[b-hebrew] Job: More than Speculation

david.kimbrough at charter.net david.kimbrough at charter.net
Fri Jun 11 14:35:21 EDT 2004

QUESTION: Is there any evidence that Job were influenced by a pre-existing Sumerian or Babylonian Job-like poems?

ANSWER: Yes, there is some.  

AMPLIFICATION: Job is quite different from the rest of the OT.  God is only referred to as Yahweh occasionally, only in the prose portions of Job.  In the poetic portions he is never addressed as Yahweh or Elohim, the most common names in the OT.  He is, rather, mostly referred to as either El or Shaddai (but not El Shaddai) and occasional other names.  As was pointed out by George I believe, Job is not obviously an Israelite or a Yahwahist (e.g. there is no discussion of covenants, the patriarchs, Moses, the Law, liberation from slavery in Egypt, crossing Yam Suf).

Those Judeans who were in exile in Babylon certainly could have been exposed to the pre-existing Babylonian / Sumerian Job-like poems.  

I pointed out earlier that the similarities between Job and the Babylon Righteous Sufferer are not casual but they are also not identical.  They are both told from the first person, view the gods/God as the source of his suffering, are at loss to understand why they are suffering, and despair of ever knowing the truth.  One Babylonian poem has a happy ending, like the prose ending of Job.  

There are differences as well as similarities. The Righteous Sufferer takes the form of a monologue while Job is a series of dialogs.  The Babylonian and Sumerian poems are rather short (at least the surviving ones are) while Job is quite long.  Although Job is not obviously a Yahwahist, he is clearly thinking of a monotheistic god, if not God.

There is evidence for influence.  Is it *conclusive*?  No, whatever conclusive might here, but there is evidence.  So this is not mere speculation.

> From: "Harold R. Holmyard III" <hholmyard at ont.com>
> Date: 2004/06/11 Fri AM 11:27:10 GMT
> To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Subject: [b-hebrew] Re: Job & Sumer
> Dear David K.,
> >I would point out that according to traditional
> >chronologies the Isrealites were in captivity in Egypt at
> >this time.  An unlikely place and population to influce
> >Sumerian poetry.
> HH: Remember, I was the one who doubted that there was any 
> relationship between the two pieces of writing. I've read them both 
> and don't see that there has to be any connection at all.
> >We can only go on the evidence at hand.  There is no
> >evidence of any kind for the existence of the Hebrew
> >language or Hebrew versions of Job-like poems around 1700
> >BC. If new evidence arises, it can be considered.  Without
> >evidence of some sort, it is just speculation.
> HH: Well, my original point was that claiming a dependence of Job on 
> the "The Riighteous Sufferer" was speculation.
> 				Yours,
> 				Harold Holmyard
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David Kimbrough
San Gabriel

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