Job’s Wife Help or Hindrance Job 2: 9 Context and Background Job 1-2



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Job’s Wife

Context and Background Job 1-2

  • Job is righteous (1:1-5)
  • Job is tested (1:6-12)
  • Job is afflicted (1:13-19)
  • Job is faithful (1:20-22)

Context and Background Job 1-2

  • Job is afflicted again (2:1-6)
  • Job is faithful again (2:7-10)
  • The issue: What is the meaning of the wife’s words in 2:9?
    • Which word is it: “bless” or “curse”?
    • Is she helping or hindering?

Word Study

  • The Heb. word is barak (baw-rak), meaning to kneel; by implication to bless God (as an act of adoration); also by euphemism to curse (God or king, as treason)
  • The majority of the times this word is translated “bless” (over 300 times), but a few times “curse” (Job 1:5,11; 2:5,9)

Word Study

  • “to kneel; to invoke God; to invoke blessings or evil; means sometimes to curse, by signification which is peculiar to some words in other languages … and to be decided by the connection in which the word is used, or by the manner and intention of the speaker: in the same way it means sometimes to blaspheme, as well as to speak well of” (NWOTWS, 105)

Word Study

  • “to bless; sometimes the word means to blaspheme, to curse; not from its natural force, but because pious persons of old accounted blasphemy so abominable, that they abhorred to express it by its proper name; and therefore, by an euphemismus or decent manner of speaking, instead of ‘curse God,’ said, ‘bless God.’ … 1 Kings 21:10,13 … Euphemismus is a figure of speech which only applies to language where the subject and other circumstances make the meaning of the speaker sufficiently evident” (NWOTWS, 41)

Word Study

  • The Heb. word is barak (baw-rak) in the context of Job 2:9 means “curse”
    • Consider its prior use in Job 1:5,11; 2:5
    • Consider Job’s response in 2:10

Word Study

  • Where did “bless” come from in some translations of Job 2:9?
    • Consider the root meaning “to bless”
    • The Latin Vulgate reads: “benedic Deo et morere”

Word Study

  • Where did “bless” come from in some translations of Job 2:9?
    • Some Spanish versions follow the LV: bendice a Dios, y muerete” (RVA, 1909) [Note: this was changed to “maldice” in the RV (1960, 1995), BA (1997), NBH (2005)]
    • Some English versions use “bless” (Douey-Rheims, and Young’s Literal Translation)

Word Study

  • Curse Bless Renounce Blaspheme
  • (N)KJV D-R ASV JPST
  • NASV YLT ERV Sag.Esc.
  • NIV WEB (1569)
  • (N)RSV
  • ESV
  • HCSB

Job’s Wife: Help or Hindrance?

  • Was Job’s wife helping or hindering?
    • Some argue for the translation “bless,” and say that she was actually helping Job
    • They have her saying, “Job if you keep blessing God, it will be too much for you and you will die, because your words will contradict the suffering you are experiencing in life” (see www.drbilllong.com/Job)

Job’s Wife: Help or Hindrance?

  • Job's Wife I
  • Bill Long 1/9/05
  • In Honor of the Adult Education Class, Immanuel Lutheran Church, Silverton, Oregon
  • Today I began a two week class at this church on the Book of Job. Usually when I have introduced the Book of Job in the past, I distributed Job 1:1-5 and asked the attendees to form an impression of the kind of person Job was from these few verses. I decided to try something different today, however, and after an introduction to Job, I presented the class with three passages describing reactions to Job's distress. Job 1:21 gives us Job's reaction; 2:9-10 his wife's and Job's second reaction and 2:11-13, the friends' reaction. Some comments were made in class regarding a way to read his wife's highly ambiguous reaction to Job's loss that are quite legitimate and are not reflected in the commentaries I have read.

Job’s Wife: Help or Hindrance?

  • The Reaction of Job's Wife
  • After she and Job have suffered the loss of their ten children and their wealth, and after Job's body breaks out in sores, she is quoted as saying (according to the NRSV):
  • "Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die (2:9)."
  • A footnote in the NRSV after "curse" tells us that the Hebrew word actually says "bless." Thus the literal translation of 2:9 is "Bless God, and die." But what might this mean? And why have the translators changed the word "bless" to "curse?" What is Mrs. Job really trying to say to her husband?

Job’s Wife: Help or Hindrance?

  • The Scholars Weigh In--Total Confusion
  • The major reason why most translations and all scholars render the verse "Curse God, and die," is that the verb "bless," used here, is also used in 1:5; 1:11 and 2:5 and, in all of those cases it seems to be used euphemistically. For example, in 1:5, Job is seen as the efficient (and officious) parent, sacrificing for his children "lest they bless (i.e. 'curse') God in their hearts." It is almost as if the word "curse" was too unholy a word for Job to utter; hence he uses the opposite word "bless" with the understanding that "curse" would be meant. For why would he sacrifice for his children if they were literally "blessing" God? Using this example and the others in 1:11 and 2:5 (where the Satan is speaking), scholars have argued that Job's wife's use of "bless" in 2:9 should also be rendered as "curse." Thus, she would be saying to Job, 'Stop being so holy and righteous and pure by blessing God all the time. Curse him. That is really the only way to show your integrity. You will die, but that is your condition anyway. Your integrity, therefore, means that you must curse God now."

Job’s Wife: Help or Hindrance?

  • With this kind of understanding, most scholars have therefore been either critical of Job's wife (she is a "temptress" who is, possibly like Eve, trying to take her husband's faith from God) or cautiously supportive of her (by telling Job to curse God, she has recognized far earlier than he has that blessing God in this instance is incompatible with personal integrity). But I would like to suggest another interpretation, which takes the word "bless" seriously as "bless" and not "curse," such as it is used in 1:21 where Job says, "the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

Job’s Wife: Help or Hindrance?

  • Keep "Bless God" in 2:9
  • If we take seriously the fact that "bless" in 2:9 should be translated as it is in the Hebrew ("Bless God, and die"), and if we take seriously the fact that the second verb ("die") is in a Hebrew construction that can be rendered "you will die," then our translation of 2:9 is "Bless God, and you will die." [The Hebrew word "die" is in the imperative mood, but most scholars believe that the action contemplated by the command is meant to follow the first verb. Hence, "bless God and die," is really "bless God, and you will die.] The meaning of Job's wife's words would then be as follows:
  • 'Job, if you continue to bless God as you have been doing, when you said, 'the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord,' it will be too much for you. Your words will contradict your heart. They will be nothing more than the mechanical utterances of a man who has experienced devastating loss. Thus, if you continue on your path of blessing God, you simply will die. There will be such a tension, an inconsistency, between your confession of faith and the way life has hit you that the dissonance will be fatal. Thus, 'bless God, and you will die.'

Job’s Wife: Help or Hindrance?

  • Seen in this light, Job's wife is not only portrayed as a person who has deep insight into her husband's character and practices, but one who can see that if he persists in his current method of blessing God it will kill him. It is sort of like the advice we have all heard many times from our mothers--'if you continue to do that, it will kill you.' By giving this example, I do not mean to trivialize Job's wife's advice. I think she is giving him clear-headed insight into his current plight.
  • Conclusion
  • If we adopt this interpretation of Job's wife's words, she then becomes not a shadowy character who is given one throw-away line before exiting from the stage never to return, but she assumes a more major role in the Book of Job. The next mini-essay will argue this point more fully.

Job’s Wife: Help or Hindrance?

  • Was Job’s wife helping or hindering?
    • If Job followed his wife’s helpful advice, how do you explain his repentance in 42:6?

Job’s Wife: Help or Hindrance?

  • Was Job’s wife helping or hindering?
    • The context shows that Job’s wife was hindering Job
    • She thought God sent all affliction in life
    • She emphasized the here and now
    • She urged her husband to forget his righteousness

Job’s Wife: Help or Hindrance?

  • Was Job’s wife helping or hindering?
    • She urged Job to take the easy way out
    • She didn’t realize what was most important to her husband
    • She had the wrong outlook on life

Job’s Wife: Help or Hindrance?

  • Let us help our spouse get to heaven (Mt. 10:36)
  • Let us have an outlook on life that will look beyond the temporal to heaven (2 Cor. 4:17; 5:7)
  • Not, “How can I get out of this?” but “What can I get out of this?”



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