Dating the Book of Job

The traditional scholarly consensus is that Job is the oldest book in the Bible, with a date of origin in the Bronze Age, around 1500 BCE, but recently I noticed a few problems with this, which I will explain below.

If the King James Version translation of Job 20:24 is correct, then the references to “iron” and “steel” in that verse rule out a date of origination in the Bronze Age, for iron and steel were utterly unknown to Bronze Age peoples, for obvious reasons of course.

Therefore, the date when Job was written should be placed in the Iron Age, rather than the Bronze Age, in line with the other books of the Bible. So if I`m correct, the view that Job is an outlier is wrong, and needs to be corrected in light of Job 20:24.

I should note that I’ve received some criticism over my dating of the Book of Job, with some commentators noting that the oral traditions that the Bible is ultimately based upon are most likely far older than the works of the Bible themselves, and while I acknowledge that as likely as well, I should mention that my dating only takes place to when the oral traditions of Job and the other books of the Bible were put to writing, not when the oral traditions they are based upon first came into being.

The entirety of the verse of Job 20:24 is placed below:

He shall flee from the iron weapon, and the bow of steel shall strike him through.


10 thoughts on “Dating the Book of Job

    1. …You found this blog from Usenet, did you? Anyways I doubt the reference to “iron” in Job 20:24 refers to meteoric iron, which itself is a pretty obscure source of iron methinks.


      1. Vagn F. Buchwald, “Iron and steel in Ancient times”:

        “Other meteorite tools of Cape York origin have been found along the entire West Greenland coas, e.g. a 6.1 g knife blade at Sermermiut, Ilulissat (Lorenzen 1882), and a 6 g arrowhead from Nipaatsoq, one the of the Norse settlements in southern Greenland (Buchwald 2001). Cape York material has been found as faw away as among Canadian Inuit on Ellesmere Island, Somerset Island, and south of the Hudson Bay, 2400 km from the Cape York meteorite site, implying the existence of elaborate trade networks (McCartney & Mack 1973; McCartney 1991; Pringle 1997)”



        Oct 16, 2013, 10:38 PM

        I’m sure it was used but I’m simply going from the metallurgy on this point; the vast majority of meteoric iron is extremely difficult if not impossible to smelt or forge into anything usable. Even modern smiths have a difficult time with this, taking into account the precise control of things like temperature and pressure.

        People tend to think of meteors as a solid mass of iron except that isn’t the case. Meteors are made of many different components, not just iron. These other components are not good things to have around if you’re trying to make a tool or a weapon as they weaken the structure of the metal considerably.

        Meteoric iron has been used for thousands of years to make many different kinds of objects, true. However the one unifying factor across all these examples is size; whatever gets made tends to be very small. That means that people aren’t carving off chunks of it and hammering it out to make knives or hammers, they’re whacking chunks off with rocks and flattening the small chunks that result out to make bits and pieces.

        These pieces make things like arrowheads, tool points, and small trinkets. Even these resulting bits are likely of very poor quality and desirable chiefly because they don’t rot or decay the way bone or wood does. Anything larger would simply crumble or snap.



        Oct 17, 2013, 9:46 PM

        The thing is, when you have no other metal whatsoever available, and even your supplies of stone and bone are limited (and wood basically nonexistent), meteoric iron starts to look highly valuable and effective by comparison. The iron bits in all the pieces I have seen pictures of were indeed quite small, as you describe…here’s a picture

        But that’s still better than nothing.

        DD: I’ve seen other meteoric iron references around the Middle East, probably due to aridity preserving it better than in wetter climates. Recall the recent claim that Sodom & Gomorrah vanished due to a cosmic impact. I’m not disagreeing with your overall context, just pointing this out.


      2. I’d like to add this, for which I’ve been criticized: the behemoth has a description that includes ‘ribs of iron’, in one of the Bible books. I consider that to mean it was a Sirenian, a Mediterranean dugong or W African manatee, which have solid bone, no marrow or spongey bone, for ballast, very hard, very brittle, like the meteoric iron mentioned above. Others claim behemoth was an elephant, whale, hippo, aurochs, etc. but their ribs aren’t pachyosteosclerotic (POS) like the tusked seacows.


  1. While it is technically possible that the “behemoth” referred to in the Book of Job is a manatee, given that there are manatees found in Africa (albeit Congolese and inhabiting freshwater) or a dugong, I suspect it more likely that it refers to an elephant, because the Bible also mentions that the behemoth has a “nose that pierceth through snears,” akin to a trunk. Here’s a good reference for further detail:


    1. Ok, I thought the tail was referring to the width of a cedar bough (fluke-like) but his description is logical. I also thought it was rib, but bones has a different implication. So, I accept elephant, but will use “Afrotherian”, since we don’t have an exact ‘origin’ date of Job. Thanks in another sense: the ref. says move = bend, that is coincidentally of great significance to me in the study of how words evolved, bending 2 sticks while entwining the tips to form an arch, a rib of the original dome hut, which I wrote on at Sci.lang thread: re. Paleo-etymology & cave shelters. I haven’t blogged at WordPress yet.


  2. We don’t exactly know how old Job is, but I`m willing to bet it was written within the first millennium BC because of the reference to iron. We don’t know hold old the Bible itself is, but given that Job is generally agreed to be oldest book in that collection of holy fables, I’d say the Bible is less than three thousand years old. We *do* know that *all* of the five books of the Torah/Pentateuch were written during the period of Babylonian Exile, so make of that what you will.


    1. I posted a video at my blog, at 2 minutes, the winding of two poles produces the structural arch of a Baka dome hut.

      The combined bending & twisting of wicker preceded rope-making. Words in all languages for bend, bind, bond, etc. go back to this ancestral form of shelter construction IMO.


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