Scripture: Job 2:9-109Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.”10But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
I am taking a class on “Job and the Mystery of Suffering” this quarter and when we were assigned this passage to write on for this week I found it way more interesting than I thought I would. The book of Job is a difficult book at its best and when I read it the first time I started having questions about Job’s wife but couldn’t find anything about her. She is mentioned only twice and is never named and in a culture where remembering your name when you’ve died is your immortality that is complete death. So I want to take her part, I want to be her advocate, I only have questions
I get the feeling here that Job’s wife is feeling real pain; she has after all, just like Job, lost everything and is grieving deeply. While this may be the story of Job his wife, who is allowed to live through this experience with him, is always forgotten. You can hear her frustration and pain most clearly in the paraphrase bible, The Message, where she says: “Still holding on to your precious integrity, are you? Curse God and be done with it!” Here is a woman in pain whose feelings are being ignored not just by Job but by God as well. Job tells her to quit talking like a “Shameless, Harlot, Fool,” and accept whatever God hands them. (Mind you he is kind enough not to call her those things, just stop talking like them.) She is a side effect of the Adversaries bet with God, and if Job doesn’t deserve such suffering, she certainly doesn’t. According to the bet with God the Adversary was to test Job not his wife, so why is she being tested along with him? Or is this one of those patriarchal editorial jobs that just manages to forget to add that Job’s wife was just as faithful to God as Job was and she too was being tested? I have only questions because there is no information on this forgotten lady, even her name is gone and in a name forgotten was true death.
One of the reasons I am asking these questions is because of what Crenshaw (Crenshaw, James L.; Reading Job, a Literary and Theological Commentary, Smyth & Helwys, Macon GA, 1984, pg 45) says concerning the Hebrew word for curse, barak, which he says is difficult to interpret and may actually mean blessing, which changes the meaning of the wife’s words to “Bless Elohim and die victoriously.” Now that is interesting, because the wife in that version seems to be saying just be done with it, if God wants Job dead, then be done with it and die a virtuous man. Job, on the on the other hand, tells her I’m not giving up, I will accept what I’m given, if I’ve done anything to offend God then I deserve what I’ve gotten. Job doesn’t know what he did but he’s going to stick around and demand more information. As I looked for reasons for Job’s stubbornness I looked back at the Pentateuch and found in Deuteronomy 28:1-68 something rather interesting. In this chapter Moses tells the people of God that if they follow all of God’s commandments they will be blessed and if they don’t then they will be cursed. In fact, Deuteronomy 28:38 (“The LORD will afflict you at the knees and thighs with a severe inflammation, from which you shall never recover—from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head” [italics mine]) describes exactly what the Adversary does to Job in verse 2:7 (“The Adversary departed from the presence of the LORD and inflicted a severe inflammation on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” [italics mine]). If Job is as faithful to God as the prologue says then he knew full well what was said in Mosaic Law and that meant he must have done something wrong, he just doesn’t know what it was. Job’s wife is ready to give up and go to her rest, Job is not.
©Ruth Jewell, January 25, 2012