Job: The Freewheeler, Breaking w. Custom to Honor Daughters

Ellen Davis Book“…the clearest expression of the renewal of Job’s mind is not anything he says.  It is his willingness to have more children.  I have heard it said in modern Israel that the most courageous act of faith the Jews have ever performed was to have babies after the Holocaust, to trust God with more defenseless children.  The note at the end of the book that Job had seven sons and three daughters is often considered to be a cheap parting shot – as though God could make it all up by giving Job another set of children to replace the ones who were lost.  But that is to judge the last scene of the book from the wrong side.   This book is not about justifying God’s actions; it is about Job’s transformation.  It is useless to ask how much (or how little) it costs God to give more children.  The real question is how much it costs Job to become a father again.  How can he open himself again the terrible vulnerability of loving those whom he cannot protect against suffering and untimely death?

Of course, we never get a direct answer to that question.  But here is a hint that tells us something about what kind of father Job becomes, after all his grief.  It is in the strange detail about naming his daughters: “He called the name of one Yemima (Dove) and the name of the second Ketsia (Cinnamon) and the name of the third Keren-haPuch (Horn of Eye-Shadow)” (42:14).  Sensuous names are not the biblical norm, and naming a daughter for a cosmetic is way over the top.  But there is more:  “And there were not to be found throughout the whole land women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father gave them an inheritance alongside their brothers” (42:15).  In the male-dominated societies of the ancient world, it is an affront for a father blessed with many sons to leave anything to daughters.  So once-cautious Job is now overturning all the rules, and as for a reason – well, the only thing we know is that Dove, Cinnamon, and Horn of Eye-Shadow were exceptionally pretty women.  Which is to say, Job does it for not good reason at all.  He does it just for kicks.

The two portraits of Father Job that stand at either end of this book mark the true measure of his transformation.  Job, this man of integrity who was once so careful, fearful of God and of the possible sins of his children, becomes at the last freewheeling, breaking with custom to honor daughters alongside sons, bestowing inheritances and snappy names.  The inspiration and model for this wild style of parenting is, of course, God the Creator.  Job learned about it when God spoke out of the whirlwind.  And now Job loves with the abandon characteristic of God’s love – revolutionary in seeking our freedom, reveling in the untamed beauty of every child.”

From Ellen Davis’ phenomenal book “Getting Involved w. God: Rediscovering the Old Testament”  


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