Does Job’s wife get a bad rap?

May 24, 2010

One of my Sunday afternoon luxuries is to relax while the children are taking a nap. I typically watch a DVR’d message by Dr. David Jeremiah. Dr. Jeremiah has become one of my favorite preachers. I really learn a lot from his exposition of the Word.

On TV, Dr. Jeremiah is going through a study of the book of Job. Job is one of the richest books in the entire Scriptures, full of powerful and faith-building theology. This message centered on the lessons we learn from trials. But as I was listening to the message, a thought occurred to me about Job’s wife.

I had studied, read about, and even written and preached on Job before, but had never had this thought.

What was it like to have been Job’s wife? And do we give her a harder time than is necessary?

Consider this. Every single of Job’s trials was also born by Job’s wife. And yet we hardly stop to offer compassion.

She saw every single one of her children die. Children delivered from her womb. Children she had raised to love, honor, and respect Jehovah. Arguably, it is the mother’s daily influence that has the most profound effect on a child. And yet in one horrific day, she lost them all. Job’s wife was the spiritual heartbeat of her home. And the book of Job seems to imply that were a tight-knit, fun-loving, God-honoring family. Those moments were now ripped from her life forever.

She experienced dramatic financial loss. Job went from the penthouse–from being the most revered and wealthiest citizen of his day–to the outhouse, forced to sit outside the city dump and collect trash. It was a stunning fall for the Job family. Imagine how difficult this was on Job’s wife, to not only attend ten funerals for her children, but to have to live homeless. Her home, the pride and joy of a woman’s heart, was ripped away from her.

She became the caretaker for her disease-ravaged husband. Bible scholars are not sure as to the exact nature of Job’s sickness, but all are sure that was a horrifically painful disease. It so distorted Job’s appearance that even his closest friends didn’t recognize him. When they approached, they fell down in anguish and pity. Job’s wife had to endure that every day and she was the one who cared for him. If you’ve never done caretaking for a loved one, you don’t know how physically tiring and painful that can be, especially when you have limited or no resources. They had no home, no children, and no money. One thing we can say about Job’s wife is that at least she was there for Job. At the end of the book, we read of God’s restoration of Job’s health, the delight of a new generation of children, and the restoration of Job’s wealth. And we also read that all of his relatives and friends came once again to his house to be with Job once again. Those were fair-weather friends. When Job was sitting by the dump, none of them were there to visit him. But through all of Job’s distress, Job’s wife remained.

That’s why I think a rereading of Job’s response to his wife is in order. I used to think Job was being harsh when he said, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak.” (Job 2:10 ESV). I used to think Job was saying, “Hey, wife, you sound foolish.” But I think he was saying something entirely different.

Now this is just my opinion, but I think Job was trying to comfort his own wife during her own time of distress. Notice Job didn’t say, “You’re foolish.” But “you sound like the foolish woman.” I think Job is saying here, “Hey, honey, this isn’t you talking. I know what you believe. I know you’re heart.”

This isn’t the real you. And isn’t it true that when we’re going through tragic times of grief and pain, that often our emotions, or physical exhaustion or hunger or loneliness take over and we say things or act in ways are radically different from what we know and believe? We’ve all been there. She could have been delirious, hungry, tired. She might have been in such a state of shock or grief that she was not speaking clearly and thinking clearly.

I think its interesting that while God judged Job’s three friends, God never judged Job’s wife. The end of Job talks about God’s restoration. Job lived many, many more years, a long full-life for the Lord. I imagine his relationship with his wife grew richer and sweeter, because during his toughest season, while everyone else either judged him or turned away, his wife was there suffering with him. She didn’t always have the right words. Sometimes the circumstances overwhelmed her. But she was there.