(The following comprises Part Fifteen of the Saturday series on Secondary Illuminations of Scripture.)
The story of Job has encouraged me in the face of losses, traumas, and trials. For the purposes of this series, the book of Job is a useful stopping point for considering how numbers and names may hold secondary illumination significance.
I imagine most of us are familiar with Job’s story of loss—of belongings, children, health, and all truly supportive relationships. One of the first things to note is that some Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament correspond to Job. (E.g., Job 2:12 and Isaiah 52:14-15 or Job 19:13-15, 19-20; 6:27; 16:10-13 and Isaiah 53:3; Psalm 22:6, 12-18.) Job foreshadows the Man of Suffering, Christ, making it all the more apropos that Job’s story might inform how the Bride of Christ is birthed and beautified. I even find a surprising congruence between Job’s obnoxious friends and the gifts of the magi who attended Jesus as a young child. Job’s friends may have actually enriched him through the pain that they caused him. But that is a whole different musing. Here we will focus upon the final outcome. Namely, even as God favors the children of the Man of Suffering, God uniquely favors Job’s children—the children whom Job would yet birth from out of his suffering.
“Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze?” queries a frustrated and angry Job (Job 6:12). Some of us might like God to take His “living stone” metaphor a little less seriously (1 Peter 2:5)—we ache from being stomped on—and to pity this weak, wispy dust (Psalm 103:14; 102:14). But even as Job’s heart and mind are stirred and sifted by his ordeals, almost to or past a breaking point, the Lord uses this to sensitize and activate Job to a greater ability to appreciate and steward his own children to come. He was previously fastidious, but now his heart will exceed all boundaries as we’ll soon see. This is part of how God imparts favor to Job’s offspring.
But first come two things: (a) Job hits the end of himself with the confession, “I don’t know what I am doing, and may I never think I know” (my distillation: Job 42:1-6). But “I will ask You, and You instruct me” (vs. 4, NASB). God must give him the vision, not his hurts and opinions. Only intimacy will set him free.
And (b) Job receives his terribly cutting “friends” back into his heart beyond the scope of their great failures toward him, forgiving them and praying the prayer of a righteous man for them—the prayer that God hears. Even before receiving his own restoration, Job participates in their full restoration of purpose in the face of God’s righteous judgment against them. God always calls us to release the other (even if only and sadly to His final vengeance); He often calls us to pray for them, sometimes He calls us to separate from them, and sometimes He calls us to freely—in His passionate love—relate to them. The book of Job holds particular encouragements for those who have been through spiritual abuse and who wish to see their experiences redeemed so that they might help cultivate a more beautiful Bride for Christ.
Once Job has stewarded this new level of love and compassion (Psalm 103:4), God gives him new children to love on. How challenging it must have been to risk loving friends and family again—even to receive the blessing of new children—when he knew just how much devastation and loss can lie on the other side of that decision! Job is indeed not made of stone but of feeling flesh through and through, flesh that is plumbed for its depths in pain and in love.
The Double Portion
Let’s consider the evidence of God’s favor and Job’s affections. We learn that Job lives 140 years (2×70) beyond his trials. Seventy is a number God uses when He wants to get things done, a number of assemblies and committees that precedes increase (Exodus 1:5-7; 15: 27; 24:1, 9-10; Numbers 11:24-25; Luke 10:1). It is also, according to Psalm 90, the number of man’s years. God can really put all the necessary pieces—people, events, and so forth—together and get things done in and through our lives after we’ve come to the end of ourselves. Job’s life was a double portion testimony to God achieving everything in his life that he was meant to achieve.
In Job 42:10, we are told that God doubly restored all to Job after he prayed for his friends. Indeed, where he had 7,000 sheep, he now has 14,000; where he had 3,000 camels, he now has 6,000, and so on (Job 1:3; 42:12-13). Where he had seven sons and three daughters, he now has seven sons and three daughters. Wait! What?
God indeed restores double to Job in this as well. These are “double portion” children—each and every one of them. They have double to inherit, and his daughters inherit among their brothers in the face of the dominant tradition (Job 42:15). Job’s 140 post-trial years can also remind us of a pastoral portion (10) of the Passover deliverance (14). Job has become a tender-hearted shepherd who will see freedom come to his sons and daughters through all he has learned (he will witness four generations of these children, 42:16). Job’s bequest to his daughters is the detail that speaks to us of his heart likely exceeding its former culturally-mediated bounds.
But there is far more to these daughters than what they shall receive. It is also who they are. And we shall get to that next week.