Questions From Readers
● I will be looking for the reply to my letter in “Questions from Readers” in The Watchtower.—Unsigned.
That we have a section in this magazine entitled “Questions from Readers” testifies to the fact that we regularly receive inquiries from the readers of the Watch Tower Society’s publications. Some inquire about doctrinal matters or things they read in the Society’s literature. Others seek Scriptural counsel on problems they personally have.
While we do not have facilities for unlimited correspondence, we are usually able to help if someone needs a Bible answer to a question and he is unable to obtain it locally. When we receive an inquiry, we reply privately by means of a letter. But not all the questions we receive are also reproduced in this section in The Watchtower. Sometimes the correspondence is of a personal nature and so would not be of interest to our readers in general. Other replies are not published because the matter has recently been discussed in the Society’s literature. In such cases we often give the inquirer references so that he can consult what the Society has already published on the topic.
However, we do not reply to unsigned letters, or to letters signed only with initials. And obviously we cannot write back to an individual if he does not supply his address. If someone truly wants help on a matter, he ought to put himself in position to receive it by providing his name and address. Letters that cannot be answered because the writers did not give this information will not be presented in “Questions from Readers.”
● Does Job 1:4 indicate that Job’s children celebrated their birthdays?—F. D., England.
No, that Job 1 verse 4 does not apply to birthdays. A little examination of the matter will show this. The Job 1 verse 4 reads: “And [Job’s] sons went and held a banquet at the house of each one on his own day; and they sent and invited their three sisters to eat and drink with them.”
In the English Bible the word “birthday” appears in Genesis 40:20, where we read of the birthday celebration of the pagan Pharaoh of Egypt. Consulting Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, one will see that “birthday” is a compound of the two Hebrew words yowm (meaning, a day [as the warm hours], whether literally or figuratively) and hullédeth from yalad (meaning, to bear young). However, in the Hebrew Scriptures the word “day” (yowm) is often used alone, referring simply to some day. This distinction between “day” and “birthday” may be noted in Genesis 40:20, where both expressions appear: “Now on the third day [yowm] it turned out to be Pharaoh’s birthday [literally, ‘the day (yowm) of the birth (hullédeth) of Pharaoh’].”
At Job 1:4 hullédeth does not appear; only yowm is used in the Hebrew text. So it speaks of Job’s sons’ doing something “each one on his own day,” not ‘each one on his own birthday.’
The Bible does not go into detail as to what occasioned the banquets. It may have been that at a particular season, such as harvesttime, the seven sons held a family gathering, and as the feasting made the week-long circuit, each son hosted the banquet in his house “on his own day.” Or the feasts could have been of the nature of family reunions held at different times in the year. This picture of a warm and happy family gathering, in contrast to the wild celebrations marked by dissipation and overindulgence in food and drink on the part of ones who have no respect for God, is further indicated by the fact that the sons considerately invited their sisters.
● If a woman who has committed adultery is repentant and shows this by confession of her wrong to the judicial committee of the Christian congregation with which she is associated, is it necessary for her to confess the wrong to her husband?—M. A., U.S.A.
Yes, that is both a necessary and a wise course, whether her husband is a Christian or not.
It is well known by Christians that God condemns adultery. (Deut. 5:18; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10) Those who choose to indulge in it are not tolerated by the pure congregation of Jehovah’s people. The Bible directs that such morally corrupt persons be expelled from the Christian congregation, both for the protection of those in it and so that God’s spirit may continue to operate upon the congregation without restraint—1 Cor. 5:5, 9-13.
This, though, does not mean that everyone who professes to be a true Christian perfectly conforms to God’s righteous requirements at all times. One may want to do that, but still commit a serious sin because of lack of good judgment or weakness of the flesh. (Rom. 7:21-23) If, for example, a woman in the congregation gave in to temptation and committed adultery, she ought to feel cut to the heart over this grievous sin. But what must she do to gain forgiveness and aid?
It is of utmost importance for her to gain God’s forgiveness through repentance, as the apostle Peter told the Jews in his day: “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out.” (Acts 3:19) She ought to resolve never to repeat such a sin, and should be determined to avoid anything that might lead to a repetition. Confession of the sin to God in prayer is also necessary. Encouragingly, we learn that Jehovah is forgiving if a Christian will sincerely confess and repent.—1 John 1:9.
In addition to making confession to God, the Bible also counsels the one who has seriously sinned to take another step. This is set out at James 5:13-16, which says: “Let him call the older men of the congregation to him, and let them pray over him . . . Also, if he has committed sins, it will be forgiven him. Therefore openly confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may get healed.” In each congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses today there is a committee of three such mature Christians who are charged with the responsibility of aiding sincerely repentant sinners, or of acting to expel anyone who is a threat to the moral purity of the congregation through practicing sins and not having God’s forgiveness because of lack of repentance.
But is that all that this one should do—go to God and to the representatives of the congregation? No, in this example there is another step that should be taken even before going to the spiritually older men who will act in behalf of the congregation. The sin of adultery involves the woman’s husband. She vowed faithfulness to him. He has the sole right to sexual relations with her, and his right has been abused. Likening the marital due to water out of one’s well, Proverbs 5:15, 18 indicates that a married person has the privilege to the pure sexual due from his mate. That “water” should not be polluted by adultery, and if it has been, then the innocent party should know of it. Additionally, if one has committed adultery, then the honorable marriage bed has been defiled.—Heb. 13:4.
The guilty mate might hesitate to confess, being worried as to how her husband will react and whether he will show forgiveness. But that is something she should have thought of prior to getting into the situation that resulted in adultery.
If she intends to profess repentance to the congregation judicial committee, they will look for evidence of repentance. For example, if she were truly repentant she would not shield the one with whom she sinned. If that one were part of the congregation, then the committee could pursue matters in that direction also, so as to maintain the congregation’s good standing with God. But in this situation, another evidence of sincere repentance on the woman’s part would be confession of the wrong to the innocent mate, seeking his forgiveness and assistance. If the guilty one is not willing to show humility in this way and bear responsibility for her sin, can it really be said that she is repentant? Hardly!
Now, if a dedicated Christian allowed herself to get into a situation that led to adultery, she has given proof that she needs help and surveillance. The mature servants in the congregation will provide spiritual aid for her, working to strengthen her spirituality and her ability to live as a Christian. (Gal. 6:1) But her husband is one flesh with her, and as the one living closest to her he is an appropriate one to provide assistance, encouragement and the close surveillance she obviously needs, possibly aiding her to avoid association with the one with whom she sinned. (Gen. 2:24) Even if he is not a believer, he can probably help her to resist further temptations and to keep away from situations that might lead to a recurrence of the error.
So, it is the course of wisdom and repentance to seek the forgiveness and help of one’s mate, and this is so whether it is the wife or the husband that sinned. Also, this is a necessary step in order to right oneself with God and the Christian congregation.