I am thinking about a woman I recently read about who lost her 10 children in a nightmarish windstorm that struck the home of the eldest sibling, killing all her children as they were dining.
This woman ended up losing her possessions, social status, even most of her friends. To make matters worse, her husband was experiencing a burning ulceration that covered his body. The horrible symptoms included inflamed eruptions accompanied by intense itching, maggots in ulcers, erosion of the bones as well as blackening and falling off of skin.
I found very little information on this poor lady, except for some advice she gave to her husband after she lost all hope. You can read it for yourself at Job 2:9. She told her mentally, emotionally and physically devastated husband, “Are you still clinging to your integrity? Curse God, and die.” — Common English Bible.
That’s her legacy. That’s what we remember about her. She told her husband to curse God and die. Many people view her as part of her husband’s test. But before we dismiss this wife and mother as being an instrument of evil, consider this: When the messengers told Job that he had lost all his livestock, Job’s wife lost hers too. When Job was told that he had lost all his material goods, Job’s wife lost hers too. When the messengers told Job that he had lost all his children, Job’s wife lost hers too. Are we to assume she was any less devastated than her husband?
The seven sons and three daughters that she carried for nine months each, breast-fed and helped raise, only to lose them all in one fell swoop — bodies slashed, mangled, twisted, crushed underneath her oldest son’s home — dead. How would any mother feel?
To make matters worse, her husband suddenly develops gruesome boils all over his body — boils oozing pus as his skin swells, becoming crusty, possibly resembling the hide of an elephant with a putrid stench. She watched as the man she loves, an honorable, God-fearing man — the father of her children — use a pottery jar to scrape the itching scabs, perhaps to alleviate the relentless pain.
The love of her life, her virtuous prince, is keeping his distance from her. Was he afraid of chancing contamination or was it because his breath and appearance was so stomach-turning that he wanted to spare his wife the indignity? With all her concerns, she can’t help him. All she can do is open the door and stare at her deteriorating husband outside.
Question: Would you prefer to see someone you dearly love suffering — their body rotting away in constant agony, or would you prefer they died? Job’s wife may not have been the only spouse to ever want to see her loved one put out of his misery. So when she said to her husband, “Curse God and die,” is it possible that all she wanted was to see an end to his torment? Being under unimaginable stress, is it possible that her misguided hope was to incur the wrath of God for a speedy death?
Ecclesiates 7:7 says, “Oppression destroys a wise man’s reason.” — New King James Version. The English Standard Version renders that verse: “Oppression drives the wise into madness.” If Job's grief and anguish could cause him to speak rashly, wild or impulsively as he admitted at Job 6:2-3, why would this not apply to his wife?
If all your children were killed on the same day you lost all of your assets, and your spouse was suddenly struck with a horrifying and agonizing disease that left your mate a near corpse lying in his own flaky ashes, are you sure you would think any clearer than Job’s wife? Do you honestly believe her goal was to get her husband to reject God or was she seeking some misguided way to end her husband’s misery?
Before you decide, consider this: Why was she not corrected by God as Job was? Why was she not rebuked with the three so-called “comforters” of Job? Why did she not have to offer a sacrifice or have her husband pray for her? Could it be that God knew that this wife and mother who had suffered the same shame and tragedies as her husband had made a simple error in judgement — a sympathy request — one that did not reflect any disloyalty as its purpose, but a normal desire to end her husband’s suffering? You decide.
It is poetic justice, however, that Job’s wife was blessed with everything Job received for his patience under trial. She gave birth to 10 more children, received twice as much wealth and a healthy, happy husband who continued to love her and love his God to the day he died — old and satisfied.
It seems altogether possible that Job’s wife may have been misunderstood. We don’t know the details of her story. We do know she suffered severely mentally and emotionally. Have you ever said something under pressure you later regretted? How would you like to be judged for one comment you made when you were suffering at your worst?
If I can personally learn not to criticize others, to look for the good and not impute wrong motives to anyone, well, maybe there are still a few more lessons to be learned by reading this wonderful book of Job.