Thursday, August 4, 2011

Job’s Fairy Tale Ending (Job 42:14)

How many daughters did Job have? Six [3 before his testing and 3 after his testing] (Job 1 and 42)]

Job had the ideal life. He was “was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil (Job 1:1, NASB).” Job had an abundant family with seven sons and three daughters, the ancient Hebrew equivalent of 2.4 kids (Job 1:2). Job was also rich. The Bible goes to great lengths to enumerate his possessions (Job 1:3). Then the calamity for which he is known occurred and he lost all of his holdings (Job 1:14-17) and children (Job 1:18-19). After his redeemer came, Job’s story concludes with a fairy tale ending in which Job and his family live happily ever after. An inventory of his resources after his restoration shows that his assets have doubled since before his trial (Job 42:12). In contrast, though his family is rebuilt, Job has the same number of children at the end of the story as when it began (Job 42:13). The 2:1 rectification ratio does not work when dealing with human life. The implication is that life is irreplaceable.

Job’s story also takes a subtle yet radical turn after his renewal as his daughters, not his sons, move to the forefront. Before the crisis, Job’s sons represent the vanguard. They held feasts on their birthdays and invited their sisters (Job 1:4). After the crisis, uncharacteristically, the focus is on the women, not the men, of Job’s family. Job’s seven sons remain unnamed and no comment is made about them (Job 42:13) while his three daughters are all named and extolled (Job 42:14-15). In fact, of his 20 children, Job’s last three daughters are the only ones named in the Biblical text. Their names were Jemimah, Keziah, and Keren-happuch (Job 42:14).

He named the first Jemimah, and the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. (Job 42:14 NASB)
The text not only names Job’s daughters but also discusses them. Fitting with Job’s fairy tale ending, his daughters were the fairest women in all the land (Job 42:15). Job also provided his daughters with not just a dowry, which would later transfer to a husband, but an inheritance, an income that belonged to them alone (Job 42:15). This allowed Job’s daughters self sufficiency which was highly irregular in a time period when women and men were not treated equally (Numbers 27:1-8). As such, Job’s daughters have become associated with female equality.

Why are Job’s second set of daughters named? What about his trials would change Job’s relationship to his daughters? What prompted their inheritance?

Norman C. Habel (b. 1932) speculates that Job’s providing his daughters with an inheritance is indicative of his character. He writes, “By giving his daughters an inheritance with their brothers Job demonstrates that he continued a policy of justice and equity in his life which went beyond the normal practice of the ancient world (Job 31). In Israel, for example, a daughter would only inherit the property of her father if there was no male heir (Numbers 27:1-8).” (Habel, The Book of Job: A Commentary (Old Testament Library), 585)

Job is deemed “blameless” and “upright” and to be so entails a concern for the poor and oppressed. Job’s actions foreshadow the equality that Paul would preach.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28, NASB)
That women should receive an equal inheritance is a relatively modern thought. There are still realms where equality is not practiced. When, if ever, should a double standard exist between men and women?
“The best judge of whether or not a country is going to develop is how it treats its women. If it’s educating its girls, if women have equal rights, that country is going to move forward. But if women are oppressed and abused and illiterate, then they're going to fall behind.” - Barack Obama (b. 1961), Ladies’ Home Journal, September 2008

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