Birthdays, Part 1: The Book of Job

1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2 He had seven sons and three daughters, 3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.

    4 His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.

~ Job 1:1-4 (TNIV)

There are those who would take exception to the above translation.  I’ll be the first to admit to you that “his day”, which is the language used in the KJV,  is pretty ambiguous.  However, that is also just the point.  We do not know for sure what they are celebrating here.  However, I intend to show that the above could be a valid possible translation, although it should not be classified as a definite translation.

There are those who would oppose the idea that they were celebrating birthdays will tell you that ancient cultures had all sorts of celebrations.  They had the feasts, they had new moons, they had parties after a harvest, etc.  Frankly, I find this view somewhat deficient.  People who advocate this view make it sound like life back then was just one big long party.  We need to remember there weren’t any tractors, no hospitals, no power tools, and often life was just plain hard, even if you were wealthy.

We should keep in mind, too, that Job was a righteous man.  Even God tells Satan that!  Back then, the patriarch was in charge of the family.  Chances are, Job’s children were righteous as well, at least on a physical human level.  Back then, you toed the line or you were cut off from the family!  Righteous people have a work ethic, and it often shows up in physical prosperity, as it did in Job’s case.  Undoubtedly, Job’s children would have picked up on that as well.  I’m not sure when they were supposed to get any work done if they were partying all the time.

So, the idea that they were somehow living riotously partying at all times is a pretty big stretch.  Frankly, we don’t even know if they kept the observance of the new moon or not, let alone hold big parties beyond a few in a year.  In fact, the word “feasted” comes from Strong’s H4960, “mishteh”, which seems to only be used in connection with the celebration of an event (birthdays, being weaned, weddings, and so on).

Could these parties actually be new moon festivals?  That’s a possibility, but since it is ambiguous, I don’t find that likely.  I would think it would have said “full moon feasts” or something like that.  Instead, we are told “his day”.

No, speculation isn’t what is called for here.  What is called for is to let the Bible interpret the Bible.  In fact, it would help us out if the Book of Job interpreted the Book of Job.  Fortunately, it does!

Let’s compare the KJV, shall we?  Job 1:4 says:

 4And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.

So, we see them feasting on “his” day.  Somehow, they own that day.  At very least, it would appear that they were expected to host the feast or celebration.  So, what are they celebrating?

While we cannot know for certain, we can look to see if there is another instance where “his day” is used.  And, in fact, it is in the Book of Job!  In Job 3:1, we read:

 1After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day.

What “day” was he cursing?  “His day”.  And, if there is any confusion about what day that might be, we are told in verse 3:

 3Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.

He was cursing the day of his birth!  The author of Job is using the same term to describe Job’s day of birth as he used in describing the feasts that Job’s sons put on.

While this isn’t strong proof they were celebrating their birthdays, it is close enough for me to keep me from judging someone who wants to honor God by giving Him thanks for being born.

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