What’s the deal with Job’s new daughters?

I spent the morning rereading the Book of Job for the first day of my devil course, and while many enigmatic passages leapt out at me, none was quite as surprising as this segment from the final chapter (emphasis added):

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.

What in the world is this supposed to mean? Are the three daughters meant to be parallel to the three friends in some way? Why is it significant that Job gave them an inheritance? Any ideas?

4 thoughts on “What’s the deal with Job’s new daughters?

  1. There’s a lot going on there. In ancient Israel daughters aren’t allowed to inherit when there are brothers in the picture, so that’s intriguing (see Numbers 26 and Numbers 36 for what happens when there aren’t any brothers — and it involves changing the inheritance laws in the Torah even before they get to the land, so that’s another interesting aspect). Job had three daughters and seven sons before, but they weren’t named; these daughters have names of nice, aesthetically pleasing things (“Dove,” “Cinnamon,” and “Box of Eye-shadow”) and themselves are said to be beautiful. Are they a consolation for Job, a “gee, sorry, have this nice replacement” from God? Some have said that this is meant to make us think that the book is trying to get us to feel happy, but that it is supposed to ring hollow — that is, you’re supposed to feel like it’s not enough to replace dead children with “even better” ones. The first part of the text you cite is very interesting in this light: in the Hebrew Bible thieves who have been caught and must repay double what they have stolen (see Exodus 22:4, 7, 9), so this may be a subtle hint Job’s suffering was essentially theft, and that the “better kids” aren’t so much a seamless replacement as they are an admission of divine guilt.

  2. Oh, and I think the three daughters is just a nice number, especially when combined with the seven sons to make ten children, a nice round number (see the nice round numbers of animals and so on in chapter 1, too, indicating a completely harmonious life).

  3. That’s all very interesting — thanks. Perhaps giving an inheritance to them, too, is a way of going above and beyond the call of duty to make extra-special sure the whole smiting thing doesn’t happen again.

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