Saturday, October 27, 2012

Job's Daughters

Job’s Daughters
As the narrative winds down, (Job 42: 1-6, 10-17) Job is restored to a healthy life, his days of suffering are over, and we are told his fortunes are restored two-fold.  His life is truly blessed. The text then does a beautiful and unusual thing: alongside having seven sons, we are told he has three daughters. More than that, we are told the names of the daughters but not the sons. And even more than that, we learn that Job’s daughters, in addition to being the most beautiful in all the land, are granted an inheritance along with their brothers.

The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 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 (Job 42:14-15).

This is remarkable. Simply put, daughters were not given an inheritance. Daughters were given away in marriage for someone else to support. Whereas we would expect to be told the names of the sons, that is passed over to make sure we know who the daughters are – and that they are to be richly endowed.  This signals a seismic shift in cultural norms! Jemimah, Keziah and Kere-Happuch are granted complete independence, socially and economically! Before Job this had never been heard of. The Bible itself goes to great pains to spell out the rules of patrimony – inheritance – making sure we know that only the boys get the dough-re-mi.

Beautiful girls, the most beautiful in all the land of Uz, would have been easy to marry off. Job would have had no trouble lining up suitors for these three daughters. But instead Job chooses to empower them! This ancient text concludes with the empowerment of women.

So why has it taken so long? Why are women still not allowed equal rights with men throughout society and throughout the world? And please do not for a moment think that they simply need to stand up and claim these rights for themselves. We have seen what happens when they do.

Malala Yousufzai dares to blog and speak out for the basic right for girls to get an education, and a terrorist organization, the Taliban, attempts to assassinate her, shooting her point-blank in the head. By some miracle she is still alive and recovering. See Malala Yousufzai reunited with her family. Yet, the same terrorists announce that they will continue to target her if she returns to Pakistan.

Consider her father. After the Taliban has blown up every school in the Swat Valley, and made attacks on other girls who attempt to get an education, Malala’s father dares to operate a school for girls. He is Job. He is empowering his daughter and other young women in Pakistan. The question remains, Where are we? Why are we not all Job? Why are we not all mobilized to ensure that young women everywhere can be educated?

In time, Malala’s story will fade from the 24/7 News Cycle. The need for young women to be educated will still remain. The need for women to be empowered socially and economically will still remain. Education is perhaps the key component for women and children everywhere. Simple literacy -to be able to read, write, do basic math functions – can make the difference between a mother who cannot feed her children every day and a woman who can support a household and a family.

Yet, the Taliban represents just one barrier to women having access to education and all that an education can provide. That is, it is not just a case of women wanting and education and doing something about it for themselves. There are forces at work denying them the opportunity - forces that are willing to shoot a young woman in the head to intimidate any others from seeking an education. These forces are not just at work half-way around the world – there are those who are working hard to erode the rights of women right here in the U.S.A. Make no mistake about it, they will succeed if allowed to continue unchallenged.

The world is populated with “Job’s daughters.” “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.”

The future of the world, the end of poverty, any shred of hope for a peaceful world, depends on what we do to advance the lives of women everywhere – at home and abroad. We must all become like Job – who after long and undeserved suffering at the hands of Satan emerges as one of the most enlightened men in all of human history. This story has been with us for over 2,500 years. We mostly twiddle around with it seeking answers to questions like, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

We completely overlook the obvious. So much suffering can be alleviated if we as individuals and as a society would take action like Job does – empower women so that they might contribute to making the world a better place. All women deserve to be Job’s daughters. The rest of us all must become more like Job. Satan still freely walks to and fro across this earth. One person like Job, one girl like Malala Yousufzai, one person like her father, can make a difference. Each one of us can do the same. Nothing can be more important for the life of the world. Amen.

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