Defending Job’s Wife

Posted on December 14, 2017


By David Ettinger

Beaten Down
job wifeI remember back in the late 1980s sitting in church as the pastor led us through a study in the Book of Job. Regarding Job’s wife, our pastor said, “How would you like to have this woman as a wife?”

He intended this in a bad way. Though a fine Bible teacher, his comment was cold. Unfortunately, he was neither the first nor the last Bible expositor to attack this woman. Preachers and Sunday school teachers over the centuries have beaten down this woman because of her infamous words. Is this scorn justified?

A Brief Recap
Job Chapter 1 opens with the angels coming into God’s presence to report on their activities. Satan is among them, and God asks him, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (v. 8). Satan accuses God of coddling Job. Satan asserts that if Job loses everything he has, he will curse God. God allows Satan to afflict Job. The result: Job loses everything he owns and all ten of his children are killed.

Despite Satan’s savage attack, Job refuses to curse God (2:3). Satan tells God, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face” (v. 5).

book of JobThe Lord again acquiesces and Satan besets Job with painful sores all over his body. The Hebrew indicates “festering boils,” which include inflamed, ulcerous sores; itching; degenerative changes in facial skin; loss of appetite; depression; loss of strength; worms in the boils; difficulty in breathing; fever; and blackened and peeling skin. In his misery, Job goes to sit among the city’s dung and garbage heaps. Despite all this, he never curses God.

We then read that Job’s wife, finding him in the ash heaps, urges Job to put an end to his misery with the words, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (v. 9).

The Attack
Job is annoyed by his wife’s words, replying, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (v. 10).

It was one thing for Job, in his despair, to reply the way he did; we can understand this. But what of the array of preachers and teachers over the centuries – many wearing fine clothes and enjoying good health and contented family lives – who have assailed Job’s wife for, as they saw it, her weakness, faithlessness, and lack of integrity? Matthew Henry wrote, “she was to him like Michal to David, a scoffer at his piety. She was spared to him … to be a troubler and tempter to him.”[1] Another commentator wrote, “Here is the picture of a lively temper, quick to feel resentment at pain or gratitude for good; but a shallow understanding, unused to meditation and reflection on the deeper meanings of life.”[2] Even Church luminaries Augustine and John Calvin joined the mudslinging, Augustine referring to Job’s wife as diable adjustrix (“Satan’s ally” or “Satan’s handmaiden”) and Calvin calling her organum satanae (the “organ of Satan”).

Understanding Her Words and Finding Grace
hand reach outWe can only imagine the anguish Job’s wife experienced before Satan attacked Job’s body. Perhaps she endured Satan’s first assault with quiet dignity and grieved within, composing herself admirably on the outside. However, the miserable sight of her husband’s infirmities is too much for her, and this is what pushes her over the top. When she tells Job to “Curse God and die,” I don’t believe her anger was directed at God in that cursing Him was her prime objective. Instead, her major concern and burden was the husband she loved and the agony he was writhing in.

In her tortured pain, all she sought was her husband’s relief, and the only way she could see this happening would be for Job to die. She saw God as the only one who could bring this about, and called on the only means she could think of to persuade God to act. To “curse” God is another way of saying to “blaspheme” God, which was punishable by death. To those who thought she was alone in her sentiments, note in Chapter 3 how Job seeks the same thing: “Why is light given to him who suffers, And life to the bitter of soul, Who long for death, but there is none” (vv. 20-21).

When Job calls his wife “foolish,” he is not saying she is silly or ridiculous; rather the biblical term “foolish” refers to those who reject God or His will (see Psalm 14:1-3). Perhaps this describes Job’s wife at the moment, but how would you react in such circumstances?

The bottom line is this: Job’s wife, just like her husband, experienced the death of ALL ten of her children. Need more be said? Yes, her words were rash, but does she deserve the venom that has been spewed at her? “…a troubler and tempter”; “…shallow understanding …”; “Satan’s handmaiden”? Though brilliant men penned such words, they are nonetheless harsh and heartless, cold and condemning.

What about you? How do you deal with those who suffer and, in their grief, blame God? Let the apostle Paul’s words guide you: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

May God’s grace and mercy compel you when you encounter the “Job’s Wives” of the world.

[1] Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible

[2] E. Johnson, “Pulpit Commentary Homiletics