tempered.” It also occurs in Ps 64:5 (64:4 ET) and Prov 29:10. The meaning is that a person or a thing is complete, perfect, flawless. It does not mean that he was sinless, but that he was wholeheartedly trying to please God, that he had integrity and was blameless before God.
[1:1] 9 sn These two expressions indicate the outcome of Job’s character. “Fearing God” and “turning from evil” also express two correlative ideas in scripture; they signify his true piety – he had reverential fear of the
[1:2] 10 sn The numbers used in the chapter, seven, three, and five, carry the symbolism in the Bible of perfection and completeness (see J. J. Davis, Biblical Numerology). Job’s “seven sons” are listed first because in the East sons were considered more valuable than daughters (recall Ruth, who is “better than seven sons” [Ruth 4:15]).
[1:2] 11 tn The verb begins the sentence: “and there were born.” This use of the preterite with vav (ו) consecutive, especially after the verb הָיָה (hayah, “to be”), is explanatory: there was a man…and there was born to him…” (IBHS 551-52 §33.2.2b).
[1:3] 16 tn The expression is literally “sons of the east.” The use of the genitive after “sons” in this construction may emphasize their nature (like “sons of belial”); it would refer to them as easterners (like “sons of the south” in contemporary American English). BDB 869 s.v. קֶדֶם says “dwellers in the east.”
[1:4] 19 tn The sense is cryptic; it literally says “house – a man – his day.” The word “house” is an adverbial accusative of place: “in the house.” “Man” is the genitive; it also has a distributive sense: “in the house of each man.” And “his day” is an adverbial accusative: “on his day.” The point is that they feasted every day of the week in rotation.
[1:4] 20 tn The use of קָרָא (qara’, “to call, invite”) followed by the ל (lamed) usually has the force of “to summon.” Here the meaning would not be so commanding, but would refer to an invitation (see also 1 Kgs 1:19, 25, 26).
[1:4] 21 tn Normally cardinal numerals tend to disagree in gender with the numbered noun. In v. 2 “three daughters” consists of the masculine numeral followed by the feminine noun. However, here “three sisters” consists of the feminine numeral followed by the feminine noun. The distinction appears to be that the normal disagreement between numeral and noun when the intent is merely to fix the number (3 daughters as opposed to 2 or 4 daughters). However, when a particular, previously known group is indicated, the numeral tends to agree with the noun in gender. A similar case occurs in Gen 3:13 (“three wives” of Noah’s sons).
[1:5] 22 tn The verse begins with the temporal indicator “and it happened” or “and it came to pass,” which need not be translated. The particle כִּי (ki, “when”) with the initial verbal form indicates it is a temporal clause.
[1:5] 23 tn The verb is the Hiphil perfect of נָקַף (naqaf, “go around”), here it means “to make the round” or “complete the circuit” (BDB 668-69 s.v. II נָקַף Hiph). It indicates that when the feasting had made its circuit of the seven sons, then Job would sanctify them.
[1:5] 24 tn The form is a preterite with vav (ו) consecutive. The same emphasis on repeated or frequent action continues here in this verse. The idea here is that Job would send for them, because the sanctification of them would have consisted of washings and changes of garments as well as the sacrifices (see Gen 35:2; 1 Sam 16:5).
[1:5] 26 tn The first verb could also be joined with the next to form a verbal hendiadys: “he would rise early and he would sacrifice” would then simply be “he would sacrifice early in the morning” (see M. Delcor, “Quelques cas de survivances du vocabulaire nomade en hébreu biblique,” VT 25 : 307-22). This section serves to explain in more detail how Job sanctified his children.
[1:5] sn In the patriarchal society it was normal for the father to act as priest for the family, making the sacrifices as needed. Job here is exceptional in his devotion to the duty. The passage shows the balance between the greatest earthly rejoicing by the family, and the deepest piety and affection of the father.
[1:5] 29 tn Heb “sons,” but since the three daughters are specifically mentioned in v. 4, “children” has been used in the translation. In this patriarchal culture, however, it is possible that only the sons are in view.
[1:5] 30 tn The Hebrew verb is בָּרַךְ (barakh), which means “to bless.” Here is a case where the writer or a scribe has substituted the word “curse” with the word “bless” to avoid having the expression “curse God.” For similar euphemisms in the ancient world, see K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, 166. It is therefore difficult to know exactly what Job feared they might have done. The opposite of “bless” would be “curse,” which normally would convey disowning or removing from blessing. Some commentators try to offer a definition of “curse” from the root in the text, and noting that “curse” is too strong, come to something like “renounce.” The idea of blaspheming is probably not meant; rather, in their festivities they may have said things that renounced God or their interest in him. Job feared this momentary turning away from God in their festivities, perhaps as they thought their good life was more important than their religion.