It is not surprising that the brilliant work of the “Stages of Grief” was created by a woman. In 1969, a woman named Elisabeth Kubler-Ross introduced to the world a book, “On Death and Dying. Her seminal work with patients, gave voice and methodology as to how physicians and therapists would assist in healing patients overcome with the emotions of loss and grief. In essence, Kubler-Ross was saying, grief is natural, grief is understandable, and grief is inevitable; but its expression will vary from person to person, because we all handle grief differently and the timing is an individual and personal experience.
The Stages of Grief
- Shock & Denial (including the emotions of numbness, blame, confusion, & avoidance)
- Anger (including the emotions of frustration, anxiety, shame, & embarrassment)
- Bargaining (including the emotions of making a “deal” with God, false hope, negotiation
- Depression (including the emotions of being overwhelmingly sad, helpless, & hopeless)
- Acceptance ( exploring new options, willingness to dialogue, new plans, inevitability)
- Return to Meaningful Life (empowerment, security, new energy)
So, how do these stages connect to our examination of one of the most maligned women of Scripture? We will discover the notion that Mrs. Job, who was described by St. Augustine as “the devil’s accomplice” was never given permission to grieve the horrific loss of a collapsed life, as her faithful and trusting husband Job in their tragic story. Our assignment, by studying the Job text through the prism of Mrs. Job’s grievous experience, brings new understanding to a widely misunderstood biblical figure – a woman, a wife, and a mother, who was never granted permission, by biblical scholars and preachers, to grief because of two sentences spoken to her husband, Job.
And now, THE WORD from Our Sponsor…………………………………………………………………………………………………..
Job 1: 1-6
Job 1: 6-12
Job 1: 13-22
Job 2: 7-10
What are we to say about the book of Job and its historical and biblical purpose in Scripture? How are we to read this book – the story of a devoted and faithful man whose life was completely deconstructed and collapsed, not just by Satan, but by God who grants Satan permission to destroy everything and practically everybody in Job’s life, with the divine words – “Have you considered by servant Job?”
If we are honest, God’s seemingly dismissiveness towards the calamity that Job experienced because God wanted to “show Satan a thing or two” seems brutally callous and unnecessary. Does Job have to lose everything, including his health and his children to prove his faithfulness to God? It not only makes us grimace with confusion, but it also should make us wonder whether we could muster up even an ounce of Job’s faith to deal with the divine explosion that comes to his life. Then, to make matters worse, his own wife turns on him too.
The brutality of her words sting like an angry, inflamed wound: “Do you still persist in your integrity?” Curse God, and die!” Wow! Unbelievable! What kind of wife would say that to her husband who has just lost EVERYTHING, is inflicted with sores and boils, and is scraping his wounds on a pile of ashes? What is wrong with her? Is she possessed? No wonder she was called “the devil’s accomplice” by St. Augustine and “a diabolical fury” by the great Calvin:
“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.” (“The Most Misunderstood Woman in the Bible,” – Daniel Darling (todayschristianwoman.com)
We can almost feel the animosity towards her, as preacher after preacher condemns her unfaithfulness, her blasphemous words, and her callousness towards her husband’s terrible predicament. How could Mrs. Job be so cruel?
Yet, in our rush to defend the faithfulness of Job, we forget the obvious. Yes, Job lost everything, including his beloved ten children – BUT SO DID SHE!
Unpacking her words………………………….
Picking up most bibles and using them to study this text, you will find an obvious footnote:
“Curse” means “bless” in Hebrew (In “other words” Mrs. Job said to her husband – “Bless God and die!”
Does this change the tone of the text and the intentionality of Mrs. Job towards her husband? In a word, “Yes!”
“The true translation of the Hebrew imperative “barak” found in Job 2:9 reads in the Biblia Hebraica “Bless God and die”. Nevertheless, most of the contemporary Bible translations have the text reading “Curse God and die” which is the reverse of the Hebrew language.” (Thando Mkhatshwa, “Research Paper” – Helderberg College (9/30/2019)
“The Hebrew word that is translated here as “cursed” is, in fact, the word, “blessed” (barak) which is used euphemistically, therefore introducing a note of ambiguity into the notion of “blessing.” There are seven occurrences of this word in the prose narrative [of Job] – (1:5, 10, 11, 21, 2:5, 9, 42:12) requiring the reader to decide when it is used literally or euphemistically. (See Carol Newsom – “The Book of Job, Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections, pg. 346).
Carol Newsom, one of the most celebrated feminist Old Testament scholars of contemporary biblical study suggests, “the reader must decide…..” If this is the case, how do we, as “the readers” unpack Mrs. Job’s comments towards her husband? What Carol Newsom is suggesting is a “re-visioning” of Job’s wife and her experience in the drama of THEIR story. As the aphorism suggests: “There are three sides to every story: Your side, my side, and the truth.” Memories serve each person differently, so have we REALLY considered Mrs. Job?
Job was good and faithful – was she?
“Job’ stature within the community points to the presence and positive influence of his wife in at least two ways. Firstly, the very fact that Job had the capacity to extend himself within the wider social sphere as an elder within the community is evidence of the stability and economic well-being within his own household…The wisdom hymn in Proverbs 31:10-31 offers a compelling insight in this regard. (“Her husband is known in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land.” – Proverbs 31:23).” (“I Had Heard of You….But Now My Eye Sees You”: Revisioning Job’s Wife.” – Roger Scholtz)
In other words, “behind/beside” every good and faithful man is a good and faithful wife!
It happened to Mrs. Job too!
“The wide range of emotion exhibited by Job’s wife underscores the point that she was not just a casual bystander to what was going on, but was intimately and personally involved with all that Job was experiencing.” Scholtz, pg. 11)
There is no reason for us, as readers, to doubt that Mrs. Job was very much a partner in all that was the life of Job: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
“Her blues were not like Job’s.”
Everyone experiences grief, sorrow, and pain differently. When Mrs. Job speaks once and only once in the book of Job, she first asks her husband a question: “Do you still persist in your integrity?” Translation: Do you still feel the same way about God now that this has happened to US?
Instead of blasphemy against God and callousness and indifference towards her husband’s plight, could this not be how Mrs. Job is unpacking her grief in the loss of her lifestyle and her ten children? Could this anger towards God be justified emotion? Does her “shaking her fist at God” have the same validity and same emotional outpouring as Job’s “integrity?” Is her way of expressing grief acceptable to God?
“Indeed, it could be argued that she exhibits a richer range of appropriate emotion even then that of Job himself displays. The impression is created that Job has been anaesthetized by his pain, whereas his wife feels it and holds it.”
In other words, Job is experiencing a different stage of grief than his wife. Job experiences and expresses grief differently. This does not make her indifferent, callous, or a pawn of Satan – it just makes her REAL!
At the close of the book of Job, we read that Job’s fortunes are restored twofold – “And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Not only was Job’s property doubled, but God blessed Job with another seven sons and three daughters. Is there any reason for us to believe that this restoration was not experienced by Mrs. Job, as well?
“After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations.”
As the readers, we have the right, and maybe even the obligation, as Carol Newsom suggests, to re-vision a new beginning for Mrs. Job, even as the story outlines a new beginning for her husband. This bold, defiant, and resilient woman, who survived an unfathomable tragedy with her husband, deserves our consideration and celebration of her redemption and her restoration, as well as her husband Job.
Questions for our consideration and discussion
Some scholars suggest that Mrs. Job’s use of “bless” is an euphemism. In other words, she told her husband “Bless God [out] and die.” It would be similar to a Christian saying, “I blessed him out!” What is your opinion here? Is it a euphemism or not?
Why do you think, even in the bible translations such as NAB and NRSV, that the word is still carried as “curse” instead of “bless?” What do you think is going on here?
What other women are maligned in Scripture and why? What do they have in common with Mrs. Job?
Our Sending Praying
Oh holy and wonderful God, even in our grief and most painful moments, You are there with us.
Thank you for allowing us the emotions that permis us to work through our woundedness.
You are a God which understands all of our emotions, even when we shake our fists at heaven.
Assist us in being like Job’s wife – honest about our feelings, that we may turn them over to You for divine healing.
And not project them on to others, or destroy ourselves with denial and dishonesty.
We love You for Your faithfulness, kindness, and radical compassion for Your daughters.
In Jesus’ name we pray and say, Amen!