Bible Reference: Job chapters 1 and 2
Heart of the Story: When I ponder Job’s wife, one of my first questions is why the Bible never recorded her name? Job’s daughters, born after his trials, were named; yet, Job’s wife, who is with him from before, during, and after the trials, remained nameless. In this entry, I am going to refer to her as Mrs. Job.
Back Story: The first chapter of Job identified that Job lived in the land of Uz. Uz could have been located in Aram (central Syria) or in Edom (southern Jordan). Some texts suggested that Job was a contemporary of Abraham. Because Job acted as priest for his family and offered sin offerings for them, probably he lived before or apart from the Mosaic Law and Aaron priesthood. Where ever or whenever he lived, Job was extraordinarily wealthy and serious in his worship of God. In a conversation between God and Satan, Satan said that Job’s loyalty to God resulted from God protecting Job and his possessions. In response, God gave Satan permission to attack and destroy all Job’s possession. At that time, God stipulated that Satan could not physically hard Job.
Story Line: What occurred next devastated Job and his wife. Their 10 children (7 sons and 3 daughters) were killed, many servants killed, and family livestock killed or seized by marauders (Job 1:13-22). Neither Job, nor his wife, was harmed; however, they went from being the parents of 10 children to having no children and few possessions or resources. Despite these excruciating losses, Job did not charge God with wrong doing. Nor did Mrs. Job sin by criticizing God. When next God and Satan meet, Satan told God that the only reason Job did not turn on God was because Job himself was not harmed (Job 2:1-7). That was when God gave Job’s health into Satan’s hands but stipulated that Satan could not kill Job. Notice, God gave no prohibition against killing Mrs. Job.
Satan struck Job with loathsome sores from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. He was in terrible pain and possibly the sores itched or burned. Job’s entire appearance was changed by the sores on his body. Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself, likely trying to stop the pain or itching. Job did not remain in a bed or on a couch with soft sheets; rather he sat in ashes. Possibly, the sores drained and continually made sheets or cloths wet while ashes seemed to absorb the fluid produced by the sores. Probably, Job had no energy or presence of mind to direct servants or attempt to recover his wealth.
At no point in these early chapters of Job was there a record that Mrs. Job was physically harmed even though the effect of Satan’s persecution of Job had a tremendous impact on her. From what we can conclude, Mrs. Job still had the ability to think and to act. In fact with Job’s condition being what it was, most likely Mrs. Job had to direct field servants as well as house servants. As wife and caretaker, Mrs. Job tried to find healing balm to put on Job’s skin. Likely, she called in the equivalent of a doctor. Nothing worked to alleviate Job’s sores and pain. Although she cooked Job’s favorite meals, Job hardly ate. He lost weight; his pain was so great.
Pondering Relationships: Mrs. Job was crushed by the loss of her children and seeing her husband’s ill health and pain. Unlike Job, she did not even have physical pain to take away her mental grief at the loss of all 10 of her children. Daily, she witnessed Job’s pain and his devolving health. Finally, Mrs. Job asked her husband if he still believed that he was blameless and upright (Job 2:9 AMP). Her question showed she believed in the commonly-held Near Eastern doctrine that problems and losses were the punishment for something done wrong. Many religious scholars and Christians who read Job don’t criticize Mrs. Job for this question; her thoughts and words were formed by her culture.
What Mrs. Job said next was more controversial and the basis of Church father’s negative opinion of her; i.e., St Augustine labeled her “the devil’s accomplice” and Calvin called her “a diabolical fury” (Darling, 2011). Mrs. Job told her husband “Renounce God and die” (Job 2:9 AMP). In the English of the United States, “renounce” means to refuse to follow, obey, or recognize any further. By directing Job to renounce God, Mrs. Job told Job to stop following him or recognize him any further.
Mrs. Job’s words suggested she hit rock bottom in her ability to cope with both her family loss and her husband’s pain. Perhaps as she worked through her grief, she became angry and bitter toward God. She asked herself how the situation could get any worse even if Job renounced God and God killed him. If Job was dead, then at least her beloved husband would be released from his pain.
Job’s response to Mrs. Job was that she spoke like an impious and foolish woman would speak (Job 2:10, AMP). Notice, Job’s did not call Mrs. Job a foolish woman. Instead, Job concluded that her words were foolish, unlike her normal pious way of speaking. In a loving way, Job told his wife to “get a grip” and start to think once again in a Godly way. Then, Job asked his wife a question, “Shall we accept (only) good at the hand of God and shall we not accept (also) misfortune and what is bad in nature” (Job 2:10, AMP). We don’t know how Mrs. Job’s answered to her husband’s question, but we believe that she remained with him throughout his pain and suffering. She cooked and served food to him and his friends. Probably, she continued to direct the servants and to provide topical relief for his sores.
Reflection: The Bible gives no indication how long God allowed Job’s suffering to continue; it could have been months or years. We do know that at the end of the story, God restored Job’s fortunes and gave Job twice the riches he had when this episode started (Job 42:10-17). Further, Job fathered 10 more children; three daughters and seven sons. The Bible did not indicate that Job took a second wife. More than likely, God blessed Mrs. Job for her steadfastness and allowed her to be the mother of these 10 children. Job lived 140 years and saw his offspring to the fourth generation. We can hope and believe that Mrs. Job received this same blessing from God.
Copyright: November 1, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth
For a book on Lesser Known Bible Characters: Using their relationships to restore ours, visit http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com.