Job in the Land of Uz

The Book of Job, the oldest book in the Bible, has its historical-geographical setting in the Land of Uz. The book begins, “There was a man in the Land of Uz, whose name was Job; and the man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1 NKJV).

 

THE LAND OF UZ

Scholars are divided on the location of the Land of Uz. Some have suggested it was near Damascus; others, based on Lamentations 4:21, have placed it in the Land of Edom. Jeremiah wrote, “Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, you who dwell in the Land of Uz!” The Edom location makes geographical sense in light of the Biblical statement of Jeremiah and the flora, fauna and material culture mentioned in the book.

The ancient territory of Edom is located to the east and west of the Aravah, the Jordan Rift Valley that goes from the Dead Sa to the Red Sea, also known as the Gulf of Akaba or Eilat. On the west side of the Aravah, in Israel today, it goes from the Wilderness of Zin in the north to Eilat in the south. On the east side of the Aravah, in Jordan today, it goes from the Wadi Hasa (Brook Zered) in the north to Eilat in the south (Crew 2002: 2-10).

 

THE OUTLINE OF JOB

The book of Job is divided into three sections. Chapters 1 and 2 describe Satan’s diabolical attack on Job. All through this section, Job does not have a clue where his suffering is coming from. He does not see the “big picture” and understand that Satan is behind these attacks. Yet through it all, he could say, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD” (1:21). His dear wife, seeing the situation he was in says, “Do you hold to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (2:9). Bless her heart, she must have had the gift of encouragement!

The second section is Job’s debate with his friends. As the old saying goes, “With friends like these, who needs enemies!” This goes from chapter 3-37. Job begins the debate by cursing the day he was born, but he does not curse God. The final section is God’s one-sided dialogue with Job in chapters 38-42. In this section, God asks Job a series of questions out of the whirlwind. He begins by asking, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (38:4). In other words, “Job, were you with me at the Creation?” The book ends with Job’s confessing his lack of knowledge, and he turns from his rebellious ways (42:1-6). The Lord restores double what Job has lost (42:7-17).

 

THE THEME OF JOB

Most commentators and preachers would say that suffering is the theme of the book. But a careful examination of the book seems to reveal a slightly different theme: that of lessons learned from suffering. The emphasis is on the lessons learned.

The two key verses in the book are Job 13:15 and 37:23, 24. Job expresses his faith by saying, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.” “As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him; He is excellent in power, in judgment and abundant justice; He does not oppress. Therefore men fear Him; He shows no partiality to any who are wise of heart.”

 

CHRONOLOGICAL SETTING

The Patriarch Job lived soon after the Noahic Flood. This fact is reflected in the book. Job recalls this event several times (Job 9:5-8; 12:14-16; 26:11-14; 28:9). Job also recalls the post-Flood period when the earth is dried up (Job 14:11, 12). His friend Eliphaz mentions it in his third discourse. He said, “Will you keep to the old way which wicked men have trod, who were cut down before their time, whose foundations were swept away by a flood? They said to God, ‘Depart from us! What can the Almighty do to them?’” (Job 22:15-17). The Lord reminds Job of the Flood as well. When the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, He asked Job if he was at the creation (Job 38:4-7). The interrogation began, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (38:4). God then asked Job if he was at the Flood in verses 8-11 (Morris 1988: 23-33).

After Job’s encounter with Satan and the LORD he lived another 140 years (42:16). Job might have been close to 200 years old when he died. Job would have been a Neanderthal (Cuozzo ????). His age would put him in the period of the Patriarchs. Perhaps he was a contemporary of, or slightly before, Abraham who lived to be 175 years old (Gen. 25:7).

At this point, we should raise the issue of the place of Job in the archaeological chronology. If we assume a Biblical date for the universal, worldwide Flood in Noah’s Day, with no gaps in the chronology, than the date for the flood would be 2459 BC (Whitcomb and Morris 1973: 478). If there are gaps in Genesis 11, then the Flood could be several hundred years before (Whitcomb and Morris 1973: 474-483). It is important to note, we are talking hundreds, not thousands or millions of years.

If you look at the standard archaeology chronological tables the so-called “Prehistoric” period for human history is as followed: The Paleolithic period – 1 million down to 18,000 BC. The Mesolithic period – 18,000 to 8,300 BC. The Neolithic period – 8,300 to 4,500 BC. The Chalcolthic period – 4,500 to 3,300 BC. This is in obvious conflict with the Biblical chronology. This is where evangelical archaeologists need to “rethink early earth’s history.”

Using round numbers for a moment, if the Flood is at approximately 2450 BC and Abraham is about 2000 BC, then one must take the archaeological chronology and compress 1 million years into 450 years! It will take an individual, or individuals, who will devote a lifetime (or at least a doctoral dissertation) to reading excavation reports, archaeological journals, paleontology journals and books on assorted subjects to rethink this chronology. One will have to define what the presuppositions of the evolutionary assumptions are in archaeology and remove the underpinning of those assumptions. Then, using a Biblical framework, harmonize the known archaeological and paleontological data with the Biblical record. Where exactly Job fits in the archaeological chronology, I do not know for sure.

 

THE FLORA, FAUNA AND MATERIAL CULTURE OF THE LAND OF UZ

The flora, fauna and material culture of the book of Job fits the Aravah / Wilderness. In his discourse on wisdom (Job 28), Job describes the mining operations in the Aravah region. “Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place where gold is refined. Iron is taken from the earth, and copper is smelted from ore. Man puts an end to darkness, and searches every recess for ore in the darkness and the shadow of death. He breaks open a shaft away from people; in places forgotten by feet. They hang far away from men, they swing to and fro” (28:1-4). While scholars debate the precise archaeological period of Job, the Timnah Copper mines just north of Eilat, did have small-scale mining activities during the Chalcolithic period (Rothenberg 1972: 24-64). It is interesting that the rock engravings from Chalcolithic Site 191 have ostriches on them, an animal mentioned several times in the book of Job (1972: 55, Fig. 14; cf. Job 30:29; 39:13-18).

When I take the Tablot Seminary students to the Timnah Copper mines during their January “Biblelands” program, I always have the host of the program, Dr. Richard Rigsby, read Job 28 at the deepest mine. Dr. Rigsby was the one who translated Job in the New King James Bible.

The most intensive exploitation of the Timnah Copper mines was during the Ramesside period by the Egyptians with Midianite help. There was also mining activities during the Roman period and Medieval Arab period.

In his discourse on wisdom, Job also mentions coral. “No mention shall be made of coral or quartz, for the price of wisdom is above rubies (28:18).” Coral was found in the excavations at the Timnah Copper mines. They came from some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world, the eastern branch of the Red Sea. The port of Eilat is famous for its snorkeling in the coral reefs. Unfortunately, the coral reefs in the Red Sea are dying off today because of pollution. It is obvious; man does not have wisdom!

Elsewhere in the book, the (Red) sea with its sea serpents, fish of the sea, and ships are mentioned (Job 6:3; 7:12; 9:8, 26; 12:8; 26:12).

A number of animals mentioned in Job are indigenous to this region, most of which can been seen in the Hai Bar (Yotvata) Biblical Wildlife Reserve (Clark 1981: 22-35). Avraham Yoffe founded this reserve in 1968 in order to preserve species that were indigenous to this region in antiquity. One of their goals is to breed species that are on the verge of extinction and then have a controlled release of various species back into their open, natural habitat (Clark 1981: 22-35).

At Hai Bar, one can see the wild donkey and onager (Job 6:5; 11:12; 24:3, 5; 39:5-8). Mountain goats, also known as ibex are in the reserve (Job 39:1-4; Ps. 104:18). The deer, or gazelle (Job 39:1); the cobra and viper (20:14-16); jackal (30:29); ostrich (30:29; 39:13-18); hawk (39:26); eagle (9:26; 24:3; 39:27); stork (39:13) and locust (39:20) are in the reserve as well.

In Job 38:39-39:30, God asks Job questions concerning the animal kingdom. Of the ibex He asks, “Do you know the time when the wild mountain goat bears young?” Interestingly, when Dr. Rigsby translated the book of Job for the NKJV, he had not had the privilege of visiting the Hai Bar Reserve. If he had the chance to retranslate Job, he would have changed “wild mountain goat” to “ibex”.

One of my favorite animals in the Hai Bar is the oryx. This animal with its straight horns is classified in the antelope family. It is the Biblical re’em [Heb.] and has been identified by some scholars as the “unicorn” in the King James Bible (Clark 1984: 66-70). It has also been translated “wild ox” in some translations (Job 39:9-12; also mentioned in Num. 32:22; 24:8; Deut. 33:17; Ps. 22:21; 29:6; 92:10; Isa. 34:7). These animals also are depicted on the rock carvings of the Timnah Copper mines. There is also a relief found in Egypt with a side profile of this animal and it looks like it has only one horn! Interestingly, the Los Angeles Zoo presents this possibility on the plaque in front of the oryx pen.

The Cloisters in upper Manhattan has the famous “Unicorn Tapestry.” Usually artists depict the unicorn as a horse with a single horn. Yet if one looks at the unicorn tapestry closely, the unicorn is depicted, not in the equine (horse) family, but rather the antelope family (Clark 1984: 68). Perhaps the oryx is the basis of the unicorn legends. People might have seen a side profile of the oryx from a distance and thought the animal only had one horn.

The Lord asks Job some questions about this creature. “Will the re’em be willing to serve you? Will he bed by your manger? Can you bind the re’em in the farrow with ropes? Or will he plow the valleys behind you? Will you trust him because his strength is great? Or will you leave your labor to him? Will you trust him to bring home your grain, and gather it to your threshing floor?” (39:9-12).

The oryx is a fascinating creature. It can live indefinitely without drinking water, but gets its water through the vegetation that it eats and the dew it licks off stones in the early morning hours. It hardly perspires and has a high concentration of urine and dry feces. It’s white hairs are hollow and create excellent insulation and acts like Styrofoam. Its only problem is man. When threatened, it will stand and fight. With the introduction of firearms, the oryx was hunted and is now on the verge of extinction. The Hai bar Reserve is breeding a herd for controlled release into the Maktesh Ramon.

Another animal that has personality at the Hai Bar is the ostrich. The Lord says of the ostrich, “The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, but are her wings and pinions like the kindly stork’s? For she leaves her eggs on the ground, and warms them in the dust; she forgets that a foot may crush them, or that a wild beast may break them. She treats her young harshly, as though they were not hers; her labor is in vain, without concern, because God deprived her of wisdom, and did not endow her with understanding. When she lifts herself on high, she scorns the horse and its rider” (39:13-18).

The ostrich can weigh up to 150 kg and stand 2.5 meters high. They are birds, but flightless ones. Their wings are too small to allow the bird to fly. However, the wings are good for helping the bird make sudden stops and shape turns as they run at speeds up to 60 kph.

The Lord contrasts the ostrich with the stork. The ostrich lays her eggs in the sand and has other eggs lying around. Some think as decoys for predators or food to nourish the newly hatched chicks. While the ostrich seemingly abandons her eggs, the stork guards them carefully. The stork has its nest high up and watches over the eggs and cares for the young after they are hatched. The Hebrews used the word hesed, usually translated “loving kindness”, as a characteristic of the Lord. He was lovingly loyal to His people, guarding them, watching over them, and nourishing them. The stork had been named chasidah. This afforded the Hebrew a vivid word picture of God’s character.

The Lord says that He deprived the ostrich of wisdom and did not endow it with understanding. Arabs in the Middle East will call someone “stupid as an ostrich” as a sign of reproach. We in the West have a similar concept. A billboard was put up on a road near my house that had an ostrich sticking his head in the ground. The caption said: “Only a bird brain crosses without looking.”

Two animals not in the Hai Bar are the Behemoth (Job 40:15-24) and the Leviathan (Job 41:1-34). Job describes the Behemoth, apparently a dinosaur of some sort, as moving his tail like a cedar. The indication is that he had a thick tail, something an elephant or hippopotamus does not have (40:17). He is found lying under lotus trees and willows, and in the reeds and marshes of the Jordan River (Job 40:21-23), probably just north of the Dead Sea near Jericho. Job knew the Leviathan, a marine dinosaur of some sort, from his travels to the Red Sea, known today as the Gulf of Eilat / Akaba (Job 41).

Footprints of land dinosaurs have been discovered in Israel. In 1962 an Israeli found some three-pronged prints in the bedrock of his garden at Beit Zayit, a suburb of western Jerusalem (Avnimelech 1966). The area was exposed and more tracks uncovered. Most likely the dinosaurs that made these prints were the Struthiomimus and laid down toward the end of Noah’s Flood.

A plant that is indigenous to the area is the broom tree ( rotem Heb.). The white broom is not an edible plant, but can be sold to earn bread (Job 30:1-4). The young men who scorned Job made embers from the root of the white broom to sell in the marketplace. What lowlier livelihood could there be in the eyes of a once wealthy Job than one that involves sitting by a fire night and day, black with soot and reeking with smoke?

Yehuda Feliks (1981), a professor of Biblical and Talmudic Botany, gives a number of examples of plants mentioned in the book of Job and which are indigenous to the region of the Wilderness and Aravah.

 

JOB’S SPIRITUAL LIFE

What are we to learn from the life of Job? He was a blameless and upright man who feared the Lord (1:1). He would offer sacrifices for his children (1:5) and believed he needed a mediator between him and the Lord (9:33; 25:4; 33:23). Yet one of the most profound statements in the book of Job comes from his lips when he proclaims, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God. Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (19:25-27). Neanderthals had superior physical, cultural, technical and intellectual abilities (Cuozzo 1998). Because of evolutionary influences, I do not think we give the Patriarchs enough credit for knowing about the Lord Jesus Christ. Job knew about the Redeemer and the resurrection.

In reality, the Lord Jesus Christ is the answer to Job’s problems. It was the death of the Lord Jesus on Calvary’s cross that put an end to sin, defeated Satan and conquered the grave so there could be a resurrection. Just as Job trusted the Lord through his difficult situation, so each and every individual needs to trust the Lord Jesus for his or her salvation. A person’s salvation is not dependant upon his or her good works, church membership or baptism. It is dependent solely upon faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone as the one who died and paid for all sins and rose again from the dead.

When it comes to trials and testings in our lives, Dr. Henry Morris summarizes the message of the book of Job in this way: “God’s central message to Job, and to us, is not an explanation of why the righteous suffer, but rather a call to sound belief in creation and an emphasis on our stewardship over creation, under God. Afflictions that come our way can then be placed in proper context. We belong to Him, both by creation and by redemption, and He has the right to do with us whatever He will. We can trust Him, no matter what comes our way in this life, knowing that in the balances of eternity the Judge of all the earth will do right” (Morris 1988: 108, 109).

James, the son of Zebedee, sets forth Job as an example of patience. He writes, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. … My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord – that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful” (5:7a, 10, 11). Might we learn the lessons of Job as well.

 

Bibliography

 

Avnimelech, Moshe A.

1966 Dinosaur Tracks in the Judean Hills. Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Jerusalem: The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

 

Clark, Bill

1981 Animals of the Bible. Living Links to Antiquity. Biblical Archaeology Review 7/1: 22-35.

 

1984 The Biblical Oryx – A New Name for an Ancient Animal. Biblical Archaeology Review 10/5: 66-70.

 

Crew, Bruce

2002 Did Edom’s Original Territories Extend West of ‘Wadi Arabah? Bible and Spade 15/1: 2-10.

 

Cuozzo, Jack

1998 Buried Alive. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.

 

Feliks, Yehuda

1981 Nature and Man in the Bible: Chapters in Biblical Ecology. London, New York: Soncino.

 

Morris, Henry

1988 The Remarkable Record of Job. Grand Rapids: Baker.

 

Rothenberg, Beno

1972 Timna. Valley of the Biblical Copper Mines. London: Thames and Hudson.

 

Whitcomb, John; and Morris, Henry

1973 The Genesis Flood. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed.