Women of the Bible: Job’ Wife

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting significant named and unnamed women of the Bible. The CEB Women’s Bible provides helpful indexes of all these named and unnamed women as well as over 140 insightful profiles. Written by female pastors, scholars, and faith leaders, these profiles encourage us to witness the stories and valuable contributions of biblical women. Below are two profiles of Job’s wife (from Job 2) written by Sharon Lynn Putt.

Job’s Wife

We never know her name; we never hear her laments. Yet she, too, lost her children and all her possessions; she, too, endured undeserved suffering at the hand of God; and she, unlike Job, remains immortalized in scripture unfavorably. But does Job’s spouse deserve to suffer such negativity on top of everything else? Not if we judge her according to God’s standards at the conclusion of the story. Although we never hear her voice after chapter 2, we see implicit evidence of her wifely activity in the epilogue. After all, Job does have ten more children (42:13)! Moreover, in a surprisingly feminist moment, scripture names only the daughters…and allots them an inheritance along with the sons (40:14-15)!

Interestingly, however, even though she tells Job to curse God and die, God never indicts Job’s wife for speaking wrongly, never calls her to remorse the way God does with Job’s friends. In the end, Job’s blessings (like his sufferings) are hers as well. Could it be that instead of playing handmaiden to the devil, as some scholars claim, she acted as a theologian unencumbered by preconceived ideas of God and motivated Job to express his anger and grief in healthy ways that eventually led to God’s blessing? We all can learn from her example and speak truth to power as she did.

Job’s Wife, Alternate Traditions

By delving more deeply into the tradition surrounding Job we discover a more positive interpretation of Job’s wife. For example, extra-canonical literature both ancient and contemporary gives her the name Sitis, and it also gives her a voice with which to express her maternal and spousal grief. Exhausted, vulnerable, and grief-stricken, she takes on the burdens of supporting herself and Job. As a highly respected woman in the community, Sitis humbles herself and roams from neighbor to neighbor begging for bread so Job does not starve. Sitis gently provides comfort to her husband, exhorting him to bless God and ask permission to die before the overwhelming grief from his afflictions leads him to sin. So in the end, Job’s wife takes the high, but difficult, road as both grief-stricken mother and long-suffering supportive wife.

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