PART EIGHT – ESTHER AND JOB
The book of Esther is the last book of the history section of the Christian Old Testament, and part of the Megillot (Five Scrolls) section of the Ketuvim (Writings) in the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible). Wow – that’s a mouthful!
Esther relates the story of a Jewish girl who becomes queen of Persia and thwarts a genocide of her people. The story forms the core of the festival of Purim, and dates to around the 3rd or 4th century BCE. Its two main messages are that a woman’s main duty is to please men, and that Jews are God’s special people. Esther is one of only two books in the Bible that does not explicitly mention god (the other being Song of Songs). Perhaps that, along with his extreme anti-Semitism, contributed to Martin Luther’s attempt to have it banished from the bible.
Job is found in the Wisdom section of Writings in the Hebrew Bible, and is the first poetical book in the Christian Old Testament. It dates to around the 6th century BCE. Job, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs belong to the genre of wisdom literature. The story of Job investigates the problem of divine justice, commonly phrased as a question: “Why do the righteous suffer?” The book has long been the subject of much debate over its historicity, and although some apologists may still claim that it is a true story, most scholars now regard it as a parable.
I can’t read the book of Job without reflecting back on my teenage years as a member of Job’s Daughters. This is an organization for girls aged 12-20 who are related to members of the Masonic Lodge. (Note: I see that girls can now join at age 10, and there is even an ‘intro level’ for 8 and 9 year olds. Gotta get’em while they’re young.) In the 70’s when I was a member, there were around a dozen ‘bethels’ in Winnipeg; a quick look at the website today shows that only 2 remain. This is probably largely due to the decline in the number of Masons, but it has to also be at least partly due to the anachronistic and sexist tone of the group itself. I simply can’t imagine how I lasted 4 years in this outfit, even back then; I joined because it was very important to my father, who was a dedicated Mason.
Job’s Daughters was the brainchild of its founder, who wanted a group that the daughters of Masons could participate in; to keep the cult all in the family, I guess. My sister and I never could quite figure out why Dad was so devoted to Freemasonry, but at one time it was very wide-spread, and anyone who was anybody (males, anyway) was a part of this ‘old boys club’ network. Read about the history of the Manitoba Legislative Building to get an idea of how pervasive Free Masonry was a century ago.
The Order of Job’s Daughters was founded in 1920, and its tone and rituals fit that era. The founder,
“realizing the importance of the early training she received from her Christian mother, and especially the beautiful lessons in literature and drama as found in the Book of Job, decided to give her time and talent to make it possible for all young women of Masonic relationship to share the rare privileges that were hers. The ritual was taken from ideas presented by the Founder…. and taken from the Book of Job, with particular reference to the 42nd chapter, 15th verse: And in all the land there were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren.”
Just warms your heart, doesn’t it? Today this history is cleverly cloaked as the group tries to project the outward image of a social club (“Do you like meeting new friends? Do you like doing fun things? Do you like helping others?…..”) (Quotes are from the organization’s website.)
Here are just a few of the lines that are read during the ‘installation of officers’ ceremony. (Hurk!)
“JUNIOR AND SENIOR CUSTODIANS –
Two shiny stars within our Bethel – custodians of our Urn and Dove.
Watching over our possessions – and watched, in turn, by God above.
On pages, spotless as her robe – she keeps our records bright.
Like stardust falling from her pen – each word, as she does write.
She keeps our coffers filled with silver – as lustrous as a star.
The silvery mist that lights her path – is shining from afar.
The starlight round her head does shine – as though a halo rested there.
On bended knee, with head bowed low – she leads us all in prayer.
Sweet harmony her notes give forth – like heavenly music from above.
She shows the way to happiness – with songs of faith and love”
Yes, I dressed just like the girl in the photo. In fact, I still have that dress in my Halloween box – a few accessories and it makes a great angel/fairy costume. But now I view it with the same ‘ick factor’ as a Purity Ball.
As we read through the book, think about it – Is Job really an inspiration? Is this book really worthy of admiration? Is it a source of morality?
On with the reading.