Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

I hope the above title doesn't sound flippant, because it's a serious, and obviously tragic, question.

My quest for answers began on 25th May, when I read the following words of Job, as he was suffering incalculable illness and disease throughout chapter 17 of the eponymous book Job in the online God's Word Bible:

My breath offends my wife.
I stink to my own children.

- Job 19:17 (God's Word)

Whoa! Hang on a sec - back in chapter one, didn't it say something along the lines of all ten of Job's children having died?

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine at their oldest brother’s home when suddenly a great storm swept across the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It fell on the young people, and they died. I’m the only one who has escaped to tell you.”

- Job 1:18-19 (God's Word)

Hmm... it just says "they died." No total is actually ascribed to the value "they". So when saying "they", could the messenger have possibly been only referring to some of Job's kids, therefore leaving a few others alive and well enough to complain about Job's personal hygiene by chapter 19?

Of course, the God's Word is just one of the many English translations of the Bible that there are on offer. So, not being fluent in Hebrew, I decided to have a quick flick through some of the other English translations, just to find out which, if any, categorically stated that every single one of Job's children had died in that tragic disaster.

Most weren't quite that explicit, but a few were. First-up, ever one to break things to us gently, was the Contemporary English Version.

That servant was still speaking, when a fourth one dashed up and said, "Your children were having a feast and drinking wine at the home of your oldest son, when suddenly a windstorm from the desert blew the house down, crushing all of your children. I am the only one who escaped to tell you."

- Job 1:18-19 (CEV)

Well, that states that they all got crushed, but stops short of confirming that they all died. Some may have survived the accident. So, no hard conclusion there.

Next, here's the New Living Translation:

While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home. Suddenly, a powerful wind swept in from the wilderness and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed, and all your children are dead. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

- Job 1:18-19 (NLT)

"all your children are dead." That's sounds pretty definite, doesn't it?

And yet, I suspect that the use of the word "all" might just refer to all of Job's children who were present in the house that day. As the preceding verse 18 just says "Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother's home", this may not have meant that all of them were there in the first place. For example, it might just have meant that most of them were there. Even their oldest brother may not have actually been present for the meal.

In fact, none of the quotes above are specific about how many of Job's offspring were definitely at the house before the disaster struck.

Also, if other people's children had also been feasting there with them, then the phrase "all your children are dead" could just refer to those kids present who belonged to Job's family, to distinguish them from the other casualties. Still no definite conclusion.

In fact, I've been through every English translation that I can lay my hands on (about 20), but all of them have stopped short of definitely stating in no uncertain terms that every last one of Job's children died in that awful event. Some, such as the Darby Translation, even just describe "the young men" as victims. And the young women?

However, even if you do find the wording of the New Living Translation above convincing enough, when it catches-up to the later remark in 19:17, it translates "children" as the somewhat cagier "family".

Could it be that my original reason for asking the question was flawed?

My wife can't stand the smell of my breath,
and my own brothers won't come near me.

- Job 19:17 (Good News)

Sheesh, wheels within wheels...

So, somewhat inevitably, I gave up on the English translations, went to and clicked on the Lexicon tab to take a look at the original Hebrew language after all, and even that seems to be a bit vague about it. I find that encouraging however, as it means that the ambiguity of the original text has not been strained-out in translation.

So, given Job's arguable later reference to them in chapter 19, did all of Job's kids actually die in chapter one?

The answer, obviously, is I sincerely hope not.


10 comment(s):

At 5:22 am, Blogger KlownKrusty said...

"Of course, the God's Word is just one of the many English translations of the Bible that there are on offer." The phrase you're looking for here is that trusty BBC stand-by "Other Bibles are available".

Also, the BBC may help with regards to the dead children/brothers/family inconsistency...

And, in a change to some listings, another messenger came and said, “Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine at their oldest brother’s home when suddenly a great storm swept across the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It fell on the young people, and they died. I’m the only one who has escaped to tell you.”

Problem solved.

This whole thing reminded me of BBC news reporting. Over to Brian Hanrahan in the desert...

Brian: "I'm here, live at the scene, where at least some of Job's children have been crushed when their eldest brother's house was struck by a ferocious gust of wind. Witnesses say that the wind came out of the desert, one woman described it as 'pretty scary'."

News anchor: "Do we know the number of casualties yet, Brian?"

Brian: "The emergency services are still digging through the rubble at the moment, Huw, but some people are saying as many as all of Job's children have been killed. I must add that that's just one estimate of the death toll, it could be as few as none. Now, back to you in the studio."

News anchor: "Thanks Brian. And anyone concerned about missing relatives can call an emergency helpline number that the police have set up, or you can visit your local Job Centre..."

At 9:46 am, Blogger Steve Goble said...

This reminds me of those – slightly sinister – movies of Shakespeare's plays, that are updated to be set in contemporary society.

At 9:05 am, Blogger Doomed said...

Its possible that the messengers that came to Job where liars working for Satan who is the father of lies. Satan was the one who was attacking Job. This would explain Job having his three daughters and seven sons at the end of the book. Also he had double that which he had at the beginning. Why, because when his family heard the same lies they gave Job precious items to restore his financial "loss". God is natural even supernatural. God works in a very real, natural way, not like the great Kazoo from the Flintstones that would pop in on you. He is not a genie. Information is very powerful especially when it is believed to be true. Imagine getting a message from someone you trust that your adult teenager was killed in a car wreck. Then a week later you discover it was a mistake or lie and he or she is still alive and well. Maybe camping in the boonies out of reach of the outside world for a week. You would go through the emotions as if your kid really died and then has been resurrected from the grave. To you it would be a true miracle. So in the end nobody killed Jobs children. The question of why would God allow this to happen would be answered. And to be honest hats off to Satan for accomplishing the same objective in testing Job. After all He did have the authority really kill Jobs children. He did it with lies. The best liar stays closest to the truth. Lies upon lies......

At 11:53 am, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Great perspective, Doomed! :) There's clearly some wisdom to be found by following it through. I guess that Job's kids' survival would also disable the potential comfort of Job's story to those readers today who have actually lost children for real.

At 1:19 am, Blogger Doomed said...

What comfort can be found in Job really losing his children? I think it is interesting how Satan disappears from the story as Jobs wife enters.
A man's wife is the bone of his bone the flesh of his flesh. I am sure Satan is trying to make Job jealous. The word "touch" also has a sexual meaning; as it does in today's modern English. It is clear his friends didn't care to see Job. Why else the fake tears. Jobs "friend(s)ask Job after a week of standing in front of him looking at him like a parent would a kid that got in trouble in school. As if what have you got to say for yourself. and if you have nothing to say then let me tell you. We all know the look. The only thing missing is the tapping of the foot with the look.
We have Jobs three so called friends coming on the heals of Jobs wife suggesting he should curse God and die. The story does not mention any gold Job may of had. Maybe Jobs wife would become a rich widow. This may have been the motive for Jobs three "friends" to visit. Perhaps a three way race. What is Job to think. Jealousy can cause a man to curse his blessings. And there something about being attacked by the ones you love. Sounds like the Devil is hard at work here. Lets not forget Job is under attack not being comforted. Pay attention to who is speaking. Just because it is written in the Word of God does not mean it is the Word of God. It is good to rightly divide the Word.

At 12:38 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the KJV it doesn't say young people it says "men" and then read on it says
"and I only am escaped alone to tell thee." so that says to me the young men was killed but the others wasn't. The servant escaped. So that tells me they was trapped but obviously escaped later.

At 3:28 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Indeed - nice theory - thanks!

At 6:57 am, Anonymous Christina said...

In the KJV version it says

18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:

19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

So here only the son's are dead

At 6:59 am, Anonymous Christina said...

That's what I was thinking.

At 10:08 am, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Yes, the KJV does score better for plot consistency here. Even that later reference in chapter 19 to Job's children doesn't quite state that they are even his...

17 My breath is strange to my wife, though I intreated for the children's sake of mine own body.

18 Yea, young children despised me; I arose, and they spake against me.


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