Monday, October 22, 2018

Job 42.1-6, 10-17: Daughters

It is a truth universally acknowledged that throughout history, it was often better to be a son than a daughter. And better to be a first-born son than a second (or third!) son. The eldest son sometimes got everything, but more often than not, he received at least more than any other son. Daughters may have inherited their mother's jewelry and perhaps the family china or silver (unless the silver was monogrammed, which meant the oldest son's family would probably get it). It's interesting, then, that the writer of Job is careful to record that when his fortunes were restored, Job gave his three daughters an inheritance along with their brothers (Job 42:15).
William Blake. Job and His Daughters. 1799/1800. Pen and tempera on canvas. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art.
This is not the first time that daughters have inherited. Just before the Israelites cross into the Promised Land, Zelophehad's offspring bring a case before Moses who takes it to God. These offspring, five daughters, are protesting the practice of only letting sons inherit. Their request is that they be allowed to inherit portions of their father's estate along with their uncles. They argue that their father's name should not be lost to his tribe just because there are no male heirs.

God agreed. 7The daughters of Zelophehad are right in what they are saying; you shall indeed let them possess an inheritance among their father’s brothers and pass the inheritance of their father on to them. 8You shall also say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies, and has no son, then you shall pass his inheritance on to his daughter. 9If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. 10If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to the nearest kinsman of his clan, and he shall possess it. It shall be for the Israelites a statute and ordinance, as the Lord commanded Moses.’ (Numbers 27:7-11)

Zelophehad's daughters - Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah - are allowed to inherit in the absence of male heirs. But notice that Job's three daughters - Jemimah, Keziah, and Keren-happuch - inherit alongside their brothers. Job's restored fortunes also mean a restored "flock of children." Job has seven sons to go along with his three daughters. In a reversal of usual practice, here the daughters are named while the sons remain just "seven sons." For these daughters the end of Job's story wasn't  restoration but a whole new array of possibilities for life.

For thoughts on the healing of Bartimaeus, click here.

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