There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. (Job 1:1,2).
What readers often take away from the book of Job is how utterly unfair Job’s trials seemed to be. Here was a man who was so righteous that he even offered sacrifices to God for his children in case they had been sinning. Things were going along really well for Job and his wife before Satan came along and tried to make him deny God.
God allowed Satan to take away Job’s ten children, his livestock, and his servants. Job did not sin but replied, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
Next, Satan asked God if he could ruin Job’s health. God gave Satan permission to afflict Job’s body, but to spare his life. Satan smote Job with sore boils from his head to his feet. We are not sure what disease caused these boils but they were so painful that Job wished he had never been born (Job 3:1).
After Satan’s attack we find Job sitting by the ashes, scraping himself with a potsherd. This was a fragment of a piece of pottery that was to scrape away the pus and perhaps the worms or maggots that got on Job’s body. Besides possibly sterilizing the potsherd in the fire, the ashes were there for Job to sprinkle over his head as people did in his day when they were in mourning.
This is how Job’s wife finds him when she comes to talk to him. We are usually shocked at what she says and she has been castigated for it by historians and theologians ever since. After her husband became terribly sick and covered with boils, Job’s wife says, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9).
Why would Job’s wife even say such a thing to Job?
Let’s take a moment and think about the story from her perspective. First of all, let us remember that those ten children who died were her children too. Perhaps Job’s wife was in such despair after seeing all of her children die that she wondered if God was taking away His blessings for some reason. She was also aware of the deaths of all of their servants and livestock.
The Bible only records this one conversation between Job and his wife. We do not know much else except that she stayed with him all through his trials. She must have served him and nursed him as best as she could. Job’s wife had no servants to help her wash and clean her husband’s puss and worm infested garments. How much time would she have had to spend patching them up or finding new ones?
Maybe it was hard for Job’s wife to see her husband in so much pain. It must also have been painful for her while her husband spent his whole time by the fire. She had probably been used to all of the daily acts of love between a husband and wife. Now her life would be the opposite. She would no longer be able to be comforted by her husband but must work hard to help him in this dire time of need.
It is also possible that Job’s wife was merely responding to what she overheard her husband saying as she brought him food or gave him other care. Throughout chapter 3, Job lamented, “Let the day perish on which I was to be born, and the night which said, ‘A boy is conceived.’ May that day be darkness; let not God above care for it, nor light shine on it. ….. Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire? Why is light given to him who suffers, and life to the bitter of soul, who longs for death, but there is none.” (Job 3:3,4,11,20,21).
Though her response was discouraging at the very least, Job’s wife may have wished that God would take him home and release him from his suffering. I recall a friend who had cancer whose pain was so awful that he prayed that God would just take him home. His wife admitted later that she prayed that God would give her husband release from pain one way or another. Surely anyone who has watched a loved one suffer so much can understand Job’s wife’s agony.
How did Job respond to his wife’s counsel? “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10).
Job said that his wife speaks “as” one of the foolish women speaks. He didn’t say she was a foolish woman. He remonstrated with her. Then he implored her to accept whatever came from God. We are not told if she repented at this time, but we do know that she stuck with her husband. She did not go somewhere else in spite of the fact that not only had their children been killed, but also all of their donkeys, oxen, sheep, and camels. Their livelihood was gone. Job was in no shape to go out and work. And he couldn’t get any help because all of his servants had been captured or killed as well. Job’s wife went from being very rich to very poor with no prospects. In our day, this would be a good time to run home to mother!
I do not know what it is like to lose a child, let alone all of my children at once. And Job’s wife didn’t even know why. Perhaps we should give her the benefit of the doubt as a frail human being. Imagine day after day watching your husband suffer so much. Anyone who has watched a loved one suffer will understand how Job’s wife felt. And imagine the helpless feeling because she did not know why God was allowing this.
Nowhere in the story does God tell Job what is going on. Job never finds out that Satan was involved. Job never finds out why God allowed all of this to happen to him. Why would we think Job’s wife should know any more than her husband does?
Not only was her husband ill and needing her sustenance, but now three guests show up and later a fourth man will show up. They stay for many days. Customs at the time demanded that Job’s wife feed and show hospitality to them.
Job’s three friends come to visit him and “console” him. They find all kinds of reasons for why Job is being tried. The friends mostly tell Job that he is suffering because he sinned. Bildad the Shuhite says for example, “Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert what is right? If your sons sinned against Him, then He delivered them into the power of their transgression. … If you are pure and upright, surely now He would rouse Himself for you and restore your righteous estate.” (Job 8:3-6)
Wow! With friends like these who needs enemies? Truly Job’s wife had a tremendous job on her hands to comfort her husband in spite of his companions.
Daily she would have spent many hours just making food and taking it to them. Where did she find ingredients for the food? She would have had to gather the grain and thresh it herself. Even if they had stored grain, Job’s wife would have had to pound it herself and prepare it for baking. She would have gathered the wood for the fire and maintained it herself. No mention is made of any other neighbors or help coming for her. The only other people we hear about are Job’s three friends and they mostly sat around talking to her husband.
Did Job’s wife listen in to their conversations? Did she wait to hear the answers to her husband’s questions? As she served him did Job’s wife come to acknowledge her sin and turn and give honor to God?
Job’s wife was a witness to Job’s growth in knowledge and sanctification. At one point in his conversation with his friends Job confessed, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.” (Job 19:25)
Eventually Job realized the truth. Job finally acknowledged that Jehovah is Lord of all. Job was willing to submit to God. He praised God and said, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore, I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees you; Therefore, I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2-6).
Job passed the test. His wife was with him. We hope that she followed his lead and humbly repented to God.
In any event, God exonerated Job and told the friends that they were wrong. Then God blessed Job and his wife. He gave them ten more children and twice as many belongings as before. Job gave all of his children, sons and daughters, an equal inheritance. His daughters were considered the fairest in the land. Surely their mother had something to do with that.