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Q: #569. How many people in the Bible had a job that was tied to their identity?

     A: I have to admit that this was something I had never even thought about before. I have been in the process of writing an expository study on Acts Chapter 9. At the end of Chapter 9, in verse 43, it mentions that Peter stayed at the house of “Simon the (a) tanner.” One of my study Bibles (The Zondervan NIV Study Bible) said in the commentary for this verse, “Occupations were frequently used with personal names to identify individuals further.” This got me to thinking, “How many people in the Bible actually HAD a job that was tied to their identity?” So, now we have this study!

     This is WAY harder than you might think it is on the surface! While I can’t verify this, I have read that there are over 5000 occupations in the Bible, and over 3000 people. Try tying all of the jobs with the people who worked them, and then see if those jobs were tied to the person’s identity. Go ahead, try it… I dare ya.

     Since a list of these would be pretty huge, I am narrowing the guidelines for a list.

First, I am not counting the following “jobs:” kings, queens, judges, priests, governors, military commanders, or any type of ruler or leader. I am also not counting any “spiritual gift” jobs like prophets, prophetesses, pastors, evangelists, etc…

Second, I need to believe that the person was actually known to many people by their name and job title. For instance, with “Simon the tanner,” if Peter was asked, “Whose house are you staying at?” and Peter replied, “Simon’s house,” and then Peter was asked, “Which Simon?” and he replied “Simon the tanner’s house,” the reply would be, “Oh, ok, I know who you are talking about.” I believe Simon was well-known to those in the area to be a tanner. His job was tied to his identity. In modern terms, if someone was asked, “Who is the greatest American sports star ever? and the reply was “Babe the baseball player,” most people would know who you are talking about. (Babe Ruth for you non-sports, or non-American people.) 

     Using this second criteria, we know that Peter was a fisherman (as well as many of the other disciples). However, would Peter have been known to most people as “Peter the fisherman” (or John as “John the fisherman” or James as “James the fisherman)? I don’t believe he was (or they were). I don’t believe his job was his identity (I may be wrong though.) Therefore, I am not counting him on the list.

     So, using these screens, here is the best list I could come up with:

Job / IdentityBible Verses
Nimrod a mighty hunter(Gen 10:8-9)
Deborah, Rebecca’s nurse(Gen 35:8)
Shiphrah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives(Ex 1:15)
Rahab the prostitute(Josh 6:17,25)(Heb 11:31)(Jas 2:25)
Matthew the tax collector(Mt 9:9)(Mk 2:14)
Joseph the carpenter(Mt 13:55)(Mk 6:3)
Chuza, Herod’s steward(Lk 8:3)
Zacchaeus the tax collector(Lk 19:2)
Gamaliel, teacher of the law (given the select title of “Rabban”)(Acts 5:34)(Acts 22:3)
Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9-25)
Simon the (a) tanner(Acts 9:43)
Bar-Jesus (Elymas) the sorcerer(Acts 13:6,8)
Lydia a seller of purple(Acts 16:14)
Priscilla and Aquila the tentmakers(Acts 18:2-3)
Demetrius the (a) silversmith(Acts 19:24)
Erastus the city treasurer(Rom 16:23)
Luke the physician(Col 4:14)
Alexander the coppersmith(2 Tim 4:14)
Zenas the lawyer(Titus 3:13)

     In addition, I found “numerous” scribes, recorders, chamberlains, gatekeepers, doorkeepers, counselors, etc… that I did not put on this list.

***Note: “The witch of Endor” (1 Sam 28:3-25) was suggested, but I need a name here like “Samantha the witch”).

     Other verses to consider: (Ex 31:1-7)(Ex 38:22-23)(1 Sam 21:7)(2 Sam 20:24)(1 Chr 15:17-24)(1 Chr 27:25-34)

     I can pretty much guarantee that I missed some that belong on the list above. If you find any (using the guidelines above), please leave a comment below.

P.S. Thanks to my Bible study group for helping me with a few of these.

Copyright: © Steve Shirley

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