Job 42:13-15, CEV
13 In addition to seven sons, Job had three daughters, 14 whose names were Jemimah, Keziah, and Keren Happuch. 15 They were the most beautiful women in that part of the world, and Job gave them shares of his property, along with their brothers.
Jemimah, Keziah and Keren Happuch
On the surface, this is just one more reference to three beautiful girls in the Bible: Jemimah, Keziah and Keren Happuch. It’s not the first and it’s not the last. And so you might wonder why I’ve included these three in our series on stories you missed.
But then if you look a little closer, you will notice that their father – Job – gives them shares in his inheritance. This was wildly generous in families a hundred years ago, but Job is set thousands and thousands of years ago! In this world it was not only wildly progressive, it was completely unheard of!
So I thought it might be worth asking the obvious question: why would Job do this???
A Little Background
The book of Job is unusual in lots of ways. Tucked at the end of the ‘history’ books of the Old Testament, it pre-dates much of the book of Genesis. Written by an Israelite, it’s set in a place called Uz – the land of one of Israel’s sworn enemies. It’s a story that delves into the depths of one of the most common human realities – pain and suffering. It asks ‘what does God think about this and how are we supposed to respond?’ And although everyone in Job seems to think they know what God’s thinking and feeling and what we should do about pain and suffering, when God shows up at the end of the book, God seems to have slightly differing opinions!
A Bet and It’s Consequences
You see, the story starts by asking the reader to imagine a bet between the devil and God. The devil suggests that Job is only faithful to God because God has been so generous with him. The devil suggests that if God took everything away, Job would curse God. In this story, God gives the devil permission to take away everything from Job except his life. And the devil seems to take glee in just how horribly that can happen!
In the space of just a few minutes, four servants come to Job one after another. The first informs him that his oxen and donkeys have been stolen and the servants with them killed. A second tells him of a fire that killed all of his sheep and the servants with them. The third tells of a gang who stole all his camels and killed those servants. And the fourth tells him that all of his children have been killed in a freak windstorm. When that isn’t enough to break Job, the devil comes back in a second pass to inflict him with painful sores all over his body. Although his wife tells him to curse God and die, Job remains faithful.
Job is then visited by three ‘friends’ (and then eventually a fourth ‘friend’). These ‘friends’ have all sorts of ‘advice’ for him about his suffering. They make promises about his life that they have no way of keeping. They blame him for his suffering. And they even shame him for his response to his pain – telling him that he should be ‘happy’ in the face of all of his suffering.
This conversations makes up almost the entirety of the book of Job. Back and forth they go, arguing endlessly. His friends never seeing or appreciating his pain, yet convinced of their positions. Full of ‘clear’, ‘unambiguous truths’ about God, they just increase Job’s pain and suffering.
God Shows Up
And then, after 37 chapters, something new happens in chapter 38. God shows up and answers Job and his friends directly. And God responds not with clear, direct answers to each of Job’s questions, but with some perspective-shifting questions of God’s own:
Can you answer
the questions I ask?
4 How did I lay the foundation
for the earth?
Were you there?
5 Doubtless you know who decided
its length and width.
6 What supports the foundation?
Who placed the cornerstone,
7 while morning stars sang,
and angels rejoiced? ~ Job 38:3b-7
In fact, God spends four chapters ‘clarifying’ for Job and his friends who God is in relationship to the rest of us. The one who made all of creation, who birthed mountains. The one who made the ostrich foolish and the horses strong. In fact, the one who tells the sun to rise and knows (in ancient times) the breadth and depth of the earth.
And then this God – the one who knows all of these things and made all of these things – asks Job to pray for his friends. To come before God and ask God to forgive his friends for being foolish and lying about God. After days? Weeks? Maybe months of his friends snipping and blaming and shaming? Yet Job agrees, and his friends avoid punishment.
And then God blesses Job. God gives Job back not just what was taken away from him, but far more than he had ever had before. Along with new wealth and cattle and camels and sheep, Job also eventually fathers another 10 children: 7 sons and 3 daughters. The daughters are Jemimah, Keziah and Keren Happuch. And they are beautiful, we are told.
New Perspectives = Transformation
But it turns out that something about Job is beautiful, too. Because in an age long before women were treated as equals, Job decides to give each of his daughters a share in his inheritance.
It’s almost as if the perspective shift that God gave him changed the way he looked at everyone and everything in his life forever after. Almost as if he came to value all of God’s creation equally – even his daughters. Almost as if he assumed that the point of being blessed was to be a blessing.
In fact, it’s as if this perspective that God offers of God’s self has the capacity to transform our entire outlook on our circumstances and the situations we find ourselves in.
Which is a pretty amazing thing to learn from three beautiful foreign women who lived about 4000 years ago who get a two-verse mention in the Bible!
- Have you ever looked at someone who was in pain and worried whether you might be next?
- Have you ever been told by anyone that your pain or loss were God’s punishment on your life?
- Is there any freedom for you in the story of Job?
- Have you ever wondered how some people seem to be able to transcend the boundaries that are so hard for others to step beyond?
- How does God’s big perspective on the world give you permission to think beyond the borders and walls you may have assumed you were limited by?
This summer we are looking at ‘stories you missed’ in the Bible. Feel free to check out the other stories in the series here.