Job's Wife

A drama written by Walter Riggans based upon Job chapters 1-2 set me thinking. What of Job’s wife? She isn’t the focus of the narrative and plays a supportive role, if I can use that phrase without being ironic. Job’s seven sons and three daughters were probably hers too; she enjoyed Job’s wealth and luxury living and was just as hurt by the ‘loss of stuff’, if not the loss of health in Satan’s second foray into Job’s world. If he grieved, so did she. If he reeled, she did too. When she does make an appearance, in chapter 2 verses 7-10, she appears a faithless harridan: 

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Augustine called her ‘The Devil’s Accomplice’ and Calvin wrote of her as ‘an instrument of Satan’, a ‘diabolical fury.’ By urging Job to curse “God and die” she may have betrayed a serious lack of faith in God’s wisdom as well as a desire to end her marriage to an accursed husband. Marrying a godly man does not make one a godly spouse, yet she may have been an otherwise upright woman whose faith was now stretched. In Job 42, Job has more children, presumably by his original wife. We do not know her age and whether she was still up to child-bearing but the text fails to indicate that Job was given a replacement marriage partner. If it was her, then she enjoyed the benefits of Job’s divine restoration as well as having shared with him some of the suffering. 

Job says she speaks “as the foolish women”. Biblical foolishness is really just godlessness, living and thinking without God and His wisdom. Suffering and adversity often cause us to say godless things which in calmer moments we might not utter. Still, he comes close to accepting her advice when discussing his situation with his three comforters. He even mentions her again in 31:9-19, but no further words from her mouth are recorded.

Was she a good wife? I guess she was until everything went wrong. Suffering tests our faith, our friendships, our marriages and our hearts. The furnace separates the gold from the dross, and difficulty has the same effect with the believer. Whereas Job more or less passed his test (he does have to repent towards the book’s close) his wife appears to fail it through her early spousal direction. I suspect she sat with him and tended to him throughout the story, though the text does not report this. She may have failed him in her words, she may have assisted him by her actions.

Before we join the ranks of Calvin and Augustine in her dismissal, let's recall the grief and pain she bore. She lost her children, her home, her prestige and her security. She came close to losing her husband, too. Her proposal was a kind of suicide, in contrast to Job’s, in which he carefully contemplated divine providence. Whatever her character and levels of nuptial support, her advice was poor, which I here reverse. The next time you find yourself tested, tempted, tried and deflated, recall this:

“Hold on tightly to your integrity; bless God and live!”

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. Job 13:15

Image by Erich Steinwendner from Pixabay