|<< Psalm 90 >>|
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
The eternity of God, Psalm 90:1, Psalm 90:2; the frailty of the state of man, Psalm 90:3-9; the general limits of human life, Psalm 90:10; the danger of displeasing God, Psalm 90:11; the necessity of considering the shortness of life, and of regaining the favor of the Almighty, Psalm 90:12; earnest prayer for the restoration of Israel, Psalm 90:13-17.
The title of this Psalm is, A Prayer of Moses the man of God. The Chaldee has, "A prayer which Moses the prophet of the Lord prayed when the people of Israel had sinned in the wilderness." All the Versions ascribe it to Moses; but that it could not be of Moses the lawgiver is evident from this consideration, that the age of man was not then seventy or eighty years, which is here stated to be its almost universal limit, for Joshua 54ed one hundred and ten years, and Moses himself one hundred and twenty; Miriam his sister, one hundred and thirty; Aaron his brother, one hundred and twenty-three; Caleb, four-score and five years; and their contemporaries lived in the same proportion. See the note on Psalm 90:4 (note). Therefore the Psalm cannot at all refer to such ancient times. If the title be at all authentic, it must refer to some other person of that name; and indeed איש אלהים ish Elohim, a man of God, a divinely inspired man, agrees to the times of the prophets, who were thus denominated. The Psalm was doubtless composed during or after the captivity; and most probably on their return, when they were engaged in rebuilding the temple; and this, as Dr. Kennicott conjectures, may be the work of their hands, which they pray God to bless and prosper.
1‹‹A Prayer of Moses the man of God.›› Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
Lord, thou hast been our dwellingplace - מעון maon; but instead of this several MSS. have מעוז maoz, "place of defense," or "refuge," which is the reading of the Vulgate, Septuagint, Arabic, and Anglo-Saxon. Ever since thy covenant with Abraham thou hast been the Resting-place, Refuge, and Defence of thy people Israel. Thy mercy has been lengthened out from generation to generation.
2Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
Before the mountains were brought forth - The mountains and hills appear to have been everlasting; but as they were brought forth out of the womb of eternity, there was a time when they were not: but Thou hast been ab aeternitate a parte ante, ad aeternitatem a parte post; fram the eternity that is past, before time began; to the eternity that is after, when time shall have an end. This is the highest description of the eternity of God to which human language can reach.
3Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.
Thou turnest man to destruction - Literally, Thou shalt turn dying man, אנוש enosh, to the small dust, דכא dacca but thou wilt say, Return, ye children of Adam. This appears to be a clear and strong promise of the resurrection of the human body, after it has long slept, mingled with the dust of the earth.
4For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
For a thousand years in thy sight - As if he had said, Though the resurrection of the body may be a thousand (or any indefinite number of) years distant; yet, when these are past, they are but as yesterday, or a single thatch of the night. They pass through the mind in a moment, and appear no longer in their duration than the time required by the mind to reflect them by thought. But, short as they appear to the eye of the mind, they are nothing when compared with the eternity of God! The author probably has in view also that economy of Divine justice and providence by which the life of man has been shortened from one thousand years to threescore years and ten, or fourscore.
5Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.
Thou carriest them away as with a flood - Life is compared to a stream, ever gliding away; but sometimes it is as a mighty torrent, when by reason of plague, famine, or war, thousands are swept away daily. In particular cases it is a rapid stream, when the young are suddenly carried off by consumptions, fevers, etc.; this is the flower that flourisheth in the morning, and in the evening is cut down and withered. The whole of life is like a sleep or as a dream. The eternal world is real; all here is either shadowy or representative. On the whole, life is represented as a stream; youth, as morning; decline of life, or old age, as evening, death, as sleep; and the resurrection as the return of the flowers in spring. All these images appear in these curious and striking verses, Psalm 90:3-6.
6In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.
7For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.
Psalm 90:7We are consumed by thine anger - Death had not entered into the world, if men had not fallen from God.
By thy wrath are we troubled - Pain, disease, and sickness are so many proofs of our defection from original rectitude. The anger and wrath of God are moved against all sinners. Even in protracted life we consume away, and only seem to live in order to die.
"Our wasting lives grow shorter still,As days and months increase;
And every beating pulse we tellLeaves but the number less."
8Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.
Psalm 90:8Thou hast set our iniquities before thee - Every one of our transgressions is set before thee; noted and minuted down in thy awful register!
Our secret sins - Those committed in darkness and privacy are easily discovered by thee, being shown by the splendours of thy face shining upon them. Thus we light a candle, and bring it into a dark place to discover its contents. O, what can be hidden from the allseeing eye of God? Darkness is no darkness to him; wherever he comes there is a profusion of light - for God is light!
9For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.
Psalm 90:9We spend our years as a tale - The Vulgate has: Anni nostri sicut aranea meditabuntur; "Our years pass away like those of the spider." Our plans and operations are like the spider's web; life is as frail, and the thread of it as brittle, as one of those that constitute the well-wrought and curious, but fragile, habitation of that insect. All the Versions have the word spider; but it neither appears in the Hebrew, nor in any of its MSS. which have been collated.
My old Psalter has a curious paraphrase here: "Als the iran (spider) makes vayne webs for to take flese (flies) with gile, swa our yeres ere ockupide in ydel and swikel castes about erthly thynges; and passes with outen frute of gude werks, and waste in ydel thynkyns." This is too true a picture of most lives.
But the Hebrew is different from all the Versions. "We consume our years (כמו הגה kemo hegeh) like a groan." We live a dying, whining, complaining life, and at last a groan is its termination! How amazingly expressive!
10The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Psalm 90:10Threescore years and ten - See the note on the title of this Psalm 90 (note). This Psalm could not have been written by Moses, because the term of human life was much more extended when he flourished than eighty years at the most. Even in David's time many lived one hundred years, and the author of Ecclesiasticus, who lived after the captivity, fixed this term at one hundred years at the most (Sirach 18:9); but this was merely a general average, for even in our country we have many who exceed a hundred years.
Yet is their strength labor and sorrow - This refers to the infirmities of old age, which, to those well advanced in life, produce labor and sorrow.
It is soon cut of - It - the body, is soon cut off.
And we fly away - The immortal spirit wings its way into the eternal world.
11Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.
Who knoweth the power of thine angers - The afflictions of this life are not to be compared to the miseries which await them who live and die without being reconciled to God, and saved from their sins.
12So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Psalm 90:12So teach us to number our days - Let us deeply consider our own frailty, and the shortness and uncertainty of life, that we may live for eternity, acquaint ourselves with thee and be at peace; that we may die in thy favor and live and reign with thee eternally.
13Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.
Return, O Lord, how long? - Wilt thou continue angry with us for ever?
Let it repent thee - הנחם hinnachem, be comforted, rejoice over them to do them good. Be glorified rather in our salvation than in our destruction.
14O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Psalm 90:14O satisfy us early - Let us have thy mercy soon, (literally, in the morning). Let it now shine upon us, and it shall seem as the morning of our days, and we shall exult in thee all the days of our life.
15Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.
Psalm 90:15Make us glad according to the days - Let thy people have as many years of prosperity as they have had of adversity. We have now suffered seventy years of a most distressful captivity.
16Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.
Psalm 90:17 They are like the passing grass of the morning;
In the morning it springeth up and groweth:
In the evening it is cut down and withereth.
For we are consumed by thine anger,
And by thy wrath are we troubled.
Thou hast set our iniquities before thee:
Our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.
Behold, all our days are passed away in thy wrath,
We spend our years as a tale that is told.
Their strength is labor and sorrow;
It is soon cut off, and we flee away.
So teach us to number our days
That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
O satisfy us early with thy mercy,
That we may rejoice and be glad all our days,
Make us glad according to the days of our affliction,
To the years we have seen
Let thy wonders be shown unto thy servants
And thy glory unto their children;
And let the beauty of Jehovah, our God, be upon us,
And establish thou the work of our hands. "The strictly and decidedly acknowledged productions of Moses are but few; and in the above examples I have taken a specimen from by far the greater number. It is, indeed, not a little astonishing that, being so few, they should offer a resemblance in so many points.
"There may at times be some difficulty in determining between the similarity of style and diction resulting from established habit, and that produced by intentional imitation; yet, in the former case, it will commonly, if I mistake not, be found looser, but more general; in the latter, stricter, but more confined to particular words or idioms; the whole of the features not having been equally caught, while those which have been laid hold of are given more minutely than in the case of habit. The manner runs carelessly through every part, and is perpetually striking us unawares; the copy walks after it with measured but unequal pace, and is restless in courting our attention. The specimens of resemblance now produced are obviously of the former kind: both sides have an equal claim to originality, and seem very powerfully to establish a unity of authorship."
Thus far Mr. Good; who has, on his own side of the question, most certainly exhausted the subject. The case he has made out is a strong one: we shall next examine whether a stronger cannot be made out in behalf of Solomon, as the second candidate for the authorship of this most excellent book.
2. That this book was the work of Solomon was the opinion of some early Christian writers, among whom was Gregory Nazianzen; and of several moderns, among whom were Spanheim and Hardouin. The latter has gone so far as to place the death of Job in the thirty-fifth year of the reign of David; and he supposes that Solomon wrote the work in question, about the second or third year of his reign. On this last opinion no stress whatever should be placed.
As the argument for Moses has been supported by supposed parallelisms between his acknowledged works and the Book of Job, so has that which attributes the latter to Solomon. That Solomon, from his vast learning and wisdom, was capable of such a work, none can deny. His knowledge in astronomy, natural history, politics, theology, languages, and the general science of his age, must have given him at least equal qualifications to those possessed by Moses. And if he was the author of the Song of Solomon, which most men believe, he had certainly a poetic mind, equal, if not superior, to all the writers who had existed previously to his time. The Book of Proverbs and that of Ecclesiastes are almost universally attributed to him: now, in the Book of Job, there are a multitude of sentiments, sentences, terms, and modes of speech, which are almost peculiar to Solomon, as will appear from the whole books.
In both we find the most exalted eulogium of wisdom. See Job 28:12; Proverbs 8:11, etc. Job says, "The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil, that is understanding;" Job 28:28. Solomon says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction;" Proverbs 1:7.
Job speaks of the state of the dead nearly in the same terms as Solomon: compare Job 21:33; Job 12:22; Job 36:5, with Proverbs 9:18.
Job says, Job 26:6, "Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering." Solomon says, Proverbs 15:11, "Hell and destruction are before the Lord; how much more the hearts of the children of men?" Job says, "Man drinketh iniquity like water;" Job 15:16. And Elihu charges him with "drinking up scorning like water;" Job 34:7. The same image occurs in Solomon, Proverbs 26:6 : "He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool drinketh damage."
In Job 15:34 it is said, "Fire shall consume the tabernacle of bribery." The same turn of thought occurs Proverbs 15:27 : "He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live."
Both speak of weighing the spirits or winds. See Job 28:25; Proverbs 16:2 But to me the parallelism in these cases is not evident, as both the reason of the saying, and some of the terms in the original, are different. Job tells his friends, "If they would hold their peace, it would be their wisdom;" Job 13:5. Solomon has the same sentiment in nearly the same words, Proverbs 17:28 : "Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise; and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding."
Solomon represents the rephaim or giants as in hell, or the great deep; Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 9:18; Proverbs 7:27. The like sentiment is in Job 26:5. See the Hebrew.
In Job 27:16, Job 27:17, it is said that "If the wicked heap up silver as the dust, and prepare raiment as the clay; the just shall put it on, and the innocent shall divide the silver." The like sentiment is found, Proverbs 28:8 : "He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather for him that will pity the poor." Solomon says, Proverbs 16:18 : "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall:" and, "Before destruction the heart of man is haughty; and before honor is humility;" Proverbs 18:12 : and, "A man's pride shall bring him low; but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit." The same sentiment is expressed in Job 22:29 : "When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is a lifting up; and he shall save the humble person."
Both speak nearly in the same way concerning the creation of the earth and the sea. "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? - Who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth as if it had issued from the womb?" Job 38:4-8. This seems a reference to the flood. In Proverbs 8:22-29 Wisdom says: "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way - when as yet he had not made the earth - when he gave to the sea his decree that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth." These are precisely the same kind of conceptions, and nearly the same phraseology.
In Job 20:7 it is said, "The wicked shall perish for ever, like his own Dung." And in Proverbs 10:7 it is said, "The name of the wicked shall Rot."
It would not be difficult to enlarge this list of correspondences by a collation of passages in Job and in Proverbs; but most of them will occur to the attentive reader. There is, however, another class of evidence that appears still more forcible, viz.: There are several term used frequently in the Book of Job and in the books of Solomon which are almost peculiar to those books, and which argue an identity of authorship. The noun תשיה tushiyah, which may signify essence, substance, reality, completeness, occurs in Job and Proverbs. See Job 5:12; Job 6:13; Job 11:6; Job 12:16; Job 26:3, and Job 30:22; Proverbs 2:7; Proverbs 3:21; Proverbs 8:14, and Proverbs 18:1. And it occurs only twice, as far as I can recollect, in all the Bible besides; viz., Isaiah 28:29, and Micah 6:9. The word הוה havvah, used in the sense of misfortune, ruinous downfall, calamity, occurs Job 6:2, Job 6:30; Job 30:13, and in Proverbs 10:3; Proverbs 11:6; Proverbs 17:4; Proverbs 19:13. It occurs nowhere else, except once in Ezekiel 7:26, once in Micah 7:3, and a few times in the Psalms, Psalm 5:9; Psalm 52:2, Psalm 52:7; Psalm 55:12; Psalm 91:3; Psalm 94:20; Psalm 37:12; Psalm 62:3.
The word תחבלות tachbuloth, wise counsels, occurs only in Job 37:12, and in Proverbs 1:5; Proverbs 11:14; Proverbs 12:5; Proverbs 20:18; Proverbs 24:6; and nowhere else in the Bible in this form. And פתה potheh, the silly one, simpleton, fool, is used precisely in the same sense in Job 5:2; Proverbs 19:7, and in various other parts of the same book. The word אבדון, abaddon, destruction, Job 26:6; Job 28:22; Job 31:12, connected sometimes with שאול sheol, hell, or the grave; and מות maveth, death, occurs as above, and in Proverbs 15:11; Proverbs 27:20.
Calmet, who refers to several of the above places, adds: It would be easy to collect a great number of similar parallel passages; but it must make a forcible impression in favor of this opinion when we observe in Job and Proverbs the same principles, the same sentiments, the same terms, and some that are found only in Job and Solomon. We may add farther, the beauty of the style, the sublimity of the thoughts, the dignity of the matter, the form and order in which the materials of this writer are laid down, the vast erudition and astonishing fecundity of genius, all of which perfectly characterize Solomon.
Besides the above, we find many forms of expression in this book which prove that its author had a knowledge of the law of God, and many which show that he was acquainted with the Psalms of David, and a few very like what we find in the writings of the prophets. I shall insert a few more: -
Job Psalm Job 15:27 Because he covereth his face with fatness Psalm 17:10Psa Psalm 73:7 They are inclosed in their own fat.Their eyes stand out with fatness. Job 34:14 If he set his heart upon man, he shall gather unto himself his spirit and his breath. Psalm 104:29 Thou hidest thy face, and they are troubled: thou takest away their breath; they die, and return to their dust. Job 21:9 Their houses are not in safe from fear; neither is the rod of God upon them. Psalm 73:5 They are trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Job 21:10 Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, casteth not her calf. Psalm 144:13, Psalm 144:14 Let our sheep bring forth thousands; and our oxen be strong to labor. Job 21:18 They (the wicked) are as stubble before the wind; and as chaff that the storm carrieth away. Psalm 1:4 The ungodly are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Job 22:19 The righteous see it, and are glad; and the innocent laugh them to scorn. Psalm 58:10 The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. Job 38:41 Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God. Psalm 147:9 He giveth to the beast his food; and to the young ravens which cry. Job 12:21 He poureth contempt upon princes, and weakeneth the strength of the mighty. Psalm 107:40 He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness. Job Jeremiah Job 3:3 Let the day perish in which I was born; and the night in which it was said, There is a man-child conceived.. See also Job 10:18 Jeremiah 15:10Jer Jeremiah 20:14, Jeremiah 20:15 Wo is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me, a man of strifeCursed be the day wherein I was also born - let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. Job 21:7 Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, and mighty in power? Jeremiah 12:1, Jeremiah 12:2 Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? they grow; yea, they bring forth fruit. Job Collate these verses with Job 28:12JObadiah 28:13 But where shall wisdom be found, and where is the place of understanding?Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living. Baruch 3:14, 15, 29,and seePro 1:20-23; Proverbs 2:2-7;Proverbs 3:13-18; Proverbs 4:5-9;Proverbs 8:10-35.
The remarkable sentiment that "God, as Sovereign of the world, does treat the righteous and the wicked, independently of their respective merits, with a similar lot in this life, and that like events often happen to both," is maintained in the Book of Job and the Ecclesiastes of Solomon. JObadiah 9:22-24 : "He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked. If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; he covereth the faces of the judges thereof; if not, where and who is he?" Job 10:15 : "If I be wicked, wo unto me; and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head." Job 9:15 : "Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer; I would make supplication to my Judge." Job 12:6 : "The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly." Job 21:7-9 : "Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea are mighty in power? Their seed is established in their sight, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them."
Similar sentiments, with a great similarity of expression, are found in the following passages from Solomon. Ecc 6:8 : "For what hath the wise more than the fool?" Ecclesiastes 8:14 : "There be just men to whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked. Again, there be wicked men to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous." Ecclesiastes 9:2 : "All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not. As is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath." Ecclesiastes 7:15 : "There is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness; and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness."
I may conclude this with the words of a learned translator of the book of Job, and apply in reference to Solomon what he applies to Moses: "The specimens of resemblance now produced have an equal claim to originality, and seem very powerfully to establish a unity of authorship." I think the argument much stronger in favor of Solomon as its author than of Moses: and while even here I hesitate, I must enter my protest against the conclusions drawn by others; and especially those who profess to show where David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc., have copied and borrowed from Job! Some of them, in all probability, never saw the book; and those who did had an inspiration, dignity, manner, and power of their own, that rendered it quite unnecessary to borrow from him. Such plagiarism would appear, in common cases, neither requisite nor graceful. I have a high opinion of the book of Job, but God forbid that I should ever bring it on a level with the compositions of the sweet singer of Israel, the inimitable threnodies of Jeremiah, or the ultra-sublime effusions of the evangelical prophet. Let each keep his place, and let God be acknowledged as the inspirer of all.
Thus, by exactly the same process, we come to different conclusions; for the evidence is now as strong that Job 54ed posterior to the days of Moses; that he was acquainted with the Law and the Prophets; that either he took much from the Psalms and Proverbs, or that David and Solomon borrowed much from him; or that Solomon, the son of David, wrote the history; as it is that he lived in the days of Moses.
For my own part, I think the later date by far the most probable; and although I think the arguments that go to prove Solomon to be the author are weightier than those so skilfully brought forth by learned men in behalf of Moses, yet I think if possible that it was the work of neither, but rather of some learned Idumean, well acquainted with the Jewish religion and writers; and I still hold the opinion which I formed more than thirty years ago, when I read over this book in the Septuagint, and afterwards in the Hebrew, that it is most probable the work was originally composed in Arabic, and afterwards translated into Hebrew by a person who either had not the same command of the Hebrew as he had of the Arabic, or else purposely affected the Arabic idiom, retaining many Arabic words and Arabisms; either because he could not find appropriate expressions in the Hebrew, or because he wished to adorn and enrich the one language by borrowing copiously from the other. The Hebrew of the book of Job differs as much from the pure Hebrew of Moses and the early prophets, as the Persian of Ferdoosy differs from that of Saady. Both these were Persian poets; the former wrote in the simplicity and purity of his elegant native language, adopting very few Arabic words; while the latter labors to introduce them at every turn, and has thus produced a language neither Persian nor Arabic. And so prevalent is this custom become with all Persian writers, both in prose and verse, that the pure Persian becomes daily more and more corrupted, insomuch that there is reason to fear that in process of time it will be swallowed up in the language of the conquerors of that country, in which it was formerly esteemed the most polished language of Asia. Such influence has the language of a conqueror on the country he has subdued; witness our own, where a paltry French phraseology, the remnant of one of the evils brought upon us by our Norman conqueror and tyrant, has greatly weakened the strong current of our mother tongue; so that, however amalgamated, filed, and polished by eminent authors, we only speak a very tolerable jargon, enriched, as we foolishly term it, by the spoils of other tongues. The best specimen of our ancient language exists in the Lord's prayer, which is pure English, or what is called Anglo-Saxon, with the exception of three frenchified words, trespasses, temptation, and deliver.
But to return to the book of Job. The collections of Mr. Good, Dr. Magee, and others, if they do not prove that Moses was the author of the book, prove that the author was well acquainted with the Mosaic writings; and prove that he was also acquainted with the ninetieth Psalm; and this last circumstance will go far to prove that he lived after the days of David, for we have no evidence whatever that the ninetieth Psalm was published previously to the collection and publication of the Psalms now generally termed the Psalms of David, though many of them were written by other hands, and not a few even after the Babylonish captivity. And, as to the inscription to this Psalm, תפלה משה איש האלהים tephillah Mosheh ish haelohim, "A prayer of Moses, the man of God;"
1. We know not that Moses the Jewish lawgiver is meant: it might be another person of the same name.
2. And even in that case it does not positively state that this Moses was the author of it.
3. The inscriptions to the Psalms are of dubious, and many of them of no authority: some of them evidently misplaced; and others either bearing no relation to the matter of the Psalms to which they are prefixed, or evidently contradictory to that matter.
Hence our translators have considered these inscriptions as of no authority; and have not admitted them, in any case, into the body of their respective Psalms. The parallelism, therefore, drawn from this Psalm, will not help much to prove that Moses was the author of the book of Job; but it will go far to prove, as will be seen in other cases, that the author of this book was acquainted with the book of Psalms, as several of the preceding collections testify; and that there is a probability that he had read the prophets that lived and wrote in the time, and after the time, of the Babylonish captivity, which appears to me the only thing that shakes the argument in favor of Solomon; unless we take the converse of the question, and say that Moses, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah, all knew and borrowed from the book of Job. But this supposition will, in its turn, be shaken by the consideration that there are several things in the book of Job which evidently refer to the law as already given, and to some of the principal occurrences in the Israelitish history, if such references can be made out. These considerations have led me to think it probable that the book was written after the captivity by some unknown but highly eminent and inspired man. We may wonder, indeed, that the author of such an eminent work has not been handed down to posterity; and that the question should be left at the discretion of the whole limbus of conjecture; but we find, not only several books in the Bible, but also other works of minor importance and a later date, similarly circumstanced. We have no certain evidence of the author of the books of Judges, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, or Esther; we can, in reference to them, make probable conjectures, but this is all. Even in the New Testament the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is still unknown; though a pretty general tradition, and strong internal evidence, give it to St. Paul; yet this point is not so proved as to exclude all doubt.
The finest poems of heathen antiquity, the Iliad and Odyssey, cannot be certainly traced to their author. Of the person called Homer, to whom they have been attributed, no one knows any thing. He is still, for aught we know, a fabulous person; and the relations concerning him are entitled to little more credit than is due to the Life of Aesop by Planudes. Seven different cities have claimed the honor of being his birth-place. They are expressed in the following distich: -
Ἑπτα πολεις διεριζουσι περι ριζας Ὁμηρου,
Σμυρνα, Ῥοδος, Κολαφον, Σαλαμις, Χιος, Αργος, Αθηναι.
Smyrna, Rhodos, Colophon, Salamis, Chios, Argos, Athenae, Orbis de Patria certat, Homere, tua.
Nor have these claims ever been adjusted. Some have gone so far as to attribute the work to Solomon, king of Israel, composed after his defection from the true religion to idolatry! that the word Homer, Ὁμηρος Homeros, is merely Hebrew, אמרים omerim, with a Greek termination, signifying the sayings or discourses, from אמר amar, he spoke; the whole work being little more than the dialogues or conversations of the eminent characters of which it is composed. Even the battles of Homer are full of parleys; and the principal information conveyed by the poem is through the conversation of the respective chiefs.
The Makamaton, or assemblies, of the celebrated Arabic author Hariri, show us how conversations were anciently carried on among the Arabs, and even in the same country in which the plan of the poem of Job is laid; and were we closely to compare the sex concessus of that author, published by Schultens, we might find many analogies between them and the turn of conversation in the book of Job. But the uncertainty relative to the author detracts nothing from the merit and excellency of the poem. As it is the most singular, so it is the best, as a whole, in the Hebrew canon. It exhibits a full view of the opinions of the eastern sages on the most important points; not only their religion and system of morals are frequently introduced, but also their philosophy, astronomy, natural history, mineralogy, and arts and sciences in general; as well those that were ornamental, as those which ministered to the comforts and necessities of life. And on a careful examination, we shall probably find that several arts, which are supposed to be the discoveries of the moderns, were not unknown to those who lived in a very remote antiquity, and whom it is fashionable to consider as unlettered and uncultivated barbarians.
As the person, family, time, and descendants of Job are so very uncertain, I shall not trouble my readers with the many genealogical tables which have been constructed by chronologists and commentators; yet it might be considered a defect were I not to notice what is inserted at the end of the Greek and Arabic Versions relative to this point; to which I shall add Dr. Kennicott's Tables, and the substance of a letter which contains some curious particulars.
"And he (Job) dwelt in the land of Ausitis, in the confines of Idumea and Arabia; and his former name was Jobab. And he took to wife Arabissa, and begat a son whose name was Ennon. And his (Jobab's) father's name was Zarith, one of the sons of the children of Esau; and his mother's name was Bosora; and thus he was the fifth from Abraham."
"And these are the kings who reigned in Edom; which region he also governed; the first was Balak, the son of Beor, the name of whose city was Dennaba. And after Balak reigned Jobab, who is also called Job. And after him Assom, the governor of the country of the Temanites. After him Adad, the son of Basad, who cut off Madian in the plain of Moab; and the name of his city was Gethaim."
"The friends who came to visit him were Eliphaz, son of Sophan, of the children of Esau, king of the Temanites. Baldad, the son of Amnon, of Chobar, tyrant of the Sauchites. Sophar, king of the Minaites. Thaiman, son of Eliphaz, governor of the Idumeans."
"This is translated from the Syriac copy. He dwelt in the land of Ausitis, on the borders of the Euphrates; and his former name was Jobab; and his father was Zareth, who came from the east." This is verbatim from the Codex Alexandrinus.
The Arabic is not so circumstantial, but is the same in substance. "And Job dwelt in the land of Auz, between the boundaries of Edom and Arabia; and he was at first called Jobab. And he married a strange woman, and to her was born a son called Anun. But Job was the son of Zara, a descendant of the children of Esau; his mother's name was Basra, and he was the sixth from Abraham. Of the kings who reigned in Edom, the first who reigned over that land was Balak, the son of Beor, and the name of his city was Danaba. And after him Jobab, the same who is called Job. And after Job, he (Assom) who was prince of the land of Teman. And after him (Adad) the son of Barak, he who slew and put to flight Madian, in the plains of Moab; and the name of his city was Jatham. And of the friends of Job who visited him was Eliphaz, the son of Esau, king of the Temanites."
Dr. Kennicott says, When Job 54ed seems deducible from his being contemporary with Eliphaz, the Temanite, thus: -
Abraham 1 Isaac 1 2 Esau. Jacob. 2 3 Eliphaz. Leviticus 3 4 Teman. Kohath. 4 5 Eliphaz the Temanite. Amram - Job 5 Moses. The late Miss Mary Freeman Shepherd, well known for her strong masculine genius, and knowledge of various languages, sent me the following genealogy and remarks, which she thought would clearly ascertain the time of Job. I faithfully transcribe them from her letter to me, a short time before her death.
"Shem, two years after the flood, begat Arphaxad and Uz, and also Aram 2 Arphaxad begat Salah at 35 Salah begat Eber at 30 Eber begat Peleg at 34 Peleg, in whose time the earth was divided, begat Reu at 30 Reu begat Serug at 32 Serug begat Nahor at 30 Nahor begat Terah at 29 Terah begat Abraham at 70 Abraham begat Ishmael at eighty-six, Israel at 100 Isaac married at forty, soon after, probably at forty-three, Esau and Jacob born 43 Jacob married at forty, had Reuben his first-born, and Levi born of Leah, by the time he was forty-four 44 Levi begat Kohath, suppose at 40 Kohath begat Amram, suppose at 40 Amram begat Moses, suppose at 40 After the deluge 599 "Shem was the father of Aram, who gave his name to the Aramites, i.e., the Syrians; and he was the father of Uz, who gave his name to the land of Uz, in which Job dwelt, not was born, for the text says, There was a man in the land of Uz, called Job.
"In Genesis 46:13, one of the sons of Issachar is named Job. In the genealogies of Numbers 26:24, and in 1 Chronicles 7:1, he is called Jashub. It is remarkable that there is no mention in Chronicles of the sons of Jashub, or of any of the sons of Issachar, among the thousands of Israel, sons of Tola, where, might not Job be called Jashub? Mitzraim, i.e., Egypt, was a son of Ham; Uz and Aram, sons of Shem; Ishmael by Hagar, and Midian by Keturah, both sons to Abram. How well does this account for the nearness of the languages of these people, being scions from the same mother tongue!
"Ishmael, the father of the tribes of Arabia; Arabic was, therefore, not their mother tongue. The roots of these languages germinated from the Hebrew roots, and so a new language sprang up, afterwards formed according to grammatic rules, and enriched as arts and sciences, and cultivated genius, added new inventions. Things new and unknown before gave rise to new words or names. Nouns, and the action, operation, and effects of arts and sciences, produced verbs or roots. Thus the Arabic become so copious and rich, and has roots not in the pure original Hebrew. All this considered, might not Moses have written the book of Job, as parts of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel were written, after the captivity, in a mixed language, in order that it might be the better understood by those for whom it was written; those of the people who, being left in Jerusalem, had retained their native Hebrew; and those who had, by long residence in Babylon, corrupted and mingled it with the Chaldaic, which is a dialect of the Hebrew, like the modern language of Italy when compared with that of ancient Rome, or our modern Latin when compared with that of the Augustan age.
"By the influence of climate upon the organs of speech, the different avocations, usages, diet, turn of mind, and genius of men, the dialects which all streamed from one language, and pronounced in one and the same speech, confounded, (not annihilated, troubled, but not dried up), no new language then created, yet so confounded in utterance that they understood not one another's speech. The operation was upon the ear of the heart, as in the day of pentecost: one man spoke, and all, though of different tongues, understood; the ear suggested the various sounds to the tongue, and from thence the varied pronunciations of one and the same language often makes it misunderstood.
"Shem, who lived five hundred and two years after the deluge, being still alive, and in the three hundred and ninety-third year of his life, when Abram was born, therefore the Jewish tradition that Shem was the Melchisedek, (my righteous king of Salem), an epithet, or title of honor and respect, not a proper name, and, as the head and father of his race, Abraham paid tithes to him; this seems to me well founded, and the idea confirmed by these remarkable words, Psalm 110:4, Jehovah hath sworn, and will not repent, אתה כהן לעולם על דברתי מלכי-צדק atah cohen leolam al dibrathi malki-tsedek. As if he had said, Thou, my only-begotten Son, first-born of many brethren; not according to the substituted priesthood of the sons of Levi, who, after the sin of the golden calf, stood up in lieu of all the first-born of Israel, invested with their forfeited rights of primogeniture of king and priest; the Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, (change), Thou art a priest for ever after the (my order of Melchisedek, my own original primitive) order of primogeniture; even as Shem the man of name, the Shem that stands the first and foremost of the sons of Noah. The righteous prince and priest of the most high God meets his descendant Abraham after the slaughter of the kings, with refreshments; blessed him as the head and father of his race, and as such, he receives from Abraham the tithe of all the spoil.
"How beautifully does Paul of Tarsus, writing to the Hebrews, point through Melchisedek, - Shem, the head and father of their race, invested in all the original rights of primogeniture, priest of the most high God, blessing Abraham as such, as Levi even had existence, and as such receiving tithe from Abraham, and in him from Levi yet in the loins of his forefathers, when Moses on this great and solemn occasion records simply this: Melchisedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, sine genealogia; his pedigree not mentioned, but standing, as Adam in St. Luke's genealogy, without father and without mother, Adam of God, Luke 3:38; - how beautifully, I say, doth St. Paul point through Melchisedek to Jehoshua our great High Priest and King, whose eternal generation who shall declare! Hammashiach, the Lord's Anointed, Priest, and King, after the order of Melchisedek, only begotten first-born Son! The Levitical priesthood that arose from the sin of the golden calf and the forfeited rights of the first-born, in whose stead stood the sons of Levi, (the reward of their zeal for God, on that sad occasion). This right of primogeniture, as the streams of Jordan at the presence of God, conversus est retrorsum, to its fountain head; and Judah was his sanctuary, Psalm 114:2. Reuben forfeited by incest his excellence; Simeon and Levi, the right in priority of birth, theirs; and Judah, he to whom his brethren should bow down as their head. From the time of Abraham, who married a sister of Haran, prince of the tribe of Judah, to the time of Jesus, the tribes of Levi and Judah intermarried: thus was incorporated the source and streams in one. And the very names of all the sons of the tribes of Israel lost in one, that of Jehudah, from which they call themselves Jehudim.
"The shebit, tribe, not scepter, the rod or ensign of the chief of a tribe. 'The tribe, genealogy, shall not recede from Jehudah until Shiloh come;' for whose genealogy they subsist. Ten, by the schism of Jeroboam, may be carried away beyond the river, and heard of no more; but Jehudah, Levi, and Benjamin, shall be tribes; and their registers shall be clear and unbroken until the temple and city and all the registers of genealogy are destroyed. The people are one; one people worshipping one God. 'I have prayed,' said Jehoshua Mashiach, 'that ye might be one in me, as I and my Father are one.'
"Ham, the son of Noah, begat Cush, and Cush begat Nimrod, and Saba, and others. Nimrod began a monarchy, and founded Babel. Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh. Nimrod was therefore contemporary with Peleg. Compare Genesis 2:8, Genesis 2:9, with Genesis 9:10-25.
"Thus, in about two hundred and ten or twenty years after the deluge, by the confusion of tongues, was the earth divided; as its inhabitants, dispersing no doubt in families together formed themselves into nations, people, and tribes and kindreds, and from thence into tongues.
"From the knowledge I have of the Hebrew, I have caught a glance of the genius, spirit, and tone of the general march of the oriental tongues, and even of the expression of their character. To me the book of Job seems to have much of the Chaldee, both in words and idiom, and much of the sublimity and spirit of the writings of Moses. His grand descriptions of the Most High, his wondrous works, his power, wisdom, justice, and truth, all speak the historian of Genesis, the legislator of Israel, the unconsumed fire of the burning bush, the loud thunders of Sinai, and the shinings of the light of God. That pointed exactness and conciseness of narration that distinguish Moses, are also conspicuous in the book of Job. If Moses did indeed write this book, he wrote it for the nations, as well as for Israel; and took, as the best vehicle of a general conveyance, a language most generally understood. At this day, for the facilitating of intercourse in the Levant, Mediterranean, Archipelago, etc., there is a language called Lingua Franca, the language of the Franks. To Israel Moses conveyed the pure language of their fathers; but rather than the nations should be famished for bread, or die for thirst, he put manna in their coarse earthen vessels, and wine in their wooden cups.
"You see, my dear sir, how strong is female obstinacy; I struggle and contend for the body of Moses. I admire Moses; I admire Job. God, by the prophet Ezekiel and the apostle St. James, ascertains the history of Job to be a fact, not a fiction. And thus inspiration sustains its inspiration.
"Will you, dear sir, think it worth while to collect and put together these scattered scraps, as little pegs to better shelves, which you must furbish, smooth, and point; - too hard a work for Mary the aged? Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God: and in him see all truth." - M. F. S.
Miss Shepherd is a strong auxiliary to Mr. Good; still I remain unconvinced. My readers must choose for themselves.
The history of Job, but strangely disguised, is well known among the Asiatics. He is called by the Arabic and Persian historians Ayoub, which is exactly the same as the Hebrew איוב Ayoub, which Europeans have strangely metamorphosed into Job. In the Tareekh Muntekheb his genealogy is given thus: Ayoub the son of Anosh, the son of Razakh, the son of Ais, (Esau), the son of Isaac. He was a prophet, and was afflicted by a grievous malady three years, or according to others, seven years; at the end of which, when eighty years of age, he was restored to perfect health, and had a son named Bash ben Ayoub. Other writers say he had five sons, with whom he made war on a brutal people called Dsul Kefel, whom he exterminated because they refused to receive the knowledge of the true God, whom he preached to them. Khondemir, who entitles him Job the patient, gives us his history in the following manner: -
"Job, by his father's side, was descended from Esau, and by his mother from Lot. Abou Giaffer al Tabary relates that God sent him to preach to the inhabitants of Thaniah, a people who dwelt between Remla and Damascus; but three persons only received the truth. Nevertheless, as he was very zealous in the service of God, he rewarded his faith and obedience by heaping riches upon him, and giving him a numerous family. This excited the envy of the devil, who, presenting himself before God, accused Job as one who was selfish in his devotion; and, were it not for the temporal blessings which he received from his Maker, he would not worship even once in the day. God having given Satan permission to spoil Job of his goods, and deprive him of his children, he gave the same proofs of his piety, worshipping God as before, and patiently bearing his great losses. Satan, enraged to be thus baffled, presented himself once more before God, and asserted that Job continued thus faithful because he knew that God would reward his constancy with an equal or even greater portion of earthly blessings: but if he would afflict his body by some grievous disease, he would soon abandon his service, and be at the end of his patience. In order fully to show the piety of this exemplary man, God permitted Satan to afflict his body as he pleased, with the exception of his eyes, his ears, and his tongue. The devil, having received this permission, blew up the nostrils of Job such a pestilential heat as immediately turned his whole mass of blood into corruption, so that his whole body became one ulcer, the smell of which was so offensive that his greatest intimates could not approach him; and he was obliged to be carried out of the city, and laid in a distant place entirely by himself. Notwithstanding, Job continued both his patience and piety. His wife, Rosina, never forsook him, but continued daily to bring him the necessaries of life. Satan observing this, stole from her the provision she had made for her husband; and when reduced to the lowest ebb, he appeared to her under the form of an old bald woman, and told her, that if she would give her the two tresses of hair that hung down on her neck, she would provide her daily with what was necessary for her husband's support. This offer appearing so very advantageous in behalf of her afflicted husband, she accepted the offer, and gave the two tresses to the old woman.
"Satan, overjoyed at the success of his plots, went to Job, told him that his wife had been caught in the act of adultery, and that her tresses had been cut off, and here was the proof of the fact. Job, seeing this, and finding his wife without her tresses, not supposing that he was deceived by the devil, lost his patience, and bound himself by an oath, that if he should ever recover his health he would inflict on her the most exemplary punishment. Satan, supposing he had now gained his end, transformed himself into an angel of light, and went throughout the country as a messenger of God, informing the people that Job, who was counted a prophet, had fallen from his piety and brought the wrath of God upon him; that they should no more listen to his preaching, but banish him from among them, lest the curse of God should fall on the whole country.
"Job, coming to understand how the matter stood, had recourse to God by faith and prayer, and said these remarkable words, which are found in the Koran: 'Distress closes me in on every side: but thou, O Lord, art more merciful than all those who can feel compassion.' On this all his pains and sufferings immediately ceased; for Gabriel, the faithful servant of the Most High, descended from heaven, took Job by the hand, and lifting him up from the place where he lay, stamped on the ground with his foot, and immediately a spring of water rose up from the earth, out of which Job having drunk, and washed his body, he was instantly cleansed of all his ulcers, and restored to perfect health.
"God, having thus restored him, greatly multiplied his goods, so that the rain and the snow which fell around his dwelling were precious; and his riches became so abundant, as if showers of gold had descended upon him."
This is the sum of the account given by the oriental historians, who, forsaking the truth of the sacred history, have blended the story with their own fables. The great facts are however the same in the main; and we find that with them the personality, temptation, and deliverance of Job, are matters of serious credibility. Abul Faragius says that the trial of Job happened in the twenty-fifth year of Nahor, son of Serug; thus making him prior to Abraham. He calls him Ayoub assadeek, Job the righteous. See Abul Faragius, Ebn Batric, D'Herbelot, etc.
Commentators have considered this book as being divided into distinct parts. Mr. Good, who considers it a regular Hebrew epic, divides it into six parts or books, which he considers to be its natural division, and unquestionably intended by the author. These six parts are, an opening or exordium, containing the introductory history or decree concerning Job; three distinct series of arguments, in each of which the speakers are regularly allowed their respective turns; the summing up of the controversy; and the close of the catastrophe, consisting of the suffering hero's grand and glorious acquittal, and restoration to prosperity and happiness.
Character of Job, Job 1:1. His family, Job 1:2. His substance, Job 1:3. Care of has family, Job 1:4, Job 1:5. Satan accuses him to God as a selfish person, who served God only for the hope of secular rewards, Job 1:6-11. Satan is permitted to strip him of all his children and property, Job 1:12-19. Job's remarkable resignation and patience, Job 1:20-22.
Psalm 90:16Let thy work appear unto thy servants - That thou art working for us we know; but O, let thy work appear! Let us now see, in our deliverance, that thy thoughts towards us were mercy and love.
And thy Glory - Thy pure worship be established among our children for ever.
17And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.
And let the beauty of the Lord - Let us have thy presence, blessing, and approbation, as our fathers had.
Establish thou the work of our hands - This is supposed, we have already seen, to relate to their rebuilding the temple, which the surrounding heathens and Samaritans wished to hinder. We have begun, do not let them demolish our work; let the top-stone be brought on with shouting, Grace, grace unto it.
Yea, the work of our hands - This repetition is wanting in three of Kennicott's MSS., in the Targum, in the Septuagint, and in the Ethiopic. If the repetition be genuine, it may be considered as marking great earnestness; and this earnestness was to get the temple of God rebuilt, and his pure worship restored. The pious Jews had this more at heart than their own restoration; it was their highest grief that the temple was destroyed and God's ordinances suspended; that his enemies insulted them, and blasphemed the worthy name by which they were called. Every truly pious man feels more for God's glory than his own temporal felicity, and rejoices more in the prosperity of God's work than in the increase of his own worldly goods.