Victor Sasson has an interesting article in Biblica Vol 79 (1998) entitled “The Literary and Theological Function of Job’s Wife in the Book of Job”. He argues inter alia, against a negative reading by Clines, that “Job’s wife is not a major character in the dramatis personae . . . She plays a minor role”. I don’t think this is exactly on the mark.
I think Job’s wife is an important role in the theology of the Writings and into the Megillot. I am convinced by Seitz that the Megillot is intentionally canonically structured. Central to the theology of the Megillot is the woman, the bride. As is often pointed out, the Megillotis introduced by Proverbs 31, the ‘eishet chayil, who is concretized in Ruth, the Moabitess. First, it is important to locate Prov. 31 within the theology of Proverbs.
Proverbs is the advice of a father to a son on choosing the wise wife. The movement is from the abstract to the increasingly concrete symbolization of Lady Wisdom. First is Lady Wisdom, then the ‘eishet chayil, then Ruth.
This theological movement, however, begins earlier. Job’s wife serves as the paradigmatic Lady Folly. There are both thematic and linguistic parallels. Both Lady Folly and Job’s wife (Prov 2; Job 2) are foolish because of their deceitful speech. Curse (barak) is characteristic of both as well (Prov 3:33). barak is a leitwort in Job. Job’s wife utters the sixth barak (1:5, 10, 11, 21; 2:5, 9). Job, not his wife, speaks the seventh barak (31:29). And the eighth, new-creational barak is spoken by God himself who blesses Job’s new life.
This theme redounds into the Megillot where the new man, Boaz, is blessed as well as the Lord (2:4, 19, 20; 3:10; 4:14).
Thus, within the first three book of the Writings, before the Megillot, there is a theology that starts with Psalm 1, the blessed man and the kissing of the Son. Then, Job, a wise man and his foolish wife. Then, at the end of proverbs the redeemed, wise woman.
Psalm 1 – Man
Job – Man – Foolish Woman
Proverbs 31 – Wise Woman
Job’s wife is unnamed at the end of Job because she, like Eve, has fallen and is symbolically dead. The narrator downplays her role at the end because of her folly at the beginning. Sasson, “The moment her husband’s fortunes were restored, however, she soon found a way of reclaiming her position as Mistress of the House in Job’s mansion. As a shrewd, patriarchal, Iron Age feminist, this nameless woman played her cards exceedingly well. No wonder the Epilogue to Job’s drama makes no mention of her at all. It ignores her completely.”
There is a redemption of the bride within the beginning of the Writings that prepares us for the Megillot. In the Megillot we get picture after picture of the wise bride: Ruth, the bride in the Song, and Esther.
More reflections on the Megillot to come…