(posted May 8, 2011)

Perhaps no other book in the Bible has caused such consternation among those who want to be true believers than has the Book of Job.  No other book in the Bible has made them question their faith and their belief in a loving, just God, than has the Book of Job.  How could God, they ask, inflict (or allow Satan to inflict—depending upon one’s interpretation) such horrendous punishments upon such an innocent, righteous man?

The story of “Job” in the Bible is usually taken by scholars to be an entirely mythical rendition and intended for an allegorical moral interpretation.  Some have identified it as a copy of Egyptian first Intermediate period to Hyksos era (2200B.C. to 1700B.C.) lamentation literature.  Others see a Babylonian influence.  The language at times does seem to imitate the older Egyptian lamentation literature, yet at other times sounds more like Babylonian wisdom literature. 

Identifying a geographical setting has always given scholars fits as well.  The Sumerologist Samuel Noah Kramer thought that the Job story was drawn from a very ancient Sumerian source (Kramer, History Begins at Sumer, 1959, pp. 114-118).  The Talmud (Tractate Bava Basra 15a-b) claims that the book of Job was written by Moses, although the sages have always debated whether it was based on historical reality, or intended as a parable.  Other Talmud scholars ascribe it to the time of the patriarch “Jacob,” or to the time just before the first temple, or to the Persian period, or to the beginning of the 2nd temple period.  Modern scholarship likes to place the origin of the story in the land of Edom (The Book of Job on www.Wikipedia.com).

All of these views are wrong, as we shall see.  While it is true that the language, and content, of the book of Job do contain some very archaic features, there are certain clues in the text which allow us to pinpoint the exact location and even the exact time—with in a ten-year time frame—of our protagonist Job.  So, let’s work our way through the book of Job and see what we can come up with.


One of the common assumptions made about “Job,” was that he was an innocent man that God either punished unjustly, or allowed “Satan” to unjustly inflict punishment upon him as a way to test his “patience.”  Thus, the saying “as patient as Job” has been popularized.  All of these assumptions are just as wrong as the above attempts to locate “Job” geographically and historically.  How do I know that?  The Bible tells me so!  Well, actually the name of the protagonist in this story tells me that all of the above-mentioned assumptions about him are false.

The name “Job” is a corruption of the Hebrew and Arabic “AYYOUB” (English always converts the phoneme (letter) “Y” to a “J”).  “AYYOUB” in Arabic means “I repent," (the Arabic will become important when we discuss "Job's" geographical location).  Now “I repent” would certainly be a funny name for someone who was innocent of wrong doing and a man who was “perfect and upright” as Job chapter one verse one says.  As we read through the book of Job we find that the man was once exceedingly wealthy possessing thousands of heads of livestock, ten children, and was  highly respected by his peers as “the greatest of all the men of the east,” (Job 1:3).  In Chapter 29 “Job” digresses and spends the entire chapter bragging about himself “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me,” (Job 29:14), “My glory was fresh in me . . .  Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my command” (Job 29:21). 

At this point in the story we begin to get a picture of a man that was pretty full of himself and we begin to realize that PRIDE was his great sin—and the real reason for his “punishment” at the hands of God.  During the next couple of chapters we learn that Job, instead of asking God what sin he has committed, blames God for all of his “unjust” suffering, while explaining how “good” and free of sin he has been “Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin  . . .” (Job 31:30).  The typical “why me?” attitude.


Further proof of Job’s pridefulness comes from the three friends that came to visit Job when they heard that he was having health and financial problems.  “So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes” (Job 32:1).  “. . . Against Job was his (God’s) wrath kindled because he justified himself rather than God” (Job 32:2).   “For he addeth rebellion unto his sin, he clappeth his hands among us, and multiplieth his words against God” (Job 34:37).  “Thinkest thou this to be right, that thou saidist, my righteousness is more than God’s?”  (Job 35:2).

At the end of the book of Job, our protagonist, finally recognizes his sin of pride—but only after God lectured him and put him firmly in his place.  Then Job says:  “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.  Wherefore I abhor myself and “I repent” in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5,6).  And, here the writers' of the Book of "Job" were rather cleaver.  They used the Hebrew verb root "NHM" for repent, rather than the Arabic/proto-Semetic root "AWB" so that future readers would not be able to confuse his act of repentance with the use of his "name."

Then, only after "Job/Ayyoub/I repent" says “I repent,” does God relent, take his foot off of his neck and then restore unto him all of his riches and belongings, and give him a new family and many more long years of life.


Before moving on to Job’s historical and geographic reality, there is an interesting side note that occurred while God was lecturing Job.  He asks Job:  “Out of whose womb came the ice?  And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?  The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen?” 

Is this a reference to a racial memory of a long lost Ice Age or what?  There was a world-wide cooling period between 750 and 200 B.C. which facilitated the rise of the great Iron-Age Empires of Assyria, Babylon, and Persia, and may have caused increased glaciation in the northern latitudes, but could not have affected the area where Job lived—except possibly to make the Near Eastern deserts a tad less beastly hot in the summers.


Turning now to Job’s historical and geographic location, our first clue comes in chapter one, verse one where it says: “There was a man in the land of Uz.”  This has stumped scholars for centuries, but is really quite simple to locate as we shall soon see.  Our second clue comes in chapter one verse three where it says Job was of the “men of the east.”  This is what has led many scholars to assume that Mesopotamia must be the land intended.  However, all it really means is that Job must have lived somewhere east of Judea, where this book, like many other books in the Bible, were being copied, re-copied, edited, and in many cases composed for the first time, around the same time that the dead sea scrolls were being written (i.e. 2nd century B.C.), or shortly before.

Verse seventeen of chapter one says “The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword . . ." This passage, combined with the above-mentioned “men of the east,” would seem to reconfirm that the Job story must have been set somewhere in or near Mesopotamia.  That is, to some it may have seemed that way.  However, it becomes clear that Mesopotamia was not the intended meaning of "Chaldeans," or "men of the east" when we examine the rest of the clues.


Verse fifteen of chapter one says:  “And the Sabaeans fell upon them (the oxen and the asses), and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword.”  In one swift stroke that verse eliminates Mesopotamia as a possible location for the “Job” story.  The Sabaeans came from a kingdom in Yemen called Saba’ in Arabic, and Sheba in Hebrew.  While the Sabaeans were capable of extending their influence far and wide during certain times of their history, they never were able to project power anywhere near to Mesoptoamia (or to Judeah as far as that goes). 

This verse also eliminates Edom and Judea as localities for the “Job” story—unless one assumes that Edom extended into northern Arabia, as some Babylonian and Biblical writers did:  “Therefore thus saith the Lord God; I will also stretch out mine hand upon Edom, and will cut off man and beast from it; and I will make it desolate from Teman; and they of Dedan shall fall by the sword.” (Ezekiel 25:13).  (Teman, and Tema, are optional names for Tayma, and Tayma and Dedan were ancient cities in NW Arabia about 600 miles SE of the Dead Sea).  So, based on this passage, Edom could include all of the land from Tayma to the southern border of Judea.  On his way to Arabia in 553 B.C. Nabu Na'id, the last king of Babylon, crushed Edom, and then after he set up his capital in Tayma, he annexed all of Edom into his Arabia province eliminating Edom from existence and thus seeming to fulfill Ezekiel’s “prophecy,” or at least providing the historical basis upon which Ezekiel’s “prophecy” was formulated.


Returning to our protagonist “Job,” now, we have a situation where he, his family, servants, and livestock are being harassed by both the Sabaeans and the “Chaldeans.”  This gives us the idea that “Job’s” location must have been somewhere in between the “Sabaeans,” and the “Chaldeans.”  This idea is reinforced in verse 19 of chapter 6 where it says:  “The troops of Tema looked, the companies of Sheba waited for them.”

"The companies of Sheba" are another reference to the “Sabaeans,” and “the troops of Tema” are another reference to the “Chaldeans.”  This passage is simply a reiteration of verses 15 and 17 of chapter one.  Essentially then, we have “Chaldeans” (actually Khaldeans) based in Tema/Tayma extending their power southward into a geographic area where Saba’ (or Sheba) could also extend their power.   There is only one time in history when this could have been possible, and that is the ten-year period when the Last King of Babylon, Nabu Na’id, set up his capital in the Arabian city of Tayma (552-543 B.C.).  One of “Job’s” friends who comes to talk with him when he is suffering is called Eli Faz, the Taymanite (Job 15:1), which reinforces the Tayma connection.  Now, as for the exact location, picture a map of Arabia in your mind and draw a line from Tayma southward to Saba’/Sheba, or Yemen.  Somewhere along that line, approximately halfway in between, you will find “Job’s” location.


Before we zero in on the exact location, lets go back to verse one of chapter one in the Book of Job where it says: “There was a man in the land of 'Uz.'”  This is not the “Wizard of Oz” we are talking about here.  The Hebrew actually gives us ‘AOUS, or  ‘AYIN, WAW, SADEE.  But since there is no “’Ayin” in English, the KJ translators merged it into the weak consonant/long vowel “waw,” giving us a “U.”  And, since English has no “Sadee” the translators did their best by rendering the emphatic sibilant as a “Z.”

Our next step is to look at a map of Arabia, scan that imaginary line we drew between Tayma and Saba’ and see if we can find anything that looks like ‘AYIN, WAW, SADEE,  with the understanding that in the Semitic languages, the weak consonant/long vowel “waw” is often interchangeable with the weak consonant/long vowel of “ya” (Arabic), or “yod” (Hebrew). 


And, of course, there is such a place.  Directly south of Tayma, not quite half way to Yemen is a town, and a wadi, called “‘Ays” in Arabic.  Linquistically this is identical to the Hebrew “’Aous,” which we remember the KJ translators rendered as “Uz.”  the Arabic phonemes are 'Ayin Waw Sad, which matches up 100% with the Hebrew.


So, was “Job” an Arab, or was he a Jew?  He could have been either since “Jews” (that is as members, or descendants of the tribe of Yahud) have lived in northern, southern, and western Arabia since the beginning of recorded history.  Whether he was Arab, or Jew, really doesn’t matter since his culture was that of the semi-nomadic pastoralist and in pre-Islamic Arabia there was little differentiation between Arab and Jew (i.e. the cultural and religious discrimination and ethnic cleansing that was to come with the arrival of Islam had not yet made its appearance).  In other words, “Job” was a wealthy shaykh of western Arabia—perhaps the wealthiest if we can believe his bragging about himself.

As for the above-mentioned Biblical passage where “Job” is called one of the “men of the east,” we have to remember that Arabia, even western Arabia, is technically east of Judea, as well as being south of Judea.  (Note that the "Garden of Eden," which was also in West Central Arabia is termed to be "towards the east," in Biblical parlance.)


“Job” had the misfortune of being caught in the vice between two powerful empires pushing at each other, one from the north, and one from the south, when Khaldean Babylonian troops under Nabu Na’id, on campaign in Arabia,  ran up against the soldiers from Sheba/Saba’.   As the two armies fought for influence in the area raiding parties from both armies must have harassed him from time to time, killing his servants and running off with his livestock as told in The Last King of Babylon trilogy.

When Ancient Armies went on campaign far from home, they had need for huge amounts of food to feed their soldiers.  So, they either purchased it, or took it by force if the people did not want to sell.  If they were ticked off for some reason or other, then they just might go ahead and kill the people that they took the livestock from.  This, I believe, looks like what happened to “Job” and his people.

Marauding armies and wars also often leave in their wake famine and plague which could explain many of the other travails our protagonist “Job” suffered—although The Last King of Babylon trilogy provides a somewhat different twist.  (Please check out the sister website)  www.lastkingofbabylon.com

Stories about the travails of “Job” were then subsequently circulated among the Arab and Jewish communities of Western Arabia and from thence found their way to the Jewish communities of Persian-ruled Judea.  These stories were then most likely condensed into our Book of “Job” during the late Persian era, or even the Hellenistic era—though there are some archaic features in language and phraseology.  The “Job” story was then further refined and edited at about the time of the Dead Sea scrolls.  Portions of this Arabian legend also found their way into the Qur’an.

The Persian presence (in the Levant) might well explain how the knowledge of bitter winters with frozen bodies of water ended up in a tale about a man from west central Arabia since the Persian empire ruled many areas that were covered with “hoary frost,” and even with glaciers (the mountains of eastern Anatolia for instance).


Ezekiel mentions “Job,” which means that the Book of Ezekiel must have been written, or at least edited, after the “Job” story had reached mainstream Jewish writers.  The Book of Ezekiel itself is somewhat problematic since it talks about events that occurred in the mid-sixth century B.C. as if they were prophecy, couched in the future tense, when the book itself was composed after these events had taken place.  (Please refer to the essay on Gog and Magog for more details).  However, regardless of when the Books of Job and Ezekiel were written, the two men were contemporaneous with each other, both having lived in the mid-sixth century B.C. and both were impacted in one way or another by the Neo-Babylonian Empire, and both, therefore, play a role in The Last King of Babylon trilogy.  www.lastkingofbabylon.com

“I repent”/AYYOUB/Job was mostly likely not the real name of the individual upon whom the story of “Job” has been attached.  Most likely there was a wealthy Shaykh in western Arabia who got squashed between the armies of Nabu Na’id and the Sabaeans, and lost everything, but after many tellings and re-tellings of his story, and after a number of  embellishments were added, some scribe somewhere decided to name the protagonist of this story “I repent,” either as a pun, or as a way of denoting what the story was about.

For lack of a better name, I have chosen to remain with the name given in the Bible and the Qur’an (Ayyoub), whether authentic or not, for this individual who plays the role of that wealthy shaykh in western Arabia in the trilogy The Last King of Babylon, and who was destined to suffer the misfortunes of “Job.”  www.lastkingofbabylon.com


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