The writer of Job further describes Job’s family. He was surely blessed with many sons and daughters and there seem to be good relationships in the family. Job 1:4 says, “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.” The commentators are at odds with understanding the significance of this verse. Some want to argue that the phrase refers to a feast every day at rotating homes. Rayburn says, “The meaning of this statement, according to Rowley, is that feasts were held seven days a week throughout the year, and each brother took his turn being the host. Such excessive feasting is pictured as part of the lavish display of Job’s wealth.”[1] If this is the case it serves to expand on the blessings of Job’s wealth that extended to his family. This would make the major loss of all his goods more severe to his readers. Others will argue it refers to the blessing of the happiness and friendliness of all his children and that they would enjoy each other’s company. Many of the translations say that the celebrations, or feasts, were celebrated on their birthdays. Today’s English Version says this as does the New English Bible. Each son took his turn on his birthday to host the feast for the whole family.

Job had been blessed with 7 sons and 3 daughters. This is an interesting ratio because it seemed to address the idea that this was fullness and complete satisfaction. When Hannah was lamenting her barrenness to her husband Elkanah before the birth of Samuel, he said to her in 1 Samuel 1:8, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” It’s curious also that Job owned 7000 sheep and 3000 camels. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. I can’t help but think that this is about God’s blessing on Job. It’s not about the children themselves. Job had the perfect household. Once the preparations were made for their feasts, they would invite their sisters to join them. This has caused some to argue that something unsavory is being suggested. But as Rayburn observes, “The author intends to give the impression of family harmony amid lavish consumption and is not suggesting an incestuous orgy.” It has also been suggested that the excessive partying was some kind of gluttonous affair not unfamiliar to royalty in that culture. But Ash dispenses this idea, “This is not a picture of incessant partying, but regular natural family get-togethers.  Their three sisters are presumably unmarried, for there is no mention of their husbands. So, we are to think of Job as a man in the prime of life, perhaps in contemporary terms a man in his early forties, with three unmarried daughters perhaps between eighteen and their early twenties. We do not know if the seven sons are married or not. Whatever the details, it is a picture of family harmony and innocent festivity.”[2]

The mention of his children is not to focus on them so much as to demonstrate how truly blessed Job was by God. There was plenty in the homes of his children. They were prosperous and blessed with cordial relationships. They had no fear of the future and enjoyed their lives together. As any parent knows, this is a great blessing. His children were independent and lived in harmony with each other. Job had not had any family trials or hardships to mention. But that was about to end. This is all to set the stage for the tragic death of his children that will come later. Children are not supposed to die before their parents. As one blogger wrote, they are “supposed to enjoy long life on Earth. These young ones are supposed to live long and grow old to appreciate life. But why does God allow these innocent ones to die? When an innocent child dies, the people who love him or her, especially his or her parents, siblings, and grandparents, feel and experience the most painful thing in life. Even the people who are not close to the child will feel incredible sadness when they know about the death of such a child. This is because an innocent child does nothing wrong in this world that can hurt anyone. But he or she only brings pure love, joy, and laughter to anyone close to him or her.”[3] As Job is about to learn, faith in a holy, loving God can be tested at any moment of our lives.

[1] Reyburn, William David. 1992. A Handbook on the Book of Job. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies.

[2] Ash, Christopher. 2014. Job: The Wisdom of the Cross. Edited by R. Kent Hughes. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.