Victor Sasson, «The Literary and Theological Function of Job’s Wife in the Book of Job», Vol. 79 (1998) 86-90
Against a background of her family situation, the negative role of Job’s wife in her husband’s trial is analysed here. It should be noted that there is no mention of her in the Epilogue that would correspond to her being mentioned in the Prologue. Apart from never being mentioned by name, she is altogether overlooked when Job is restored to good fortune.
Then Job is accused of ignoring or suppressing his wife's suffering in the story. This allegation shows a failure in understanding that Job's wife is not a major character in the dramatis personae. The book is not a drama about Job's wife. She plays a minor role and, admittedly, a negative one. There is no reason to see this as sex discrimination on the part of the book's author.
What is central to the drama is the suffering and torments of Job himself. Perhaps more importantly, Job's wife is not a conscientious, devoted, sensible, compassionate wife like, say, Portia (the wife of Brutus). If she were such a wife, she would embrace her husband's suffering as her own. She would tell her husband it is God's will to submit oneself to adversity. She would be a tower of strength to him. We do not expect her to be the perfect, ideal wife portrayed in chapter 31 of the Book of Proverbs , one who speaks nothing but wisdom and lovingkindness; but we do expect her to be a sensible, God-fearing woman. The Prologue to the Book of Job, however, makes it quite clear that she is fickle and sacrilegious. In fact, she only adds to her husband's suffering, distancing herself from him. She has developed a loathing for him. In the words of Job himself:
My breath is noisome to my wife (19,17a; NEB).
She is, indeed, a foolish woman, speaking like one of those foolish female chatterers. She makes an outrageous, blasphemous suggestion: to curse God and incur the penalty of death. In a sense, she joins hands with the Adversary, Satan. By seeking death for her husband, she seeks the easiest way out of a marriage and a commitment; the easiest way out of a test. Typically, our politically-correct critic twists the evidence and accuses the victim, not the perpetrator simply because the perpetrator happens to be female. He points a finger at good, steadfast, pious Job now dispossessed, humiliated, in pain, wallowing in dirt and ashes of treating his wife as a non-entity 2.
Another claim is that Job's wife even though she herself says nothing about this personal matter has spent fifteen "whole years" of her life being pregnant with Job's twenty children (seven sons and three daughters before Job's trials began, in ch. 1; and again seven sons and three daughters after his trials, in ch. 42). But, surely, they are her children as well as his. Children in the Near East are considered a blessing and a source of happiness, and the Hebrew Scriptures enjoin us to have as many of them as possible (cf. Ps. 127) 3. Our critic simply cannot entertain the thought that