By Debbonnaire Kovacs, October 21, 2015
This week’s lectionary passages are all about restoration: “The Lord has saved me from all my troubles,” Ps. 34:6; “Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves,” Ps. 126:7; and so on. (To read them all, go here.)
I want to look in particular at one famous passage of restoration: that found in Job 42:10-17.
And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. And Job died, old and full of days. [NASB]
This is a fascinating passage. For one thing, it’s literally the only place I’m aware of in the 66 books of the Bible where the women are named and the men are left unnamed. Since Job is generally believed to be the oldest book of all (in fact, some people wonder if Job might be Jobab, mentioned in Genesis 10:29, only a few generations after Noah), I wonder if the denigration of women perhaps had not started or at least not have gained full traction yet. At any rate, Jemmy, Kezzy, and Keren must have been some amazing women.
Another interesting detail is that God restored Job’s fortunes “when he had prayed for his friends,” which he did despite their not-so-helpful insistence that he must have somehow deserved everything that happened to him. Those same friends had first sat seven days with him in silence, and Job knew they had said and done everything, helpful or not, out of love for him and a wish to help.
Yet another surprise is the sudden mention of Job’s “brothers and sisters.” Are these actual siblings (none are mentioned before) or simply his community—“all those who had known him before”…(but not visited)—brothers and sisters in spirit? Funny how they all “ate bread with him…showed him sympathy and comforted him” after God restored his fortunes…
Fascinating that they brought him gifts…
Who knows what long-lost societal meanings may be hidden in this little passage?
The storyteller then lists precisely twice as many of each kind of livestock listed in Job 1. This is nice; Job was already rich—“the greatest of all the men of the east”—now he’s even richer. No doubt he has even more servants, too.
Presumably, his wife is all happy now, as well.
In all the sermons I’ve heard on this book of the Bible, I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever heard a pastor acknowledge that, as a restoration, this was far from complete.
I have never lost a child myself. I was close enough to the tragedy when my sister’s baby died at four months to know that it is just as horrific as I always thought it would be.
My sister now has seven more children, and she loves them all dearly. But they are not a restoration of the one she lost.
Job’s wife got pregnant ten more times, had ten more babies, no doubt loved them all fiercely. But I guarantee you that neither she nor Job ever forgot the ones who had died.
But here’s one last little nugget. You have read and will read, no doubt many times, that in Old Testament times, they didn’t believe in an afterlife—that, supposedly, came later.
Except, here in this oldest story of all, you have Job 19:25-27: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another” NASB (emphasis supplied).
If that is not a statement of faith in a physical resurrection, I don’t know what it is. And if you read the context, you see that it comes right in the middle of Job’s most desperate, angry shouts at God and at the unfairness of the situation in which he finds himself. Job knows you can be angry at God (where else are you going to go?) and you can be in despair, and you can still have steady faith at the center. And he did.
I like to believe his wife did, too. I believe they’ll see all their children someday.
Restoration, here on Terra, is great. It’s just not all there is.