Job’s Wife & Her Fire

The book of Job consists of 1,070 verses and 42 chapters. Chapters 1 and 2 feature conversations between God and Satan. Chapters 3 through 37 feature conversations between Job and Eliphaz, Job and Bildad, and Job and Zophar. Those were the three friends who came to visit Job during his time of intense mourning. Lastly, chapters 38 through 42 feature a conversation between God and Job and then a conversation between God and Eliphaz. Obviously, there is a whole lot of talking in the book of Job.

Interestingly, though, in all these verses, chapters, and conversations, there is only one quote attributed to Job’s wife. Satan has recently struck Job’s life by orchestrating events that have caused Job to lose his oxen, donkeys, sheep, and camels. Even worse than that, Job’s servants as well as his seven sons and three daughters have all been killed. Then, after Job has endured all that loss and still worshiped God, Satan has afflicted him with gruesome boils that cover his body from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. So now Job has removed himself from normal society and made his way out to the local ash heap, the place where the lepers had to live. There he sits, in the midst of those ashes, scraping his boils with a broken piece of pottery. Other than Jesus hanging dead on the cross, there has probably never been a more pitiable figure at that very moment. And it’s then that Job’s wife goes out to that ash heap and says to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9)

During the eras when society was dominated by men, preachers typically blasted Job’s wife for what they deemed her coldness, cruelty, and lack of compassion for her decimated husband. In more recent years, though, as women have risen to a more prominent place in the world, many preachers have gone easier on her by saying, “We must take into account that she had just buried all ten of her children. That would make anyone bitter.” Regardless of what our opinion of Job’s wife should be, there’s no doubt that Job’s reply back to her certainly wasn’t laced with compassion, tenderness, and understanding. He said, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10)

You say, “Wow, is that rebuke really the response that God wanted Job to offer at that moment?” All I know is that immediately following the reply the Bible says this: “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10). Clearly, “all this” would have to include Job’s response to his wife. This means that we shouldn’t completely let her off the hook for her infamous comment. Job called her foolish for saying it, and God backed him up on that assessment.

Really, though, most of us wouldn’t have done any better at handling the catastrophic situation into which this woman was suddenly thrust. Her husband was the richest man in all the East (Job 1:3), a fact that gave her a lofty standing in her world. By reading between the lines a bit, we can surmise that she had fine clothes, beautiful jewelry, and an overabundance of everything. She didn’t have to toil, labor, and sweat over daily household chores because she had a staff of servants to handle that work for her. Of course, she needed all that extra help because she stayed pregnant most of the time, right? I mean, getting pregnant ten times and giving birth to ten healthy children is no small feat. And would you believe that the closing of the book of Job says that God blessed Job with seven more sons and three more daughters, which evidently means that this woman gave birth to 20 children in her lifetime? Imagine that! Obviously, she was good at being a mother.

So, there is a lot to commend about Job’s wife, and it’s unfortunate for her that history only remembers her for unloading on her husband during the low point of his life. But such is the damage that ill-spoken words can do. In Proverbs 18:21, the Bible goes so far as to say, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” and James 3:6 calls the tongue “a fire,” and “a world of iniquity.” It’s no wonder that David, in Psalm 141:3 says, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” We should all pray such a prayer each and every day.

In closing, let me just point out that God doesn’t want us to be mutes. Remember that it’s not just death that is in the power of the tongue, it’s also life. As Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” You see, talking is fine as long as you do it the right way. The goal is to always say what God wants you to say, to whom He wants you to say it, when He wants you to say it, and how He wants you to say it. (As Tonya has explained to me over and over again, “It’s not what you said, Russell. It was your tone.”) So let’s all work on our conversing today and make sure that we don’t burn down anything with the fire that lies behind our teeth. Job’s wife spouted her flames and with one quote became known for something for which she’d rather not be known. May the same thing not happen to us.

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