Monday, March 25, 2013

The Life and Times of Job (Part 2): Where was Uz?

Where was Uz?

First, we need to nail down about where Job lived.  While it is possible that Job wrote about things he had not seen in an oral tradition, the tenor of the book to me has the ring of people discussing philosophy based on the experience of their own lives.

In moments of extreme tragedy I understand Job's friends who sat with him in silence when they saw him, rather than pontificate.  Despite error in their counsel their is a kinship in their compassion.  In such times, the most profound sympathy and counsel we offer to others doesn't come from the cold reaches of scholarly study, but from the wisdom and observations of our experiences.  When they draw from their observations of the world to counsel him, wrongly or rightly, perhaps because I am older than I was when I first read Job, I'm impressed with the sense that what they say is what they saw personally, rather than drew second- or third- hand from the accounts or stories of their day.

As much as possible, then, I'd like to assume here that contained in much of the philosophy outlined in the book may be clues which capture more of Job's life and times than I have considered to date.  We will see how this assumptions holds up, whether in part or in full.

Here are the clues from the text:

1) The land is called Uz (Job 1:1)

The land of Uz may be named after one of three people named in scripture, or non of the above.  The three are:

a) Uz is the name of a great-grandson of Shem (Gen 10:23; 1Chron 1:17 lists him a Shem’s son, probably meaning a direct descendant). The Arameans settled in what is now Syria, north of Edom (now Jordan).

b) Uz is the name of Nahor's oldest son and like Lot, would be Abraham's nephew as well.  Nahor lived in Haran (northern Syria).  It is suggested that Uz may have moved to pasturelands to the Southeast (while Abraham and Lot moved Southwest), putting him in southern Syria at the border of the great Arabian desert, possibly near the Wadi Sirhan a great plains area following an old river on the border of modern Jordan and Saudi Arabia.  Incidentally, on some maps related to Nabatean trade routes, along the line of the Silk Road between Palmyra (Jordan) and Babylon, there is a city/location, named Uz.

c) Uz is the name of a son of Dishan, the Horite. (Gen 36:28).  The Horites were the predecessors of the Edomites in southern Jordan, in the land of Seir, near present-day Petra.  (Gen 14:6, 32:3).  Lam 4:21 does indicate the Edom (Esau's descendants) was located in the land of Uz, which makes sense since Esaus' sons took over their land. (Gen 36.  It is unclear from this text whether it was a relatively peaceful or conquering displacement since immediately after the listing of the sons of Esau (the Edomite chiefs) we have a listing of the Horite chiefs, the sons of Seir the Horite in Edom.  So perhaps they lived side by side.  This Uz is a son of Dishan, who is the son of Seir who is a Horite.
Figuring out when Uz lived may give us more.  Going from the above, we may be looking at Eastern or Southern Jordan.  But none of this is direct evidence that this is where Uz settled, only of Uz's possible origins.  Further, it is also possible that "the land of Uz" may be a name applied after Job's time, in the same way we refer to Abraham coming from Iraq (a name which did not exist when he lived in the city of "Ur of the Chaldees").

This could confirm other findings, but in and of itself is not conclusive.

2) Uz is located near mountains (Job 9:5-7; 24: 5-8; 28:9)

3) Uz is located near a desert/wilderness/dust (Job 1:19; 4:19-20; 14:18-19; 24:5-8)

4) Uz is located near seas with significant expanse and depth (Job 7:12; 14:11; 37:10; 38:29-30)

5) Uz is within raiding and oxen and donkey range of Sabeans (Job 1:14-15)

The Sabeans are linked Egypt and Cush (in black Africa), and all three groups will be made to serve Israel.  This suggests a southern correspondence of all three areas to Israel. (Is 43:3)

Being raided by the Sabeans indicates that Job is not under the protection and jurisdiction of the Sabeans or Sheban governance, and is therefore outside of their territory.  He is likely outside of any population center that might claim a protective jurisdiction, deterring large groups of armed peoples.  He is therefore fair game for the raiders.

Historically, the Sabeans are a linked with the land of Yemen, in the southwest of the Arabian peninsula.  At some point their population centers also included across the Gulf of Suez, to the west in Ethiopia.  They were a power around 1000 BC and lasted to around 100 BC.

The Sabeans may also be ethnically or closely linked with the Nabateans.

6) Uz is within raiding and (likely) camel range proximity of Chaldeans (Job 1:17)

Chaldeans are historically linked with the south-eastern Iraqi territories (think Babylon).

7) Uz is near wadis (Job 6:15-20)

8) The wadis can have flash flooding/torrents (Job 6:15)

9) The wadis started from heights that sustained ice and snow (Job 6:16)

10) The wadis are also waterless in the heat. (Job 6:17)

11) The proximate terrain about the trade routes must be bleak enough since caravans look and hope for water in the wadis. (Job 6:19)

12) Uz is within working proximity of Tema and Sheba, on trade routes linking those locations to others. (Job 6:19)

Tema is the ninth son of Ishmael (1 Chron 1:28-31).  Tema is associated with the desert  (Jer 25:23-24) Tema is included in the prophecy against Arabia, here referring to people in the country east and south of Canaan (Ez 27:20).  Tema is distinct from Arabia proper. (Jer 25:22-24).  In Is 21:13-17, someone from Tema brought water to those who were thirsty, possibly linking Tema to a thirsty area, and this is further associated with Arabia.

Note that Tema, 9th son of Ishmael, is not the same as Teman, who is the son of Eliphaz, who is Esau's son.  Since one of Job's friends is Eliphaz the Temanite, Esau's son Eliphaz has a grandson (or great-grandson or more) of the same name.

Tema is thought to have been located at the intersection of two important caravan routes - one from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aqaba (near the city of Eilat, Israel), and the other from Damascus to Medina and Mecca, about midway between Babylon and Egypt.  This may well be the same as modern-day Tayma/Teyma in Saudi Arabia, which has been inhabited since the Bronze Age.

Sheba and Dedan are descendants of Noah, through Ham, then Cush, then Raamah.

There are other Sheba's mentioned in the Bible.  One is the son of Joktan, a descendant of Shem, Noah's son.  Another is the son of Jokshan, Abraham's son through Keturah (his third wife).  Confusingly, this Sheba's brother was also named Dedan.  Sheba is also the name of a descendant of Benjamin, Jacob's son.

Sheba has been historically linked to Yemen, in the South of the Arabian penninsula.  Until recently, there was a significant Yemeni Hebrew population which, according to tradition, had left Israel to take up lucrative trade and professional position there around the time of Solomon, and persisted until the modern times when many were repatriated to Israel.

This is linked with the ancient south Arabian kingdom of Saba, which lasted from 1200 BC until 275 AD, with its capital Marib.  This probably further links them with the Sabeans as an ethnic people.

Given that by Job's time, Sheba is an established stop on caravan routes and that the Sabeans are large enough to conduct raiding parties (if this is the right association), probably the earliest link of Sheba through Ham is the correct one.  It would put three similarly Ham-descended peoples (Egyptians, Cushites and Shebans) in roughly the same area.  Note that the sons of Ham were Cush and Mizraim.  Mizraim is still the Hebrew name for the land of Egypt, with the "-im" plural suffix maybe also referring to the two Egypts (upper/southern and lower/northern Egypt).  Ham and many of his descendants are traditionally thought of to have been black, though this isn't explicit in scripture.

13) Uz is located near enough to papyrus growing marshes, and rushes in the water, for people to know about them. (Job 8:11).

Papyrus is a fresh water plant that primarily grows along the Nile.  It does not grow in the Red Sea.

14) Job was not a nomad.

He had significant animal property which would require significant grazing grounds.  Sheep and camels are compatible with nomadic herding.  Oxen (specifically yokes of oxen) and donkeys are indicative of land cultivation and short distance goods transport.  Job 1:14 says that the Sabeans attacked while the oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them.

While not impossible, there is no reason to think that his comforting friends were employees, suggesting that they lived near him but were not part of his household, which further suggests a living community nearby, possibly a town, village or city.

15) Uz is near enough to the descendents of Shua (Abraham's son through his third wife, Keturah), Teman (Esau's grandson) and probably the city of Naamah, in Canaan, for Job's friends to hail from those areas.  The Elihu is the son of Barachel, the Buzite, meaning he is a descendant of Nahor's son and Uz's brother, named Buz.  Shuah is the sixth and youngest son of Abraham and Keturah.  The land of Suchu in Syria appears to have been named after him.  Namaah is in the territory conquered by Judah (Josh 15:41), indicating the southern parts of Israel.  It may have been related to another Canaanite city called Makkedah, west of the Dead Sea.

16) Uz is near a desert which can sustain high winds (Job 1:19)

The wind would not be encountering significant wind breaks in its path in the form of mountains or trees.

17) Job is described as the greatest man among all the people of the East (Job 1:4)

Putting it all together:

1) The best we can get from this is some a low probability of Uz being located near East Jordan, North Saudi Arabia.

2) There aren't many mountain ranges Jordan -- at best a lot of hilly areas.  We have significant mountain ranges in Western Iran.  We also have significant mountainous terrain in southwestern Saudi Arabia and Western Yemen.  This doesn't preclude other areas (we have low mountainous or hilly terrain in the Sinai, the Judean hills, and along the western coast of Saudi Arabia as well.

3) Anywhere on the Arabian peninsula and northwest of it puts you in range of desert and wilderness areas.

4) Gulf of Suez/Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Gulf of Aden and the Mediterranean Sea give you waters of any significant depth.

5) Oxen and donkeys aren't typical distance travelers, although given the right provisions, I imagine the they can go distances.  Parties of raiding thieves stealing 500 yoke (pairs) of oxen and 500 female donkeys (no idea if/how many males) aren't looking to eat them, and would lose a lot to attrition traveling long distances.  They will also need to stick with areas in which the oxen and donkeys can graze, which precludes wilderness travel, and suggests travel along the more fertile and cultivated (where oxen would be needed) western coast.  The Sabeans are therefore local and they will need friendly territories in which to sell the oxen.  The pushes the possible area closer to the south western part of the Arabian peninsula.

6) Camels are distance travelers.  This allows for far greater distances for raiding bands of Chaldeans to travel to steal and return.  Wherever they are staging from they don't have to be as close to their traditional homeland in the north east of this map.  The Chaldeans may have been operating at the extent of their range.  Peoples on the eastern side of the mountainous terrain would have been easier to pick off, then those on the western side near the coast.

7) The more hills, the more areas for snow and rain run-off, the more wadis.  This also works with the hilly south western parts of the Arabian peninsula.

8) All you need is hilly areas, so this isn't too helpful.

9) As with Ps 147:17 snow and ice are not foreign to Judea.  There is higher probability of ice and snow feeding wadi streams in mountainous terrain.

10) You need extremes of climate for wadis fed by winter ice to be dry and barren in the summer.  Job 6:15-17 talks about the torrents vanishing.  Possibly referring to quick boiling off (an extreme condition) but probably referring to more generally the hot temperatures drying up all traces of the earlier torrents.  The wadis themselves are considered deceitful, alternatingly carrying much water and then no trace of water.  The wadis have to be able to experience extremes of temperatures.  This is more likely in areas with significant desert, which describes the Arabian peninsula though but is not absolutely indicative of it.

11-12) Assuming we know where Tayma is, and that the land of Sheba is Yemen, and possibly that even by this time Sanaa (one of the oldest cities in the world) or Marib are on the trade routes then as they were in later, then caravans, rather than hugging the fertile coast, would at some points have to travel on the east side of the mountain range of western Yemen.  That puts you in wilderness territory for long stretches.  If Job is familiar with this trade route, this is then specific information that he lives in proximity with it.

(Note: the above shows trade routes probably 1000 years after Job's time, but may still roughly follow the same ancient paths).

13) Job's people are not only familiar with papyrus product for writing (perhaps) but specifically how and where it grows (the rhetorical is asked: can papyrus grow without marshes?).  They have to be very close to Egypt, at the least linked by trade routes where people are familiar enough with the plant to ask and describe how it grows.

14) There are narrow strips of non-wilderness on the west coast, and very fertile areas on the eastern coasts.

15) While not very close to the lands of Shuah and Haran (Syria), Edom (Jordan) and Canaan, the only constraint is that Uz be close enough for migration range over a few generations of people.  In this case, it seems Jobs friends descended from peoples north of Arabia and they or their ancestors moved south.

16) Given the topology map, the flattest, desolate path would be for a wind starting in the South East of the Arabian peninsula moving North West.  I don't know enough about wind over to water to speculate on possible sources of the wind, whether it would be more likely to start in the desert and move or in what is now the Persian Gulf.  It shouldn't come so much Eastward from the Persian Zagrab mountains, though from another source it could deflect off of them, moving North.  Movement over fertile areas with trees would slow wind down, so where-ever the source is it shouldn't spend more time in fertile locations as flat desert.

17) I don't know what the reference point for civilizations is.  Given that much of the Bible seems to consider anything East of Canaan as East, while that wouldn't rule out a Southern Eastern location, it seems to my mind that this would be considered more South.  East would seem to fit a Jordan location better.


The conclusion is that Job lived in the land of Uz, which most likely occupied a space on the west coast of Saudi Arabia, possibly in the North of modern Yemen.  He lived possibly on the fertile west coast, but within range of the eastern side of the neighboring mountains and hills and the trade routes.  He may probably have lived on the eastern side since the winds that destroyed his sons came from the wilderness (i.e. the western mountains would be a barrier for both wilderness winds and the Chaldeans)
.  He is close enough to Egypt to know about papyrus growing.  The area is near enough for northern peoples to migrate southward to it, but outside of the practical control of neighboring towns or cities.  He is also close enough to both Egypt and Sheba to have practical knowledge of the sea, or at least coastal living near the sea.

If some of the assumptions are in fact wrong, the next likely location would be south eastern Jordan.  This puts heavier emphasis on the lineages of the persons and people surrounding Job's story, and less emphasis on incidentals including the trade routes and knowledge of Egypt.  If the accounts of environmental factors are partially if not fully second hand then we are not constrained so much by them.  As per a number of commentators seem to favor this opinion.  Josephus believed that Uz founded the two cities of Damascus and another called Trachonitis.  Commentator John Gill, references Josephus, and notes that in Lam 4:21 Edom (Jordan) is in fact said to be in the land of Uz.  However Gill notes that he believes this is distinct from Job's land in Arabia and he discounts Josephus' account noting that neither the historian nor his posterity lived near these lands themselves to be very familiar with them.  Gil may be considering that a third Uz mentioned was a descendent of the people (of unknown geneology) who Esau's replaced in the region of Mt. Seir (Jordan).  This would make Jordan a land of Uz, whether or not it is the land Job lived in.

If Jordan is a better site, it does at the least mean that the Sabean raiders are operating very far from their homeland and must have ways to offload stolen domestic cattle in the northern area.  But it also explains why so many Semites are in that territory, near their ancestral territories, distantly related through Abraham's blood.

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