Job's Wives in the Testament of Job: A Note on the Synthesis of Two Traditions

By Legaspi, Michael C. | Journal of Biblical Literature, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Job's Wives in the Testament of Job: A Note on the Synthesis of Two Traditions


Legaspi, Michael C., Journal of Biblical Literature


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When it comes to biblical heroes, biographical details fall into two categories. On the one hand, there are the few details provided explicitly in the biblical text. On the other hand, there are the many facts, episodes, and events that may be deduced from those few explicit details. In the case of Job, his biography is essential to his significance in biblical and subsequent religious tradition. That is, it is his life story taken as a whole that matters-and not merely his role or words in this or that affair (as with many judges and prophets, for example). With Job, then, the interest in biographical details would seem to be that much keener. One especially important yet under-reported figure is Job's wife. She appears briefly in Job 2:9 only to pose one question ("Are you still holding on to your integrity?") and to offer one bit of advice ("Curse God and die.").1 Moreover, the presence of a wife (where one might expect her) among Job's second family in Job 42:12-17 is never indicated and is, at most, only implied. As a response to this paucity of information, a number of interpretive traditions grew up around the figures of Job and Job's wife.

There were, among ancient interpreters, two rather divergent traditions about the identity of Job's wife. One tradition-known from rabbinic commentary, the Targum of Job, and Pseudo-Philo-identifies the wife of Job with Dinah, the daughter of Jacob. A second tradition, witnessed principally in the Septuagint, identifies Job's wife with a wretched Arabian woman. The author of the Testament of Job, a Jewish composition from the first century B.C.E. or C.E., creatively combined both traditions in an attempt to offer a clearer understanding of Job's background, to provide a solution to lingering questions concerning his relation to ethnic Israel, and to elaborate on themes in the book of Job in a way that vindicates the role of women in Job's own moral athleticism.

I. DINAH, WIFE OF JOB

What, ultimately, was the fate of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob? After the story of her encounter with Shechem ben Hamor and the subsequent destruction of all the males in the city of Shechem (Genesis 34), Dinah is not heard from again. Unlike her twelve brothers, whose life and times dominate the rest of Genesis and whose fortunes are foretold by Jacob in a dramatic deathbed scene (Genesis 49), Dinah disappears from the biblical text.2 The question of Dinah's fate is only made keener by the fact that her well-being and prosperity after the Shechem incident cannot be assumed: as a "defiled" woman (Gen 34:13), Dinah's marital prospects must have seemed rather grim.3 One rabbi, in addressing this question, puts the words of Davids daughter Tamar in the mouth of Dinah ("Where will I carry my shame?" [2 Sam 13:13]) and posits that Simeon, in response to this cry of despair, married Dinah. Their offspring, Shaul, was then referred to as the son of a "Canaanite woman" (Gen 46:10) because Dinah had been defiled by a Canaanite.4 A rather different, though not incompatible, outcome was envisioned by those interested in the identity of Joseph's wife, Asenath. Victor Aptowitzer has analyzed a complex of later traditions (fourth century C.E.) that make Dinah the mother of Asenath.5 According to Aptowitzer, because Asenath was an Egyptian and the daughter of a "heathen priest," her distinguished place in biblical tradition had to be explained; one solution was to demonstrate that she was actually a descendant of Jacob.6 Thus, many rabbinic sources claim that Asenath was the divinely protected offspring of Dinah and Shechem.

A third tradition, and the one most relevant here, is that Job married Dinah. We find a clear witness to this tradition in the Targum of Job. In its rendering of Job 2:9, the targum reads: "And Dinah his wife said to him, 'Are you steadfast in your integrity until now? Curse [lit., "bless"] the word of the Lord and die. …

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