“God’s anonymous: Job’s wife”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.
In her book, The Most Misunderstood Women of the Bible, author Mary DeMuth writes, “We live in a world of misunderstanding. People make up stories about us based on what they see, knowing so little about our inward journeys. Snap judgments punctuate our world.” Then she adds, “But what if we could look at the lives of grossly misunderstood women of the Bible and mine truth from their stories? How would that change us?”
That’s a good question! How would knowing their stories change us?
So out of all the women in the Bible, who are the most misunderstood?
Think, for example, of the world’s very first wife and mother, a woman named Eve. While it’s true that she took the fruit from that tree and ate it, even when God specifically told her not to, the Bible says that when she took it, Adam was with her. Which begs the question--why didn’t he stop her? Why didn’t he tell her “No!”?
Think of Bathsheba. Whenever we picture her, we see her as a woman who was minding her own business in the privacy of her own home, while her husband was off fighting the enemy, only to be suddenly caught up in a web of adultery, lies and deceit. What if, on the other hand, she had no choice but to answer the command of the king?
Or think of Abraham and Sarah’s servant, a teenage girl named Hagar. Whatever her flaws or weaknesses might have been, she was not only a pawn, but a victim too.
And somewhere on that long list of the Bible’s most misunderstood women, there’s one more, the one we know simply as Job’s wife.
I’ll read the words of Job chapter 1: “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east” (Job 1:1-3).
Now if you know the story, and I’m sure you do, you know that Job was an incredibly wealthy man. In fact, if you were to add up the value of just his sheep and camels, his oxen and donkeys, not to mention enough land to raise and feed them all, he could have easily been worth, in today’s dollars, more than $6 million. He was truly a very blessed and gifted man.
Yet, in spite of all that God had given him, Satan asked for permission to test him. As he said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse You to Your face” (Job 1:9, 11).
Then what? It was a disaster, the absolute worst thing that could have ever happened to anyone! First, soldiers came and killed nearly all of his workers, then stole all of his livestock--his oxen, his donkeys, and his camels. Then fire fell from heaven and burned his sheep. Then worst of all, a parent’s absolute worst nightmare, every single one of his children, all ten of them(!), were killed in a wicked storm.
And what did Job do? What would you do? The Bible says he tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground in prayer. He said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
But Satan wasn’t done--not by a long shot. So he came before the Lord once more. He said, “All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse You to Your face.”
And strangely enough, the Lord gave permission even for that as He said, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life” (Job 2:5).
Immediately, boils and sores welled up all over his body, from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. And the only thing that was of any help, as he sat in the dust and dirt, was when he scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery.
That’s when, all of a sudden, out of the blue, we meet one of God’s anonymous--Job’s wife. Verse 9: “Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.’”
Let’s stop right there.
Needless to say, history has not been kind to Job’s wife. Augustine referred to her as “The Devil’s Accomplice.” John Calvin called her “An Instrument of Satan” and a “Diabolical Fury.” Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Satan spared her precisely in order to use her against Job.” And any of us would be quick to add, “How would you like to be married to a gem like that?”
Or think of it like this--if we were to make a movie about the life of Job, it’s likely that not one of Hollywood’s leading actresses would audition for the part of Job’s wife.
And why not? Because those four words are her legacy--”Curse God and die.” And that’s pretty much all we know about Job’s wife.
But not so fast.
For just a moment, I want you to forget all about the things you might have imagined about Job’s wife. Forget seeing her standing over poor suffering Job, with her arms on her hips, a frown on her face and a snarl on her lips. Forget for a moment that she’s looking down at him to say, “Curse God and die,” because that might not be the real story after all.
Instead, I want you to think about it like this. Sure Job was a very wealthy man, as the Bible says, “the greatest of all the people of the east,” but so was his wife! She was like royalty, just as wealthy as he was, an equal partner, commanding the utmost honor and respect. She was the “First Lady” of the greatest, richest and most respected man around.
And if that wasn’t enough, together Job and his wife had not one, not two, but ten children--three daughters and seven sons! For nine months, she carried every single one of them in her womb, beneath her heart. And as they grew, she fed them and nourished them and taught them how to walk and how to talk.
And not only were they her children, they were the promise of grandchildren and great-grandchildren--the hope of life to come.
And through no fault of her own, suddenly, in one fell swoop, every single one of them was crushed and broken and gone. And now there was nothing but ten cruel graves that marked the bodies of her three daughters and seven sons.
And if all that wasn’t enough, all of a sudden, her wealth was gone and her servants were gone. Even her friends stayed away, while others judged and condemned them. And the one person, the only person, she could turn to in her time of deepest need, her sole provider and protector, her mental, physical and spiritual support, was her husband Job. And all he could do was to sit in dust and ashes and scrape the boils that covered his head, his chest, his legs and his feet.
Now let me ask--what would you do if you were Job’s wife?
Of course, she would say, “Curse God and die!” I mean, who needs enemies when you have a God like that?
Let’s stop again for just a moment. Have you ever felt like Job’s wife? How many times have you spoken the words or heard the words, “My child died,” or “My husband lost his job,” or ”My accountant made a mistake and now I owe thousands to the government”?
As much as we might hate to admit it, Job’s wife simply said out loud what every one of us, at some point in our lives, has felt in our heart.
But we have a God who not only hears our prayers, He feels our sadness, sympathizes with our weaknesses, and understands our fears. And He promises, as Paul once wrote to the Romans, that in His plan and in His way, all things will work together for our good.
Let’s look again at the text, because we’re not quite done. Once again, we’ll look at verse 9: “Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.’”
Now I’ll have to say it is a little strange if you think about it. You see, out of all the people who were part of Job’s life, no one knew him better than his wife. She knew who he was, she knew whose he was and whom he served. For Job, religion was not some little box that he picked up for one hour, one day a week, then closed and put back on the shelf. Job loved his Lord and he served his Lord.
As the Lord himself said, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth?” (Job 1:8).
So how could she possibly say, “Curse God and die”?
Because maybe that’s not what she meant at all!
You see, day after day, she witnessed her husband live out his days in utter agony, with no relief in sight. Their children were gone, their possessions were gone, and poor Job, covered in boils and sores, was just one breath away from the grave.
Even more, do you know who was with him every moment of every day, who fed him, who washed him, and who cared for him? Not his children and not his servants. They were all dead and gone.
The only one left was his wife.
In fact, in 1826, when artist William Blake published a series of engraved prints illustrating the book of Job, in eighteen out of twenty-one of them, Job’s wife was there. When the messengers came to tell him of his loss, she was there. When boils covered his head and feet, she was there. When friends came to comfort him, she was there. Even when he cursed the day of his birth, she was there.
And in the end, when all of his brothers and sisters and friends came to comfort him, the Bible doesn’t say anything about his wife returning. And the reason is because she never left his side. She was always there.
So don’t think of it as, “Curse God and die.” Instead, think of it, as one translation puts it: “You are still as faithful as ever, aren’t you? Dear Job, bless God, bless God, and die.”
Pastor and author John Stott tells the story of a man from the slums of Brazil who climbed 2,310 feet up the mountain to the huge statue of Christ that towers above Rio de Janeiro, “The Christ of Corcovado.”
And after a long and difficult climb, the man reached Jesus said, “I have climbed up to meet You, Christ, from my filthy, confined quarters, to put before You, most respectfully, these considerations: there are 900,000 of us down there in the slums of that city, and You, do You remain here at Corcovado surrounded by divine glory? Don’t stay away from us. Live among us and give us new faith in You and in the Father.”
Then Stott asks, “What would Christ say in response?” He said, “In the suffering of the cross, I did come down to live among you, and I live among you still.”
Then he adds, “We have to learn to climb the hill called Calvary, and from that vantage-point, survey all of life’s tragedies. And though we sometimes picture God lounging or even dozing in some celestial deck-chair, the cross smashes it all to smithereens.”
How do we know? Because while some might suggest that we “curse God and die,” our Savior was cursed and did die, for all the sins of all the world.
So we give thanks to God.
We thank You, dear Father, for this reminder to keep our eyes on You, rather than on our circumstances, and for loving us through the good days as well as the bad. Open our eyes to see You at work among us, and help us to reflect Your love in every place and at all times, for Jesus’ sake. Amen