I usually shy away from those topics strictly defined as purely theological, as they are usually not presentable in the Truth Behind Reality statement/elaboration format. However, I am making the rare exception with this post. I have worked hard over the last three years to understand the chronology and meaning of Biblical events. I believe that the Bible is one long intermittently cyclical and linear sequence that reveals and explains both God in human terminology and his plan for all creation, beginning to end, as we are meant to know it.
On March 28, 2011, Fr. Robert posted the article “The Book of Job; content, dating..etc.” on his blog, Irishanglican’s Weblog. I took this as a personal challenge to consolidate my research and apply it specifically to assigning an historical period to the Biblical book of Job.
The ESV translation introduces the book of Job as follows: “Considered both a theological and a literary masterpiece, the book of Job is an honest portrayal of God allowing a good man to suffer.” The introduction ends by saying, “The unknown author was probably an Israelite writing sometime between 1500 and 500 B.C.” The data presented in this post settles the discrepancy of Job’s historical period through scripture only, no outside sources. It is my experience that the Bible is self-contained self-proving truth, and the degree to which we understand it is limited only by our willingness to receive it wholeheartedly and subsequently change accordingly.
The following data establishes only the historical period for the events contained in the book of Job. It does not address a possible later formal, or official, rendering of the account.
Assigning an Historical Period to the Biblical Book of Job:
Before the flood, Genesis 6:3 [ESV] says, “Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in [or contend with] man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”” The average lifespan of pre-flood humans was 900 years. Noah was the last person to live the 900 year lifespan, dying at age 950 years. Noah’s eldest son, Shem, died at age 602 years (born before the flood, died after the flood). Four generations later, the Biblically documented lifespan had dropped by approximately 400 years: Peleg (born shortly after the Tower of Babel scattering) died at the age of 239 years (Josephus, the Jewish historian living at the time of Christ, provides a thorough account of this event and the ensuing aftermath).
The day Satan first attacked Job, Job was father to seven sons and three daughters who owned their own houses and had their own independent livelihood; they were well-established adults. Also, Job 1:3 says that Job was extremely wealthy; he was “…the greatest of all the people of the east.” Amassing this great wealth and rearing ten children to an age of independent adulthood (by today’s average 75-year western lifespan) would put Job well into his later adult years. At the end of the book of Job, Job 42:16 says that after all this affliction, “…Job lived 140 years and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations.” Considering the years required for Job to both rear 10 children to the age of independent adulthood and become the greatest of all the people of the east before Satan attacked him, we can reasonably assume that Job was no less than 60 years old, but more realistically no less than 80 years old. If Job was only 60 years old when he lost everything, and then lived an additional 140 years after God restored his fortunes, we can assume with considerable accuracy that Job died at the approximate age of at least 200 years.
Terah, Abraham’s father, died at age 205 years (Genesis 11:12). Abraham died at age 175 years (Genesis 25:7). Joseph died at the age of 110 years (Genesis 50:26). Four hundred plus years after Joseph (or 215 depending on interpretation; see Date of Noah’s Flood), Moses was the first Biblically documented person to die at age 120 years, as mandated by God in Genesis 6:3. The 120 year lifespan limit is now commonplace with no documented overages. This places the historical period of Job at or before the historical period of Terah, Abraham’s father (pre-Israel). This renders the Book of Job a very old book from a very ancient time, hence the ancient feel of its content.
According to this data, it is simply impossible for the events in the book of Job to have occurred at any other time.
Many thanks to Fr. Robert for this challenge. Please visit Fr. Robert’s post “The Book of Job; content, dating..etc.”, as it gives more explicit detail about the book of Job.