on Job 19 :24
Iron pen and lead - Some suppose that the meaning of this place is this: the iron pen is the chisel by which the letters were to be deeply cut in the stone or rock; and the lead was melted into those cavities in order to preserve the engraving distinct. But this is not so natural a supposition as what is stated above; that Job refers to the different kinds of writing or perpetuating public events, used in his time: and the quotations from Pliny and Pausanias confirm the opinion already expressed.
on Job 19 :24
That they were graven - Cut in, or sculptured - as is done on stones. That they might become thus a permanent record.
With an iron pen - A stylus, or an engraving tool - for so the word (עט ‛êṭ) means. The instrument formerly used for writing or engraying was a small, sharp-pointed piece of iron or steel, that was employed to mark on lead or stone - somewhat in the form of small graying tools now. When the writing was on wax, the instrument was made with a flat head, that it could be obliterated by pressing it on or passing it over the wax.
The reason why Job mentions the iron pen here is, that he wished a perment record. He did not desire one made with paint or chalk, but one which would convey his sentiments down to future times.
And lead - That is, either engraved on lead, or more probably with lead. It was customary to cut the letters deep in stone, and then to fill fill them up with lead, so that the record became more permanent. This I take to be the meaning here. The Hebrew will scarcely allow of the supposition that Job meant that the records should be made on plates of lead - though such plates were used early, but perhaps not until after the time of Job.
In the rock - It was common, at an early period, to make inscriptions on the smooth surface of a rock. Perhaps the first thai were made were on stones, which were placed as way marks, or monuments over the dead - as we now make such inscriptions on grave-stones. Then it became common to record any memorable transaction - as a battle - on stones or rocks; and perhaps, also, sententious and apothegmatical remarks were recorded in this manner, to admonish travelers, or to transmit them to posterity. Numerous inscriptions of this kind are found by travelers in the East, on tombs, and on rocks in the desert. All that can be appropriate here is a notice of such early inscriptions of that kind in Arabia, as would render it probable that they existed in the time of Job, or such as indicate great antiquity. Happily we are at no loss for such inscriptions on rocks in the country where Job 54ed.
The Wady Mokatta, the cliffs of which bear these inscriptions, is a valley entering Wady Sheikh, and bordering the upper regions of the Sinai mountains. It extends for about three hours' march, and in most places its rocks present abrupt cliffs, twenty or thirty feet high. From these cliffs large masses have separated, and lie at the bottom of the valley. The cliffs and rocks are thickly covered with inscriptions, which are continued at intervals of a few hundred paces only, for at least the distance of two hours and a half. Burckhardt, in his travels from Akaba to Cairo, by Mount Sinai, observed many inscriptions on the rocks, part of which he has copied. See his Travels in Syria, Lond. Ed. pp. 506, 581, 582, 606, 613, 614. Pococke, who also visited the regions of Mount Sinai in 1777, has given a description of the inscriptions which he saw on the rocks at Mount Sinai. Vol. i. 148, be says," There are on many of the rocks, both near these mountains and in the road, a great many inscriptions in an ancient character; many of them I copied, and observed that most of them were not cut, but stained, making the granite of a lighter color, and where the stone had scaled, I could see the stain had sunk into the stone."
Numerous specimens of these inscriptions may be seen in Pococke, vol. i. p. 148. These inscriptions were also observed by Robinson and Smith, and are described by them in Biblical Researches, vol. i. 108, 118, 119, 123, 161, 167. They are first mentioned by Cosmas, about 535 a.d. He supposed them to be the work of the ancient Hebrews, and says that certain Jews, who had read them, explained them to him as noting "the journey of such an one, out of such a tribe, in such a year and month." They have also been noticed by many early travelers, as Neitzschitz, p. 149; Moncongs, i. p. 245; and also by Niebuhr in his Reisebeschr. i. p. 250. The copies of them given by Pococke and Niebuhr are said to be very imperfect; those by Seetzen are better, and those made by Burckhardt are tolerably accurate. Rob. Bib. Research. i. 553. A large number of them have been copied and published by Mr. Grey, in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature, vol. iii. pt. 1, Lond. 1832; consisting of one hundred and seventy-seven in the unknown character, nine in Greek, and one in Latin. These inscriptions, which so long excited the curiosity of travelers, have been recently deciphered (in the year 1839) by Professor Beer, of the University of Leipzig. He had turned his attention to them in the year 1833, but without success.
In the year 1839 his attention was again turned to them, and after several months of the most persevering application, he succeeded in making out the alphabet, and was enabled to read all the inscriptions which have been copied, with a good degree of accuracy. According to the results of this examination, the characters of the Sinaitic inscriptions belong to a distinct and independent alphabet. Some of the letters are wholly unique; the others have more or less affinity with the Palmyrene, and particularly with the Estrangelo and the Cufic. They are written from right to left. The contempts of the inscriptions, so far as examined, consist only of proper names, preceded by a word which is usually שׁלם shâlôm, peace, though occasionally some other word is used. In one or two instances the name is followed by a sentence which has not yet been deciphered. The names are those common in Arabic. It is a remarkable fact that not one Jewish or Christian name has been found.
The question, as to the writers of these inscriptions, receives very little light from their contents. A word at the end of some of them may be so read as to affirm that they were pilgrims, and this opinion Professor Beer adopts; but this is not certain. That the writers were Christians, seems apparent from many of the crosses connected with the inscriptions. The age, also, of the inscriptions, receives no light from their conents, as no date has yet been read. Beer supposes that the greater part of them could not have been written earlier than the fourth century. Little light, therefore, is cast upon the question who wrote them; what was their design; in what age they were written, or who were the pilgrims who wrote them. See Rob. Bib. Research. i.-552-556. That there were such records in the time of Job, is probable.
on Job 19 :24
19:24 Lead - Anciently they used to grave the letters in a stone with an iron tool, and then to fill up the cuts with lead, that the words might be more plainly seen.