Job’s Wife: God’s Forbearance ought to lead us to Repentance

Job’s wife is a mystery to us in many ways. She offers only two lines in Scripture: one question and a sentence. Her words are few in number yet they echo from age to age. In fact, they have become the every frame that holds her picture, and her image is not flattering. On the whole, the woman is not well-admired. Augustine calls her the “Devil’s accomplice” and Calvin refers to her as “an instrument of Satan” and a “diabolical fury.”[1]

These are harsh words, but are they justified? Job 1:1 describes the husband of our nameless lady as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” God’s blessings rested on Job, guarding him, his house and his belongings from danger (Job 1:10). Job and his wife enjoyed ten children—seven sons and three daughters and many possessions: “7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants” (Job 1:2-3).  The man Job was the greatest of all the people of the east. Imagine sharing the name of such a man: “the Wife of the Greatest of all People in the East!”

But one day, Job’s greatness is weighed not by his possessions or name but by his fear of the LORD. He becomes the subject of a conversation between God and Satan. God is first to reference Job. Like a proud father unable to chat long before some mention of His son, the LORD offers this: “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8)? Satan had indeed considered Job; and he didn’t share God’s conclusion: yes, Job did fear God, but not without reason. The man was shielded in God’s hands; each day offered more sunshine than it did rain (Psalms 84:11). “But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face” (Job 1:11).

With this, God opens up the hedge around Job and allows Satan’s hands to enter (Job 1:12). That cruel hand wastes no time in robbing Job—either by theft or by death—of all his possessions. Within a day, all his oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels and servants are taken. Worse still, a man kneels before Job with this news: “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead” (Job 1:18-19).

The skyline over Uz changed from sunshine to dark clouds for Job as he “fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:20-21). Job maintains the tune of his doxology even as Satan covers his body with painful sores (Job 2:1-8).

It seems however that the worship music grows irritating for someone. For while sitting in ashes and scraping his wounds with broken pottery, his wife bombards him with these words: “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Abraham Kuyper describes her words as a call for suicide.[2] In other words, while Job sits, mixing praise with groans, his wife approaches and instead of encouragement, she questions his continuing devotion to God and then offers this temptation: dissociate yourself from God; throw insults at Him and perhaps He will end your misery with death.

This was wicked. To suggest blasphemy and death to a husband—already struggling with the hope of death (Job 6:8-9)—was indeed diabolical. But Job’s careful response to his wife tells much. He replies: “you speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil” (Job 2:10)? I find it revealing for this reason: he describes her as speaking as one of the foolish women. In other words, Job doesn’t say “there you go again with your usual foolish talk” but rather “you are speaking as if you were a foolish woman.”

Is it possible that this woman's life professed faith prior to their suffering? Were these impious words new to Job’s ears? If so, the agonizing loss of name, property, and ten children (both hers and Job’s) had revealed uncertainty in the wife while showing steadfastness in the husband. In short, she was weighed and found wanting (Daniel 5:27).

It’s a wonder God doesn’t kill her. After all, based on her own logic, to blaspheme God was to invite death. But Job’s wife lives. She lives to see God visit and heal her husband (Job 40-42). She witnesses the generous restoration of his name and their wealth (Job 42:10-12). Her husband doesn’t pull away but faithfully joins himself to her again and the LORD blesses them with the gift of seven additional sons and three beautiful daughters (Job 42:13-17). She watches the darkness over Uz give way to the sun. Surely, the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance and patience finds this woman; may it be that these also lead her to repentance (Romans 2:4).

Job’s wife reminds me of myself in some ways. I am certainly not above sounding like a foolish woman when faced with frustrations and pain (much less than her loss of children!). My prayer is that God’s demonstrated kindness to me—above all, the atoning death and imputed righteousness of His Son—would continuously guard me to a faith that reveals itself in perseverance and joy in trial (James 1:2-5). I want to be found clinging to Christ when weighed!

*Thanks for reading! This post is part of my Mothers in the Bible Series; we are looking for glimpses of the gospel in the lives of biblical women--from Eve to Mary, the mother of Christ. Click here to see other writings. And please let me know your thoughts!

[1] Kuyper, Abraham, Women of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961), 134.

[2] Ibid.