This past week I’ve been looking at the last chapters of the Book of Job. As I said before, these passages have always bothered me because they don’t make sense. Why would a loving and compassionate God show up and affirm that Job did not bring his suffering on himself and then tell him to sit down and get in line because he’s just a little peon? And why would Job respond with satisfaction at God’s answer? So, I went back and re-read these chapters this past summer and realized how much I had been missing.
The earlier installments are here:
Book of Job Chapter 38: Guessing
Book of Job Chapter 39: Our animal friends
Book of Job Chapters 40-41: Defense!
So today, we reach the end of the Book of Job. Chapter 42:
Then Job replied to the LORD:
2 “I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”
This is usually read as Job saying, “yes God, you are right. I am a peon and have no cause to complain no matter how much I am suffering.” But if we look back at what God has actually said, a slightly different picture begins to emerge.
I believe that God’s message was basically this: “Job, you are right that you do not deserve this and I am here to do for you what you cannot do for yourself: bring down the wicked and foolish who see your destruction as reasons to be proud and contemptuous. But I did not make you defenseless. Look at who I made you to be; when you do not understand you imagine things that are sometimes beautiful and true. You have taken the wild animals I created and found those suitable to your own purposes and made them serve you. But do not behave like a domesticated animal. Look at the behemoth who I made along with you – it fights. You know how – you have imagined for yourself creatures more fierce and untameable than any that walks the earth. Fight!”
And Job understood enough of what God was saying to see that sitting in the dirt listening to his friend’s theories and defending himself wasn’t the answer to his problems. He was in a spiritual fight and he now understood that he needed to fight back.
After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad theShuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.
This is not only a matter of God reprimanding Job’s friends. He is actually asking Job to do for his friends what he used to do for his own children. (See Chapter 1) God is actually entrusting Job with his friend’s spiritual well being just the way was in the habit of caring for his children’s spiritual well being. In a way, God is both affirming what Job has always done for those in his care and expanding it.
After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver[a]and a gold ring.
12 The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.
16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years.
There are a couple of things that I want to point out here. First, God’s primary restoration is spiritual. When God gave Job twice what he had before, it wasn’t just a physical thing. Secondly, we can see from Job’s behavior that he continues to go above and beyond in following God spiritually. In her lovely book Getting Involved With God: Rediscovering the Old Testament, Hebrew scholar Ellen Davis points out several significant things about the ending passage of the Book of Job. First of all, the names of his daughters and not his sons are listed. This is never the way it works in scriptures. Not only are the names listed, but the names are outrageous. Jemimah is a reference to a beautiful queen of arab folklore. Keziah is the name of a spice tree used for perfume. Keren-Happuch is a type of make-up. It’s like naming your daughters Cinderella, Passion and L’Oreal. And they were beautiful. And Job gave them an inheritance along with their brothers which was just as extravagant a gesture as the outrageous names. Why this particular reaction? I would guess because its a particularly potent way of fighting back the enemy. Job is a devout man who knows God. His is a deliberate rejection of a commonly accepted lie of the enemy: that women are less than, worth less and not to be valued as highly as men. And I love that Job could of no better way to fight back against the enemy with so much force that he will never forget the battle than to honor his girl children. No wonder God blessed him so greatly!