Job 1:5—Why does Job offer a burnt offering for his sons if they had blessed God?

Problem: According to Job 1:5, Job was such a pious man that he even offered burnt offerings for his sons just in case they had sinned and cursed God. However, the Hebrew word used here, and in 1:11 and 2:5, is not “cursed,” but “blessed.” Why do these passages use the word “blessed” instead of the word “cursed”?

Solution: Two solutions have been proposed. First, the Hebrew people had a sublime reverence for God’s name. In fact, they would not even pronounce God’s name lest they possibly commit blasphemy in the act. When the name Yahweh appeared in the text of the Scripture, the pious Hebrew would not say God’s name out loud, but would substitute the word “Adonai,” which means “Lord.” It has been proposed that perhaps the author of Job (or a later editor), recognizing this reverence, did not wish to write or speak the word “curse” with reference to God. Therefore, he substituted the word “bless” and allowed the context to supply the necessary idea.

Second, others have suggested that the verb used here, barak, means “to say good-bye to.” Several passages are cited in support of this use, such as Genesis 24:60, 32:1 and 47:10. The function of this word in this context is viewed as a antiphrastic euphemism. This is the use of a word or phrase that usually has one meaning in common speech, but is used to mean the opposite. We do this at times even today. For example, someone might sarcastically say “yes” when the obvious meaning is “no.” Job’s statement in 1:5, then, can be translated, “It may be that my sons have sinned and dismissed God in their hearts.” In each of these instances, the word gives the idea of dismissing or rejecting God.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.