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When one refers to the Gemara in Bava Basra 15 there are numerous suggestions as to when Iyov lived. Opinions range from it being only a parable and that he never truly existed, to living during the times of the brothers and Yaakov1, during the time of the meraglim (spies), (the disputed opinion that he lived during the Second Temple period), that he lived during the time of Achashveirosh, in the days of the kingdom of Sheba2 and also in the period of Chaldeans by Nevuchadnezzar3.

Why is there such a sense of mystique surrounding Iyov with such diverse views over his existence? He would have to have lived a very long life if he lived into these latter periods?

The Midrash however, seems to be quite clear over how many years he lived. In Bereishis Rabbah 61:4 it writes:

עִקַּר שָׁנָיו שֶׁל אִיּוֹב לֹא הָיוּ אֶלָּא שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה, נִתּוֹסַף לוֹ מֵאָה וְאַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה, דִּכְתִיב (איוב מב, טז): וַיְחִי אִיּוֹב אַחֲרֵי זֹאת מֵאָה וְאַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה

"Iyov's years was to have lasted on 70 years, 140 additional years were added, as it says (Iyov 42:16) "And Iyov lived after this, 140 years.""

And in Bereishis Rabbah 57:4 it writes:

רַבִּי לֵוִי בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי יוֹסֵי בַּר חֲלַפְתָּא אָמַר בִּירִידָתָן לְמִצְרַיִם נוֹלַד וּבַעֲלִיָּתָן מֵת, אַתָּה מוֹצֵא עִקַּר שָׁנָיו שֶׁל אִיּוֹב לֹא הָיוּ אֶלָּא מָאתַיִם וְעֶשֶׂר שָׁנִים, וְעָשׂוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּמִצְרַיִם מָאתַיִם וְעֶשֶׂר שָׁנִים וּבָא שָׂטָן לְקַטְרֵג וְגֵרָה אוֹתוֹ בְּאִיּוֹב

"Rabbi Levi in the name of Rabbi Yosi son of Chalafta said, he was born when they (the Bnei Yisrael) went down to Egypt, and died when they went up (from Egypt), so you find that the lifetime of Iyov was only 210 years, and the Bnei Yisrael were in Egypt for 210 years, and the Satan came to prosecute and directed it on to Iyov"

This all fits very nicely, and is further corroborated by the fact that he served in the council of Pharoah's court (refer to Sotah 11a & Shemos Rabbah 12:2)

So it would seem that there is quite a lot of evidence to demonstrate that he lived throughout this period (i.e. during the Bnei Yisrael's time in Egypt, which would include him being around the time of Yaakov and the bros, and thus marrying Dina etc.). So two questions:

  1. Why are such a divergent range of opinions suggested?
  2. How can we account for these other opinions that he lived in a much later period e.g. in the days of Achashveirosh, Sheba and the Chaldeans specifically?

Do any sources make sense of this?


1 The gemara suggests that he married Dina which would fit this bracket

2 Refer to Iyov 1:15

3 Refer to Iyov 1:17

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    It's not uncommon for various views in talmudic sources (kal v'achomer later generations) to contradict one another. Some thought he lived during the time of Pharaoh, some thought he lived much later. Some thought he lived for many years, some didn't. And so forth.
    – Harel13
    Dec 19 '20 at 23:18
  • Yes thank you @Harel13 I realise that, but there is quite a large historical divide between these views?
    – Dov
    Dec 19 '20 at 23:20
  • I suppose there were traditions that he had influenced multiple generations. Iyov is also mysterious in that we really have no idea what the background means. Who are all these people? Where do they come from? Iyov is a book that seemingly has absolutely no connection to the extended biblical narrative beginning in Beresheet and ending in Divrei Hayamim.
    – Harel13
    Dec 19 '20 at 23:35
  • According to one explanation in back of the (Vilna Shas) Gemora ALL of those opinions agree that he never existed. There are placing him in different generations to make the point that Iyov type people with his type of struggle are always around in every generation.
    – Schmerel
    Dec 20 '20 at 0:48
  • @Schmerel Which one? It seems to contradict the plain reading of gemara.
    – N.T.
    Dec 20 '20 at 2:44
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In the book "Iyov - As He Is" (איוב - כמו שהוא), Rachel Margulies presents an enormous amount of evidence that Iyov is an ancient book from before the Exodus. She also attempted to deal with the varying opinions of Chazal on the time of Iyov and brought Rabbi Shem Tov Ibn Shem Tov's view on the matter, from his commentary on Moreh Nevochim, 3:22 (pg. 2 here):

"ומה שאמרו חכמים שהיה בימי אבות או בימי משה או בימי דוד או מעולי בבל, הרמז בזה שבכל דור ודור נמצא צדיק ורע לו רשע וטוב לו."

Translation: "And what the sages said that he was in the time of the Patriarchs or in the time of Moshe or in the time of David or was of those that returned from Babylon, this comes to hint that in every generation there can be found a righteous man that suffers, an evil man that has pleasure."

As evidence for this, she had prior pointed out that despite varying opinions as to when Iyov lived, there's only one opinion about who wrote the Book of Iyov - Moshe, and she has a chapter dedicated to comparing the language of the Torah to the language of Iyov.1


1 For various reasons, she concluded that Moshe didn't write the entire book, but edited it (including stylistic edits), and she believed this too can be understood from the words of the sages.

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