I spent nearly my entire young life attending Christian schools. From the first grade all the way to the eleventh, there was only one year that I did not attend a Christian school. During these formative years I did not only attend schools where I was taught God’s Word, but I also attended Catechism classes, Sunday school and everything else churches have to offer young people. In my younger days the teachers used to enjoy asking us questions that would try to help us understand the Biblical times and places a little better. One question we were sometimes asked is what we thought we might have done for a living had we lived during the times of the Bible. It was fun to think that perhaps we would have been soldiers, perhaps even some of David’s mighty men. Or maybe we would have been prophets, used by God to reveal His will to kings and princes. Or maybe we would even have been among Jesus’ Apostles, privileged to follow in the very footsteps on the Son of God.
Age has a way of destroying dreams. I realize now that I would never have made a mighty soldier or an outspoken prophet or a gifted Apostle. Over the past few weeks I have been studying the latter chapters of Genesis and have since begun reading these chapters with my family. The children love to hear about Joseph, and about his alternating rises to prominence and crushing defeats. And yes, we even read the dreaded story of Onan (which always proves a little awkward around little ears). I have since read further, reading into the books of Kings and Judges. As I read the stories of the kings and prophets, I have come to know what my vocation would have been had I lived in Old Testament times. Much as I am today, I would have been an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship does, after all, suit my personality. But since Al Gore had not yet invented the Internet, I would have had to find a new line of business. So here it is, my chosen profession: I would have been a shopkeeper, opening my very own clothing store. Timothy’s of Jerusalem. That would have been my business.
Hear me out here and I’m sure you’ll be impressed.
People in the Bible had a unique way of expressing grief and anguish. Where today we weep and moan, try to get on the Oprah Winfrey show and probably spend a few hundreds dollars on some counseling (just enough counseling to convince us it isn’t actually going to help us), in those days they had a much more direct and visible means of expression. The first thing they would do is tear their clothes. A perfectly good garment would be reduced to ribbons anytime a Biblical character experienced grief or penitence or realized he was being rebellious against God. It is probably safe to assume that had Adam and Eve been wearing clothes when they sinned in the Garden, they likely would have torn them up in anguish. But since they had no clothes, I believe the first time we see tearing of clothes is in Genesis 37 where Reuben returned to the cistern only to find that his brothers had sold Joseph into slavery. Angry, upset and fearful of what his father would say, Reuben tore his clothes. Returning home to his father, he told Jacob the tragic news, and Jacob, perhaps to emulate his son, or perhaps because he did not want to make a long distance call to Dr. Phil, also tore his clothes. Just a few chapters later all the sons of Jacob are tearing their clothes (see Genesis 44:13 — of course this was several years later). Now clearly this was an opportunity for an entrepreneur like myself to make some good money. I can only imagine that once the period of grieving had ended, these men would have been looking around sheepishly for a person would could either repair or replace the clothing they had just shredded. And of course, if there had been a franchise of Timothy’s of Jerusalem in the neighborhood, they would have been able to get quickly fitted with some nice, new, unshredded garments. Perhaps there could even have been a
catalogue scroll order service so they could have had their new clothes delivered directly to their tents via pack camel.
The secondary aspect of the business would have been the sale of sackcloth. It seems that the tearing of garments was often accompanied by the wearing of sackcloth. Sackcloth is, of course, a course, uncomfortable material used in sacking that people would wear as a sign of remorse. The first usage of sackcloth is also in Genesis 37, where immediately after tearing apart his clothes, Jacob dressed in sackcloth as he mourned for the son he thought was dead. There are about fifty uses of sackcloth mentioned in the Bible and often times there were large groups of people wearing it at a given occasion. There must have been brisk business in the sackcloth market and I see no reason that I would have been unable to be part of it.
As a matter of fact, it occurs to me that there would have been ample opportunities to sell “clothing packages.” For example, the silver package might be a sackcloth garment with the repair of the torn garment and the gold package might be a sackcloth garment, the repair of the torn garment plus the purchase of a nice new garment. Either way, it seems there would have been many opportunities for the shrewd businessman to earn some shekels.
So there you have it. Had I been born in Old Testament times I would have been the proud owner of the great clothiers Timothy’s of Jerusalem, specialists in sackcloth, garment repair and garment replacement. And if our culture ever heads in the direction of tearing clothes and wearing sackcloth, you can bet that I’ll be looking to take advantage of it. I wonder where sackcloth futures are listed on the market?
Timothy’s of Jerusalem: coming soon to a neighborhood near you. Franchise opportunities available. Inquire within.
Yes, long-time readers may recognize this as an article I first posted away back in ’04. I rearranged it a little and reposted it. So sue me! If Joe Carter can post the occasional old article, so can I!