In the King James Version of the Holy Bible, Job 42:12-15 reads as follows:
So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning. […] He had also seven sons and three daughters, and he called the name of the first Jemima, and the name of the second, Kezia and the name of the third Karen-happuch. And in all the land there were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job and their father gave them inheritance among the brethren.
If you’re like me, you just did a double take. Why?
Wherever genealogy comes up in the bible, the names of the sons are typically given pre-eminence over the names of the daughters. I found it rather odd that in this instance the light was shone on the women. Also, I thought it peculiar that an inheritance was also given to Job’s daughters, a phenomenon virtually unheard of in those times; the inheritance was usually given to the men so that the wealth stayed within the family.
It is my belief that when God saw how humankind was abusing the system to leave women financially destitute, He decided to use faithful Job to make acceptable an alternative system which protected women from financial abuse.
Imagine that! Knowing and understanding the heart of men, God put a system in place to prevent women from being abused. Way back then. With impeccable timing. Biblical scholars believe that Moses met Job while he was in Midian and, having learnt of his experiences there, penned the eponymous book.
Isn’t it striking that God also used Moses to write the laws that today we see as “horribly” patriarchal and abusive of women?
Here is another interesting titbit which comes from Genesis 38. Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah, manipulated her father-in-law into allowing her to remain within his family circle by—among other things—disguising herself as a prostitute. Despite being aware that she had manipulated him, Judah declared her more righteous than him.
Why? Because Judah had not kept his word. When he found out that she was a prostitute and pregnant, he tried to take the moral high ground and called for her to be burned. However, realising that it was he who had done her wrong, he recanted. Two wrongs do not one right make. And the context makes it easy to understand why Tamar had acted in the way that she had.
An interesting side note that concerns prostitutes: Jesus’ lineage can be traced through Tamar and Rahab, two women labelled as prostitutes. And, did the Christ not intervene to save an adulterous woman from the hypocritical leadership of the day? What is the message for us in Jesus’ repeated association with women of questionable virtue?
And so to Ruth. Ruth was oh so faithful. So faithful, indeed, that Naomi was determined to find a husband for her daughter-in-law after the death of her husband. In Boaz, the eligible bachelor, Naomi found the perfect man. But standing in the way of Boaz’s asking for and receiving Ruth’s hand in marriage was a male family member.
Initially eager to purchase the land that Naomi had, this heir apparent proved rather less eager when he learned that it came with Ruth attached. The accompanying bride, he reasoned, would greatly devalue his inheritance. To him, the value of the land was of much more importance than the woman who needed help. He relinquished his rights, thus paving the way for a happy ending to the story. Boaz and Ruth were united in holy matrimony.
Rachel, the younger of Laban’s two daughters, was a beautiful woman. It was Jacob’s desire to marry her. His uncle, however, thought it wrong for the younger sibling to be married before her older sister, so he deceived his nephew, breaking his promise in the process. Jacob thus had to work for 14 years to earn the right to marry the woman he loved.
Like in a good modern-day soap opera, Laban’s misdeeds led to Jacob’s household being always filled with much acrimony and disharmony, spawned by the favouritism between the two wives and their children.
What I find puzzling about this story is this: why were the two women complicit in Laban’s deception? Why, I wonder, do women play along when a man decides not to honour his vow and thus throw their lives into disarray?
How about Genesis 19 where Lot thinks it okay to offer his daughters to his sexually ravenous neighbours? And Judges 19, where the concubine is also offered to sexually ravenous men who devour her unto death. In both situations, the men really wanted male partners for what would not have been consensual sex.
Instead, they were being set up for gang rape. In one case, the would-be perpetrators would not be content with anything but the men, whereas in the other case they were not dissatisfied with the substitution of the woman for the man. Both situations show how, in the eyes of God, sexual violence against men and women was a completely atrocious act.
Somehow, men of God thought it made sense to offer the women in exchange for the men so that the men would be protected against an act that was considered so vile. Can you believe that? Doesn’t it make so much sense that today so many men and women think that women are disposable objects?
God, thankfully, does not share that view. He ensured that the offending parties paid dearly for their folly. No wonder He selected Job, whom He deemed perfect, to start a system of putting things in place to secure his daughters against patriarchy gone wrong.
In northern Kenya, there is a modern-day woman only village called Umajo, which was created as a refuge for women who were victims of rape, child marriage, female genital mutilation and/or domestic violence. The people entrusted with the responsibility of protecting them having failed for centuries to do so successfully, women are taking matters into their own hands and making their own way in today’s world.
Today there is still condemnation from several quarters for women who seek independence, pursue careers outside of the home, and demonstrate a lack of submissiveness. However, I submit that the question has to be asked as to what the real cause is.
What has brought about this effect? Why are women so unhappy in their homes? Why are they unhappy in their relationships? Why are women fighting tooth and nail to gain independence and freedom from a system they view as oppressive?
Might it be that we just maybe are tired of being shackled and abused by people who are supposed to be our protectors, confidants and lovers? God saw the need to forge an escape hatch out of the abuses being meted out to women. Might it be that today it has become urgent that we find a way of escape ourselves?
As a Christian, I hold the view that we often hold fast to what we deem right without considering all the relevant factors. I find this odd. God himself made provision for persons who stole because they were hungry (Proverbs 6:30) or people who killed others while defending themselves (Exodus 22:2/Exodus 35:15) or were simply too poor to pay back their debt (Deuteronomy 15:1).
People’s actions must be judged on the circumstances surrounding their choices.
I understand our eagerness, as Christians, to uphold the Law of God. I am all for being submissive, but not where there is faulty understanding, faulty systems or flawed biblical interpretation.
Something must give. I will not perpetuate the nonsense that tries to pass as truth when women are being hung out to dry by their oppressors.
I do not believe that, if I continue to turn a blind eye to these issues, I shall be counted as faithful to God.