What do we really know about Job?

We know that he suffered (a lot). We know he had some really awful friends who gave him some even worse advice. We also know that he struggled to justify himself in the face of an overwhelmingly popular opinion that he had committed some grave sin somewhere.

But while those are some things we know that happened to him, they hardly describe who he really was.

Taking it a step further, we know that Job was a righteous man; God told us so Himself in Job 1:8, describing him as a “blameless” and “upright man” that was unequaled by anyone else on earth. That’s high praise coming from the Creator of the universe.

But even still, that doesn’t get to the heart of who Job was as a man. 

What were his thoughts and his fears, his hopes and his dreams? What made him tick?

The Scriptures reveal precious little about his personal life, primarily because the focus of the book is about what happened to him and how he reacted to it, thus creating a model by which we can endure.

There is one verse, however, that describes a little bit of his personality, and it’s found in Job 1:5:

“When the days of feasting had completed their cycle, Job would send and consecrate them [his children], rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, ‘Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’ Thus Job did continually.”

It’s no secret that Job was wealthy. A simple glance at the first three verses of the first chapter indicate that he was in the upper echelon of the financial strati back then and probably would be today. 

But what Job 1:5 reveals is that not only was Job rich financially, he was also rich spiritually, and he made sure his family was too.

Job’s Tight-Knit Family

Like with Job himself, not much is known about his kids with the exception that they seemed to be especially close. The reference in Job 1:4 about them holding feasts in each other’s houses mirrors a known-Chinese custom, whereby the different sons and daughters rotate houses and feast together. Indeed, homes from that time period indicate dwellings big enough to house large families. If they weren’t able to house them in their own home, they made provisions elsewhere.

This seems to be what Job’s children did: rotating houses to dine with each other regularly. Even though only his seven sons are mentioned as doing it in this verse, Job 1:18 states that his daughters were a part of this tradition as well.

All of this indicates that Job’s kids loved each other and – more importantly – enjoyed spending time with one another. Job 1:5 calls this tradition a “cycle,” implying that it was a series of events that happened more than once; more than likely his kids rotated through the houses every few months or every few years.

Even though Job himself wasn’t a part of these feastings (from what we can tell), he knew about it and made it a point to offer sacrifices on their behalf once they were over on the off-chance that one of them had “blasphemed” God or committed some other grave sin in the process.

Cursing God is exactly what Job’s wife would eventually encourage him to do (though he refused) and it means to dismiss God as unimportant or to speak evil of him. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for Job’s kids to diminish God’s importance while they’re feasting in their apparent wealth; after all, that’s exactly what Moses warned the Israelites against (Deuteronomy 8:11-20).

Whether Job’s children actually did curse God is a moot point. What we do know is that Job was so concerned for their souls that he made it a point to rise up as early as possible after these “days of feasting” were over and offer sacrifices for his kids. In fact, he is so particular that not only does he do it first thing in the morning (Psalm 5:3), but he does it “according to the number of them all” – either offering one specific sacrifice for each of them or offering an additional sacrifice once it is over.

Job the Spiritual Shepherd

If we’re correct in assuming that Job existed during the times of the patriarchs (see the fact that he’s 140 years old in Job 42:6 as evidence of this), it wouldn’t be uncommon for Job to act as the de facto priest of his house, since the Mosaic covenant had not been established yet and there was no such as thing as the Levitical priesthood. Both Noah and Abraham did the same thing in their day (Gen. 8:20; 12:7-8), and it seems to be a presumed responsibility of the head of the household. Job’s charge is like the charge of all fathers then: not only to provide for your family physically, but to provide for them spiritually (Eph. 6:4).

This fact is made even more poignant when you consider what his children were doing when the greatest calamity of calamities occurs. Job 1:18 reveals that all ten of his kids died “while they were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house.”

In other words, it was during one of these “cycles” of feasting that they were all killed. What should have been a time of happiness and intimacy was turned into a day of destruction and unspeakable pain.

These times held special precedence in Job’s heart, and it’s likely that he reflected on this fact as he began to ponder why all of this was happening in the first place. After the first wave of pain was finished and then he was stricken by boils, he sat on the ground for seven days and seven nights, completely silent (Job 2:13).

I’ve often wondered what Job thought about during that time period. No doubt his thoughts drifted to each of his ten children, thinking about the first time he held their hands, teaching them how to take those first precious few steps. All the times he had stayed up with them when they had nightmares in the middle of the night and worked alongside them in his fields, showing them how to tend to the flock.

All those precious memories that he had formed with them over the previous decades were now gone, wiped away and never to be built upon again.

Why Was Job Sad?

It’s important to note in these first few chapters too the way that everything was taken from him. The oxen and donkeys are killed by the Sabeans (1:14), the sheep and servants are killed by fire from heaven (1:16), the camels and rest of the servants are killed by the Chaldeans (1:17), and his children are killed by  a “great wind” that “came across the wilderness.” All of them perished by various means – both natural and supernatural – but there’s no other reason for why his kids were killed except one: the hand of God.

Despite how the others were taken, a great wind that is so powerful that it tore down a house and killed the unsuspecting houseguests is an unmistakable force of nature that Job would have attributed to something larger than simply human action. But it’s worth noting that in all of these actions, Job neither sins nor “blames God” for what happened.

Not to say that he doesn’t inquire as to why it happened. He realizes that all things are controlled by God, both good and bad (Job 2:10) and that nothing He plans to do can be stopped (Job 42:8), but it doesn’t stop him from complaining. He even refers to his arguments as fruitless, calling them words “that belong to the wind” (Job 6:26).

The reasons that his friends give for his suffering are worthless, claiming that Job had to have committed some great sin in order for all of this to befall him (Job 4:8-9). “That’s garbage,” Job says (more or less). He knows he hasn’t sinned and spends the next 30+ chapters refuting their arguments.

This argument falls even flatter when we consider what happened to Job’s children and the steps Job had taken to “prevent it.” Job had woken up every morning after the “days of feasting” were over to offer sacrifices on their behalf; if destruction is a direct result of sin, why did they die?

Job then has two reasons for falsifying their claim that physical condition mirrors spiritual condition: (1) his own life, and (2) his kids’ spiritual situation. He had offered sacrifices on their behalf even without knowing whether they had sinned. They didn’t deserve what happened to them anymore than Job did.

That still doesn’t stop Job from wondering why these things have happened. If anything, it may have intensified it.

What happens to Job is a tragedy that no person (or parent) should ever have to experience, but it’s only by understanding the deep care and affection he had for his children that we begin to understand a tiny fraction of what he went through. Indeed, that’s true of any suffering: the depth of our love for something is matched by the remarkable sadness we have when it’s taken away.

Job was a man of love – not just for God but for his children as well. One who rose up in the early morning hours to offer sacrifices for sins that he wasn’t even sure had been committed. What more can you do for your children besides that?

Last modified: December 27, 2022