Answer by John Osgood
Let us start with the four people who are regarded generously as Job’s ‘friends’ in our search for clues as to when and where Job lived. After Job was afflicted we are told: “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.” (Job 2: 11) Later they are joined by Elihu the Son of Barachel the Buzite (Job 32:2)
Eliphaz the Temanite
He is introduced in Job 4:1
Temanites were descended from Teman, who was the first son of Eliphaz, who was the son of Esau, as mentioned in Genesis 36:9-19, and the name of both father and son help us to identify the geography for the descendants of Esau lived in, i.e. Edom. Therefore, the time for any Temanite is after Esau. The Eliphaz in Job would therefore likely be a descendant of Teman, and perhaps only one or two generations later after Esau.
Bildad the Shuhite
He is introduced in Job 8:1
The Shuhites were a tribe descended from Shuah son of Abraham via his concubine Keturah-Gen.25:2.
They were later known to the Assyrians as the SUHU, and lived just east of the Syrians on the south bank of the Euphrates river (mid-Euphrates region)-so that they were geographically not all that far from the Edom to the south, and in the early days may well have lived a little further south.
Shuah was born sometime after the death of Sarah, (approx 1813 B.C,) and after Abraham took Keturah as his wife. (Genesis 25). So Bildad may well have been approximately the fourth generation of descendants of Shuah.
Elihu the Son of Barachel the Buzite
He is the later, young speaker introduced in Job 32:2. He was of the kindred of Ram. Buzite were descended from BUZ who is listed as a son of Abraham’s brother Nahor and would have been an inhabitant of the city of Nahor (later known to the Assyrians) in the Balih valley north of the Euphrates, and a tributary of the Euphrates. (see Gen 22:20-24) He was therefore an uncle of Aram (v 21), whose name could also have been Ram. Buz would have been born somewhere around 1850 B.C., so his descendant Elihu would have been some number of generations later.
Zophar the Naamathite
This name does not lend itself to easy identification, remains obscure and so is little help to us.
Who was Job, and where did he live?J
Job is introduced as living in the land of UZ, so who was UZ, and where was his land? Scripture gives us two people called Uz to choose from. Firstly there is
UZ son of Aram who lived shortly after Noah’s day (Genesis10:23) With help from the ancient Jewish/Roman scholar Josephus we find that his descendants settled as the Aramites (Syrians) south of the Euphrates river, so that geographically he is a possibility.
But the second UZ (mentioned in Genesis36:28) is more likely. He was a grandson of Seir the Horite (Hivite) who gave his name to the region of Mt Seir that was taken over by the Edomites (see Genesis 36:8.and especially Lamenations 4:21) and this fits with what we know about the localities associated with his ‘friends’ above.
So who was this Job the opening chapter of the book lists him as the “Greatest of all the men of the East” (Job 1:3)
Out of his own mouth. Job describes himself in chapter 29, with the words:
When I went out to the gate, I prepared my seat in the street (v 7)
The princes refrained from talking, and laid their hand on their mouth (v-9.)
I delivered the poor, and the fatherless (v 12)
I caused the widows heart to sing for joy (v 13)
I brake the jaws of the wicked (v 17)
Unto me men gave ear and waited and kept silence at my counsel (v 21)
After my words they spoke not again (v 22)
I chose out their way and sat chief and dwelt as king in the army (v 25)
The above attributes are those of a person high in the land – maybe even up to the position of Kingship.
What’s in a name?
It is interesting to note that the name ‘JOB’ is most likely an abbreviation (hypocoristicon) for the name Jobab, of whom there are two mentioned in scripture.
Jobab son of Joktan, a people who gave rise to the south Arabian people and the Chaldeans, (Genesis 10:29), born close to 2200 B.C – close to the time of the dispersion from Babel. He does not fit the rest of the data we have on Job anywhere near as well as another of the same name.
Jobab, son of Zerah, great grandson of Esau, and second king of Edom. (Gen.36:33) From Genesis 36 we find this Jobab was the great grandson of Esau through son Reuel, via grandson Zerah. Since Esau was born 1790 B.C., therefore if we use 30 years as an approximation for a generation, then this second Jobab would have been born approximately 1790 minus 30 minus 30 years or roughly 1730 B.C. and he would have reached maturity at age 30, approximately 1700 B.C.
We do not know at what age this Jobab came to the throne or how long he ruled. If our ID of linking Jobab to Job is correct, and we know that Job lived 140 years after his ordeal (Job 42:16), it would mean that he died sometime after 1560 B.C.
Putting it into the Bigger Picture
Since Jacob and his family went down into Egypt approx. 1660 B.C and Moses fled Egypt to Midian just north of Edom in 1485 B.C., it would put Moses in Midian less than 75 years after our calculation as to when Job died, so the account of Job would have therefore likely been available to Moses when he fled to Midian. But the single most important things we can all discover from the book of Job are that we can trust our Maker in times good and bad, and even when we do not understand why we are undergoing suffering, we do know that our Redeemer lives, and in our flesh we shall see God. (Job 19:24-26)
Image: Excerpt from Job Speaks with His Friends by Gustave Doré (1832–1883) Public Domain
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