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Conversations from the Ash Heap
by Dan Vander Ark
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Week Long Keggers with the Job Boys – NOT!

Job 1:4-5 And his sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 And it came about, when the days of feasting had completed their cycle, that Job would send and consecrate them, 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.

With these two verses the writer of Job finishes setting the scene for the awful events that are to soon follow.

There is a wide divergence of opinions as to the timing and duration of these feasts or banquets or (probably more correctly) birthday parties. In His commentary Barnes says this, “In early times the birthday was observed with great solemnity and rejoicing.”

On one end of the spectrum there are those that say this was just one 7 day feast at the end of the year (Adam Clarke, JFB [“each son took one day, beginning with the oldest”], and Marvin Pope [“the feast was doubtless an annual affair, most likely the Feast of Ingathering at year’s end”]).

But on the other end of the spectrum we have Keil & Delitzsch who believe that each of the brothers took one day of the week to host a banquet and the feasting continued all 52 weeks of the year. The week long banqueting culminated on Sunday morning with Job interceding for his family (a foreshadowing of family life in the New Testament church?).

Others are somewhere in the middle – a one day social gathering at each of the boy’s home on his birthday (for a total of 7 days of festivity in the year); or a week long feast at each home (for a total of 49 days of banqueting).

The sisters (apparently unmarried) lived with mom and dad but were regularly invited to attend these get-togethers (this custom explains why, in verses 18-19, all of the children could be killed but not the parents).

This whole scene speaks to the intimacy of the extended family. John Hartley says “this…witnesses to the closeness and the affluence of Job’s family, not to the fact that his children were given to frivolity.” Job’s kids had the best that life could offer and were apparently industrious and hard-working. FI Anderson states, “There is no hint of drunkenness or license or laziness…these delightful family gatherings are part of the atmosphere of well-being that begins this story.”

These were not week-long keggers where the servants had to pick up all the empty beer cans after the party was over. No one had to lock up the keys to the camels, fearful that someone might drive their camel drunk and sideswipe a water buffalo. These celebrations were anything but that. Joyous? Yes! Did they drink a fair amount of wine? I suppose they did. But were they drunken orgies? No! (They certainly wouldn’t have invited their sisters if they were).

So at the end of these days of feasting Job spent a considerably effort to offer sacrifices for all ten of his children. This is the world’s richest guy – he’s got an empire to run – and yet his family had priority and he spent time praying for them.

And something pretty cool about Job’s attitude in his praying is found in the first part of verse 5. It says that Job “would rise up early.” Sounds pretty mundane until you discover that the Hebrew word for “rise early” (shakam) comes from a root meaning “shoulder” (perhaps originally from the concept of breaking camp where both man and beast used their shoulders for lifting). So it came to mean “to incline the shoulder to a burden.” It implies effort and persistence. The bottom line? Job put his shoulder into his praying – and so should we.

The family patriarch was keenly aware of the waywardness of the human heart. Job goes on to say, “Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their heart.” Several pages could be spent on this one word “curse” because in this first chapter it is translated in two completely opposite ways – both as “curse” and “bless” (verse 21). Commentaries have a boat-load of discussion about this phrase. But it could be as simple as this: as “Aloha” means both hello and goodbye, this Hebrew word “baarak” could essentially mean the same thing. When we bless God we are saying “hello” to Him in our hearts – we are open our spiritual home to Him. And when we curse God we are saying “goodbye” to Him in our hearts – we are saying, “You are no longer welcome here!” So when Job was concerned that his kids may have cursed God, he was apprehensive that they had said goodbye to God in their hearts – that they had dismissed or disregarded or disowned Him.

Verse five continues, "Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." There was a desire in Job’s entire family for their faith to be real and not just a religion worn on their sleeves. Far from being satisfied with an outward ceremonialism, they wanted a faith that was genuine.

Job 1:5 ends with this: “Thus job did continually” (the NLT puts it this way: “It was his regular practice”). The wealthiest cattleman of the east faithfully & regularly lifted up his family in prayer.

Dads, whether you’re an employee or an employer, make sure you put a priority upon your family. A moment spent on your knees for your wife and kids can reap eternal rewards.

I love Terry Redlin’s paintings. The warm glow of an evening sunset, a home in the woods next to a small lake, geese making their autumnal voyage overhead. In the foreground grandpa, father and son stand next to the old pickup with several ducks bagged from the day’s hunt. The sounds of the geese, the smell of the woods – what a wonderful scene is presented in those paintings. That was the Job family on Pleasantville Lane – a picture of serenity, peace, intimacy, wonderful family memories and the sound of laughter from their children (and grand children?)

But all was about to change…

(for previous installments of this devotional on the book of Job, visit http://conversationsfromtheashheap.blogspot.com)

JFB = Commentary by Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
K&D = Commentary by Keil & Delitzsch
NLT = New Living Translation

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