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A.M. 2484. only in our reports of parliamentary speeches, but, in many instances, B.C. 1520. (which indeed is much more to the purpose,) by the writers of the
New Testament, in their quotations from the Old. Story and The general scope and moral of this sublime production, namely, subject
that the troubles and afflictions of the good man are, for the most part, designed as tests of his virtue and integrity, out of which he will at length emerge with additional splendour and happiness, are common to eastern poets, and not uncommon to those of Greece. The Odyssey is expressly constructed upon such a basis, and, like the poem before us, has every appearance of being founded upon real history, and calls to its aid the machinery of a sublime and supernatural agency. But, in various respects, the poem of Job stands alone and unrivalled. In addition to every corporeal suffering and privation which it is possible for man to endure, it carries forward the trial in a manner and to an extent which has never been attempted elsewhere, into the keenest faculties and sensations of the mind, and mixes the bitterest taunts and accusations of friendship with the agonies of family bereavement and despair. The body of other poems consists chiefly of incidents; that of the present poem, of colloquy, or argument, in which the general train of reasoning is so well sustained, its matter so important, its language so ornamented, the doctrines it developes so sublime, its transitions from passion to passion so varied and abrupt, that the want of incidents is not felt, and the attention is still rivetted as by enchantment. In other poems the supernatural agency is fictitious, and often incongruous; here the whole is solid reality, supported, in its grand outline, by the concurrent testimony of every other part of the scriptures; an agency not obtrusively introduced, but demanded by the magnitude of the occasion; and as much more exalted and magnificent than every other kind of similar interference, as it is more veritable and solemn. The suffering hero is sublimely called forth to the performance of his part, in the presence of men and angels ; each becomes interested, and equally interested, in his conduct; the Almighty assents to the trial, and for a period withdraws his divine aid ; the malice of Satan is in its full career of activity; hell hopes, earth trembles, and every good spirit is suspended with awful anxiety. The wreck of his substance is in vain; the wreck of his family is in vain; the scalding sores of a corroding leprosy is in vain; the artillery of insults, reproaches, and railing, poured forth from the mouth of bosom friends, is in vain. Though at times put, in some degree, off his guard, the holy sufferer is never completely overpowered. He sustains the shock without yielding; he still holds fast his integrity. Thus terminates the trial of faith; Satan is confounded ; fidelity triumphs; and the · Almighty, with a magnificence well worthy of the occasion, unveils his resplendent tribunal, and crowns the afflicted champion with his applause.
The poem, as we have already observed, has generally been sup- A.M. 2484. posed to possess a dramatic character; but, in order to give it such B.C. 1520. a pretension, it has been uniformly found necessary to strip it of its Not a drama magnificent exordium and close, which are unquestionably narrative; but
Hebrew epic. and even then, the dramatic cast is so singularly interrupted by the appearance of the historian himself, at the commencement of every speech, to inform us of the name of the person who is about to take up the argument, that many critics, and, among the rest, Bishop Lowth, are doubtful of the propriety of referring it to this department of poetry, though they do not know where else to give it a place. In Mr. Good's view of the subject, it is a regular HEBREW EPIC; and, were it necessary, says he, to enter so minutely into the question, it might easily be proved to possess all the more prominent features of an epic, as collected and laid down by Aristotle himself; such as unity, completion, and grandeur in its action; loftiness in its sentiments and language; multitude and variety in the passions which it developes. Even the characters, though not numerous, are discriminated, and well supported; the milder and more modest temper of Eliphaz, is well contrasted with the forward and unrestrained violence of Bildad; the terseness and brevity of Zophar, with the pent-up and overflowing fulness of Elihu; while in Job himself, we perceive a dignity of mind that nothing can humiliate, a firmness that nothing can subdue, still habitually disclosing themselves amidst the mingled tumult of hope, fear, rage, tenderness, triumph, and despair, with which he is alternately distracted. “I throw out this hint, however,” remarks Mr. Good, “not with a view of ascribing any additional merit to the poem itself, but merely to observe, so far as a single fact is possessed of authority, that mental taste, or the internal discernment of real beauty, is the same in all ages and nations; and that the rules of the Greek critic, are deduced from a principle of universal impulse and operation.” Nothing can have been more unfortunate for this most excellent Injured by
the ordinary composition, than its division into chapters, and especially such a dheis division as that in common use; in which not only the unity of the chapters. general subject, but, in many instances, that of a single paragraph, or even of a single clause, is completely broken in upon and destroyed. The natural division, and that which was unquestionably intended Natural
division into by its author, observes Mr. Good, is into six PARTS or books; for di in this order it still continues to run, notwithstanding all the confu- books. sion it has encountered by subarrangements. These six parts are, an opening or exordium, containing the introductory history and decree concerning Job; three distinct series of arguments, in each of which the speakers are regularly allotted their respective turns ; the summing up of the controversy; and the close or catastrophe, consisting of the suffering hero's grand and glorious acquittal, and restoration to prosperity and happiness: the whole of which may be explained under the following analysis.
six parts or
A.M. 2484. Part I. Constituting the opening or exordium, comprises the first B.C. 1520, two chapters in the ordinary division, and is full of incident and First part. transition. It commences with a brief narration of the principal
personage of the piece, his place of residence, rank in life, and inflexible integrity. It then suddenly changes to a scene so transcendently lofty and magnificent, that the grandest descriptions of the most daring poets sink before it; and nothing can be put in comparison with it but a few passages in Paradise Lost, derived from the same source. The tribunal of the Almighty is unveiled; the host of good and evil spirits, in obedience to his summons, present themselves before him to give an account of their conduct. The views of Satan are particularly inquired into; and the unswerving fidelity of Job, though a mortal, is pointedly held out to him, and extolled. The evil spirit insinuates that Job is only faithful because it is his interest to be faithful; that he serves his Creator because he has been peculiarly protected and prospered by him ; and that he would abandon his integrity the moment such protection should be withdrawn. To confound him in so malicious an imputation, the Almighty delivers Job into his hands, only forbidding him to touch his person.
Satan departs from the celestial tribunal; and, collecting the fury of his vindictive power into one tremendous assault, strips the righteous patriarch, by the conjoint aid of hostile incursions, thunderstorms, and whirlwinds, in one and the same day, and that a day of domestic rejoicing, of the whole of his property and of his family ; despatching messenger after messenger with a separate tale of woe, till the whole tragedy is completed. But the patriarch continues inflexible. He feels bitterly, but he sins not, even in his heart:-instead of murmuring against his Creator,
--JOB arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head,
And fell on the ground, and WORSHIPPED; and said,
And naked shall I return thither !
The celestial session returns. The supreme Creator again assumes the judgment-seat; and the hosts of good and evil spirits are once more arranged before him for his commands. The unswerving fidelity of Job is again pointed out to Satan, and the futility of his malice exposed. The evil spirit, though foiled, still continues unabashed, and insinuates that he had no liberty to touch his person. The Almighty surrenders his person into his hands, and only commands him to spare his life. . Satan departs from the presence of Jehovah; and in the same moment Job is smote with a burning leprosy; and while agonized with this fresh affliction, is tauntingly upbraided by his wife with the inutility of all his religious services. The goad passes into his soul, but it does not poison it. He resists this additional attack with a dignity as well as a firmness of faith A.M. 2484. that does honour to human nature :
And shall we not accept evil ?
For they had appointed together to come,
For they saw that the affliction raged sorely. This part is peculiarly distinguished by simplicity, sublimity, and Character fine feeling. In its diction it exhibits a perfect contrast to that of oft
of the first the great body of the poem; and, in conjunction with the diction that follows, affords proof of a complete mastery of style and language; a mastery unequalled perhaps in any other part of the Hebrew scriptures, and altogether unknown to every other kind of oriental composition. It is characteristic, however, of the writer of this transcendent poem-a fact well worthy of being remembered in determining who he was—that he uniformly suits his ornaments to the occasion; that, as though influenced by the rules of the best Greek critics, he seldom employs a figurative style where the incident or the passion is capable of supporting itself, and reserves his boldest images and illustrations for cases that seem most to require them. And for want of attending to this distinction, Schultens, Lowth, Grey, and a few other translators of the book of Job, have regarded this first part of the poem as a mere prosaic preface to the rest, meant to be detached from it, and utterly destitute of metrical arrangement; an error from which Dr. Stock is altogether free.
PART II. Extends from the beginning of the third to the end of second part. the fourteenth chapter, and comprises the first colloquy, or series of argument. Job, completely overwhelmed, and believing himself abandoned by his Maker, gives a loose to all the wildness of despondency; and, in an address of exquisite force and feeling, laments Exclamathat he ever beheld the light, and calls earnestly for death, as the tion of Job. only refuge of the miserable. This burst of agony is filled with the boldest images and imprecations; and might, perhaps, be thought, in some parts of it, too daring, but that it appears to have been
A.M. 2484. regarded as a master-piece by the best poets of Judæa, and is B.C. 1520. imitated, in its boldest flights, by King David, Isaiah, Jeremiah,
and Ezekiel. Reply of To this cry of despondency Eliphaz ventures upon the first reply;
and the little that was wanting to make the cup of agony brim-full, is now added to it. The patriarch's friends, stimulated, unquestionably, by the secret impulse of Satan, have agreed upon the false principle, that, in the uniform dealings of Providence, happiness and prosperity are the necessary marks and consequences of integrity, and pain and misery of wickedness; and hence the grand argument on their part consists, first, in charging the sufferer with the commission of sins, which he ought to confess and repent of; and, next, in accusing him of pride and hypocrisy, because he will not consent to such confession. Eliphaz, however, is, from natural habit, the mildest of the accusers; and his speech begins with delicacy, and is conducted with the most artful address. After duly apologizing for breaking in upon the sufferings of his friend, he proceeds to point out the inconsistency of a good man's repining under a state of discipline, and the absurdity of his not bearing up who had so often exhorted others to fortitude. He remarks, that the truly good are never utterly overthrown; but that the ways of Providence are wrapped in inextricable mystery; and that nothing can be more arrogant than for so weak, so ephemeral, so insect-like a being as man is, to impeach them: a position which is illustrated by the most powerful picture of an apparition that ever was drawn by the pen of any writer, in any age or country; disclosed to the speaker for the express purpose of inculcating this solemn maxim. He concludes with observing, that as neither man nor angel, without the consent of the Almighty, can render Job any assistance, wrath and violence are folly; and that nothing remains for him but to seek unto God, and to commit the cause into his hands; whose correction will then be assuredly succeeded by a new series of happiness and prosperity.
Job replies to Eliphaz, but is overborne by the bitterness of his remonstrance; and under his accumulated trials, once more wishes to die. He reproaches his friends for their severity; and, in a most beautiful and appropriate simile, compares the consolation he expected from their soothing intercourse, and the cruel disappointment he had met with, to the promise of a plentiful supply of water held out to a parched up caravan, by the fall of floods of rain, surveyed at a distance, but which, on arriving at the place of their descent, are found to have entirely evaporated, or to have branched out over the sands, and become lost.
What time they wax warm they evaporate;
Job's answer to Eliphaz.