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Wife of Job: Bible

by Ilana Pardes

In the well-known biblical story dealing with the problem of undeserved suffering, Job loses his children, his possessions, and his health. Job’s nameless wife turns up after the final blow, after Job has been struck with boils. Seeing her husband sitting in the dust, scraping his sores silently, she bursts out, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die” (2:9). She cannot bear her husband’s blind acceptance of the tragedies that befall them. Indeed, the attention to Job’s suffering usually ignores the fact that she too, after all, is a victim of these divine tests in addition to being pained by exposure to his afflictions (19:17). To cling to a model of perfect devotion to a supposedly perfect God when reality is so far from perfection seems to Job’s wife to be not exemplary strength, but an act of cowardice. Such “integrity,” she seems to be saying, lacks a deeper value. What Job must do is to challenge the God who has afflicted him so, even if the consequence is death.

Much has been written about the unusual challenge the Book of Job offers in its audacious questioning of the ways of God, but one never hears of the contribution of Job’s wife to the antidogmatic bent of the text. Job’s wife prefigures or perhaps even generates the impatience of the dialogues. She opens the possibility of suspending belief, of speaking against God. Job’s initial response to his wife’s provocative suggestion is harsh: “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” (2:10). When the dialogues begin, however, Job comes close to doing what his wife had suggested. He does not curse God directly, but by cursing his birth he implicitly curses the creator who gave him life. Much like Eve, Job’s wife spurs her husband to doubt God’s use of divine powers. In doing so she does him much good, for this turns out to be the royal road to deepening one’s knowledge, to opening one’s eyes.

Job’s wife disappears after her bold statement. She is mentioned in passing only once more in the course of Job’s debate with his friends. In protesting his innocence of various wrongdoings, Job insists that if his “heart was enticed by [the wife of his neighbor]/… then let my wife grind for another,/and let other men kneel over her” (31:9–10). He regards his wife’s fate as a mere extension of his own lot.

Job’s wife is conspicuously absent from the happy ending in which Job’s world is restored. Job’s dead children spring back to life, as it were, because he ends up having, as in the beginning, seven sons and three daughters. Yet his wife, who actually escaped death, is excluded from this scene of familial bliss. The challenge of the outsider—and woman is something of an outsider in divine-human matters—seems far more threatening than a critique voiced from within.

Bibliography

Greenberg, Moshe. “Job.” In The Literary Guide to the Bible, edited by Robert Alter and Frank Kermode, 283–304. Cambridge, MA: 1987.

Kahn, Jack. Job’s Illness: Loss, Grief, and Integration: A Psychological Interpretation. Oxford: 1975.

Meyers, Carol, General Editor. Women in Scripture. New York: 2000.

Pardes, Ilana. Countertraditions in the Bible: A Feminist Approach. Cambridge, MA: 1992.

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17 Comments

Wife of Job?

An intriguing thought, with apparently no definitive answer.

It is interesting to note that the Targum translates thus:

"Thou speakest like one of those women who have wrought folly in the house of their father", which eludes to an old Rabbinical "opinion" that Job may have lived in the time of Jacob. Jacob's only daughter, born of Leah, was Dinah.

Some believe, that Dinah, may have been Job's wife (nothing definitive).

The great thing about the story of Job, is that "... God turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends..." Job 42:10 and, " ... God blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning..." verse 12

Whoever Job's wife really was, seems to dissipate in the light of this thought: ".. he died being old and FULL OF DAYS." verse 17

He lived a long and happy life, knowing the richness of God's Love and Mercy.

Peace, my friends

ugh, women... job's wife was a keeper. end of discussion. :D

I don't believe Job remarried - because the book of Job doesn't say he remarried.I also don't believe his 7 children were resurrected - because the book doesn't say they were resurrected.I believe his wife repented when Job repented, and her womb was once again blessed, to bear 7 more children.Nothing is impossible with God.We must not add to the scripture nor say what it does not say.

We must deduce with common sense that one of two things happens, He does remarry and has children through her OR the former children are brought back. because he receives what he had before and double the portion due to his faithfulness.

Does not say they were 'brought back'. It names the new children he has and the women are beautiful. His first lot was taken, and then he was blessed with a new lot. The first lot reside in heaven and he was blessed with new beautiful children, assumably by his original wife as it does not say he remarried or she left/died whatever. This was a extremely severe test, so I believe God was merciful even to his wife in the matter.

Master's thesis or not, Job's experience with his wife has been similar to my own. We have been struck repeatedly time after time through the decades with health problems both mine and my son's. Thankfully my son seems to have recovered. However, the nature of my own health issues are chronic and enduring. Because of my health, my wife's plan to retire at 50 while I worked on indefinitely has been waylaid. No one wss more willing than me to work on so my wife could have her wish and she knows that. Nevertheless, unlike Job and his wife who knew that God was the ultimate cause of Job's terrible misfortunes, I've just recently understood that my own wife has over the last 15 years blamed me for the misfortune which my health has visited upon the two of us. This realization has been devastating. I don't know now what to do.

I feel for Job. I too had severe medical issues. I started out with an appendix operation and now as of 2016 have had 5 bowel surgeries losing a total of 15 feet of small bowel and 2 feet of large. Drs. have stated I should be dead. I can just smile and Thank the LORD for his massive mercies and given me life where I shouldn't have it. My wife fortunately has stuck by my side through all of this. Many women would have found the door and never came back.

Maintain your faith my friend. It has been hard on her too! Just love her and forgive her.

Bruce,

Just like Job, hang on, your later shall be greater. It may seen devastating now and terrible to bear, but remember he said through our storm he will be there for us. He is right there beside you, hold on tight to him. Also, the bible is your best companion now, chew the word, and through that he will give you grace and wisdom to forgive your wife.

I would like this character called job I study on Tuesday and I thought I like to act it out in bethel chapel with his words in the holy bible what can I do

Job's children didn't "spring back to life" they were in heaven so when he and his 7 sons and 3 daughters die he will be in heaven with double the amount of children.

Was Job's wife the one who bore him the latter children?

Yes it could be her because there is no mention that his wife left him She could not have been near him but i think she did help him by cooking for him, helped him with water to wash the boils over his body etc I get lost when mention is of the children without Job was too righteous to an extent that he would not pervert from God's ways He would rather choose to forgive than to divorce her

This is so true...I have written a paper about Job's wife.... she's always seen as Satan's handmaiden..but the Islamic tradition and even the Testament of Job portrayed Job's wife as the channel of God's blessing... more so, the hebrew word "barak" in verse 10 can be translated as "bless or curse"....it is clear that the two tradition I mentioned above followed the translation "bless" rather than "curse" which the Christian bible uses,....:)....

I based my Masters Thesis in 1997 on that very idea, that she was portrayed in such a negative light because "barak" has always been translated as "curse" rather than "bless". It was titled "Bless God and Die..." and focused on her telling her husband to be thankful and bless God, not hateful and curse him. I enjoyed researching and writing it very much.

Why would Job, then, tell his wife 'you speak as one of the foolish women' if it were translated 'bless' rather than curse? The devil was purely using her as this was even what he said to God that 'he would curse you to your face!'. He spoke through Job's wife and Job rebuked it. This was not a blessing but a curse from her lips.

JOB-42-7 God is angry with Jobs friends because they did not speak right of God.There is no mention of God being angry with his wife.May be Job prayed for her forgiveness and she also realised and accepted God's will.

How to cite this page

Pardes, Ilana. "Wife of Job: Bible." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 24, 2017) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/wife-of-job-bible>.

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