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any man Ghould, within so short a compass of time, be reduced from the highest affluence of plenty to the very lowest degree of poverty and distress ; and then again, that the wheel of fortune should turn round with equal rapidity, and he should not only be restored in some nieasure to his pristine state of felicity, but be bleft with exactly the same number of children, and just a double portion of the blessings of this life; these, say they, are circumstances too nice and curious to be accounted as real facts.
As these very men, however, who thus-strenuoully insist, that the book now under consideration is a dramatick performance, . and the machinery of it in particular the product only of the great poet's imagination, readily allow it to be a very valuable, and inAtructive branch of the inspired writings; and as none but those few, we first mentioned, deny the hero a real existence, and disown the subject-matter of it to be grounded upon fact, we shall in the next place endeavour to discover, as near as possible, not only the time when, and the place where he probably refided, but who was the author of this sublime piece, which is so very instructive and entertaining
This Job then, in all probability, was a descendant of the patriarch ABRAHAM by his wife KETURAH ; and as he had a numerous issue by that intermarriage, he portioned them out, and sent them into the EAST ; insomuch that the greater part of them settled in ARABIA. He had a son likewise, by the aforesaid Keturah, whose name was SHUAH ; from whence there are very good grounds to imagine, that Bildad the Shuhite, one of Job's visitors, was of the same descent; and as he lived, in all probability, not far from Uz, thought himself in duty bound, as a relation, to go and comfort him in the day of his distress.
As to the fituation of the land of Uz, which was the place of Job's residence, there are various conjectures concerning it; since there are no less than three of them mentioned by Moses, in the
book of Genesis. The first Uz was the son of Aram, who was the founder of Damafcus and Trachonitis ; for which reason, fome commentators have fixed his habitation in the plain of Jordan, in the province or district of the before-named Trachonitis ; where Job's fepulchre, or monument, is shewn to passengers to this very day. This, however, is doubtless a mere fable; as is his supposed well near Jerusalem, fituate in the aforesaid plain. The second Uz was the son of Nebór ; and the country, that from him was called Usitis, or Ausitis, is placed by some geographers near the river Euphrates and the city of Babylon; on which account the seat of Job is thought by some to be that part of Arabia. The third Uz was the son of Dilhan, mentioned in Genesis, who came from the Horites; and as they were dispossessed by the descendants of Edom, their country was distinguished by the name of Idumæa, from whence some authors imagine that Job's residence was there. Others, again, place his habitation at Constantinople; but this conjecture is
very ridiculous and absurd. Upon the supposition, how- ; ever, as above hinted, that Job was a descendant of Abraham and Kęturah, his usual place of abode may with great probability be fixed in one part of Arabia Deserta : and this conclusion may the rather be depended on, since the sacred history makes mention of his possessions being plundered by the Chaldeans and Sabeans, who were, as is universally allowed, inhabitants of those parts.
The particular time when he flourished is another point much controverted by criticks. It is evident, however, that he was either predecessor, or at least contemporary with Moses, from his mentioning, with the utmost abhorrence and detestation, the ancient idolatrous custom of paying the tribute of divine adoration to the sun, moon, and stars ; and which is still a greater proof, from his taking no manner of notice of the bondage of the Israelites under their cruel Egyptian task-masters; which was a circumstance of so great moment and importance, that he would doubtless Vol. III.
have expatiated thereon, had he not lived before that remarkable occurrence. It is evident likewise, that he lived in the days of the patriarchs from the length of his life; for he was about three-score years
age, when God Almighty, for the trial of his faith and patience, first permitted Satan to persecute him ; and he lived one hundred and forty years after his restoration ; so that he was about two hundred years
old at the time of his decease, which was a succesfion, or period of years, that several of the patriarchs could not boast of.
What his distemper in particular was, and how long it lasted, are other matters of meer conjecture, and not absolutely to be determined : some will have it, however, to be a leprosy of the most malignant nature; and others, a malady of a more opprobrious denomination but those would-be-wits, who impute that to his charge, lose all the sting of their invectives, when, in answer thereto, they are informed that his disease, how contagious foever it might be, was brought upon him, by no irregularities of his own, but by the malice and contrivance, with God's permission, of his infernal adversary. Others again imagine, and with some colour of season, that his numerous fores and boils, were not the result of
any single malady, but a complication of diseases ; and as an additional weight to his agonizing pains, Satan not only stirred up his wife to urge him to the unnatural fin of suicide or self-murder, but disturbcd his mind both sleeping and waking, with imaginary horrors, and urged him, all he could, to the highest pitch of madness and despair..
As to the duration of this severe trial, some extend it to the compafs of a whole year ; but this seems to be a conjecture derogatory from the character of the Almighty, whose darling attributes are mercy and loving-kindness; insomuch that when he afflicts the fons of men, we are assured he does it with reluctance. For which rea. fon, others imagine, and doubtless more justly, that these severe trials lasted no longer than a month. The news of his losses came fo thick upon him; that it might not be above ten or twelve days
from the time of his being first plundered by his barbarous neighbours, to the sudden death of his sons and daughters by a whirlwind from heaven ; immediately after which his bodily afflictions came upon him : then there were seven days more, we are told, that his friends, who went to condole with him, spent in silence and we cannot well imagine the high debates that afterwards arose between them could take up above a week more; and God restored him to his health again, as we are informed, before his visitors departed.
There is but one thing more we have to offer, by way of conjecture and that is, with respect to the author. Though it is impossible to fix on the real person, yet it is highly probable, that he lived before Moses had published any part of his works, and consequently, some considerable time before the promulgation of the Jewish law; since there is not the least notice taken of it throughout the whole book. For which reason, it is a notion almost universally received, that Moses wrote it, during his residence in Egypt, or else after he had fled from thence into the land of Midian, in order to encourage the Jews to bear up with fortitude and patience under their Egyptian bondage, and to induce them to put their trust and confidence in God, who would most certainly deliver them, in his own due time and way.
There are some, however, rather inclined to think, that this sacred book was at first a plain and simple narrative, and the materials drawn
up either by Job himself, or some of his friends or relations; and that afterwards it fell into the hands of Moses, who first translated it from the Arabic ; that in process of time it was transmitted down to Solomon; and that from him, it is highly probable, it received the beautiful cast in which it now appears, in the Hebrew language, the first part whereof to the beginning of the third chapter, as St. Jerom afsures us, is prose ; but from that to the forty-second chapter is all composed in verse, of the same nature
as those two celebrated poems, the Iliad of Homer, and the Æneid of Virgil. We shall conclude this stricture with a short character of this universally admired performance.
The author, whether Moses or Solomon, or any other inspired writer, has exerted the beauties of his art, to so great a degree, that whoever reads this historical poem, with the least attention, will soon discern, that for the dignity and grandeur of its style, for the spirit and energy of its dialogue ; for the variety of its characters ; for the beauty of its metaphors, fimilies, and descriptions, and in a word, for the pomp and majesty of its machines, there is no human composition to be met with in all the records of antiquity, that, upon a fair and impartial examination, will be capable in any degree of standing up in competition with it ; since it is not only a perfect piece of itself, thrown into a poetick mould ; but is likewise fraught with such a variety of noble and fublime images as are rarely to be met with in the brightest and most polished writings of the Greeks and Romans. This will appear a matter beyond dispute when we view the poets and philosophers of every succeeding generation availing themselves of this treasure. To prove our intimation by producing a variety of passages derived from this incomparable original, particularly those which may be found interspersed in the compositions of the most deservedly admired Authors of our own nation and language, is the avowed business of this undertaking. In short, to convey fome useful lessons of instruction under the semblance of amusement, is the utmost praise we aspire after; and the Author will be happy if the courteous reader accepts this humble attempt, without exploring its defects, or expecting a display of critical learning,