Job’s daughters are mentioned but briefly in the Book of Job, but their story is far more intriguing that it would seem, if you only know where to look.
My exploration of feminine images in the Biblical tradition began with my unpublished novel, Conversations with the Serpent. And continued with my article on Philip’s Daughters. I find I can trace an almost continuous history of intriguing women in the extra-Biblical stories used to flesh out details we find in traditional texts. This is my retelling of Job’s daughters based on the extra-Biblical text, The Testament of Job and some Jewish midrash or commentary on Job’s family..
“Job also had seven sons and three daughters. And he called the name of the first Dove and the second Cinnamon and the third Horn of Kohl … And their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers.” The Book of Job 42.13-15
“And Job opened three golden boxes and brought out three rainbow-colored cords…” The Testament of Job 47.5
Job’s Life after Suffering
The story of Job’s suffering and crisis of faith is well known. His life after having been delivered from his ordeals, far less. In time Job met a woman who was happy to become his wife and he was happy to become her husband. She bore him seven sons and three daughters, God’s recompense for the children he had lost. It was hard for Job to trust that his blessings would last. In a sense, learning to trust was his final challenge. It was a challenge that only the love of his new family allowed him to master.
After all of his sufferings, Job was loath to speak of those days to his new wife and his new children. Even the names he gave to his daughters suggested only beauty and joy. The rest of his life Job devoted to giving thanks and acknowledging his blessings. His children heard nothing of his ordeals from their father, but they heard whispers of the trials he’d suffered from his friends and kin.
But even good fortune following bad cannot stay the hand of the angel of death. After having lived a life full with days, Job fell very ill. He saw that the time of his passing was near and so began to settle his affairs.
“Form a circle around me, my children,” he called out to his sons and daughters. “For it is time to tell you all the things that God has done with me in my long life.”
Job told his children for the first time of his life before their family. How he had been wealthy in his youth and how he had devoted his early years to treating his employees fairly and being generous to the poor.
“I would Job would play my cithara, my seven stringed lyre, not for my friends but for the poor and enslaved. I played as if it was job, as if my livelihood depended on it, all to remind those who gathered of God’s presence and to give them respite from their labor and travails. At other times, just to make them laugh, I would shake a tambourine just as a woman might and encouraged them to dance. And when I was finished I would pull out a bronze censer for burning incense and bless them with its fragrant scent.
“But the Seducer, the enemy of God, could not bear the good deeds I did and put me to the test. He destroyed my wealth. I lost my first wife, may her memory be praised, and then all my sons and daughters. I suffered boils and worms and all manner of afflictions that seemed to never end. I almost lost my faith. But then God gave me a sacred gift, and delivered me from my trials and tribulations. Saw to it that I would find a new wife, your mother, and new children to love and prosperity even greater than before. And I took up acts of charity, once more, for as surely as we share our sorrows, we must always share our joys.
“God is good,” said his oldest son, not knowing what else to say. He had never known anything but blessings in his young life. His father’s story shook him to his core.
“Yes,” Job allowed. “And also very complicated. I fear I have done you all a disservice by not telling you this before. But I’ve been so happy… You’ve all made me happier than I can say.”
Horn of Kohl, his youngest daughter, sat beside him at his bed. “Do you think of them?” she asked as gently as she could. “Your other family?”
“Now,” said Job. “Now it is hard not to think of them.”
“What can we do for you?” Cinnamon wanted to know. She was always the practical one. “God has seen you through so much. Let us help you through this last.”
Dove, his middle daughter, said nothing, dabbing a cloth in water and pressing it to his forehead.
“Such love,” Job murmured to himself, so softly that none could hear.
Job was tired. He was thankful for the second life that God had granted him, make no mistake. Thankful for how God had restored his fortune and his family. He had once again devoted his final years to acts of kindness to those who suffered as he had. It was all so much more precious to him now. But Job did not begrudge his coming death, the approach of which was as certain as the passing of the season. While he was loath to leave his wife and children, what he wanted to do now, more than anything, was to speak of their inheritance and the lives that they would leave after he was gone. .
Job’s Daughters Receive Their Inheritance
“Soon I will die,” Job told his children, “and you must take my place. Be charitable to the poor and don’t begrudge the feeble the comfort they so badly seek. I will divide among you all that I possess so you can do provide for yourself and your families and others in need as you see fit. Job summoned his servants to bring forth all of his possessions and saw them divided equally between his seven sons.”
Job’s wife grew pale, even though she knew this was the custom of their people. Dove, Cinnamon, and Horn of Kohl tried to hold back tears.
“Don’t despair, my daughters,” Job reassured. “I’ve not forgotten you. Indeed I’ve saved for you gifts better than what I gave your brothers.” He motioned Dove, his oldest daughter, closer and slipped a key he kept on a chain around his neck into her hand. “Go the treasure house and bring back the golden chest that you will find there.”
Dove did as her father asked, placing the chest before him. Opening it carefully he pulled from it three boxes. And from each box he pulled out a rainbow colored cord.
“There is one for each of you. Wrap these tightly round your waists and for all of the days of your life you will be given everything good.”
But Cinnamon, his middle daughter, was always the practical one. In her father’s final days, she worried he’d grown daft. “These are the treasures you say are better than our brothers? But, really, can we live on what you’ve given us.”
Job only smiled. He know all too well what it meant to doubt God’s blessings. “Not only will you have enough to live on in this world, but your gifts will take you into another. God gave these cords to me during the worst of my trials, and girding myself with one, all my tribulations disappeared. Go now, and gird yourselves in like fashion. I would see what blessings even now that they will bring.
Job’s daughters did as their father asked. They would have done anything for him and it seemed a small matter to honor his wishes in this way, as strange as those wishes might seem. But when they returned and tried to speak, no mortal words came forth, but the language of angels instead. And to all that heard Job’s daughters, they sounded like nothing less than a heavenly chorus.
Even as they sang, Job pulled three more gifts from the golden chest. His brothers looked on with envy.
In the Days After His Passing…
The day that Job died, his brother Nahor held his brother’s lifeless body and spoke of the man that Job had become. “Woe unto us,” Nahor said to those who gathered to honor him, “for today we have lost the strength of the feeble, the light of the blind, the father of orphans.”
And his daughters watched as as angels came for him and Job’s spirit left his body and flew upward towards the heavens, guided by the angels. Dove looked her brothers in astonishment but knew in that moment that they saw nothing. It was yet another gift that Job’s daughters had been given. When their brothers heard them speak of it, in ways they couldn’t understand, there was suddenly discord among the children where there never had before.
“Why should father have favored our sisters more than us?” the seven sons asked their mother.
“He gave them the gift of speaking in the tongues of angels and seeing them as well. To us he leaves oxen and gold coins. Did he think that we were too course to appreciate such things? Did he love them more than us?”
Their mother gathered her sons before her and chastised them for their lack of gratitude. “Your father regretted not telling you the story of his troubles before, and so—today—do I. My life wasn’t easy either before I met your father. Perhaps it’s long past time to tell you a story of my own.”
Their Mother Tells Her Story
“My name is DInah,” she said finally, “the daughter of the patriarch Jacob and faithful Leah. I don’t expect those names to mean anything to you, but they mean everything to me.”
Their mother drew herself up to her full height, however slight.
“I was once an innocent like your sisters, curious about the world that lay beyond the confines of my family. But going forth on my own, a man named Shechem saw me and decided I must be his regardless of my wishes. He took me by force and my brothers killed him for that violation. But the damage was done and none would have me for a wife because they saw me as damaged goods. I had given up on ever finding a mate until I met your father. He saw in me a kindred spirit, a soul that had suffered a great deal but had never given up.”
Dinah insisted that each and every one of her sons meet her eye. “Do you love your sisters? Do you begrudge them the safety your father’s gifts can bring? You see how it is for women in this world, how daughters rarely receive any inheritance at all. Your father did this out of love for me, don’t you see? That your sisters might never suffer as I have. Be thankful for the blessings that you have,” their mother concluded. “For you never know when they may end.”
But the sons of Job and Dinah still grumbled, for they had never seen such suffering themselves and thought it was their mother who failed to understand. They listened to their sisters sing and play, watched as their friends and kin gathered round and offered up shouts of joy and adoration for the glimpse of heaven they gathered when hearing their voices. And almost without their notice, the hearts of Job’s sons were softened and they began to see heaven, too.
The Songs of Job’s Daughters
More troubles came to the people of Job and Dinah. Life would not be life if it did not. But whenever it did, Job’s daughters would break out their father’s final gifts to them and begin to sing. And Nahor, their uncle, sang in turn, interpreting the angelic sounds in words the people could clearly understand.
Dove played the cithara Job had played so often, singing sang a song named Spirit, that celebrated the presence of the Spirit in their midst, the indwelling nature of God, what the people called Shekinah.
And Cinnamon spread sacred incense with her censor, singing a song named Creation, that celebrated the beauty and wonder of creation, even in a time of drought and famine. The sky was still blue, the sunset still lovely, the stars still bright. Cinnamon twirled her sash as she sang. Storm and rainbow would be theirs again in time.
And Horn of Kohl sang a song named Splendor of the Mothers,. celebrating the passing of wisdom from woman to woman, from the time of Eve herself. But Nahor changed the words when he repeated her song, thinking surely the girl had sung a song to the Patriarchs, a song in praise of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.
How much that mattered only those who listen to this story can decide. Each sang their songs in the language of angels, “I am here,” the songs seemed to say in God’s own voice. “Even in the worst of your tribulations, I am here.”
In this way, Job’s daughters brought comfort to their people. And, it must be added, in the years that followed, Job’s sons gave up the last of their resentments and also excelled in acts of charity, honoring the wisdom of their parents, for all the days of their lives.
If you liked reading about Job’s Daughters, you might also enjoy learning about Philip’s four prophetess daughters.