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PERSON AND BOOK
OF JO B.
ARIOUS are the conjectures of the learned, in regard to this grand exemplar of heroic virtue, and this most excel·lent, and fublime portion of facred writ: There are fome, who peremptorily infift, that there never was any fuch illuftrious perfonage in being; and that the whole composition is mere invention, and in every respect as much an allegory composed only for the instruction of mankind, as any of our Saviour's parables which are recorded in the New Testament.
The number, however, of the advocates for this opinion are, comparatively speaking, but few; fince it is very evident, from feveral paffages, interfperfed throughout the facred scriptures, that this narrative is matter of fact; that there really was in ancient times a great and powerful prince of this name, distinguished by his immense riches, his extenfive power, and what is more, his exemplary and heroic virtues. We find him mentioned, in the OLD TESTAMENT, in company with NOAH and DANIEL, and there particularly commemorated for his fanctity of manners; and recorded in the New, as a peculiar and exalted pattern of patience and refignation to the Divine Will; and it cannot fairly be imagined, that the Spirit of God would, in any part of the inspired writings, introduce a visionary Being as the object of our imitation.
Others again, not only allow, that this BOOK was written by fome inspired penman, though by whom in particular they are at a lofs to determine, but as ftrenuously affert, as the others deny, that the whole contains a regular narration of facts, without the interpofition of any fiction whatfoever; and for that reafon look on it, as a beautiful, and fublime hiftorical poem.
There are another class of criticks and commentators, and these indeed are very numerous, who fteer a middle courfe, that is to say, who maintain, that this portion of fcripture is grounded on as true history, as thofe of HoMER and VIRGIL; yet ftill, fay they, it is an historical poem; and the conduct, the mode, the fcenes, machines, and other incidents, carry along with them, very vifibly, the marks of contrivance; and were, doubtlefs, formed only in the Poet's imagination; that is to fay, in other words, that a great part of it is dramatical, and an ingenious, inftructive fiction, mixed with realities.
As for those who affirm there never was fuch a perfon as Joв, their notion, for the reafons before-mentioned, must be falfe and groundless; but fince there are very fpecious arguments to be offered for the contrary affertion, we fhall produce fome few of them that appear to be most weighty and important; without prefuming to pass a definitive fentence, and decide a controverfy, where fo much has and may be faid by the learned on both fides, in fupport of their refpective opinions,
Those then, who are advocates for the reality of this hiftory peremptorily infift, that the SACRED SCRIPTURES Ought at all times, and in all places, to be conftrued in their literal fenfe, wherever they will bear it, and that they ought not to be wrested, unless where an abfolute neceffity requires: that there is no article throughout the whole narration, but what lies within the compafs of poffibility: and in cafe fome part of it may seem lefs credible than others, yet in all ages of the world many occur
rences that appeared very ftrange and furprizing, have been inconteftibly proved to be real facts: and fuch, in this work, as may with fome air of plausibility, be filed marvellous are recorded, not only to engage our curiofity and attention, but to instruct and improve us, and are principally owing to the poetical drefs in which the ftory is conceived: that to admit of an allegorical meaning in the interpretation of SACRED WRIT, is a conceffion of a very fatal. and dangerous confequence, and has not only a manifest tendency towards making men dubious and unfettled, but contributes too much towards taking off that reverential awe which all mankind fhould have for divine revelation.
Thofe, on the other hand, who are of opinion, that the principal parts of the narrative are fabulous, and the refult of invention only, alledge, that it is highly improbable, SATAN should appear before the ALMIGHTY, and presume to enter into a debate with him before the HOLY ANGELS: that it is equally improbable, fuch a number of meffengers fhould fo clofely follow one another, to make their melancholy reports to their lord and master: that it cannot fairly be fuppofed, that Joв, in the height of his affliction, should fit fuch a long time among the afhes; and that his friends, who were probably his relations, fhould fo far commiferate his deplorable condition, as to attend him for seven days and nights fucceffively, without fo much as opening their mouths for fear of aggravating his forrows: that it is equally unnatural to imagine, that when they did venture to condole with him, that their conferences with him fhould be fo warm, and so prolix; or, that JOB, under the weight of fo many complicated maladies, fhould be fo cool and fedate, as to make use of fuch a number of beautiful fimilies, and fo many metaphorical expreffions in his expoftulations with his vifitors, and mifguided friends: that the conduct of the story carries with it visibly enough an air of romance, for it is very incredible, at leaft, if not morally impoffible, that
any man frould, within fo fhort a compafs of time, be reduced from the highest affluence of plenty to the very lowest degree of poverty and diftrefs; and then again, that the wheel of fortune should turn round with equal rapidity, and he should not only be restored in some measure to his priftine ftate of felicity, but be bleft with exactly the fame number of children, and just a double portion of the bleffings of this life; thefe, fay they, are circumftances too nice and curious to be accounted as real facts.
As these very men, however, who thus ftrenuously infift, that the book now under confideration is a dramatick performance,. and the machinery of it in particular the product only of the great poet's imagination, readily allow it to be a very valuable, and inftructive branch of the infpired writings; and as none but those few, we first mentioned, deny the hero a real exiftence, and disown the subject-matter of it to be grounded upon fact, we shall in the next place endeavour to discover, as near as poffible, not only the time when, and the place where he probably refided, but who was the author of this fublime piece, which is fo very inftructive and entertaining.
This Job then, in all probability, was a defcendant of the patriarch ABRAHAM by his wife KETURAH; and as he had a numerous iffue by that intermarriage, he portioned them out, and sent them into the EAST; infomuch that the greater part of them fettled in ARABIA. He had a fon likewise, by the aforefaid Keturah, whose name was SHUAH; from whence there are very good grounds to imagine, that Bildad the Shuhite, one of Job's vifitors, was of the fame defcent; and as he lived, in all probability, not far from Uz, thought himself in duty bound, as a relation, to go and comfort him in the day of his distress.
As to the fituation of the land of Uz, which was the place of Job's refidence, there are various conjectures concerning it; fince there are no less than three of them mentioned by Mofes, in the
book of Genefis.
The firft Uz was the fon of Aram, who was the founder of Damafcus and Trachonitis; for which reafon, fome commentators have fixed his habitation in the plain of Jordan, in the province or district of the before-named Trachonitis; where Job's fepulchre, or monument, is fhewn to paffengers to this very day. This, however, is doubtless a mere fable; as is his fupposed well near Jerufalem, fituate in the aforefaid plain. The fecond Uz was the son of Nebor; and the country, that from him was called Ufitis, or Aufitis,, is placed by fome geographers near the river Euphrates and the city of Babylon; on which account the feat of Job is thought by fome to be that part of Arabia. The third Uz was the fon of Difhan, mentioned in Genefis, who came from the Horites; and as they were difpoffeffed by the defcendants of Edom, their country was diftinguished by the name of Idumæa, from whence fome authors imagine that Job's refidence was there. Others, again, place his habitation at Conftantinople; but this conjecture is very ridiculous and abfurd. Upon the fuppofition, however, as above hinted, that Job was a defcendant of Abraham and Keturah, his ufual place of abode may with great probability be fixed in one part of Arabia Deserta: and this conclufion may the rather be depended on, fince the facred hiftory makes mention of his poffeffions being plundered by the Chaldeans and Sabeans, who were, as is univerfally allowed, inhabitants of those parts.
The particular time when he flourished is another point much controverted by criticks. It is evident, however, that he was either predeceffor, or at leaft contemporary with Mofes, from his mentioning, with the utmost abhorrence and deteftation, the ancient idolatrous cuftom of paying the tribute of divine adoration to the fun, moon, and stars; and which is ftill a greater proof, from his taking no manner of notice of the bondage of the Ifraelites under their cruel Egyptian tafk-masters; which was a circumstance of fo great moment and importance, that he would doubtless VOL. III. have