The bearers of Peace, it is said, carry no purse, bag or sandals.
They come, unexpected, and uninvited. Few receive them, or their message;
most are suspicious, asking what is in it for them.
Stillness is little valued among people busy to accumulate;
like modesty and humility, it is regarded as a relic
from less-clever times. Peace itself is no passive thing,
capturing those who receive it and bringing demands
that are not universally welcomed. Peace expects contentment for oneself,
generosity towards one’s neighbour,
(no matter how undeserving), and outrage on behalf of the oppressed,
the wretched and the violated. “Peace to this house!” is considered, at best,
an uncertain blessing.
When God finally did the right thing by Job,
so the story goes,
he blessed him with a new family.
Not quite the doubling of numbers,
as with his wealth and possessions,
but we assume that he was not complaining.
Most certainly the unnamed woman
who happened to be his wife
would have been more than satisfied
with a total of ten,
having given birth to a precise replacement
of the seven sons and the three daughters
that were lost at the start of the story.
If we take the figures seriously
that’s a total of twenty confinements,
which, I daresay, she thought was enough;
besides which, if you do the arithmetic,
you’d think that she must have been past sixty
by the time she had finished giving birth.
(Hmm, we might need to go beyond the literal
to find the meaning of this story.)
The ratio is probably about right;
more than twice the number of sons
than that of daughters. Proof,
in the context of the times,
that Job was truly blessed by God.
But, funnily enough,
the writer seems only interested in the girls,
not even bothering to name the boys.
Jemimah, Keziah, and Keren-happuch
were very beautiful, he tells us;
without compare in all the land of Uz.
Perhaps even more notable
is the story-master’s assurance
that the daughters each received their share
of Job’s estate, alongside their brothers;
a remarkable thing in the context
of the times and the culture.
We celebrate Job for his virtue of patience,
and for his faith in the face of suffering;
perhaps we should also celebrate
his pioneering insights into gender equality.
That and his counter-cultural determination
to be fair and just.