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Earlier on during a conversation between God and Satan it seems what was on trial was Job's faith.

Job 2 (NIV)

3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

But Job's friend Bildad seems to be saying otherwise

Job 8 (NIV)

8 Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:

2 “How long will you say such things? Your words are a blustering wind. 3 Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? 4 When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.

How can this narrative be understood?

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  • The A.V. renders Job 8:4 as "IF thy children have sinned against him, and he have cast them away for their transgressions; if thou wouldest seek unto God..." The fact is that we all sin - no question! We all have to die as the 'wages' of our sin (Romans 6:23). Back then, people thought such afflictions as Job suffered indicated hidden sin. Not so. Although Job was a sinner, he was meticulous in striving to honour God, even to the extent of sacrificing for his children, in case they had sinned in their hearts. Adam Sloan's answer is very good.
    – Anne
    Feb 25, 2019 at 17:46

5 Answers 5

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Bildad also tried to convince Job that Job was a sinner. So Bildad's expression that his children were sinners and got what they deserved doesn't exactly resonate with me. In chapter one where it discusses the children's feasting, it doesn't show any signs of disapproval of the feasting itself. We see where the brothers invite their sisters to it because otherwise they likely wouldn't go because of a humble spirit. If anything, I would think that chapter one is showing us that Job had a family that enjoyed spending time with one another. Contrast this to Jacob's children and how they plotted against one another.

Another thing to remember is that Job made sacrifice for his children. I personally believe that the events of this book take place prior to the Mosaic law and therefore the head of the family acted as the high priest for the family. Any sins that they may have committed were taken care of by Job's sacrifices. The reasoning for his sacrifices were given as well. Job was aware of their fellowship, but did not take part. I don't know why he chose to not take part, and that could be indicative of a disapproval, but not necessarily. Regardless, he sacrificed just in case they blasphemed "in their heart", not because of their fellowship and feasting. If they died because of sin as Bildad suggests, then that would suggest that Job was not taking his responsibility as high priest of his family very seriously and that he failed to sacrifice for them appropriately. It would potentially mean that his sacrifices for them were tainted by sin which we know is not the case.

The book of Job doesn't really make it clear whether or not the children were in sin. But that's not the purpose of the book of Job. The book of Job, according to James was to show the endurance of Job and the end result that God had in store for Job.

James 5:11 KJV Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

We see the innocence of Job throughout the book. His children and their virtue or lack thereof is not part of the scope of the book and therefore not really clarified on much. We have to take hints given throughout to determine whether or not his children died as a result of sin. And even then, we may still not know the mind of God on this matter. The book of Job proves that sometimes, people suffer for other reasons than because of sin. Like Abel, people suffer due to the unrighteousness of others. Like Paul, we suffer so that we may be a testament and a witness to others. Like Job, we may be allowed to suffer to show principalities and powers in heavenly places the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10). Suffering is also a means that God uses to cause us to grow and mature in our faith, and sometimes, he uses it to get our attention and turn back to Him because we have sinned.

I hope this helps!

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  • That's an insightful answer, Adam. Back in that ancient time, people thought that God punished unrepentant sinners with afflictions on health, wealth, or family but we know Job was meticulous in seeking to honour God at all times, even making a covenant with his eyes not to look lustfully at a woman not his wife (yet see how unappreciative his wife was - 'Curse God and die'!) The fact is that we are all sinners; Job and his children too, yet Job's faith was outstanding and God restored him, so we are taught that vital lesson of faith in God no matter what befalls us.
    – Anne
    Feb 25, 2019 at 17:34
  • Amen, Anne. I do not deny the truth that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and that the wages of those sin is death (Romans 6:23). It may be that God punished Job's children, but it just doesn't seem likely to me at this stage. I may find new things as I study to change my stance on that one day. As to Job's wife, I wonder if she just couldn't stand to see her husband suffer any longer. We know that they have 10 more children together once he is restored, so if nothing else, their relationship was restored if it was ever broken. If not, then it is evidence of tremendous love.
    – Adam Sloan
    Feb 25, 2019 at 18:39
  • Often what is not said in the Bible is as important as what IS said. We know Job had 10 more children but we don't know who bore them. We don't know if Job's wife 'blew it' and walked out, or if Job remarried if she did that. We don't even know if he had more than one wife. We assume so much when we read scripture! It's sometimes good to let the silence of scripture 'speak' to us!
    – Anne
    Feb 27, 2019 at 9:46
  • Excellent point!
    – Adam Sloan
    Feb 27, 2019 at 13:10
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About his children, the biblical narrative says:

when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually. (Job 1:5)

So he was offering sacrifice for his children in case they had committed some sin while feasting. However, nowhere is it stated that the children did commit sin and that is why they were punished by death. It is the friends of Job that make this logical connection: "If something bad happens to you, it means you must have sinned." And the whole point of the Book of Job is to show that even the righteous have trials so that the glory of God may be made manifest.

Having said all that, we do say that God is He Who alone is without sin.

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All of Job's friends except Elihu keep trying to convince Job was being punished for some secret sin. Nevertheless, Job kept defending himself and saying that he did not sin. While it's true that Job's children were sinners (they were drinking and partying when the died after all), Bildad's conclusion that they died because of their sin wasn't necessarily correct. On the other hand, God told Satan not to attack Job's health at first and then not to attack Job's life, yet He did not prevent Satan from attacking Job's children's lives. Perhaps it was because of their sin that god allowed Satan to kill Job's children.

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  • There was a bit of a party going on at the wedding in Cana, to which Jesus contributed a large amount of the finest wine, by a miracle. He also drank wine every Passover. He also mixed with 'sinners', eating with them. Wine was standard fare at meals back then. Neither Job nor his children were sinless. But Job was meticulous in seeking to honour God and took his fatherly responsibilities incredibly seriously. The answer by Adam Sloan points this out. All sinners have to die, as the 'wages' for their sin.
    – Anne
    Feb 25, 2019 at 17:41
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The whole lesson of the book of Job is that evil befalls upon the righteous, innocent as well, contrary to common sense of what some call as Karma theory, the ancient view that God punishes wrongdoers on earth itself (you reap what you sow). That sickness, suffering are the results of divine punishment. Job was a perfect, blameless man, hence his children were also perfect. He offers substitutionary sacrifices for their atonement doubting that they might have died in sin or due to their sins (Job 1:5), however this assumption is baseless; the whole theme of the story is to debunk Karma theory (that innocent also suffer, there is indeed such a thing as pointless evil and suffering), though we find examples in the NT that people hadn't learned anything from it. Ultimate justice is given in heaven, and not on earth. Matthew 5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Cf Luke 6:24-26).

The name Satan means accuser, adversary. All characters in the story including Job's wife play the role of Satan's children, in their evil accusations of lies and blames upon the righteous. They just want to curse God. Bildad & Shuhite in their accusation speak as Satan, to blame the innocent children. The reference to the eating and drinking (usual merrymaking act) of the children does nothing to indicate any sin. The thought itself is accusatory, i.e. satanic. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges states on Job 8:4:

The idea is that evil carries its own retribution with it, and that a sinner is destroyed by the very sin which he commits, a common idea in the Book, cf. ch. Job 4:8, Job 15:31; Job 15:35, Job 18:7-8, Job 20:12 seq. Though Bildad puts his reference to the children of Job hypothetically there is great harshness in the allusion, and we may understand how the father would smart under it from his own reference later in the Book to the time when his children were yet alive: “When my boys were about me,” ch. Job 29:5. A wiser and more human-hearted Teacher than Bildad has instructed us from the instances of the affliction of blindness (John 9:2-3) and the accident in the tower of Siloam (Luke 13:4) that calamity is no proof of guilt in those on whom it falls, and that evil may serve in the hand of God wider uses than the chastisement of individuals. This is the very lesson of the Book of Job, though it seems that men in the days of our Lord had not yet learned it. The verse refers back to ch. Job 1:19, and is evidence that the Prologue forms an integral part of the Book.

Compare the thought of the righteous:

[Habakkuk 3:17-19 ESV] Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, ​yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.

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I'm no scholar, little education.... But I wonder what would have happened if Job replied, "Servant, saddle my donkey and lets go see. For The Lord tells us by the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses, all shall be established. This messenger says that "he alone" survived as did each individual messenger." I think the KJV says...."The young men died". Nothing about Jobs children. I too, find it a bit bizzare that God helped attack Job. One of the verses, the messenger told Job that a fire from God came down??? Satan sent each messenger.....individually. Satan is The Father, The father of lies. Its my opinion that Job believe a bunch of lies from Satan's messengers. And because Job believed these lies, he became very sick, resulting in boils and rashes. (And yes, God allowed it) At the end.....Job is rewarded by receiving back what he had "thought" he lost, and additional increase. This looks as a wager from The Lord God, and Satan took the bait......(What boldness from Satan to attend a revival) The Lord "knew" and acknowledged Jobs love, fear, and commitment to Him. And Job was quick to share this with his friends, justifying himself. (He did a lot of justifying and questioned God a time or two) I personally think this shows Gods glorious love and compassion towards Job. It too compelled me to believe Job needed to understand it wasn't by works he was holy, only through God can one be saved and accepted. Right or wrong, Job is a harsh story, with a Beautiful ending. At the end, three friends were blessed, and Job went through the firey trials......only to see Gods Greatness on the other side.

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