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THE BOOK OF FOB.
The Book of Job is admitted, with hardly a dissentient voice, to be the most sublime religious Poem in
the literature of the world. Divines and expositors, (who have studied it with devotion, find it difficult to
express their sense of its beauty, grandeur, and value. Thus, for example, Canon Cook-one of its most recent, sober, and able commentators—writes :-“ It. combines in a very singular degree various elements of human thought and most opposite characteristics. of human genius. Its most striking features are depth and boldness of speculative inquiry, of research, not only into what may be known of the dealings of God with man, but of the principles on which those dealings rest. The characters stand out, each and all, in broad strong outline, with traits of surpassing delicacy and vigour. The historical narrative is clear and rapid, with the simplicity and grace of antique letters ; the dialogues full of vehement outbursts, vivid imagery, and sudden alternations of passionate struggles with deep, calm, earnest contemplation of spiritual truth. The reader is irresistibly impressed with the reality of the transactions, with the truth and naturalness of the
feelings brought into play, while he recognizes in the construction of the plot, and the gradual unfolding of the design, the work of a master spirit, guided, whether consciously or with the sure instinct of genius, by those principles in which the highest art and the most perfect nature meet and are reconciled.”
Nor is it divines and expositors alone who have been fascinated by the spell of this sublime Poem. It is hardly possible to speak of it to an educated and thoughtful man who does not acknowledge its extraordinary power, its unrivalled excellence; while men of genius, to whom the greatest works of literature in many languages are familiar, are forward to confess that it stands alone, far above the head of all other and similar performance. Thus, Thomas Carlyle, our greatest living author, who can hardly be suspected of any clerical bias or prepossessions, says of this Book:1 "I call that, apart from all theories about it, one of the grandest things ever written
One feels, indeed, as if it were not Hebrew ; such a noble universality, different from noble patriotism or noble sectarianism, reigns in it. A noble Book; all men's Book! It is our first, oldest statement of the never-ending Problem,man's destiny, and God's way with him here in this earth. And all in such free flowing outlines; grand in its sincerity, in its simplicity ; in its epic melody and repose of reconcilement. There is the seeing eye, the mildly understanding heart. So true every way; true eyesight and vision for all things; material things no less than spiritual. . . . Such
1 " Lectures on Heroes "_" The Hero as Prophet.”
living likenesses were never since drawn. Sublime sorrow, sublime reconciliation ; oldest choral melody as of the heart of mankind :—so soft and great; as the summer midnight, as the world with its seas and stars ! There is nothing written, I think, in the Bible or out of it, of equal literary merit.”
And yet this grand Poem is comparatively little read, and, even where it is read, it is but very imperfectly grasped and understood.
Nor is it easy to read it with intelligence and a clear vigorous conception of its meaning. It abounds in allusions to ancient modes of thought and speculation ; its long sequences of thought and its quick cogent dialectic are disguised and obscured, in part, by the limitations of the proverbial form in which it is composed, and, in part, by the inevitable imperfections which cleave to translations of any and every kind, even the best. And while there are many able commentaries on it addressed to scholars, I know of only one-Canon Cook's in “The Speaker's Commentary” —- from which the ordinary reader would be likely to derive much help; while even that, owing to the conditions under which it was written, leaves much to be desired. Yet there is no reason, in the Poem itself, why it should not be as well and intimately known, even to readers of the most limited education, as any one of Shakespeare's plays, and no reason why it should not become far more precious and instructive. That it is difficult to translate is true; but Renan has rendered it into the most exquisite French with admirable felicity and force. That every Chapter of it is studded with allusions which need to be explained, and that the argument of the
Book needs to be “exposed” and emphasized, is also true; but both these services have been rendered to scholars by a crowd of commentators, in the front rank of which stand such men as Schultens, Ewald, Schlottmann, Delitzsch, Dillmann, Merx, Renan, Godet, and Professor A. B. Davidson; and it surely cannot be impossible that the results of their labours, and of labours similar to theirs, should be given to the public in a popular and convenient form.
To achieve some such task as this—to make the Book of Job readable, intelligible, enjoyable to all who care to acquaint themselves with it, even though they should be familiar with none but our noble mother-tongue-has long been a cherished aim with
Three times during the last ten years I have revised
translation of the Poem, seeking to make it less and less unworthy of the Original; and at intervals, during those years, I have sought to acquaint myself with the best expositions of it published in Germany, England, France, and America. Thus equipped and prepared, I venture to offer the results of my reading and labour to the readers of THE EXPOSITOR.
What I have aimed and tried to do is simply this : (1) To give a translation of the Poem somewhat more clear and accurate than that of our Authorized Version, and, in especial, a translation which should render the Poet's long lines, or sweeps, of consecutive thought more apparent. The Book belongs, as we shall see, to that class of Hebrew literature which is collectively designated the Chokmah, and is therefore composed in one of the most inflexible of literary forms,—the proverbial. At first sight it