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NLT Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, and the Book of Job

There has been wide speculation as to the dating of the book of Job. When did he live and when did the events of Job take place? While there are no obvious references to use for dating the book, there are subtle clues that can help us determine when Job lived. Below are the introductory notes from the NLT Study Bible and the ESV Study Bible for the book of Job regarding is date. You will see an extreme disagreement between them.

NLT Study Bible:

The book of Job unfolds early in the patriarchal age, before Israel became a nation. Job’s wealth, like Abraham’s, was in livestock and slaves (1:3; 42:12; see Gen 12:16; 32:5). He was his family’s priest, as was a common practice before the law of Moses (1:5; 42:8; see Gen 4:4; 8:20; 12:7-8; 13:18; 15:9-10; 26:25; 33:20; 35:1-6; 46:1). During Job’s time, the Sabeans and Chaldeans were nomadic raiders (1:15, 17), not important political and economic powers as in the late monarchical period (cp. Isa 45:14; Joel 3:8). The money was called the kesitah, which was used during the patriarchal age (42:11; see Gen 33:19; Josh 24:32). Only those who lived before the flood (Gen 1—6) and the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) matched or exceeded Job’s longevity (42:16; see Gen 5:3-32; 25:7; 35:28; 47:28; 50:26). With Job, we return to the beginning of history, when mortals first struggled to know God and understand the world.

ESV Study Bible:

There are no historical allusions in the book to determine its time or circumstances. From ancient times there has been much discussion about the occasion for writing Job. The Babylonian Talmud records a variety of opinions as to the author of the book, ranging from someone in the time of the patriarchs, to Moses, to one of those who returned from the Babylonian captivity (Baba Bathra 15a). The hero of the book is given a patriarchal setting, authentic in detail and coloring, which has led some interpreters to suggest an early date, perhaps as early as the time of Abraham.

The earliest reference to Job outside the book itself is in Ezekiel. The prophet names three paragons of virtue: Noah, Daniel, and Job (Ezek. 14:14, 20). It is not certain whether Ezekiel knew of these men from the biblical narrative or from other traditions; this is particularly true for Daniel, a book that could not have been complete in Ezekiel’s day. If Ezekiel knew of Job through the biblical book, then it would be pre-exile.

Attempts have been made to date Job on the basis of theological development within the Scriptures. Job has been viewed as an elaborate midrash (type of commentary) on Deuteronomy 28, or as an effort to apply a discussion of the problem of suffering for the nation (such as that depicted in Isaiah) to the individual. Arguments based on “theological development,” however, are difficult to sustain, because they presuppose that one can actually describe how such themes developed over time.

The author of Job makes direct allusion to the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g., Ps. 8:4; cf. Job 7:17—18), and at times quotes lines directly (Ps. 107:40; Isa. 41:20; cf. Job 12:21, 24). Such precise repetition of phrases and reapplication of biblical thought indicates that the poet had access to these writings, though again it cannot be certain in what form they existed.

Some have suggested, therefore, that the theological questions addressed in Job, and the use of Scripture in the book, indicate a time for the composition approximating Ezekiel’s, but confidence in such a conclusion is hard to come by. The author uses a lot of vocabulary with meanings known in later Hebrew. This does not confirm a more precise dating but may favor a date that is exilic (587 to 538 b.c.) or postexilic (after 538).

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The NLTSB says that Job lived no later than the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The ESVSB suggests the date to be after the destruction of Jerusalem (587 BC). Quite a difference. Now, later in the introductory material, the ESVSB does state “The events of the book seem to be set in the time of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” I have personally that Job lived before Moses because he is performing his own sacrifices. The NLTSB does a good job bolstering this possibility by considering the age of Job and the type of money used.

Again, buy both study Bibles. They simply do not overlap in their information and give the student a wide range of information to draw conclusions about the scriptures.