The Cruel God: Job's Search for the Meaning of Suffering

By Margaret Brackenbury Crook | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINETEEN
When and Where Does the Poet Write?

When and where does the Poet write? This intriguing question is one of many presented by the Book of Job. We have come within sight of a partial answer, and we must find out how much further we can go.

A wide range of dates--from 700 to 300 B.C.--has been suggested by various scholars for the Poet's work. The former date is now acknowledged as too early (although the tale of the patient Job may be older), and 300 B.C. is probably too late. It was long debated whether the prophet Jeremiah was indebted to the Poet, or the Poet to Jeremiah, who lived in Palestine around 600 B.C. and in Egypt soon after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 587 B.C. It is now universally acknowledged that the Poet is debtor to Jeremiah.1

We have seen that the Poet is controverting ethical theories of Israelite wisemen affected by deuteronomic teaching. A major part of the Book of Deuteronomy was brought to public notice in Jerusalem in 621 B.C. Some little time would be needed for the works of Jeremiah and the Book of Deuteronomy to circulate and for criticism of the latter to develop in the Israelite schools after the fall of Jerusalem. This evidence places the Poet in the period of the Exile. If he also knows the work of the writer who contributed the account of the Seven Days of Creation and other important passages to the first five books of the Bible, and who is generally recognized as writing in Babylonia around 500 B.C., we are coming within sight of probabilities.

The Poet's function differs from that of the prophets and the Deuteronomist. They deal with the destiny of the people as a whole; he, as one of the wisemen, is concerned with the education and problems of the individual. He is probably the founder of a school of thought contrasting sharply with those of his contemporaries--the more conservative institutions of which Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar may be representatives. There seems

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