Job meaning | Job etymology

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איוב
Job in Biblical Hebrew
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The name Job in the Bible

Job was a man from Uz, whose unfortunate test by satan became fuel for the greater discussion of what sin is and does (Job 1:1).

Sin (literally: to miss your mark/goal) is whatever makes a person deviate from perfection. How YHWH manages the universe is hard to guess at, and also why some of us lose our children to violent people or natural forces. Why do some of us get cancer, plunge into insanity or bankruptcy or any kind of destructive temptation? Has it all to do with God choosing the least of evils? The consequences of sin are inescapable, and sadly the consequences of our neighbor's sin may easily affect us.

Some of us die, and we don't know why. But we have the promise that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

After his ordeal Job has seven sons, who remain unnamed, and three daughters of astonishing pulchritude. "And in all the land no women were found so fair as Job's daughters" — Job 42:15. Their names are Jemimah, Keziah and Keren-happuch (v14).

Job is mentioned only once in the New Testament. The epistler James refers to Job (spelled Ιωβ, Iob) as an example of endurance (James 5:11).

What Job might really be about

The story of Job is among the oldest of the Bible and plays at the time of the patriarchs. We know this because of certain very clear hints. Job's children were old enough to be eating and drinking in the house of the oldest (Job 1:10). Since there were ten of them, and Job lived another 140 years after his ordeal (42:16), his total life span would fit in neatly the patriarchal record. Furthermore, his wealth was measured in life stock (1:3), rather than precious metals, as was the custom in later times. Other hints comes from word usage, such as Shaddai, and other customs, such as patriarchal priesthood (1:4).

All this means that Job's friend Eliphaz the Temanite was roughly a contemporary of Eliphaz, the son of Esau, and the father of Teman, who built the city where obviously the Temanites resided. And that means that the two might as well be the same person!

We know precisely nothing about who wrote Job, or more importantly: why it was written in the first place. Some maintain that Job is entirely historical, and a real-time accurate description of what transpired, which would mean that the author of Job invented journalism thousands of years prior to the formal introduction of that particular technique. Others believe that Job is wholly fictional, and though brilliant, basically somebody's idea of a good yarn.

Here at Abarim Publications we suspect that the story of Job is not about a guy and his four inconsiderate friends, but rather a review of the greater debate as it was conducted between the five major strands of theology in the Levant and in the patriarchal era; meaning that the Book of Job is an ancient piece of comparative theology.

In that particular model, Job would obviously represent a proto-form of Hebraic Yahwism, whereas Eliphaz would represent the belief system of Edom at large. Note that both Job and Eliphaz lived in Edom — Job in Uz and Eliphaz in Edom's capital Teman — and the friendly friction between Job and Eliphaz may in fact be a re-visitation of the brotherly friction between Jacob and Esau (the story of whom in turn is either journalism, fiction or something even better). In fact, the motif of the thinker versus the doer, which is reflected in the Jacob and Esau cycle, obviously also exists in Job-of-Uz versus Eliphaz-of-Teman (but also note that Yahwism is nevertheless all about practically applicable knowledge and skills and very little about the kind of theoretical thinking that the Greeks would be so famous for). But the bottom-line difference between the two is that Eliphaz believed that good things happen to good people and bad things to bad people, while Job was obviously convinced that it doesn't work that way.

Which particular wisdom tradition Zophar the Naamathite stands for is hard to estimate at this remove, but his name and ethnonym, as well as the themes of his speeches, seem to suggest that Zophar believed that man's highest attainable good is well-earned pleasure and enough peace to enjoy it (Job 11:13-19).

Bildad the Shuhite probably had something to do with Baal and Bel centered theology, and young Elihu, son of Barachel of Buz of Ram, probably represented the El cult of Canaan. Obviously all of these models were inadequate and ultimately sternly spoken to by YHWH Himself (Job 42:7). But the author of the story adds the beautiful nuance that Job's model was right only by the grace of the Lord, and existed not just to its own benefit, but to pray for Job's four erroneous friends (42:8), much in the same way that Abraham's blessing would be not just for him but for all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3, 28:14, Psalm 22:27, Acts 3:25).

Etymology and meaning of the name Job

The origin of the name Job is unclear (unknown says BDB Theological Dictionary). Some (NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Returning) derive it from an Arabic noun meaning 'he who turns (to God)'. Others (HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament) see similarities with the verb איב (ayap), meaning to be an enemy:

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names derives the name Job from this verb and is convinced that the name Job is a passive form and thus means The Persecuted. Renowned theologian Gesenius agrees with Jones and reads "object of enmity"

Then there are occurrences of this same name in related languages, and mean there No Father or Where Is My Father?

A Hebrew audience would probably hear Enemy for the name Job, and perhaps indeed a passive form of the verb, so that the name-bearer becomes the object of hostilities, specifically those imposed on Job by God. Others understand perhaps that God is never an enemy to a righteous man and righteous Job, as much as he loved God, was His enemy by nature, and that got the ball rolling.

Also read our article on Romans 7: The Skinny On Sin.

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