Book of Job



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Book of Job Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Anonymous's Book of Job. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Anonymous

The unknown author is deeply conversant with the Hebrew Scriptures, making him very likely an Israelite. The illustrations and analogies he uses suggest that he was a well-traveled individual and a keen observer of nature.
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Historical Context of Book of Job

The Book of Job doesn’t contain any historical allusions to help readers know precisely when and where it was written. Over the centuries, scholars have offered a variety of opinions on this. The Babylonian Talmud (a compendium of Jewish law and biblical commentary) speculates that Job’s author could have lived anytime from the age of the earliest biblical patriarchs (c. 2000 B.C.E.) to the time of the Jewish exiles’ return from captivity in Babylon (after 538 B.C.E.). The Book of Ezekiel references Job, naming Job, along with Bible heroes Noah and Daniel, as one of three paragons of “righteousness.” So if Ezekiel knew Job’s story from reading the Book of Job (as opposed to hearing it through other written or oral traditions), that would date the book before the Babylonian exile. Also, though modern scholars have questioned whether Job was a real, historical person, citations in Ezekiel (and also in the New Testament’s Book of James) suggest that ancient authors took his existence for granted. Overall, however, the history is simply inconclusive. In fact, the book has a deliberately timeless and even trans-national perspective, in that the protagonist isn’t described as an Israelite, and with a couple of exceptions, the Hebrew name for God (Yahweh) isn’t used. In the book’s later history of Christian interpretation, the “Redeemer” Job names in Chapter 19 has been identified with Jesus Christ, and Job’s hope of vindication by his Redeemer has been read as an early hint of the later doctrine of bodily resurrection after death.

Other Books Related to Book of Job

The Book of Job is part of the section of the Hebrew Bible (or Tanakh) known as the Ketuvim, or “Writings.” It has much in common with other biblical wisdom literature, especially Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, in its inquiries about life’s meaning and its use of proverbial sayings. There is another ancient text called “The Babylonian Theodicy” in which an unnamed sufferer and his friend dialogue in a cycle of 27 speeches, although unlike in Job, the deity doesn’t appear to provide resolution. Job can be classified as a “problem play,” or a play in which a problem is posed and characters interact with it. Other examples of this genre include Euripides’s Alcestis (which explores problems of fate and mortality), Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and All’s Well That Ends Well, and Henrik Ibsen’s plays like A Doll’s House (women’s rights) and An Enemy of the People (issues surrounding truth-telling and public opinion). Job’s trials helped inspire Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem’s “Tevye the Dairyman” short stories. Though focused on the character of Samson from the Book of Judges, elements of Job’s character feature in John Milton’s dramatic poem Samson Agonistes. The book influences the character Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov (and Dostoyevsky himself cites the book’s strong influence on him from childhood onward).
Key Facts about Book of Job
  • Full Title: Book of Job
  • When Written: Most modern scholars estimate that Job was written around the 6th century B.C.E. (the 500s B.C.E.).
  • Literary Period: Ancient Near Eastern
  • Genre: Religious Literature, Hebrew Poetry, Poetic Drama.
  • Setting: The land of Uz, to Israel’s south and east (possibly on the Arabian peninsula).
  • Climax: God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind.
  • Antagonist: Satan; Job’s so-called friends; at times, God.
  • Point of View: Third person

Extra Credit for Book of Job

Unstaged. Job could technically be classified as a “closet drama,” a drama that contains elements like dialogue and monologue but was not intended to be staged as a play. Closet dramas tend to be written in poetic form and to contain very long speeches that wouldn’t really work on the stage.

Blake’s Biblical Art. In 1826, William Blake published a successful book, Illustrations of the Book of Job, containing 22 engraved prints he made depicting the events in the biblical story.