THE BOOK of Job is one of the great masterpieces, not only of Hebrew, but of all literature. The vividness of its pictures, the rapidity of its narrative, the poignancy of its lyric passages, the passionate boldness of its attack on one of the great universal problems of human life, all raise it to the level of the highest achievements in the literature of any tongue.
As a book, it is difficult to classify. Its prologue and epilogue are narrative prose; and though the poetical dialogue of the central part of the work at first suggests drama, there is no action portrayed in the speeches, and they are in themselves sometimes didactic and argumentative, often lyrical, hardly at all strictly dramatic. There can scarcely by any doubt that the authors main interest was in the solution of the problem suggested by the spectacle of the righteous man in distress.
Of the authorship, nothing is known. Moses, Solomon, Isaiah, Job himself, and many others have been suggested, but none of them on grounds worthy of consideration. It has been thought that the story of Jobs experiences may have long existed in popular form; and that this old folk-tale may have been taken up by some unknown author who saw its possibilities, and who, with superb artistic power and a profound sense of the mystery of life, retold the incidents and added the elaborate speeches of Job, of his friends, and finally of the Almighty.
Job himself is pictured as belonging to patriarchial times, and living, not in Palestine, but in the land of Uz, probably to the east, on the borders of Arabia. The period of the author has been very variously conjectured, and may have been as late as 400 B. C.