Defending Job’s Wife

Recently, I read an article that really came down hard on Job’s wife because of the statement that she makes to her husband, to “curse God and die.”  The author went as far as to suggest that this was a woman who clearly had no faith and was a blasphemer because of the statement that she made and her unwillingness to follow her husband’s example.  Granted, Job’s wife does not follow her husband’s example, but that being said, we need to be very careful about making judgments about her character and about her faith.

All too often, when folks come to texts like these, the matter of primary concern is, “What is the doctrine in question?” or “What moral or ethical principle can I learn?”  And while texts like this do raise moral and ethical questions, when we look to answer these questions first, we oftentimes lose the people who are living out the event.  Job and his wife are not fictional or allegorical characters, but they are real, historical people—human beings like you and me.  They come complete with worries and fears, good days and bad days.  They struggle with the same kind of struggles that you or I would struggle with, and Job’s wife, more-so than others in the narrative, needs to be looked at through this lens.  We need to see her humanity and her hurt and as a result, we need to discuss her character flaws with compassion and not analytical scorn.

Look to other characters in scripture that have committed equally heinous sins.  Look to King David who had his friend murdered to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba.  Look at Peter who denied our Lord three times and then later, after Pentecost, still falls into fear of the Judaizers and had to be rebuked by Paul, “to his face.”  Look at Abram and Sarai who doubted God’s promise and tried to force God’s hand through Hagar.  Look at God’s people through history and their stumbles and failures, their doubts and their fears, and when we look at Job’s wife in this light, we see her very differently.  Granted, we never see her recanting her statement, but she is restored in the end alongside of her husband.  Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad are strongly rebuked in the end; Job’s wife is not.

Remember something as well, it is not just Job that is going through this trial, but Job’s wife is going through the testing and trial as well.  Are not Job’s children also the children of his wife?  Are not the lands, the wealth, and the property of Job also the lands, wealth, and property of his wife?  Thus, in all these things, she has lost and suffered and hurt and grieved right alongside of Job—and been faithful, according to the account.  Now, though, she sees the hand of trial turn upon her husband to the point where he is reduced to a wretched state, covered with sores and scraping himself with pottery shards, sitting in ashes.  And it is here, at this point, that she breaks down and makes the comment that is recorded above.

Let me pose the question, how many confessing Christians have you known through the years who have come to this point?  How many Christians have sought euthanasia for a loved one to end their suffering?  Is this not the same thing as what Job’s wife is advocating?  How many confessing Christians have been so overwhelmed by the grief over the loss or suffering of a loved one, that they have railed against God in anger and rage?  Even many of the theological giants have gone through such crises—C.S. Lewis does us the favor of allowing us to see his inner doubts and fears about God as he watched his wife, Joy, wither and die of bone cancer.  Friends, if you do not see her grief in these matters, you will interpret her badly, but when you see her grief you will see that these are not the words of a faithless blasphemer, but are the words of a fearful, hurting believer who is not able to bear what she sees taking place in the body of her husband.

The beauty of this whole event, and of our own lives when we face such trials, is that God is bigger than our grief.  He is gracious in our doubts and merciful to us even in our anger.  And sometimes we need to be brought by God to that point where we can just stop and be still, finding peace in Him—even in the midst of our lack of understanding.  He is like a loving Father that once he has loved and held his child through a fit of rage, sits calmly with them and comforts that child in the wake of the fit.  The beauty, loved ones, is that we don’t need to understand, simply trust that God understands and will work even the most horrendous things for our well-being.  Thus, the next time you are ready to condemn Job’s wife, remember that she is human and remember that you are too; that ought to show her in a different light.

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