Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The book of Job's wife

So I was avoiding revising my novel the other day by thinking of anything other than my novel ... like my miscarriages (I had two because of toxins in our water supply). And I remembered that in The Book of Job, God kills their ten children. So I wrote this poem from the point of view of Job's nameless wife.

Job’s wife

He gave it all back twofold,
so the story goes. Money, oxen, sheep.
“The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away,”
said he whose name is
righteous in the books of men,
those books that do not tell the names
of the ten children the Lord took
in vain. I escaped
alone to tell you:
Eli, the oldest,
had dark grieving eyes,
as if he saw his future falling
down upon him;
Rachel, my good girl, freckled
and plain, a bustling little mother
to the young ones;
Rona, little bird,
sang in perfect tune and pitch.
Dvora, the queen bee,
had eyes the color of honey
and a wit that could sting.
Baruch was slow and hid
behind my legs when strangers came;
Aaron and Lev,
the rascal twins, spoke conspiracies
with their eyes and smirked.
Micah, wild and fleet,
ran away from home three times. Now
I wish he had run faster.
And Zev - my last I thought;
his hair was red and curled
around his face like wisps of holy fire.
My children

did not curse the Lord. That day they gathered
together and, for the bread they were to eat,
they blessed the very Lord who felled the roof
that killed them.

I dug their graves and planted
my children in the ground
to grow like bitter herbs.
Job sat in the ashes
and called me foolish. Men came, scolded:
“This is the way of his joy and out of the earth
others shall grow.” As if that were enough.
“Great men are not always wise,” I snapped.

Now Job’s lips speak the names
of his rejoicing; Jemima, Keziah, Keren. Three
other daughters burnish him
like golden rings. Seven more sons raise
roofs they think are safe. But in the shadow
of my deaths I live blind
to his faith; an eye
does not replace an eye.
Only ten plus ten, and every single one
alive, would be enough for me. So I keep
my place. I am two verses
and a watchword in the good book
of God’s deeds. Nameless
as the dead, I stay and to his face I curse
the god who took my children. He
bet them like ten worthless coins,
in a game of dare with the devil
just to prove
His mighty


jason said...


Seriously good.

ayeM8y said...

It’s rather sad and you’re right Job is a strange book. I think we are all here as amusement. Next time could you do one about Revelations? I like horror stories.


that is just ...wow, I'm at a loss for words..wonderful...sad and true..made me weep

Willym said...

Oh Lady - I've started my morning with tears and in awe. An incredible piece of writing.


Elizabeth said...

Thank you all so much! I don't write poems much, so it's nice to hear that this worked. xoxo

Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mumbliss said...

Elizabeth, that is beautiful and mad... (as is only appropriate under the circumstances...) I never got the book of Job in my heart, only in my head.

back to the six word memoir. walking backwards, looking over my shoulder...

Doubt? I'm a future Salt Pillar.


Do you think I will get struck by lightning? or something worse?

Elizabeth said...

mumbliss - The anger is not mine - well, not all of it anyway. I was just so stunned rereading Job, which I had not read since having children, that God killed the ten children outright and then simply replaced them like the livestock.

I tried to keep the poem Biblically accurate (except for the par about the kids names, of course).

Job's wife gets very little say. Job and the men are sitting on the ground arguing and gnashing their teeth. At one point the wife tells Job, "Then why don't you curse God and die?" (probably a mistranslation). But I could imagine saying something of the kind if my kids had all been killed and my husband was sitting around kvetching and philosophizing with the guys. Actually, I'd probably hit him upside the head!!!!

Brother Greg said...

Hi, Elizabeth-
It's a wonderful poem, full of feeling. A brutal and pointless bet, wasn't it? And would Abraham really kill his son Isaac? And would the Great Beast kill his own son--and call it love? "Here, kiddo, it wasn't so bad-- now you're alive again!"

Elizabeth said...

Greg - For many of us in the Judeo-Christian world I think these Old Testament stories are all too often like the cultural wallpaper of our lives. We think 'Job- affliction, triumph' or 'Lot- saved, his wife salt,' and don't examine it.

Two of my favorite poets have written poems about Lot's wife - Anna Akmatova
and Wislawa Szymborska

a thousand shades of twilight said...

I agree - that's a seriously good poem - both clever and very moving and heartfelt. I want to read more!!

I will keep my spewing about the Old Testament God to a minimum. Let's just say we don't see eye to eye and never will. Job - what a bizarre and deeply horrible book!

The OT story that meant the most to me as a kid is the one about Jael who drove a tent peg through someone's head while they were sleeping. Fun times.

United World Poets said...

Great poem.

Elizabeth said...


L said...

Eliz--this poem brought me to tears (tears of frustration & anger rather than sadness). There is so much about the OT that is so totally whacked. It's a wonder anybody takes it seriously at all; they probably haven't read it very closely, or don't care.

How awesome is Szymborska, by the way? Her work is astoundingly, but violently beautiful, and the stuff I've been able to make it through in Polish is just even more jaw-dropping. Keep it up, your poetry is excellent, and I'm hungry for more!

Anonymous said...

Great depiction of the sour, putrid heart of man that is in such desperate need of salvation. God is God whether you admit, accept, agree or acknowledge it and He does whatever He pleases in Job's day and in your day! (Psalm 115:3; 135:6) My suggestion is that rather than cursing Him...you bow in utter and absolute reverence and obedience to Him now voluntarily for the day is coming when you will bow manditorily. Philippians 2:10-11

Elizabeth said...

To the ANONYMOUS commenter from Morrow, Georgia who, I note, is quick to judge and chapter and verse me, but not brave enough to sign his/her name.)

1. It's a poem, a work of art, and interpretation of something I read in the bible. So:

2. I didn't curse God. The BIBLE says that Job's wife told him to "curse God and die." (Which, by the way, according to biblical scholarship is a MISTRANSLATION! The correct translation in "BLESS God and die." I grew up going to church AND studied the bible in college, so I know my bible.)

3. BUT I was writing my poem (based on the King James version - a beautiful but human and so flawed translation) about the feelings of a woman who had lost her ten children. Even for a person of devout faith, losing ten children would be devastating. Losing two was devastating to me.

4. I believe not in the Jesus of judgement and condemnation, but in the Jesus of love, the Jesus who said:
"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."(Mt 5:44)
So I will pray that your heart is opened to the fact that, as Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, "Lo, here it is!" or "There!" for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you." (Lk 17:20-21)

If Jesus lived today, he'd be an anti-war long-haired liberal freak. And he'd love you, as he does me, and all of us.

ayeM8y said...

Elizabeth, well put!


I am amazed at how unchristian some christians are...sad..but true

Willym said...

Brava cara! You are more of a true Christian than whoever this cowardly commenter is!

Doralong said...

Well done dear, well done.

Brooksie Trout said...


I am writing a piece on interpretations of Job's wife in contemporary poetry to finish up my Master's degree. Many of the poems I have selected have been published in books or magazines, but I would also like to include scholarship on your interpretation. Would that be okay with you? I would also like to include this piece in a bibliography that lists poems and novels revising or shining new light on stories from the Old Testament, particularly regarding rather silent women.

I enjoyed the poem--thanks.

Elizabeth said...

Brooksie Trout - I'd be flattered to be included! My email is eliz.avery@hotmail.com. Drop a line there so I can know who and where you are. I look forward to hearing from you.

Anonymous said...

I have to say you all miss the point of jobs trek in life and in doing so take away the beauty of the account if you read the account again , it was not the almighty god or grand creator that took jobs kids. It was the god of this system of things 1 Corinthians 4;4 satan. He is the one that went before the grand creator As he was assembled in his heavenly place to try to raise doubt amongst all of his heavenly creation on the fact that no man under persecution would still serve the grand creator Faithfully they would curse him. And here u r cursing him... Funny

Anonymous said...

The "mighty point " is to set matters straight once for all time, If GOD had destroyed satan In the garden, w/o clearing up the matter of wiether God had the right to direct our steps then the issue could come up again later down the road. Just as Satan did with job. He again challenged Gods sovereignty! Another angel with free will could challenge it and the issue at hand would never be settled. God is smarter than us all and is patient He is letting us see his way is the only way! So take Satan side in the grand picture? Or be patient as God fixes the mess he made! And then squishes Him like a bug in the end!

Anonymous said...

Although I never met you! You were so wonderful they say! I cannot wait to meet you. On your resurrection day! When I hear Jehovah calling, "Come and meet them all! Here they stand before Us and NEVER will they fall! The day that satan took them. My heart was fill with pain. But I knew they would rise again and FOREVER would remain."
He is sorry for your sadness but now that all has past and I can't wait til Jehovah God says" Life without end at last". Tracy :)

Anonymous said...

Keep your eye on the prize ahead everlasting life in a paradise earth! She turned to salt because she longed for what she was leaving instead if what she could have ahead!!! If she doubted it? If an angle was dragging me to safety so as not to be destroyed by the hand of God! There would be no doubts! You can do it! We ALL have that choice! :) Tracy

Anonymous said...

Food for thought The toxins in your water that caused your miscarriages would not be there if mankind did things Jehovah Gods way! Adam n eve doubted Gods right to rule humans with all of the angelic creatures watching and as Satan raised doubts they saw The grand creator respond if he just took Satan out someday down the road another angel with free will could have Started a mess again! So he is letting us work it out weither he has the right to rule us or not! We put the toxins there cuz we can't do it right w/o him! Satan pulled the roof God just didn't stop it! Be mad at Satan for starting all this mess! And receive your miscarriages
In your arms one day in a paradise earth promised to all who remain faithful to Jehovah gods sovereignty! He see the embryos first heart beat with life he created! Hope I'm there to see them all in your arms n help you raise them in his psalms 37:11