Her name was never revealed and yet she may be the most infamous woman in the Bible. Augustine labeled her "the devil's accomplice." Calvin called her "a diabolical fury."
And the contemporary understanding of Job's wife hasn't improved on Calvin or Augustine. It's difficult to find a book or sermon treatment of the life of Job that doesn't include the usual condemnations toward his wife. It has become a standard joke to pity Job, as if his wife was yet another cross God called this man to bear.
If the Proverbs 31 woman represents a model of Christian virtue, the wife of Job occupies the role of least desirable, sharing space in the Hall of Shame with the likes of Jezebel, Delilah, and Michal.
But is this image an honest assessment of her character? Or is there a possibility that in our rush to empathize and identify with Job, we've rushed to cast judgment on his wife?
What We Forget
I wonder if there isn't a gap in our understanding of the Job story. Although clearly Job is the main character, he is not the only one. She may not have been the primary subject of the cosmic argument between God and Satan (1:6-11; 2:1-4), but she was still caught in the crossfire. You might argue that every hardship endured by Job was similarly felt by his wife:
She watched her children die (Job 1:13-19). Ten times God had blessed her womb. Ten times she endured the joy and pain of childbirth. Ten lives nurtured to love, honor, and respect Jehovah. From the account in the first chapter of Job, this appears to be a fun-loving, God-fearing, tight-knit family. Who was the heartbeat of this home? Likely Job's wife played a part in that. It's unlikely he could be such an esteemed man in society (Job 1:1) if his wife was not an integral and influential leader in her own right.
Imagine the grief that overwhelmed her soul as she looked down in disbelief at ten freshly dug graves.
She experienced dramatic financial loss. The Bible describes Job as a wealthy man, perhaps the richest in the world (Job 1:3). Undoubtedly his wife was accustomed to a lifestyle of luxury and comfort. I imagine her home was adorned with the finest furnishings, her clothes spun from the most expensive threads. Her children likely had everything they needed.
In one really bad day, she lost it all. All their wealth, property, and way of life (Job 1:13-22). She was not only bankrupt, but homeless, forced to beg outside the city dump.
She became a caretaker for her disease-ravaged husband. Although Old Testament scholars don't agree on the nature of Job's illness, clearly his pain was so excruciating, he asked God to take his life (Job 3). It distorted Job's appearance so dramatically that his closest friends could barely recognize him and when they approached, fell to the ground in pity (Job 2:12). This last temptation brought by Satan was so severe, it nearly broke Job's soul. Every day Job spent at the ragged edge of death, only experiencing momentary relief brought by the heat of the burn piles and the scrape of pottery shards.