Reb Yakov Leib HaKohain, Founder & Spiritual Director
As Originally Published in
Dor L'Dor: Journal of the World Jewish Bible Society of Jerusalem
Vol. XVII, No. 2 Winter 1988/89, pp. 121-128
"There was once a man [named Job] in the land of Uz." (Job 1:1)
where "the land of Uz" is believed to have been located in the south of Edom, the hereditary lands of Esau, father of the Gentiles. This would suggest (at least to those who would like it to) that neither the principle character of the Book of Job, nor its author, was a Jew. For example, M.H. Pope states, "That the author [of the Book of Job] was an Israelite is not entirely certain" ("The Book of Job," The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 2, p. 914), while Miller and Miller conclude:
"Who the author [of Job] may have been is a complete mystery. Whether Jew or Edomite is a question much argued on dubious evidence. The case for a Hebrew author rests largely on references to civil and moral prescriptions, familiarity with a few Old Testament writings and mention of the name of God in Israel, Hebrew in the prologue and epilogue and Job's answers. In rebuttal, those who hold that the author was an Edomite [i.e., non-Jew] state that the references to civil and moral prescriptions represent practices in force among all ancient civilized nations." (Harper's Bible Dictionary, p. 337)
It is our conclusion, however, based on the arguments we present later, that the Book of Job was written by a Hebrew about a Hebrew, and the proofs of this (or at least its Biblical proofs) are to be found from a cross comparison of it with other works in the Jewish canon. The importance of this, of course, is that so much about the redemptive destiny of Israel that we discuss in our Neo-Sabbatian Kabbalah of "Repairing the Face of God" can be inferred from the Book of Job, but only if (as we contend) it was written by a Jew about a Jew. For example, elsewhere I write:
"God's covenant with Israel is fulfilled in the elevation of Job: 'See [Israel, my first-born son], I have made of you a witness to the peoples, a leader and a master of the nations.' (Isa. 55:4) That is, God restores Job's fortunes -- gives him 'double what he had before' -- precisely because he had prayed for his Gentile friends (Job 42:10, 11). That is, Job's life and suffering are, in the words of the Talmud we quoted earlier, 'a sign and a symbol' of the transformation of the Jewish People from the slaves of Egypt to the Redeemers of the world: 'Here is my servant [Israel], my chosen one in whom my soul delights. I have endowed him with my Spirit that he may bring true justice to the Gentiles.' (Isa. 42:1)
"The closing passages of Job are a paradigm of the Final Days, the End of Time, and the destiny of Israel, the Jewish People, as an agent of that apotheosis. Just as Job's three Edomite-gentile friends attach themselves to him for their salvation, so God swore to Israel: 'The gentile will join [you] and attach himself to the House of Jacob.' (Isa. 14:1, 2). To this end, God declares of his holy nation, the Jewish People: 'I will count you a kingdom of priests, a consecrated nation (Ex. 19:6). . . [Therefore] you must make yourselves holy as I am holy. (Lev. 20:7) Job himself declared it, 'I am showing you how God's power works.' (Job 27:11)
"For the past two thousand years, the Jewish people have suffered from a denominational myopia that blinds them to the ancient and eternal truth: the Holy Communion of Israel, like Job, is God's 'Chosen Priest' -- not, as those outside the Covenant and jealous of it, would accuse, by the fiat of collective chauvinism, but by the authority of a declaration from the Holy Throne of the Almighty: 'Do not be afraid [Israel], for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. Should you pass through the sea, I will be with you; or through rivers, they will not swallow you up. Should you walk through fire, you will not be scorched and the flames will not burn you. For I am Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior . . . Do not be afraid, for I am with you.' (Isa. 43:1-5).
"It is for this destiny that the House of Israel has been privileged to be inflicted by the Master of the Universe with the sufferings of Job. It is for this Holy Office that the Jew is forged in the iron furnace of God's refining fire. It is for this reason that Jesus the Jew could declare to the Gentiles, 'Salvation cometh from the Jews,' (John 4:22) by which he meant the collective soul of the Jewish people and not, as always interpreted by Christians, himself." (Lawrence G. Corey [Yakov Leib HaKohain], "The Paradigm of Job: Suffering and the Redemptive Destiny of Israel," Dor Le'Dor: Journal of the World Jewish Bible Society Vol. XVII, No. 2, Winter 1988/89 Jerusalem, Israel)
Now to claim that Job was not a Jew because he "lived in the land of Uz," rather than "Israel," is like saying I am not a Jew because I live in Los Angeles rather than Jerusalem -- or that Abraham was not a Hebrew because, according to Scripture, he lived in Mesopotamia. (Genesis 12:1)
Similarly, even if the author of Job had been an Edomite (which, as we shall see, there is reason to believe he was not) that is no reason to conclude that Job, himself, was not a Jew any more than we can conclude that Moby Dick was not a whale because the novel about him was written by a man and not a fish. In other words, just as a man can write a novel about a whale without being one, so too an Edomite could have written a book about a Jew without having been one either.
On the contrary, in the next section we present convincing Biblical evidence -- gathered from Oral and Written Jewish Scripture -- that not only was the author of the Book of Job a Jew, but that it was none other than the Patriarch Moses -- and that Job himself never actually existed, but was created by Moses as a "parable" of the Jewish People, which supports our conclusion that the story of Job is, in large part, a paradigm of the redemptive destiny of collective Israel. But more of that in the lecture to follow.
"Job never was and never existed, but is only a parable." -- Talmud (Tr. Baba Bathra 15a)
In the first part of this lecture I addressed the issue of whether the Book of Job was written by an Israelite about an Israelite -- and, contrary to much popular and even scholarly opinion, answered both questions, Yes. Here, I want to consider the textual proofs of both assertions. I emphasize "textual" because this form of scriptural "proof" -- this approach to Judaic exegesis -- is based entirely on text proving text, an internal analysis of scripture validating itself, rather than on outside "scholarship" which is, especially in cases such as Job, at best little more than opinion masquerading as fact and, at worst, an attempt to de-Judaize Jewish scripture in the service of replacing it with a different religio-ethnic identity such as Christianity.
In taking this approach, I shall call upon both Written and Oral Jewish Scripture to make my case. In advance, however, I should point out that this "Oral" Scripture (such as the Talmud) is considered by religious Jews to be equal in origin and authority to that of its Written counterpart (i.e., the so-called "Old Testament"). This comes as an unpleasant surprise to many Gentiles (and even some Jews) but is and has been an accepted fact, according to Jewish tradition, for thousands of years. For example, Rabbi Abraham Cohen writes:
"A fundamental issue with the Rabbis was the acceptance of a traditional Torah, transmitted from one generation to another by word of mouth, side by side with the written text. It was claimed that this Oral Torah [including the Talmud], equally with the Written Torah, goes back to the Revelation on Sinai." (Rabbi Abraham Cohen, Everyman's Talmud, Schocken Books, 1949, p. 146)
Thus, we shall see in what follows that statements from the Written and Oral Torah clearly suggest that the author of the Book of Job was not only an Israelite, but none other than the Prophet Moses -- and, furthermore, that the question of whether Job himself was an historical "Jew" is irrelevant since, according to these same sources, Job never actually existed but was used by Moses as a "parable" for the suffering and redemptive destiny of the Jewish People. It is, in large part, for this reason that those who seek to de-Judaize Job do so -- that is to discredit him as a symbol of redemptive Israel in order to replace us with themselves.
As already pointed out, the question of whether or not Job was a "Jew" is answered by the passage of Talmud: "Job never was and never existed, but is only a parable." (Tr. Baba Bathra 15a) That is: It really makes no difference one way or the other, since he never actually existed except as a "parable" in the mind of its author. And who was that author? Again, "replacement theologians" would have us believe that he was not an Israelite, but an Edomite -- just as they would have us believe that Jesus was a black African, Abraham was an Iranian, and Moses an Egyptian -- that is, anything but Jewish. However, these absurdities not withstanding, the Talmud states:
"Moses wrote his book [i.e., the Pentateuch]....and also the Book of Job." -- Talmud (Tr. Baba Bathra 14b)
So we see that the Book of Job, at least according to the Talmud (which is no less acceptable, in this case at least, than the opinions of scholars and replacement theologians) was, indeed, written by a "Jew" (actually an Israelite) as a parable about the Jewish people. And what, exactly, was that parable? As I conclude in my essay, "The Paradigm of Job: suffering and the Redemptive Destiny of Israel," published in Dor L'Dor: Journal of the World Jewish Bible Society of Jerusalem:
"At the conclusion of his ordeal, Job addresses God as 'Yahweh' rather than 'Elohim,' and, as we have already seen, confesses, 'I knew you before only by hearsay, but now having seen you with my own eyes, I retract all I have said, and in dust and ashes I repent.' (Job 42:5-6) Here Job confesses his former alienation from God, while at the same time surrendering to Him. The reward for this return to holiness -- for having suffered and survived the test of his direct encounter not with the second-party "Elohim" but with the first-party 'Yahweh' -- is God's elevation of Job to the role for which he was destined to become: that is, as God's 'Suffering Servant' through whom the Gentiles will receive divine salvation: 'The Lord said to Eliphaz the [Gentile]: My anger burns against you and your two friends . . . therefore offer up for yourselves a burn offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you; for to him I will show favor.' (Job 42:8-10) The conclusion, here, seems inescapable: Job is a symbol of Israel, the Jewish people, who by their suffering at His Hands shall be elected to the holy priesthood through whom the world is to be redeemed in the final days." (Lawrence G. Corey (Yakov Leib HaKohain), "The Paradigm of Job: Suffering and the Redemptive Destiny of Israel, Dor L'Dor: Journal of the World Jewish Bible Society of Jerusalem, Vol. XVII, No. 2, Winter 1988/89)
But there is even more to connect Job and its author to an Israelite, rather than other source. There are the striking parallels between it and Written Jewish Scripture, such as those we present in the next section. In other words, what we shall show is that the Book of Job is, in many key places, almost word-for-word a restatement of other passages of the Pentateuch which, it will be remembered, the Talmud (as well as common sense) tells us was written by Moses.
The Book of Job reveals itself as a work of Jewish scripture when analyzed within the context of certain key Biblical passages, especially those of Deuteronomy. These specify the curses God vows to visit upon those who fail to listen to His voice:
"If thou wilt NOT hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God . . . thine ox shall be slain . . . thine ass shall be violently taken away...thy sheep shall be given unto thine enemies . . . thy sons and daughters shall be given unto another people. . . and thou shalt be oppressed and crushed. (Deut. 28:31-33)
Now, compare the sequence of punishments predicted above in Deuteronomy with the "first round" of Job's torments:
"A messenger came to Job, 'Your OXEN,' he said, 'were at the plow, with the ASSES grazing at their side, when the SABEANS swept down on them and carried them off . . . the fire of God . . . . has burned up all your SHEEP . . . and your SONS AND DAUGHTERS . . . are dead. (Job 1:13-19)
Thus, we see that Job's suffering is not only identical with the curses God earlier promised to inflict on those who did not "hearken unto the VOICE of the Lord they God," but the very order in which they happen to him is exactly the same as that in Deuteronomy.
Moreover, another curse for failing to "listen to God's voice" states: "Thou shalt build a house, and thou shalt not dwell therein" (Deut. 28:30) -- which compares to the passage in Job, "A gale from across the desert came out and battered down the four corners of the house." (Job 1:19). Also compare the Scripture from Deuteronomy, "Thou shalt become an astonishment...among all the peoples" (Deut. 28:37) with that of Job, "Looking at him, they could not recognize him; they wept aloud and tore their garments and threw dust over their heads." (Job 2:12) However, the most striking parallel is found in a comparison of the passage from Deuteronomy:
"The Lord will smite thee . . . with a SORE BOIL . . . from the SOLE OF THY FOOT to the CROWN OF THY HEAD." (Deut. 28:35)
with the corresponding passage from Job:
"He struck Job down with a SORE BOIL from the SOLE OF HIS FOOT to the CROWN OF HIS HEAD." (Job 2:7)
Compare, also, the passage in Deuteronomy that states:
"In the morning thou shalt say: Would that it were evening! and in the evening thou shalt say: Would that it were morn!" (Deut. 28:67)
with Job's complaints over his torments:
"Lying in bed I wonder, When will it be day? Risen I think, How slowly evening comes!" (Job 7:4)
These striking parallels between Moses' Deuteronomy and the Book of Job strongly suggest the same author of both -- or, at the very least, the same "Judaic" point of view. Why this evidence, and that of the Talmud, should be ignored by some scholars and replacement theologians in favor of a Gentile interpretation will be the subject of the final installment of this series. In the meantime, however, there are other parallels to connecting Job to Jewish Scripture which we analyze next.
"See my servant . . . a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering . . .struck by God and brought low. Yet he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins. On him lies a punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed . . . while he was praying all the time for sinners." (Isaiah 53:13/53:1-12)
Who is this "suffering servant" of Isaiah? Christian exegetes and replacement theologians tell us it is a prefiguration of the crucified Jesus, yet Scripture tells us it is actually the Community of Israel itself. For example, consider a passage from Isaiah that directly precedes that of the "Suffering Servant" (emphasis in the following is mine):
"You, Israel, my SERVANT, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham, my friend. You whom I brought from the confines of the earth and called from the ends of the world; you to whom I have said, 'YOU ARE MY SERVANT, I have chosen you'." (Isaiah 42:1)
Moreover, God says of the Jewish People in the same Book of Isaiah:
"Here is MY SERVANT whom I uphold, MY CHOSEN ONE in whom my soul delights; I HAVE ENDOWED HIM WITH MY SPIRIT that he may bring true justice to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:1); and again, "He said to me: YOU ARE MY SERVANT, ISRAEL in whom I shall be glorified. (Isaiah 49:3)
So far we see that the "Suffering Servant" of Isaiah is a collective metaphor for the Community of Israel, the Jewish People -- which is echoed in the portrait of Job -- depicting its rise, fall, redemption and appointment to salvific destiny. As illustrations of this, consider the following comparisons between Isaiah and Job:
Thus, Job's (and, therefore, Israel's) repentance, redemption, and election to the status of Servant of God are also described in the "Song of the Suffering Servant" in Isaiah:
"When the Lord had said all this to Job, he turned to Eliphaz of Teman. 'I burn with anger against you and your two friends,' he said, 'for not speaking truthfully about me as my servant Job has done. So now find seven bullocks and seven rams and take them back with you, to my servant Job, and offer a burnt sacrifice for yourselves, and my servant Job will pray for you. I will listen to him with favor and excuse your folly in not speaking of me properly as my servant Job has done. (Job 42:8)
Several issues are buried in this passage. To begin with, God's statement, "I burn with anger against you and your two [Gentile] friends. . . for not speaking truthfully about me as my [Jewish] servant Job has done," prefigures the later statement attributed to "Jesus" in the New Testament:
"You [Gentiles] worship what you do not know; we [Jews] worship what we do know; for salvation comes from the Jews." (John 4:22)
By which the so-called "Jesus" was referring to the collective Soul of Israel and not, as Christian exegetes and replacement theologians assert, to himself. Therefore, we see that Job, a parable for the Community of Israel, is chosen to embody the mission of the Suffering Servant who, like the martyred Jews throughout history, offered himself for the salvation of others: "Surrendering himself to death . . . [the Suffering Servant] was bearing the faults of many and praying all the time for sinners. (Isaiah 53:12)
Thus Job, because his own suffering was identical with that of the Servant of Isaiah, was elevated to the status of God's Holy Priest, by whose prayers and intercession sinners are redeemed. But equally important is the identity of Job's three friends, and the reason they provoke God to exclaim, "I burn with anger against you!" What had they said that God could accuse them of "not speaking truthfully about me as my servant Job has done"?
First, Job's three friends were Edomites from the area of Seir. That is, they were Gentiles descended from Esau, the twin brother and arch-enemy of Jacob from whom Job, the Jew, descended. [It is even more significant that, according to the Oral Torah, the leader of the three Edomites, Eliphaz of Temin, was the son of Esau himself.) Second, each of them provoked God's anger with variations of the first speech by Eliphaz, the hidden intention of which was to diminish the significance of Job and his suffering (Job 4:7-9) But this attempt is nullified by Job's contradictory experience that even the righteous are afflicted and consumed by God's anger. In the words of the Zohar:
"Righteousness . . .is the first opening to enter; through this opening, all other high openings come into view." (Zohar 1:103a-b)
And finally Job, whom we now understand to have been a Jew (at least in the mind of his creator, Moses), is elected by God to pray for his friends, the Gentiles, precisely because he has suffered the test of God's anger and survived it to make atonement for his past alienation from the Lord. The conclusion, here, seems inescapable: Job is a symbol of Israel, the Jewish people, who by their suffering at His Hands shall be elected to the holy priesthood through whom the world is to be redeemed in the final days. It is this conclusion that many Christian exegetes and replacement theologians seek to discredit and avoid by insisting that the Book of Job was neither written by, nor was about, an Israelite or, as we would be later called, a "Jew."