Jump to: ISBEEaston'sWebster'sThesaurusHebrewLibrarySubtopicsTerms
Easton's Bible Dictionary
To draw back or apostatize in matters of religion (Acts 21:21; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1). This may be either partial (Proverbs 14:14) or complete (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:38, 39). The apostasy may be both doctrinal and moral.
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
(v. i.) To slide back; to fall away; esp. to abandon gradually the faith and practice of a religion that has been professed.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

bak'-slid' (meshubhah; Hosea 11:7; Hosea 14:4 and often in Hosea and Jeremiah, shobhabh; shobhebh, in Jeremiah, 4 times: all meaning "turning back or away," "apostate," "rebellious." carar, in Hosea 4:16 = "stubborn," "rebellious"; the Revised Version (British and American) "stubborn"): In all places the word is used of Israel forsaking Yahweh, and with a reference to the covenant relation between Yahweh and the nation, conceived as a marriage tie which Israel had violated. Yahweh was Israel's husband, and by her idolatries with other gods she had proved unfaithful (Jeremiah 3:8, 14; Jeremiah 14:7 Hosea 14:4). It may be questioned whether Israel was guilty so much of apostasy and defection, as of failure to grow with the growing revelation of God. The prophets saw that their contemporaries fell far short of their own ideal, but they did not realize how far their predecessors also had fallen short of the rising prophetic standard in ideal and action. See APOSTASY.

Backslider bak'-slid-er cugh lebh: "The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways" (Proverbs 14:14). But the Revised Version (British and American) "backslider" conveys the wrong impression of an apostate. The Hebrew expression here implies simply non-adherence to the right, "The bad man reaps the fruits of his act" (Toy, Prov, in loc.).

T. Rees





1. Name 2. Contents in General 3. Connection with the Other Books of the Pentateuch 4. Significance of These Events for Israel 5. Connecting Links for Christianity


1. In General 2. In the Separate Pericopes


1. General Consideration 2. The Miraculous Character 3. The Legislative Portions 4. Chronology 5. Unjustifiable Attacks


1. Connection with Moses 2. Examination of Objections


(NOTE: For the signs J (Jahwist), E (Elohist), P or Priestly Code (Priest Codex), R (Redactor) compare the article on GENESIS.)


I. In General.

1. Name:

The second book of the Pentateuch bears in the Septuagint the name of Exodos, in the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) accordingly Exodus, on the basis of the chief contents of the first half, dealing with the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt. The Jews named the book after the first words: we-'elleh shemoth ("and these are the names"), or sometimes after the first noun shemoth ("names") a designation already known to Origen in the form of Oualesmoth.

2. Contents in General:

In seven parts, after the Introduction (Exodus 1:1-7), which furnishes the connection of the contents with Genesis, the book treats of

(1) the sufferings of Israel in Egypt, for which mere human help is insufficient (Exodus 1:8-7:7), while Divine help through human mediatorship is promised;

(2) the power of Yahweh, which, after a preparatory miracle, is glorified through the ten plagues inflicted on Pharaoh and which thus forces the exodus (Exodus 7:8-13:16);

(3) the love of Yahweh for Israel, which exhibits itself in a most brilliant manner, in the guidance of the Israelites to Mt. Sinai, even when the people murmur (Exodus 13:17-18:27);

(4) making the Covenant at Mt. Sinai together with the revelation of the Ten Words (Exodus 20:1) and of the legal ordinances (Exodus 21:1) as the condition of making the Covenant (Exodus 19:1-24:18);

(5) the directions for the building of the Tabernacle, in which Yahweh is to dwell in the midst of His people (Exodus 24:18-31:18);

(6) the renewal of the Covenant on the basis of new demands after Israel's great apostasy in the worship of the Golden Calf, which seemed for the time being to make doubtful the realization of the promises mentioned in (5) above (Exodus 32:1-35:3);

(7) the building and erection of the Tabernacle of Revelation (or Tent of Meeting) and its dedication by the entrance of Yahweh (Exodus 35:4-40:38).

As clearly as these seven parts are separated from one another, so clearly again are they most closely connected and constitute a certain progressive whole.

In the case of the last four, the separation is almost self-evident. The first three as separate parts are justified by the ten plagues standing between them, which naturally belong together and cause a division between that which precedes and that which follows. Thus in the first part we already find predicted the hardening of the heart of Pharaoh, the miracles of Yahweh and the demonstrations of His power down to the slaying of the firstborn, found in the 2nd part (compare Exodus 2:23-7:7).

In part 3, the infatuation of Pharaoh and the demonstration of the power of Yahweh are further unfolded in the narrative of the catastrophe in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:4, 17). Further the directions given with reference to the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:31 taken from P) presuppose the Decalogue (from E); compare eg. Exodus 25:16, 21; Exodus 31:18; as again the 6th section (Exodus 32) presupposes the 5th part, which had promised the continuous presence of God (compare Exodus 32:34 J; 33:3, 5, 7 JE; 33:12, 14-17 J; 34:9 J, with 25:8; 29:45 P; compare also the forty days in 34:28 J with those in 24:18 P) as in 34:1, 28 J and 34:11-27 J refers back to the 4th part, namely, 20:1 E; 21:1 E; 24:7 JE (Decalogue; Books of the Covenant; Making the Covenant). In the same way the last section presupposes the third, since the cloud in Exodus 40:34 P is regarded as something well known (compare 13:21 JE; 14:19 E and J, 14:24 J). The entire contents of the Book of Exodus are summarized in an excellent way in the word of God to Israel spoken through Moses concerning the making of the covenant: Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.

Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be mine own possession from among all peoples: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation (Exodus 19:4-6). Here reference is made to the powerful deeds of God done to the Egyptians, to His deeds of lovingkindness done to Israel in the history of how He led them to Sinai, to the selection of Israel, and to the conditions attached to the making of the covenant, to God's love, which condescended to meet the people, and to His holiness, which demands the observance of His commandments; but there is also pointed out here the punishment for their transgression. The whole book is built on one word in the preface to the ten commandments: I am Yahweh thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage (Exodus 20:2 E; compare 29:45 P).

3. Connection with the Other Books of the Pentateuch:

The events which are described in the Book of Exodus show a certain contrast to those in Genesis. In the first eleven chapters of this latter book we have the history of mankind; then beginning with 11:27, a history of families, those of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In Exodus we have following this the beginning of the history of the chosen people. Then there is also a long period of time intervening between the two books. If Israel was 430 years in Egypt (compare 12:40 P; also Genesis 15:13 J; see III, 4 below), and if the oppression began during the long reign of the predecessors of the Pharaoh, during whose reign Israel left the country (Exodus 2:23; Exodus 1:8), then, too, several centuries must have elapsed between the real beginning of the book (x 1:8), and the conclusion of Genesis. Notwithstanding these differences, there yet exists the closest connection between the two books. Exodus 1:1-7 connects the history of the people as found in Exodus with the family history of Genesis, by narrating how the seventy descendants of Jacob that had migrated to Egypt (compare Exodus 1:5 Genesis 46:27) had come to be the people of Israel, and that God, who offers Himself as a liberator to Moses and the people, is also the God of those fathers, of whom Genesis spoke (compare Exodus 3:6 JE; 3:13 E; 3:15 R; 4:5 J; 6:3 P). Indeed, His covenant with the fathers and His promises to them are the reasons why He at all cares for Israel (Exodus 2:24 P; Exodus 6:8 P; 33:1 JE), and when Moses intercedes for the sinful people, his most effective motive over against God is found in the promises made to the patriarchs (Exodus 32:13 JE).

As is the case with Genesis, Exodus stands in the closest connection also with the succeeding books of the Pentateuch. Israel is certainly not to remain at Sinai, but is to come into the promised land (3:17 JE; 6:08 PM; 23:20 JE; 32:34 J; 33:1 JE; 33:12 J; 34:9 J and D; compare also the many ordinances of the Books of the Covenant, 21:1 E; 34:11 D and J). In this way the narratives of the following books, which begin again in Numbers 10:11 P and JE with the story of the departure from Sinai, continue the history in Exodus. But the legislation in Leviticus also is a necessary continuation and supplement of the Book of Exodus, and is prepared for and pointed to in the latter. The erection of the burnt-offering altar (27:1; 38:1), as well as the mention made of the different kinds of sacrifices, such as the burnt sacrifices and the sin offering (29:18, 14) and of the heave offering (29:28), point to the promulgation of a law of sacrifices such as we find in Leviticus 1-7. The directions given in regard to the consecration of the priests (Exodus 29) are carried out in Leviticus 8. The indefinite commands of Exodus 30:10 in reference to the atonement on the horn of the incense altar once every year renders necessary the special ritual of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16 as its supplement. The more complete enlargement in reference to the shewbread mentioned in Exodus 25:30 is found in Leviticus 24:5-9; and even the repetitions in references to the candlesticks (Exodus 25:31 Leviticus 24:1-4 Numbers 8:1-4), as also the tamidh ("continuous") sacrifices (compare Numbers 28:3-8 with Exodus 29:38-42), point to a certain connection between Exodus and the following books. How close the connection between Deuteronomy and Exodus is, both in regard to the historical narratives and also to their legal portions (compare the Decalogue and the Books of the Covenant), can only be mentioned at this place.

4. Significance of These Events for Israel:

When we remember the importance which the exodus out of Egypt and the making of the covenant had for the people of Israel, and that these events signalized the birth of the chosen people and the establishment of theocracy, then we shall understand why the echo of the events recorded in Exodus is found throughout later literature, namely, in the historical books, in the preaching of the prophets and in the Psalms, as the greatest events in the history of the people, and at the same time as the promising type of future and greater deliverances. But as in the beginning of the family history the importance of this family for the whole earth is clearly announced (Genesis 12:1-3), the same is the case here too at the beginning of the history of the nation, perhaps already in the expression "kingdom of priests" (Exodus 19:6), since the idea of a priesthood includes that of the transmission of salvation to others; and certainly in the conception `first-born son of Yahweh' (Exodus 4:22), since this presupposes other nations as children born later.

The passages quoted above are already links connecting this book with Christianity, in the ideas of a general priesthood, of election and of sonship of God. We here make mention of a few specially significant features from among the mass of such relationships to Christianity.

5. Connecting Links for Christianity:

How great a significance the Decalogue, in which the law is not so intimately connected with what is specifically Jewish and national, as eg. in the injunctions of the Priest Codex, according to the interpretation of Christ in Matthew 5, has attained in the history of mankind! But in Matthew 5:17 Jesus has vindicated for the law in all its parts an everlasting authority and significance and has emphasized the eternal kernel, which accordingly is to be assigned to each of these legal behests; while Paul, on the other hand, especially in Romans, Galatians and Colossians, emphasizes the transitory character of the law, and discusses in detail the relation of the Mosaic period to that of the patriarchs and of the works of the law to faith, while in 2 Corinthians 3 he lauds the glory of the service in the spirit over that of the letter (compare Exodus 34)-an idea which in reference to the individual legal institutions is also carried out in the Ep. to the Hebrews. Compare on this subject also the articles LEVITICUS and DAY OF ATONEMENT. Then too the Passover lamb was a type of Jesus Christ (compare eg. 1 Corinthians 5:7 John 19:36 1 Peter 1:19). In Exodus 12 the Passover rite and the establishment of the covenant (24:3-8) arc found most closely connected also with the Lord's Supper and the establishment of the New Covenant.

In the permanent dwelling of God in the midst of His people in the pillar of fire and in the Tabernacle there is typified His dwelling among mankind in Christ Jesus (John 1:14) and also the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the Christian congregation (1 Peter 2:5 Ephesians 4:12) and in the individual Christian (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19 2 Corinthians 6:16 John 14:23). The Apocalypse particularly is rich in thought suggested by the exodus out of Egypt. Unique thoughts in reference to the Old Testament are found in the conceptions that the law was given through angels (Acts 7:53 Galatians 3:19 Hebrews 2:2); further that the rock mentioned in Exodus 17:6 followed, and was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4); and that in Hebrews 9:4 the real connection of the altar of incense with the Holy of Holies appears as changed into a local connection (Exodus 40:26, 27), while the idea found in Hebrews 9:4 that the manna was originally in the Ark of the Covenant, is perhaps not altogether excluded by Exodus 16:33; and the number 430 years, found in Galatians 3:17, probably agrees with Exodus 12:40, 41, in so far as the whole of the patriarchal period could be regarded as a unit (compare on the reading of the Septuagint in Exodus 12:40, 41, III, 4 below).

II. Structure of the Book According to the Scriptures and According to Modern Analyses.

In the following section (a) serves for the understanding of the Biblical text; (b) is devoted to the discussion and criticism of the separation into sources.

1. In General:

(a) The conviction must have been awakened already by the general account of the contents given in I, 2 above, that in the Book of Exodus we are dealing with a rounded-off structure, since in seven mutually separated yet intimately connected sections, one uniform fundamental thought is progressively carried through. This conviction will only be confirmed when the details of these sections are studied, the sections being themselves again organically connected by one leading thought. Since, in addition, the Book of Genesis is clearly divided into ten parts by the ten toledhoth ("generations") (compare also the division made by typical numbers in articles LEVITICUS and DAY OF ATONEMENT), thus too the number seven, as itself dividing the Book of Exodus into seven parts, is probably not accidental; and this all the less, as in the subordinate parts too, a division is to be found according to typical numbers, this in many cases appearing as a matter of course, and in other cases traced without difficulty, and sometimes lying on the surface (compare 10 plagues, 10 commandments). Yet in all of the following investigations, as is the case in the articles GENESIS, LEVITICUS and DAY OF ATONEMENT, the demonstration of the fundamental thought must be the main thing for us. The division according to typical numbers is to be regarded merely as an additional confirmation of the literary unity of the book. We refer here first of all to a number of cases, where certain numbers independently of the separate chief parts combine the Biblical text into a unity. In Numbers 14:22 R, Yahweh states that Israel had now tempted Him and been disobedient to Him ten times: compare Exodus 14:11 JE(?) (Red Sea); 15:23 JE (Marah); 16:2, 3 P; 16:20 JE; 16:27, 28 R (Manna); 17:1 JE (Massah and Meribah); 32:1 JE (Golden Calf); Numbers 11:1 JE (Tuberah); 11:4 JE (Graves of Lust); 14:2 P and JE (Spies). Most of these cases are accordingly reported in the Book of Exodus, but in such manner that in this particular a clearly marked progress can be noticed, as Yahweh does not begin to punish until Exodus 32; but from here on He does so with constantly increasing severity, while down to Exodus 32 grace alone prevails, and in this particular, previous to Exodus 32, there is found nothing but a warning (16:27). Ten times it is further stated of Pharaoh, in a great variety of forms of expression, that he hardened his own heart (7:13 P; 7:14 JE; 7:22 PM; 8:15 PM; 8:32 JE; 9:7, 34, 35 JE; 13:15 D); ten times the hardening is ascribed to God (4:21 JE; 7:03 PM; 9:12 PM; 10:1 R; 10:20 JE; 10:27 E; 11:10 R; 14:4, 8 P; 17 P ?). Here already we must note that within the narrative of the miracles and the plagues at first there is mention made only of the hardening by Pharaoh himself (7:13 P; 7:14 JE; 7:22 PM; 8:11; 8:15 PM; 8:28 JE; 9:7 JE, i.e. seven times) before a single word is said that God begins the hardening; and this latter kind of hardening thereupon alone concludes the whole tragedy (14:4, 8 P; 17 P?). Ten months cover the time from the arrival at Sinai (19:1 P) to the erection of the sacred dwelling-place of God (40:17 P). Since, further, exactly three months of this time are employed in 19:10, 16 JE; 24:3 JE; 24:16 P (ten days); 24:18 P (40 days); 34:28 J (40 days), there remain for the building of the tabernacle exactly seven months.

(b) What has been said does anything but speak in favor of the customary division of Exodus into different sources. It is generally accepted that the three sources found in Genesis are also to be found in this book; in addition to which a fourth source is found in Exodus 13:3-16, of a Deuteronomistic character. It is true and is acknowledged that the advocates of this hypothesis have more difficulties to overcome in Exodus than in Genesis, in which latter book too, however, there are insufficient grounds for accepting this view, as is shown in the article GENESIS. Beginning with Exodus 6 the chief marks of such a separation of sources falls away as far as P and J are concerned, namely, the different uses of the names of God, Elohim and Yahweh. For, according to the protagonists of the documentary theory, P also makes use of the name Yahweh from this chapter on; E, too, does the same from Exodus 3:13 on, only that, for a reason not understood, occasionally the word Elohim is still used by this source later on, e.g. 13:17; 18:1. But as a number of passages using the name Elohim are unhesitatingly ascribed by the critics to J, this difference in the use of the name of God utterly fails to establish a difference of sources. To this is to be added, that J and E are at this place closely interwoven; that, while the attempt is constantly being made to separate these two sources, no generally accepted results have been reached and many openly acknowledge the impossibility of such a separation, or admit that it can be effected only to a very limited extent. Peculiarities which are regarded as characteristic of the different sources, such as the sin of Aaron in J, the staff of Moses in E, Sinai in J and the Priestly Code (P), Horeb in E, the dwelling of the Israelites in Goshen in J, but according to E their living in the midst of the Egyptians, and others, come to nought in view of the uniform text in the passages considered. This has been proved most clearly, e.g. by Eerdmans in his Alttestamentliche Studien, III ("Das Buck Exodus") in regard to many of these passages. Narratives of a similar character, like the two stories in which Moses is described as striking the rock to produce water (Exodus 17:1 Numbers 20:1), are not duplicates, but are different events. Compare the different localities in Exodus 17:7 and Numbers 20:1, as also the improbability that Israel would without cause in the first passage have put into permanent form the story of its shame, and then in the latter there would have been an uncertainty as to the importance of this locality for the career of Moses; and finally, we must notice the distinction expressly made by the additional statement, "waters of Meribah of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin," in Numbers 27:12-14 Deuteronomy 32:51 (compare Ezekiel 47:19; Ezekiel 48:28). Then, too, these occurrences, if we accept the division into J and E at this place, are not reduced to a single event, since both sources would share in both narratives. The same condition of affairs is found in Exodus 16 in so far as JE comes into consideration, and in Exodus 18 in comparison with Numbers 11. In the case of Numbers 11 there is express reference made to a former narrative by the word "again" and in the second case all the details in their differences point to different occurrences. Concerning other so-called duplicates in Exodus, see later in this article. But the acceptance of P in contradistinction to the text of JE does also not lead to tangible results, notwithstanding that there exists a general agreement with regard to the portions credited to P. Not taking into consideration certain that are peculiar, the following sections are attributed to this source: Exodus 1:1-7, 13-15; Exodus 2:23, 25; 6:2-7:13, 6:28-30; Exodus 7:19, 20, 21, 22; Exodus 8:1-3, 11-15; 9:8-12; 12:1-20, 28, 37, 40-50; 13:1-2, 20; Exodus 14:1-4, 8-10, 15-18, 21, 22-23, 19; Exodus 16:1-3, 1-14, 15-18, 21-26, 31-32, 34, 35; Exodus 17:1; Exodus 19:1, 2; 24:15-31:17; 34:29-40:38. It is claimed that in the Book of Genesis these sources constitute the backbone of the whole work; but this is not claimed for Ex. The sections ascribed to P constitute in this place, too, anything but an unbroken story. In both language and substance they are, to a certain extent, most closely connected with the parts ascribed to JE, and in part they are indispensable for the connection whence they have been taken (compare for details below). It is absolutely impossible to separate on purely philological grounds in the purely narrative portions in Exodus the portions belonging to P. That genealogies like Exodus 6:14, or chronological notices like 12:40, 41, 51; 16:01; 19:1, or directions for the cults like Exodus 12; Exodus 25 have their own peculiar forms, is justified by self-evident reasons; but this does not justify the acceptance of separate authors. It is the result of the peculiar matter found in each case. We must yet note that the passages attributed to P would in part contain views which could not be harmonized with theological ideas ascribed to this source, which are said to include an extreme transcendental conception of God; thus in 16:10 the majesty of Yahweh suddenly appears to the congregation, and in 40:34 this majesty takes possession of the newly erected dwelling. In 8:19 mention is made of the finger of God, and in 7:1 Moses is to be as God to Pharaoh. In Exodus 12:12 the existence of the Egyptian gods is presupposed and the heathen sorcerers are able to act in competition with Moses and Aaron for a while; 7:11, 12, 22; 8:03. P also describes the Passover, which on account of the handling of the blood in 12:7 cannot be regarded in any other light than as a sacrifice in the house, and in Numbers 9:7, 13, this act is expressly called a qorban Yahweh (`sacrifice of Yahweh'). Compare also the commands in Exodus 12:10, 43, 18. But more than anything else, what has been said under (a) above goes to show that all these sources have been united in a way that characterizes the work of a systematic writer, and declares against any view that would maintain that these sources have been mechanically placed side by side and interwoven into each other. What has here been outlined for the whole book in general must now be applied to the different parts in particular.

2. In the Separate Pericopes:

(1) Exodus 1:8-7:7:

(a) Everything that is narrated in this section, which in so worthy a manner introduces the whole book, is written from a standpoint of the Egyptian oppression, from which human help could give no deliverance, but from which the mighty power of Yahweh, working through human agency, offered this deliverance. It is a situation which demands faith (4:31). This section naturally falls into ten pericopes, of which in each instance two are still more closely connected. Numbers 1 and 2 (1:8-14, 15-22), namely, the oppression through forced labor and the threat to take the life of the newly born males of the Israelites; and in contrast to this, the Divine blessing in the increase of the people in general and of the midwives in particular; numbers 3 and 4 (Exodus 2:1-10, 11-22), namely, the birth and youth of Moses stand in contrast. The child seems to be doomed, but God provides for its deliverance. Moses, when grown to manhood, tries to render vigorous assistance to his people through his own strength, but he is compelled to flee into a far-off country. Numbers 5 and 6 (Exodus 2:23-4:17; Exodus 4:18-31) report the fact that also in the reign of a new Pharaoh the oppression does not cease, and that this causes God to interfere, which in Exodus 2:23-25 is expressed in strong terms and repeatedly, and this again leads to the revelation in the burning bush (3:1). And at the same time the narrative shows how little self-confidence Moses still had (three signs, a heavy tongue, direct refusal). The sixth pericope and also the beginning of the last four, describe, from an external viewpoint, the return of Moses to Midian, and his journey from there to Egypt. Here, too, mention is made of the troubles caused by Pharaoh, which God must remove through His power. This deliverance is not at all deserved by Israel, since not even any son in a family had up to this time been circumcised. On the other hand, everything here is what can be expected. Those who sought the life of Moses had died; the meeting with Aaron at the Mount of the Lord; in Egypt the faith of the people. In an effective way the conclusion (4:31) returns to the point where the two companion narratives (2:24) begin. After this point, constituting the center and the chief point in the introductory section, numbers 7 and 8 (Exodus 5:1-6:1; Exodus 6:2-12), everything seems to have become doubtful. Pharaoh refuses to receive Moses and Aaron; the oppression increases; dissatisfaction in Israel appears; Moses despairs; even the new revelations of God, with fair emphasis on fidelity to the Covenant which is to unfold Yahweh's name in full, are not able to overcome the lack of courage on the part of the people and of Moses. Numbers 9 and 10, introduced by Exodus 6:13 (6:14-27 and 6:28-7:7), show that after Moses and Aaron have already been mentioned together in 4:14, 27; 5:1, and after it has become clear how little they are able of themselves to accomplish anything, they are now here, as it were, for the first time, before the curtain is raised, introduced as those who in the following drama are to be the mediators of God's will (compare the concluding verses of both pericopes, 6:27; 7:7), and they receive directions for their common mission, just at that moment when, humanly speaking, everything is as unfavorable as possible.

(b) The unity of thought here demonstrated is in this case too the protecting wall against the flood-tide of the documentary theory.

Read Complete Article...


ja'-shar, jash'-ar (cepher ha-yashar; the King James Version Book of Jasher, margin "the book of the upright"): The title of an ancient Hebrew national song-book (literally, "book of the righteous one") from which two quotations are made in the Old Testament:

(1) Joshua 10:12-14, the command of Joshua to the sun and moon, "Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon.. Is not this written in the book of Jashar?" (see BETH-HORON; Septuagint in this place omits the reference to Jashar); and

(2) 2 Samuel 1:8, "the song of the bow," or lament of David over Saul and Jonathan.

(3) Some conjecture a third extract in 1 Kings 8:12, "Then spake Solomon, Yahweh hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness." The words of Yahweh are quoted by Septuagint in 8:53 as "written in the book of the song" (en biblio tes odes), and it is pointed out that the words "the song" (in Hebrew ha-shir) might easily be a corruption of ha-yashar. A similar confusion ("song" for "righteous") may explain the fact that the Peshitta Syriac of Joshua has for a title "the book of praises or hymns." The book evidently was a well-known one, and may have been a gradual collection of religious and national songs. It is conjectured that it may have included the So of Deborah (Judges 5), and older pieces now found in the Pentateuch (e.g. Genesis 4:23, 14; Genesis 9:25-27; 27:27-29); this, however, is uncertain. On the curious theories and speculations of the rabbis and others about the book (that it was the Book of the Law, of Genesis, etc.), with the fantastic reconstructive theory of Dr. Donaldson in his Jasbar, see the full article in HDB.

James Orr



1. Place in the Canon

2. Rank and Readers


1. Setting of Time, Place and Scene

2. Characters and Personality

3. Form and Style


A) To Job's Blessing and Curse

1. His "Autumn Days"

2. The Wager in Heaven

3. The Silent Friends

4. Whose Way Is Hid

B) To Job's Ultimatum of Protest

1. The Veiled Impeachment

2. Wisdom Insipid, Friends Doubtful

3. Crookedness of the Order of Things

4. No Mediation in Sight

C) To Job's Ultimatum of Faith

1. Detecting the Friends' False Note

2. Staking Everything on Integrity

3. "If a Man Die"

4. The Surviving Next of Kin

D) To Job's Verdict on Things as They Are

1. Climax and Subsidence of the Friends' Charge

2. The Real Cause of Job's Dismay

3. Manhood in the Ore

4. Job Reads His Indictment

E) The Denouement

1. The Self-constituted Interpreter

2. The Whirlwind and the Voice

3. The Thing That Is Right

4. The Restored Situation


1. Beyond the Didactic Tether

2. What Comes of Limiting the Purpose

3. The Book's Own Import of Purpose

4. Problem of the Intrinsic Man


1. Shadowy Contacts with History

2. Place in Biblical Literature

3. Parallels and Echoes


I. Introductory.

1. Place in the Canon:

The greatest production of the Hebrew Wisdom literature, and one of the supreme literary creations of the world. Its place in the Hebrew Canon corresponds to the high estimation in which it was held; it stands in the 3rd section, the "writings" (kethubhim) or Hagiographa, next after the two great anthologies Psalms and Proverbs; apparently put thus near the head of the list for weighty reading and meditation. In the Greek Canon (which ours follows), it is put with the poetical books, standing at their head. It is one of 3 Scripture books, the others being Psalms and Proverbs, for which the later Hebrew scholars (the Massoretes) employed a special system of punctuation to mark its poetic character.

2. Rank and Readers:

The Book of Job was not one of the books designated for public reading in the synagogues, as were the Pentateuch and the Prophets, or for occasional reading at feast seasons, as were the 5 megilloth or rolls. It was rather a book for private reading, and one whose subject-matter would appeal especially to the more cultivated and thoughtful classes. Doubtless it was all the more intimately valued for this detachment from sanctuary associations; it was, like Proverbs, a people's book; and especially among the cultivators of Wisdom it must have been from its first publication a cherished classic. At any rate, the patriarch Job (though whether from the legend or from the finished book is not clear; see JOB) is mentioned as a well-known national type by Ezekiel 14:14, 20; and James, writing to Jewish Christians (5:11), refers to the character of patriarch as familiar to his readers. It was as one of the great classic stories of their literature, rather than as embodying a ritual or prophetic standard, that it was so universally known and cherished.

II. The Literary Framework.

In view of the numerous critical questions by which the interpretation of the book has been beclouded-questions of later alterations, additions, corruptions, dislocations-it may be well to say at the outset that what is here proposed is to consider the Book of Job as we have it before us today, in its latest and presumably definitive edition. It will be time enough to remove excrescences when a fair view of the book as it is, with its literary values and relations, makes us sure that there are such; see III, below. Meanwhile, as a book that has reached a stage so fixed and finished that at any rate modern tinkering cannot materially change it, we may consider what its literary framework does to justify itself. And first of all, we may note that preeminently among Scripture books it bears the matured literary stamp; both in style and structure it is a work, not only of spiritual edification, but of finished literary article This may best be realized, perhaps, by taking it, as from the beginning it purports to be, as a continuously maintained story, with the consistent elements of plot, character scheme, and narrative movement which we naturally associate with a work of the narrator's article

1. Setting of Time, Place and Scene:

The story of the Book of Job is laid in the far-off patriarchal age, such a time as we find elsewhere represented only in the Book of Genesis; a time long before the Israelite state, with its religious, social and political organization, existed. Its place is "the land of Uz," a little-known region Southeast of Palestine, on the borders of Edom; a place remote from the ways of thinking peculiar to Israelite lawgivers, priests and prophets. Its scene is in the free open country, among mountains, wadies, pasture-lands, and rural towns, where the relations of man and man are more elemental and primitive, and where the things of God are more intimately apprehended than in the complex affairs of city and state. It is easy to see what the writer gains by such a choice of setting. The patriarchal conditions, wherein the family is the social and communal unit, enable him to portray worship and conduct in their primal elements: religious rites of the simplest nature, with the family head the unchallenged priest and intercessor (compare Job 1:4, 5; Job 42:8), and without the austere exactions of sanctuary or temple; to represent God, as in the old folk-stories, as communicating with men in audible voice and in tempest; and to give to the patriarch or sheikh a function of counsel and succor in the community analogous to that of the later wise man or sage (compare Job 29). The place outside the bounds of Palestine enables him to give an international or rather intercommunal tissue to his thought, as befits the character of the wisdom with which he is dealing, a strain of truth which Israel could and did share with neighbor nations. This is made further evident by the fact that in the discourses of the book, the designation of God is not Yahweh (with one exception, Job 12:9), but 'Elohim or 'Eloah or Shaddai, appellatives rather than names, common to the Semitic peoples. The whole archaic scene serves to detach the story from complex conditions of civilization, and enables the writer to deal with the inherent and intrinsic elements of manhood.

2. Characters and Personality:

All the characters of the story, Job included, are from non-Palestinian regions. The chief spokes-man of the friends, Eliphaz, who is from Teman, is perhaps intended to represent a type of the standard and orthodox wisdom of the day; Teman, and Edom in general being famed for wisdom (Jeremiah 49:7 Obadiah 1:8, 9). The characters of the friends, while representing in general a remarkable uniformity of tenet, are quite aptly individualized: Eliphaz as a venerable and devout sage who, with his eminent penetrativeness of insight, combines a yearning compassion; Bildad more as a scholar versed in the derived lore of tradition; and Zophar more impetuous and dogmatic, with the dogmatist's vein of intolerance. In Elihu, the young Aramean who speaks after the others, the writer seems endeavoring to portray a young man's positiveness and absoluteness of conviction, and with it a self-conceit that quite outruns his ability. The Satan of the Prologue, who makes the wager with Yahweh, is masterfully individualized, not as the malignant tempter and enemy of mankind, but as a spirit compact of impudent skepticism, who can appreciate no motive beyond self-advantage. Even the wife of Job, with her peremptory disposition to make his affliction a personal issue with God, is not without an authentic touch of the elemental feminine. But high above them all is the character of Job himself, which, with all its stormy alternations of mood, range of assertion and remonstrance and growth of new conviction, remains absolutely consistent with itself. Nor can we leave unmentioned what is perhaps the hardest achievement of all, the sublime venture of giving the very words of God, in such a way that He speaks no word out of character nor measures His thought according to the standards of men.

3. Form and Style:

The Prologue, Job 1 and 2, a few verses at the beginning of chapter 32 (verses 1-6a), and the Epilogue (42:7-17) are written in narrative prose. The rest of the book (except the short sentences introducing the speakers) is in poetry; a poetic tissue conforming to the type of the later mashal (see under PROVERB), which, in continuous series of couplets, is admirably adapted alike to imaginative sublimity and impassioned address. Beginning with Job's curse of his day (Job 3), Job and his three friends answer each other back and forth in three rounds of speeches, complete except that, for reasons which the subject makes apparent, Zophar, the third friend, fails to speak the third time. After the friends are thus put to silence, Job speaks three times in succession (Job 26:1-31:40), and then "the words of Job are ended." At this point (Job 32) a fourth speaker, Elihu, hitherto unmentioned, is introduced and speaks four times, when he abruptly ceases in terror at an approaching whirlwind (37:24). Yahweh speaks from the whirlwind, two speeches, each of which Job answers briefly (40:3-5; 42:1-6), or rather declines to answer. Such, which we may summarize in Prologue (Job 1; Job 2), Body of Discussion (3-42:6), and Epilogue (42:7-17), is the literary framework of the book. The substance of the book is in a way dramatic; it cannot, however, be called so truly a drama as a kind of forum of debate; its movement is too rigid for dramatic action, and it lacks besides the give-and-take of dialogue. In a book of mine published some years ago I ventured to call it "the Epic of the Inner Life," epic not so much in the technical sense, as in recognition of an underlying epos which for fundamental significance may be compared to the story underlying the Prometheus Bound of Aeschylus. It will not do, however, to make too much of either of these forms as designating the Book of Job; either term has to be accommodated almost out of recognition, because the Hebrew literary forms were not conceived according to the Greek categories from which our terms "epic" and "dramatic" are derived. A greater limitation on our appreciation of its form, I think, is imposed by those who regard it as a mixture of forms. It is too generally divided between narrative and didactic debate. To the Hebrew mind it was all a continuous narrative, in which the poetic discussion, though overweighting the current of visualized action, had nevertheless the movement and value of real events. It is in this light, rather than in the didactic, that we may most profitably regard it.

III. The Course of the Story.

To divide the story of Job into 42 parts, according to the 42 numbered chapters, is in the last degree arbitrary. Nothing comes of it except convenience in reading for those who wish to take their Job in little detached bits. The chapter division was no part of the original, and a very insignificant step in the later apprehension of the original. To divide according to the speeches of the interlocutors is better; it helps us realize how the conflict of views brought the various phases of the thought to expression; but this too, with its tempting, three-times-three, turns out to be merely a framework; it corresponds only imperfectly with the true inwardness of the story's movement; it is rather a scheme than a continuity. We are to bear in mind that this Book of Job is fundamentally the inner experience of one man, as he rises from the depths of spiritual gloom and doubt to a majestic table-land of new insight and faith; the other characters are but ancillary, helps and foils, whose function is subordinate and relative. Hence, mindful of this inwardness of Job's experience, I have ventured to trace the story in 5 main stages, naming them according to the landing-stage attained in each.

A) To Job's Blessing and Curse:

1. His "Autumn Days":

The story begins (Job 1:1-5) with a brief description of Job as he was before his trial began; the elements of his life, outer and inner, on which is to be raised the question of motive. A prosperous landholder of the land of Uz, distinguished far and wide as the greatest (i.e. richest) of the sons of the East, his inner character corresponds: to all appearance nothing lacking, a man "perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and turned away from evil." The typical Hebrew blessings of life were his to the full: wealth, honor, health, family. He is evidently set before us as the perfect example of the validity of the established Wisdom-tenet, that righteousness and Wisdom are identical (see under PROVERBS, THE BOOK OF), and that this is manifest in its visible rewards. This period of his life Job describes afterward by retrospect as his "autumn days," when the friendship or intimacy (coah) of God was over his tent (see 29:4, and the whole chapter). Nor are we left without a glimpse into his heart: his constant attitude of worship, and his tender solicitude lest, in their enjoyment of the pleasures of life, his sons may have been disloyal to God (Job 1:4, 5). It is easy to see that not Job alone, but Wisdom as embodied in Job, is postulated here for its supreme test.

2. The Wager in Heaven:

Nor is the test delayed, or its ground ambiguous when it comes. Satan proposes it. Two scenes are given (Job 1:6-12; Job 2:1-6) from the court of God, wherever that is; for they are overheard by the reader, not seen, and of course neither Job nor any inhabitant of earth is aware of them. In these scenes the sons of God, the spirits who rejoiced over creation (38:7), are come together to render report, and Satan, uninvited, enters among them. He is a wandering spirit, unanchored to any allegiance, who roams through the earth, prying and criticizing. There is nothing, it would seem, in which he cannot find some flaw or discount. To Yahweh's question if he has considered Job, the man perfect and upright, he makes no denial of the fact, but raises the issue of motive: "Doth Job fear God for nought?" and urges that Job's integrity is after all only a transparent bargain, a paying investment with only reward in view. It is virtually an arraignment both of God's order and of the essential human character: of God's order in connecting righteousness so intimately with gain; and of the essential human character, virtually denying that there is such a thing as disinterested, intrinsic human virtue. The sneer strikes deep, and Job, the perfect embodiment of human virtue, is its designated victim. Satan proposes a wager, to the issue of which Yahweh commits Himself. The trial of Job is carried out in two stages: first against his property and family, with the stipulation that it is not to touch him; and then, this failing to detach him from his allegiance, against his person in sore disease, with the stipulation that his life is to be spared. Yahweh acknowledges that for once He is consenting to an injustice (2:3), and Satan, liar that he is, uses instrumentalities that men have ascribed to God alone: the first time, tempest and lightning (as well as murderous foray), the second time, the black leprosy, a fell disease, loathsome and deadly, which, in men's minds meant the immediate punitive stroke of God. The evil is as absolute as was the reward; a complete reversal of the order in which men's wisdom had come to trust. But in the immediate result, Yahweh's faith in His noblest creature is vindicated. Urged by his wife in his extremity to "curse God and die," Job remains true to his allegiance; and in his staunch utterance, "Yahweh gave, and Yahweh hath taken away; blessed be the name of Yahweh," Job, as the writer puts it, `sinned not, nor attributed aught unbeseeming (tiphalah, literally, "tasteless") to God.' Such is the first onset of Job's affliction and its result. It remains to be seen what the long issue, days and months of wretchedness, will bring forth.

3. The Silent Friends:

We are now to imagine the lapse of some time, perhaps several months (compare Job 7:3), during which Job suffers alone, an outcast from house and society, on a leper's ash-heap. Meanwhile three friends of his who have heard of his affliction make an appointment together and come from distant regions to give him sympathy and comfort (2:11-13). On arriving, however, they find things different from what they had expected; perhaps the ominous nature of his disease has developed since they started. What they find is a man wretched and outcast, with a disease (elephantiasis) which to them can mean nothing but the immediate vengeance of God. The awful sight gives them pause. Instead of condoling with him, they sit silent and dismayed, and for seven days and nights no word is spoken (compare Isaiah 53:3). What they were debating with themselves during that time is betrayed by the after-course of the story. How can they bless one whom God has stamped with His curse? To do so would be taking sides with the wicked. Is it not rather their duty to side with God, and be safe, and let sympathy go? By this introduction of the friends and their averted attitude, the writer with consummate skill brings a new element into the story, the element of the Wisdom-philosophy; and time will show whether as a theoretical thing, cold and intellectual, it will retain or repress the natural outwelling of human friendship. And this silence is ominous.

4. Whose Way Is Hid:

The man who, in the first onset of trial, blessed Yahweh and set himself to bear in silence now opens his mouth to curse. His curse is directed, not against Yahweh nor against the order of things, but against the day of his birth. It is a day that has ceased to have meaning or worth for him. The day stands for life, for his individual life, a life that in the order of things should carry out the personal promise and fruitage for which it had been bestowed. And his quarrel with it is that he has lost its clue. Satan unknown to him has sneered because Yahweh had hedged him round with protection and favor (Job 1:10); but his complaint is that all this is removed without cause, and God has hedged him round with darkness. His way is hid (Job 3:23). Why then was life given at all? In all this, it will be noted, he raises no train of introspection to account for his condition; he assumes no sinfulness, nor even natural human depravity; the opposite rather, for a baffling element of his case is his shrinking sensitiveness against evil and disloyalty (compare Job 3:25, 26, in which the tenses should be past, with 1:5; see also 6:30; 16:17). His plight has become sharply, poignantly objective; his inner self has no part in it. Thus in this opening speech he strikes the keynote of the real, against which the friends' theories rage and in the end wreck themselves.

B) To Job's Ultimatum of Protest:

1. The Veiled Impeachment:

With all the gentle regret of having to urge a disagreeable truth the friends, beginning with Eliphaz the wisest and most venerable, enter upon their theory of the case. Eliphaz covers virtually the whole ground; the others come in mainly to echo or emphasize. He veils his reproof in general and implicatory terms, the seasoned terms of wisdom in which Job himself is expert (4:3-5); reminds him that no righteous man perishes, but that men reap what they sow (4:7, 8); adduces a vision that he had had which revealed to him that man, by the very fact of being mortal, is impure and iniquitous (4:17-19); implies that Job's turbulence of mind precludes him from similar revelations, and jeopardizes his soul (5:1, 2); advises him to commit his case to God, with the implication, however, that it is a case needing correction rather than justification, and that the result in view is restored comfort and prosperity. As Job answers with a more passionate and detailed portrayal of his wrong, Bildad, following, abandons the indirect impeachment and attributes the children's death to their sin (8:4), saying also that if Job were pure and upright he might supplicate and regain God's favor (8:5, 6). He then goes on to draw a lesson from the traditional Wisdom lore, to the effect that sure destruction awaits the wicked and sure felicity the righteous (Job 8:11-22). On Job's following this with his most positive arraignment of God's order and claim for light, Zophar replies with impetuous heat, averring that Job's punishment is less than he deserves (Job 11:6), and reproving him for his presumption in trying to find the secret of God (Job 11:7-12). All three of the friends, with increasing emphasis, end their admonitions in much the same way; promising Job reinstatement in God's favor, but always with the veiled implication that he must own to iniquity and entreat as a sinner.

2. Wisdom Insipid, Friends Doubtful:

To the general maxims of Wisdom urged against him, with which he is already familiar (compare Job 13:2), Job's objection is not that they are untrue, but that they are insipid (Job 6:6, 7); they have lost their application to the case. Yet it is pain to him to think that the words of the Holy One should fail; he longs to die rather than deny them (Job 6:9, 10). One poignant element of his sorrow is that the intuitive sense (tushiyah; see under PROVERBS, THE BOOK OF) is driven away from him; see Job 6:13. He is irritated by the insinuating way in which the friends beg the question of his guilt; longs for forthright and sincere words (6:25). It is this quality of their speech, in fact, which adds the bitterest drop to his cup; his friends, on whom he had counted for support, are deceitful like a dried-up brook (6:15-20); he feels, in his sick sensitiveness, that they are not sympathizing with him but using him for their cold, calculating purposes (6:27). Thus is introduced one of the most potent motives of the story, the motive of friendship; much will come of it when from the fallible friendships of earth he conquers his way by faith to a friendship in the unseen (compare 16:19; 19:27).

3. Crookedness of the Order of things:

With the sense that the old theories have become stale and pointless, though his discernment of the evil of things is undulled by sin (Job 6:30), Job arrives at an extremely poignant realization of the hardness and crookedness of the world-order, the result both of what the friends are saying and of what he has always held in common with them. It is the view that is forced upon him by the sense that he is unjustly dealt with by a God who renders no reasons, who on the score of justice vouchsafes to man neither insight nor recourse, and whose severity is out of all proportion to man's sense of worth (7:17) or right (9:17) or claim as a creature of His hand (10:8-14). Job 9, which contains Job's direct address to this arbitrary Being, is one of the most tremendous, not to say audacious conceptions in literature; in which a mortal on the threshold of death takes upon himself to read God a lesson in godlikeness. In this part of the story Job reaches his ultimatum of protest; a protest amazingly sincere, but not blasphemous when we realize that it is made in the interest of the Godlike.

4. No Mediation in Sight:

The great lack which Job feels in his arraignment of God is the lack of mediation between Creator and creature, the Oppressor and His victim. There is no umpire between them, who might lay his hand upon both, so that the wronged one might have voice in the matter (9:32-35). The two things that an umpire might do: to remove God's afflicting hand, and to prevent God's terror from unmanning His victim (see 13:20-22, as compared with the passage just cited), are the great need to restore normal and reciprocal relations with Him whose demand of righteousness is so inexorable. This umpire or advocate idea, thus propounded negatively, will grow to a sublime positive conviction in the next stage of Job's spiritual progress (16:19; 19:25-27).)

C) To Job's Ultimatum of Faith: 1. Detecting the Friends' False Note:

As the friends finish their first round of speeches, in which a remote and arbitrary God is urged upon him as everything, and man so corrupt and blind that he cannot but be a worm and culprit (compare Job 25:4-6), Job's eyes, which hitherto have seen with theirs, are suddenly opened. His first complaint of their professed friendship was that it was fallible; instead of sticking to him when he needed them most (Job 6:14), and in spite of his bewilderment (Job 6:26), they were making it virtually an article of traffic (Job 6:27), as if it were a thing for their gain. It was not sincere, not intrinsic to their nature, but an expedient. And now all at once he penetrates to its motive. They are deserting him in order to curry favor with God. That motive has prevented them from seeing true; they see only their theoretical God, and are respecting His person instead of responding to the inner dictate of truth and integrity. To his honest heart this is monstrous; they ought to be afraid of taking falseness for God (J Obadiah 13:3-12). Nor does his inference stop with thus detecting their false note. If they are "forgers of lies" in this respect, what of all their words of wisdom? they have been giving him "proverbs of ashes" (Job 13:12); the note of false implication is in them all. From this point therefore he pays little attention to what they say; lets them go on to grossly exaggerated statement of their tenet, while he opens a new way of faith for himself, developing the germs of insight that have come to him.

2. Staking All on Integrity:

Having cut loose from all countenancing of the friends' self-interested motives, Job now, with the desperate sense of taking his life in his hand and abandoning hope, resolves that come what will he will maintain his ways to God's face. This, as he believes, is not only the one course for his integrity, but his one plea of salvation, for no false one shall appear before him. How tremendous the meaning of this resolve, we can think when we reflect how he has just taken God in hand to amend His supposed iniquitous order of things; and that he is now, without mediator, pleading the privilege that a mediator would secure (13:20, 21; see 8, above) and urging a hearing on his own charges. The whole reach of his sublime faith is involved in this.

3. "If a Man Die":

In two directions his faith is reaching out; in both negatively at first. One, the belief in an Advocate, has already been broached, and is germinating from negative to positive. The other, the question of life after death, rises here in the same tentative way: using first the analogy of the tree which sprouts again after it is cut down (Job 14:7-9), and from it inquiring, `If a man die-might he live again?' and dwelling in fervid imagination on the ideal solution which a survival of death would bring (Job 14:13-17), but returning to his reluctant negative, from the analogy of drying waters (Job 14:11) and the slow wearing down of mountains (Job 14:18, 19). As yet he can treat the idea only as a fancy; not yet a hope or a grounded conviction.

4. The Surviving Next of Kin:

The conviction comes by a nobler way than fancy, by the way of his personal sense of the just and God-like order. The friends in their second round of speeches have begun their lurid portrayals of the wicked man's awful fate; but until all have spoken again he is concerned with a far more momentous matter. Dismissing these for the present as an academic exercise composed in cold blood (Job 16:4, 5), and evincing a heart hid from understanding (Job 17:4), Job goes on to recount in the most bitter terms he has yet used the flagrancy of his wrong as something that calls out for expiation like the blood of Cain (16:18), and breaks out with the conviction that his witness and voucher who will hear his prayer for mediation is on high (16:19-21). Then after Bildad in a spiteful retort has matched his complaint with a description of the calamities of the wicked (an augmented echo of Eliphaz), and he has pathetically bewailed the treachery of earthly friends (19:13, 14, 21, 22), he mounts, as it were, at a bound to the sublime ultimatum of his faith in an utterance which he would fain see engraved on the rock forever (19:23-29). "I know that my Redeemer liveth," he exclaims; literally, my Go'el (go'ali), or next of kin, the person whose business in the old Hebrew idea was to maintain the rights of an innocent wronged one and avenge his blood. He does not recede from the idea that his wrong is from God (compare 19:6, 21); but over his dust stands his next of kin, and as the result of this one's intercession Job, in his own integral person, shall see God no more a stranger. So confident is he that he solemnly warns the friends who have falsely impeached him that it is they, not he, who are in peril (19:28, 29; compare 13:10, 11).

D) To Job's Verdict on Things as They Are:

1. Climax and Subsidence of the Friends' Charge:

That in this conviction of a living Redeemer Job's faith has reached firm and final ground is evident from the fact that he does not recur to his old doubts at all. They are settled, and settled right. But now, leaving them, he can attend to what the friends have been saying. Zophar, the third speaker, following, presses to vehement, extreme their iterated portrayal of the wicked man's terrific woes; it seems the design of the writer to make them outdo themselves in frantic overstatement of their thesis. As Zophar ceases, and Job has thus, as it were, drawn all their fire, Job refutes them squarely, as we shall presently see. Meanwhile, in the course of his extended refutation, the friends begin a third round of speeches. Eliphaz, who has already taken alarm at the tendency of Job's words, as those of a depraved skeptic and ruinous to devotion (15:4-6), now in the interests of his orthodoxy brings in his bill of particulars.

Read Complete Article...


This little roll of four short chapters has given rise to almost as much discussion and difference of opinion as the first four chapters of Genesis. It would be presumptuous to think that one could, in a brief article, speak the final word on the questions in debate.

I. Contents of the Book.

The story is too well known to need retelling. Moreover, it would be difficult to give the events in fewer words than the author employs in his classic narrative. One event grows out of another, so that the interest of the reader never flags.

1. Jonah Disobedient, Jonah 1:1-3:

When the call came to Jonah to preach in Nineveh, he fled in the opposite direction, hoping thus to escape from his unpleasant task. He was afraid that the merciful God would forgive the oppressing heathen city, if it should repent at his preaching. Jonah was a narrow-minded patriot, who feared that Assyria would one day swallow up his own little nation; and so he wished to do nothing that might lead to the preservation of wicked Nineveh. Jonah was willing to prophesy to Israel; he at first flatly refused to become a foreign missionary.

2. Jonah Punished, Jonah 1:4-16:

The vessel in which the prophet had taken passage was arrested by a great storm. The heathen sailors inferred that some god must be angry with some person on board, and cast lots to discover the culprit. When the lot fell upon Jonah, he made a complete confession, and bravely suggested that they cast him overboard. The heathen mariners rowed desperately to get back to land, but made no progress against the storm. They then prayed Yahweh not to bring innocent blood upon them, and cast Jonah into the sea. As the storm promptly subsided, the heathen sailors offered a sacrifice to Yahweh and made vows. In this part of the story the mariners give an example of the capacity of the Gentiles to perform noble deeds and to offer acceptable worship to Yahweh.

3. Jonah Miraculously Preserved, Jonah 1:17-2:10:

Yahweh prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah and to bear him in his body for three days and nights. Surprised to find himself alive and conscious in the body of the fish, the prophet prayed to his God. Already by faith he speaks of his danger as a past experience. The God who had saved him from drowning in the depths of the sea will yet permit him once more to worship with loud thanksgiving. At the command of Yahweh the fish vomits out Jonah upon the dry land. The almost inevitable grotesqueness of this part of the story is one of the strongest arguments against the view that the Book of Jon is literal history and not a work of the imagination.

4. Jonah's Ministry in Nineveh, Jonah 3:1-4:

Upon the renewal of the command to go to Nineveh, Jonah obeyed, and marching through the streets of the great city, he cried, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" His message was so brief that he may well have spoken it in good Assyrian. If the story of his deliverance from the sea preceded him, or was made known through the prophet himself, the effect of the prophetic message was thereby greatly heightened.

5. The Ninevites Repent, Jonah 3:5-10:

The men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah, the entire city uniting in fasting and prayer. So great was the anxiety of the people that even the lower animals were clothed in sackcloth. The men of Nineveh turned from deeds of violence ("their evil way") to seek the forgiveness of an angry God. Yahweh decided to spare the city.

6. A Narrow Prophet versus the Merciful God, Jonah 4:1-11:

Jonah breaks out into loud and bitter complaint when he learns that Nineveh is to be spared. He decides to encamp near the city to see what will become of it. He hopes it may yet be overthrown. Through a gourd vine Yahweh teaches the prophet a great lesson. If such a mean and perishable plant could come to have real value in the eyes of the sullen prophet, what estimate ought to be put on the lives of the thousands of innocent children and helpless cattle in the great city of Nineveh? These were dearer to the God of heaven than Jonah's protecting vine could possibly be to him.

II. The Aim of the Book.

The main purpose of the writer was to enlarge the sympathies of Israel and lead the chosen people to undertake the great missionary task of proclaiming the truth to the heathen world. Other lessons may be learned from the subordinate parts of the narrative, but this is the central truth of the Book of Jonah. Kent well expresses the author's main message: "In his wonderful picture of God's love for all mankind, and of the Divine readiness to pardon and to save even the ignorant heathen, if they but repent according to their light, he has anticipated the teaching of the parable of the Prodigal Son, and laid the foundation for some of the broadest faith and the noblest missionary activity of the present generation" (Sermons, Epistles, etc., 420).

III. Is the Book History? 1. What Did our Lord Teach?:

Most of the early interpreters so understood it, and some excellent scholars still hold this view. If Jesus thought of the story as history and so taught, that fact alone would settle the question for the devout believer. On two, possibly three, different occasions He referred to Jonah (Matthew 12:38-41; Matthew 16:4 Luke 11:29-32). It is significant that Jesus brought the two great miracles of the Book of Jon into relation with Himself and His preaching. As Jonah was three days and three nights in the body of the fish, so should the Son of Man be three days in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah, while the contemporaries of Jesus for the most part rejected His message. It is the fashion now among advanced critics to treat Matthew 12:40 as an addition to the words of Jesus, though there is no manuscript evidence in favor of regarding the verse as an interpolation. G.A. Smith, among recent scholars, holds the view that Jesus did not mean to teach the historicity of Jonah's experience in the fish.

"Christ is using an illustration: it matters not whether that illustration be drawn from the realms of fact or of poetry" (BTP, II, 508). In a footnote Dr. Smith says: "Suppose we tell slothful people that theirs will be the fate of the man who buried his talent, is this to commit us to the belief that the personages of Christ's parables actually existed? Or take the homiletic use of Shakespeare's dramas-`as Macbeth did,' or `as Hamlet said.' Does it commit us to the historical reality of Macbeth or Hamlet? Any preacher among us would resent being bound by such an inference. And if we resent this for ourselves, how chary we should be about seeking to bind our Lord by it."

Notwithstanding Principal Smith's skillful presentation of his case, we still think that our Lord regarded the miracles of the fish and the repentance of the Ninevites as actual events. Orelli puts the matter judiciously: "It is not, indeed, proved with conclusive necessity that, if the resurrection of Jesus was a physical fact, Jonah's abode in the fish's belly must also be just as historical. On this point also the saying, `A greater than Jonah is here,' holds good. But, on the other hand, how arbitrary it is to assert, with Reuss, that Jesus regarded Jonah's history as a parable! On the contrary, Jesus saw in it a sign, a powerful evidence of the same Divine power which showed itself also in His dying in order to live again and triumph in the world. Whoever, therefore, feels the religious greatness of the book, and accepts as authoritative the attitude taken to its historical import by the Son of God Himself, will be led to accept a great act of the God who brings down to Hades and brings up again, as an actual experience of Jonah in his flight from his Lord" (The Twelve Minor Prophets, 172, 3).

2. Modern Critical Views:

Most modern critical scholars since Kleinert (1868) and Bloch (1875) have regarded the Book of Jonah as a work of the imagination. Some prefer to call it an allegory, others a parable, others a prose poem, others a didactic story, others a midrash, others a symbolical book. Keil, Pusey, Delitzsch, Orelli, J. Kennedy and others have contended for the historical character of the narrative. A few treat it as a legend containing a kernel of fact. Cheyne and a few other scholars assert that in the symbolic narrative are imbedded mythical clements. The trend of critical opinion, even in evangelical circles, has of late been toward the symbolical interpretation. Radical critics boldly set aside the teaching of Jesus as erroneous, while the more evangelical take refuge either in the doctrine of the Kenosis (Philippians 2:5-8), or in the principle of accommodation. The last explanation might commend itself to the devout student, namely, that Jesus did not think it worth while to correct the views of his contemporaries, had our Lord not spoken more than once of the sign of Jonah, and in such detail as to indicate His acceptance of the entire narrative with its two great miracles.

IV. Authorship and Date.

The old view that Jonah was the author is still held by some scholars, though most moderns place the book in the late exilic or post-exilic times. A few Aramaic words occur in the Hebrew text. The question in debate is whether the language of Israel in the days of Jeroboam II had taken over words from the Aramaic. There had certainly been a century of close political and commercial contact between Israel and the Arameans of Damascus, so that it would not be surprising to meet with Aramaic words in a prophet of Samaria. Hosea, in the generation following Jonah, betrays little evidence of Aramaic influence in his style and vocabulary. Of course, the personal equation is a factor that ought not to be overlooked. If the author was a Judean, we should probably have to think of the post-exilic period, when Aramaic began to displace Hebrew as the vernacular of the Jews. The Book of Jonah is anonymous, and we really do not know who the author was or when he lived. The view that Jonah wrote the story of his own disobedience and his debate with the merciful God has not been made wholly untenable.

V. The Unity of the Book.

Nachtigal (1799) contended that there were three different authors of widely different periods. Kleinert (1868) held that two parallel narratives had been woven together in Jonah 3 and 4. Kaufmann Kohler (1879) contended that there were a considerable number of glosses and interpolations besides some transpositions of material. W. Bohme, in 1887, advanced the most radical theory of the composition of the roll. He partitioned the story among two authors, and two redactors or supplementers. A few additional glosses were charged to later hands. Even radical critics treat Bohme's theory as one of the curiosities of criticism. Winckler (AOF, II, 260;) tried to improve the story by a few transpositions. Hans Schmidt (1905) subjects the roll of Jonah to a searching criticism, and concludes that a good many changes have been made from religious motives. Budde follows Winckler and Schmidt both in transposing and in omitting some material. Sievers (1905) and Erbt (1907) tried to make of the Book of Jon a poem; but they do not agree as to the meter. Sievers regards the roll as a unit, while Erbt contends for two main sources besides the prayer in Jonah 2. Bewer, in ICC (1912), is far more conservative in both textual and literary criticism, recognizing but few glosses in our present text and arguing for the unity of the story apart from the insertion of the psalm in Jonah 2. Nearly all recent critics assign Jonah's prayer to a writer other than the author of the narrative about Jonah, but opinions vary widely as to the manner in which the psalm found its way into the Book of Jon. Bewer holds that it was probably put on the margin by a reader and afterward crept into the text, the copyist inserting it after 2:2, though it would more naturally follow 2:11. Bewer remarks: "The literary connections with various post-exilic psalms argue for a post-exilic date of the psalm. But how early or how late in the post-exilic period it belongs we cannot tell. The Hebrew is pure and no Aramaic influence is apparent." It is evident, then, that the presence or absence of Aramaic influence does not alone settle the question of the date of the document. Geography and the personal equation may be more important than the question of date. Bewer recognizes the fact that the psalm in Jon is not a mere cento of quotations from the Psalms. "The phrases it has in common with other psalms," writes Professor Bewer, "were the common property of the religious language of the author's day" (p. 24). Those who still believe that David wrote many of the psalms find no difficulty in believing that a prophet of 780 B.C. could have drawn upon his knowledge of the Psalter in a prayer of thanksgiving to Yahweh.


Among commentaries covering the twelve Minor Prophets, see especially Pusey (1861), Keil (English translation, 1880), von Orelli (English translation, 1893), Wellhausen (1898), G.A. Smith (1898). Among special commentaries on Jonah, consult Kleinert, in Lange (English translation, 1875); Perowne, in Cambridge Bible (1897); Bewer in ICC (1912). See also C. H. H. Wright, Biblical Essays (1886); H. C. Trumbull, "Jonah in Nineveh," JBL, XI (1892); J. Kennedy, Book of Jon (1895); Konig in HDB; Cheyne in EB. For more elaborate bibliography see Bewer in ICC, 25-27.

John Richard Sampey

Strong's Hebrew
5472. sug -- to move away, backslide
... 5471, 5472. sug. 5473 . to move away, backslide. Transliteration: sug Phonetic
Spelling: (soog) Short Definition: turned. Word Origin a prim. ...
/hebrew/5472.htm - 6k

The Broken Fence
... be quite broken down. Let me mention some of the stone walls that men permit
to be broken down when they backslide. In many cases ...
// on proverbs/the broken fence.htm

How a Man's Conduct Comes Home to Him
... Nobody ever slides up, but if great care be not taken they will slide down, slide
back, or in other words backslide. This is very easily done. ...
/.../spurgeon/sermons on proverbs/how a mans conduct comes.htm

... turned a deaf ear. I have never known a man and his wife backslide, without
its proving utter ruin to their children. They will make ...
/.../moody/the way to god and how to find it/chapter ix backsliding.htm

Instructions to Converts.
... other respects. Whereas, if he had neglected the duty voluntarily, he would
soon get into the dark, and very likely backslide. If ...
/.../lectures on revivals of religion/lecture xix instructions to converts.htm

An Earnest Warning About Lukewarmness
... its wealth seduced it into worldliness, possibly its freedom from persecution
engendered carnal ease, or neglect of prayer made it gradually backslide; but in ...
/.../spurgeons sermons volume 20 1874/an earnest warning about lukewarmness.htm

Letter i. The Christian's Mark.
... The consequence is, they soon lose their lively sense of divine things, backslide
from God, and become cold and barren in their religious affections. ...
/.../letter i the christians mark.htm

Daniel: a Pattern for Pleaders
... But it is a good sign when thine own heart is fruitful and healthy before God, when
thou dost condescend to those that backslide, and search after such as are ...
/.../spurgeon/spurgeons sermons volume 61 1915/daniel a pattern for pleaders.htm

God's Call
... yet are not willing to follow the light, and do what they know God wants them to
do, are probably heart-backsliders, and in a fair way to backslide altogether. ...
// of life and service/i gods call.htm

Twenty-Sixth Day for the Holy Spirit on Young Converts
... Corinthians 1:21, 22. How many new converts who remain feeble; how many who
fall into sin; how many who backslide entirely. If we pray ...
/.../murray/the ministry of intercession/twenty-sixth day for the holy.htm

A Retreat, or a Rout?
... If you backslide and go into sin, you may obtain salvation again through the
forbearance of God, but you can not get away from the stigma of your backsliding. ...
// talks/talk twenty-four a retreat or.htm

... to abandon gradually the faith and practice of a religion that has been
professed. Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia. BACKSLIDE. bak ...
/b/backslide.htm - 88k

Relapse (1 Occurrence)
... after being disturbed. 3. (vi) To fall from Christian faith into paganism,
heresy, or unbelief; to backslide. 4. (n.) A sliding ...
/r/relapse.htm - 7k

Backside (3 Occurrences)

/b/backside.htm - 7k

Backslider (2 Occurrences)

/b/backslider.htm - 7k

Perseverance (27 Occurrences)
... (see BACKSLIDE.). Noah Webster's Dictionary. 1. (n.) Persistence under harsh conditions;
continued pursuit or prosecution of any business, or enterprise begun. ...
/p/perseverance.htm - 18k

Backsliding (19 Occurrences)
... Noah Webster's Dictionary 1. (p. pr. & vb. n.) of Backslide. 2. (a.) Slipping
back; falling back into sin or error; sinning. 3. (n ...
/b/backsliding.htm - 12k



Related Terms

Relapse (1 Occurrence)

Backside (3 Occurrences)

Backslider (2 Occurrences)

Perseverance (27 Occurrences)

Backsliding (19 Occurrences)

Bible ConcordanceBible DictionaryBible EncyclopediaTopical BibleBible Thesuarus
Top of Page
Top of Page