After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt-offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has done.’ So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.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 for one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. And Job died, old and full of days.
It is easy to overlook this prose epilogue to the book and assume that it simply restores the status quo of 1:1-5 before the veracity of God’s claims about Job were put to the test. Let’s not make that mistake.The narrator gives us another speech by God. This one is directed at Eliphaz and his two friends (Elihu isn’t included); and God is angry with them. They are accused of speaking ‘folly’ (v.8), the word implies a heinous offence that leads God’s people astray (Isa.9:16; 32:6). In contrast Job is described as God’s ‘servant’ who spoke rightly. The ones who had tried to defend God against Job’s accusations are now identified as the ‘wicked’ and commanded to offer propitiatory sacrifices. Their rigid adherence to traditional ‘wisdom’ and unwillingness to open their eyes to see a bigger vision of God is condemned by God.
As God’s servant it appears that Job has already risen up from the ashes and resumed his former position as a righteous mediator for the community (1:5; 29:7ff); and God chooses to show mercy on the friends when Job intercedes for them (1:8, 9).
The restoration of Job is an act of God’s grace not a reward for his integrity. This occurs ‘when’, i.e. after, Job had prayed, not ‘because’; nor in response to prayer. Job is doubly blessed by God in all his material possessions, a sign of the unpredictability of God; and ironically Job’s wider family flock to offer comfort and support (v.11; cf. 19:13-19) – now he no longer needs it!
He is blessed with the same number of children as before (where’s his wife?) but the naming of the daughters is interesting. ‘Turtle dove’ calls to mind the woman in Song of Songs 2:14; ‘Cassia’ an aromatic oil for special uses (Ex.30:24; Ps.45:9) and ‘Horn of antimony’, akin to eyeliner used to beautify ancient queens (2 Kgs.9:30; Jer.4:30). These are very beautiful women, to be regarded as princesses; but Job treats them exactly like their brothers (v.15)! This is a radical statement about gender equality that goes far beyond the provisions of Numbers 27:1-8, which is often regarded as daringly innovative!
There is a ‘happy ever after’ ending as Job lives out a ‘double’ lifespan before he dies in the manner of Abraham (Gen.25:8) and Isaac (Gen.35:29). We’ve come round full circle; but Job has taken us deeper into the realities of the human condition and higher into the wonders of God. Rather like the experience of Jesus on his way from the wilderness to the cross. May our Lenten journey of faith continue on a similar path as we walk the way of Jesus.
Gracious God, for all your blessings we praise you and we rejoice in the knowledge that you are a God of mercy, for too often we are less like Job and more like his friends.
Enlarge our vision and strengthen our faith; and may our lives proclaim the radical truth of your gospel, for the sake of Jesus. Amen.
The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Emmanuel URC in Cambridge.