Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Job's Friends Part 3

Job's Friends Part 3

From the book of Job, chapter 1 verses 3 and 10:

Job 1:3
He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east.

Job 1:10
Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.

It is not my intent to bounce around Job cherry picking nuggets of wisdom; much less to continue mixing my metaphors.  My point in skipping ahead and including verse 10 is because I believe it gives context and meaning to verse 3.  For we see that Job is a rich man.  Yesterday I was speaking with one of my best friends, a man whom I'm proud to call friend, a farmer who was explaining to me that even today a man who owned so many animals would be a great man indeed.

And herein lies a problem for me personally.  I struggle against those who would preach a prosperity gospel, but here we read about a God fearing man who avoid evil and who is blessed by God in very material ways.  This has got to set free prosperity gospel preachers and give wings to their delights.  I can just hear preachers excusing mansions and mega churches with these two verses.  Indeed, how can we see it otherwise without looking to other Scripture?


Is there any significance to the numbers 7,000, 3,000 and 500?  Again, I think those who see numerology within everything would have a field-day here.  Seven is often the number of perfection.  Three is identified with the triune Godhead.  And I'm tempted to point out that there are five fingers on a hand which allows us to grasp and work.  But is the Holy Spirit trying to teach us anything from these numbers, or are they there just to say simply that Job was a very rich man?  

Sheep are sustenance.  They provide no labor, they consume resources and labor; however, they provide sustenance in the form of wool and food.  In that regard they are God's provision for us.  His provision to Job is marked out by the number 7,000.  Job's sustenance was large indeed.  One might say it was figuratively perfect.  If we believe Satan's representation in verse 10, and it is important to recognize that God did not correct him, then indeed the numbers were determined by God himself and not by chance or fortune.  In any regard, God has blessed Job with a great number of sheep.

Camels can be both sustenance and labor.  Camel hair is of generally fine quality and can be used in the production of felt and other clothes.  Additionally, Job's camels were the ATVs of the day, the farm truck and 4 Wheeler combined into one.  Unlike the relatively smaller herds of sheep that I saw while I was in the area of Northern Arabia and Western Iraq, where presumably Job lived, Job had vast herds which could not be managed by shepherd boys on foot.  Water was scarce so camels were particularly valuable in that climate.  Job had 3,000 camels.  One wonders, how did he feed so many camels?  The sheep would subsist on the grass in that part of the land.  The camels would be able to eat the grass as well, but Job's family would need grain in addition to the meat their stock provided.

In addition to the animals, Job was responsible for a great many servants.  These are people who are, like Job's family, dependent upon Job for their very lives.  One cannot help but remember the story of the prodigal son, who in desperation and fear for his life when starving thought to return to his father's house as a servant when he remembered how his father cared for his servants.  It is entirely reasonable to understand that Job was just as righteous in his dealings with his servants.  It is not only reasonable, but expected that Job's servants were well cared for, that Job loved them and prayed for them and considered their welfare and that of their families.  In this regard Job was more than a family man and a farmer, he was a business man capable of managing the affairs of many.

I suspect that Job was more than a herdsman; that in addition to livestock he also had fields of grain that are not mentioned but which are implied.  How are they implied?  Why else would Job need 500 oxen?  Sure, oxen are a food source as well.  But they require a lot more grass than the desert would provide.  It is uncertain what the climate was like in that part of the land.  Indeed, it is even disputed where exactly in northern Arabia or western Iraq Job lived.  But there are rivers there now and there were rivers there in Job's time.  It is possible that Job lived near enough water to grow crops to support the oxen and supplement the diet of the sheep, camels, donkeys and his own family and servants.  Indeed, I believe it is more than possible, but implied by the numbers themselves.

Better than implications, however, is the notice we are given in verse 14 where a servant tells Job that "the oxen were plowing and the donkeys were feeding beside them."  I am impressed by the diversity of Job's farm operation here.  He is practically self reliant in that his operation provides grain, wool, meat and other food stuffs.  Job is not to be taken lightly.  I imagine if we were to meet Job today, he'd have a Masters of Science degree from Penn State University in Animal Husbandry and Farm Operations.  These are not simple folk from a bygone era, rather, Job is a sophisticated businessman capable of understanding diversification, human resource management, farm management, production capacities, resource management, building design, farm implements, textile production, risk management, and other skills necessary for such a large operation.

This observation is necessary as we will eventually be analyzing Job's arguments and philosophies in light of his intelligence and education.  I believe we will be wise to understand Job as a renaissance man.  

And this renaissance man was the greatest of all the people in the East.  That is quite an observation.  Was it Job's wealth that made him great?  Is the Holy Spirit here stooping to modern valuations of man which look only at the pocket book?  I don't believe that in light of all that we have seen about how Job came about his wealth and the remarkable diligence and skills that were necessary to produce and maintain that wealth.  I have known rich people who came about their wealth with ease producing things of little lasting worth.  I have also known rich people who came about their wealth through diligence and hard work with an ever lasting interest in those whom God has put in their charge, who have a generous nature and a kind disposition but who are intensely interested in being the best steward of what God has given them.  I believe Job was the latter kind.  Job was the kind of man that despised gambling in all forms, who appreciated life and human dignity.  Job was the kind of man who was generous and who looked out for the best interests of others - as we shall see in a few verses.  Job was a righteous man who saw himself for what he was - a steward of God's property.

My last observation on verse 3 is that all that Job had was from God.  Verse 10 teaches us that God blessed the work of Job's hands and his possessions increased accordingly.  Job worked.  He was not a lazy man, or a man given to idleness or trivial entertainment.  When others were playing, Job was working; and then when they were sleeping Job was offering sacrifices.  But hard work alone does not provide anything.  That is what a servant of God is expected to do.  The increase in Job's wealth was entirely from God.  God saw fit to give, and later he sees fit to take away.  In chapter 2 verse 10 we see that Job understands the source of all his wealth to be from God.  And so, that Job was wealthy and powerful and influential were all blessings from God.

Is this prosperity Gospel?  Satan certainly thought so, as we shall see in a few verses.  However, we will suspend our analysis of that question till then.  In the meantime I will pray that God blesses me with a proper understanding of these verses and the question of whether God does or does not bless righteousness with material wealth and power.

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