Job complains that he was born. (1-10) Job complaining. (11-19) He complains of his life. (20-26)
Verses 1-10 For seven days Job's friends sat by him in silence, without offering consolidation: at the same time Satan assaulted his mind to shake his confidence, and to fill him with hard thoughts of God. The permission seems to have extended to this, as well as to torturing the body. Job was an especial type of Christ, whose inward sufferings, both in the garden and on the cross, were the most dreadful; and arose in a great degree from the assaults of Satan in that hour of darkness. These inward trials show the reason of the change that took place in Job's conduct, from entire submission to the will of God, to the impatience which appears here, and in other parts of the book. The believer, who knows that a few drops of this bitter cup are more dreadful than the sharpest outward afflictions, while he is favoured with a sweet sense of the love and presence of God, will not be surprised to find that Job proved a man of like passions with others; but will rejoice that Satan was disappointed, and could not prove him a hypocrite; for though he cursed the day of his birth, he did not curse his God. Job doubtless was afterwards ashamed of these wishes, and we may suppose what must be his judgment of them now he is in everlasting happiness.
Verses 11-19 Job complained of those present at his birth, for their tender attention to him. No creature comes into the world so helpless as man. God's power and providence upheld our frail lives, and his pity and patience spared our forfeited lives. Natural affection is put into parents' hearts by God. To desire to die that we may be with Christ, that we may be free from sin, is the effect and evidence of grace; but to desire to die, only that we may be delivered from the troubles of this life, savours of corruption. It is our wisdom and duty to make the best of that which is, be it living or dying; and so to live to the Lord, and die to the Lord, as in both to be his, ( Romans 14:8 ) . Observe how Job describes the repose of the grave; There the wicked cease from troubling. When persecutors die, they can no longer persecute. There the weary are at rest: in the grave they rest from all their labours. And a rest from sin, temptation, conflict, sorrows, and labours, remains in the presence and enjoyment of God. There believers rest in Jesus, nay, as far as we trust in the Lord Jesus and obey him, we here find rest to our souls, though in the world we have tribulation.
Verses 20-26 Job was like a man who had lost his way, and had no prospect of escape, or hope of better times. But surely he was in an ill frame for death when so unwilling to live. Let it be our constant care to get ready for another world, and then leave it to God to order our removal thither as he thinks fit. Grace teaches us in the midst of life's greatest comforts, to be willing to die, and in the midst of its greatest crosses, to be willing to live. Job's way was hid; he knew not wherefore God contended with him. The afflicted and tempted Christian knows something of this heaviness; when he has been looking too much at the things that are seen, some chastisement of his heavenly Father will give him a taste of this disgust of life, and a glance at these dark regions of despair. Nor is there any help until God shall restore to him the joys of his salvation. Blessed be God, the earth is full of his goodness, though full of man's wickedness. This life may be made tolerable if we attend to our duty. We look for eternal mercy, if willing to receive Christ as our Saviour.
THE POEM OR DEBATE ITSELF (Job 3:2-42:6').
FIRST SERIES IN IT (Job 3:1-14:22').
JOB FIRST ( Job 3:1-26 ).
Job 3:1-19 . JOB CURSES THE DAY OF HIS BIRTH AND WISHES FOR DEATH.
1. opened his mouth--The Orientals speak seldom, and then sententiously; hence this formula expressing deliberation and gravity ( Psalms 78:2 ). He formally began.
cursed his day--the strict Hebrew word for "cursing:" not the same as in Job 1:5 . Job cursed his birthday, but not his God.
2. spake--Hebrew, "answered," that is, not to any actual question that preceded, but to the question virtually involved in the case. His outburst is singularly wild and bold ( Jeremiah 20:14 ). To desire to die so as to be free from sin is a mark of grace; to desire to die so as to escape troubles is a mark of corruption. He was ill-fitted to die who was so unwilling to live. But his trials were greater, and his light less, than ours.
3. the night in which--rather "the night which said." The words in italics are not in the Hebrew. Night is personified and poetically made to speak. So in Job 3:7 , and in Psalms 19:2 . The birth of a male in the East is a matter of joy; often not so of a female.
4. let not God regard it--rather, more poetically, "seek it out." "Let not God stoop from His bright throne to raise it up from its dark hiding-place." The curse on the day in Job 3:3 , is amplified in Job 3:4 Job 3:5 ; that on the night, in Job 3:6-10 .
5. Let . . . the shadow of death--("deepest darkness," Isaiah 9:2 ).
stain it--This is a later sense of the verb [GESENIUS]; better the old and more poetic idea, "Let darkness (the ancient night of chaotic gloom) resume its rights over light ( Genesis 1:2 ), and claim that day as its own."
a cloud--collectively, a gathered mass of dark clouds.
the blackness of the day terrify it--literally, "the obscurations"; whatever darkens the day [GESENIUS]. The verb in Hebrew expresses sudden terrifying. May it be suddenly affrighted at its own darkness. UMBREIT explains it as "magical incantations that darken the day," forming the climax to the previous clauses; Job 3:8 speaks of "cursers of the day" similarly. But the former view is simpler. Others refer it to the poisonous simoom wind.
6. seize upon it--as its prey, that is, utterly dissolve it.
joined unto the days of the year--rather, by poetic personification, "Let it not rejoice in the circle of days and nights and months, which form the circle of years."
7. solitary--rather, "unfruitful." "Would that it had not given birth to me."
8. them . . . curse the day--If "mourning" be the right rendering in the latter clause of this verse, these words refer to the hired mourners of the dead ( Jeremiah 9:17 ). But the Hebrew for "mourning" elsewhere always denotes an animal, whether it be the crocodile or some huge serpent ( Isaiah 27:1 ), such as is meant by "leviathan." Therefore, the expression, "cursers of day," refers to magicians, who were believed to be able by charms to make a day one of evil omen. (So Balaam, Numbers 22:5 ). This accords with UMBREIT'S view ( Job 3:7 ); or to the Ethiopians and Atlantes, who "used to curse the sun at his rising for burning up them and their country" [HERODOTUS]. Necromancers claimed power to control or rouse wild beasts at will, as do the Indian serpent-charmers of our day ( Psalms 58:5 ). Job does not say they had the power they claimed; but, supposing they had, may they curse the day. SCHUTTENS renders it by supplying words as follows:--Let those that are ready for anything, call it (the day) the raiser up of leviathan, that is, of a host of evils.
9. dawning of the day--literally, "eyelashes of morning." The Arab poets call the sun the eye of day. His early rays, therefore, breaking forth before sunrise, are the opening eyelids or eyelashes of morning.
12. Why did the knees prevent me?--Old English for "anticipate my wants." The reference is to the solemn recognition of a new-born child by the father, who used to place it on his knees as his own, whom he was bound to rear ( Genesis 30:3 , 50:23 , Isaiah 66:12 ).
13. lain . . . quiet . . . slept--a gradation. I should not only have lain, but been quiet, and not only been quiet, but slept. Death in Scripture is called "sleep" ( Psalms 13:3 ); especially in the New Testament, where the resurrection-awakening is more clearly set forth ( 1 Corinthians 15:51 , 1 Thessalonians 4:14 , 5:10 ).
14. With kings . . . which built desolate places for themselves--who built up for themselves what proved to be (not palaces, but) ruins! The wounded spirit of Job, once a great emir himself, sick of the vain struggles of mortal great men, after grandeur, contemplates the palaces of kings, now desolate heaps of ruins. His regarding the repose of death the most desirable end of the great ones of earth, wearied with heaping up perishable treasures, marks the irony that breaks out from the black clouds of melancholy [UMBREIT]. The "for themselves" marks their selfishness. MICHAELIS explains it weakly of mausoleums, such as are found still, of stupendous proportions, in the ruins of Petra of Idumea.
15. filled their houses with silver--Some take this to refer to the treasures which the ancients used to bury with their dead. But see Job 3:26 .
16. untimely birth--( Psalms 58:8 ); preferable to the life of the restless miser ( Ecclesiastes 6:3-5 ).
17. the wicked--the original meaning, "those ever restless," "full of desires" ( Isaiah 57:20 Isaiah 57:21 ).
the weary--literally, "those whose strength is wearied out" ( Revelation 14:13 ).
18. There the prisoners rest--from their chains.
19. servant--The slave is there manumitted from slavery.
Job 3:20-26 . HE COMPLAINS OF LIFE BECAUSE OF HIS ANGUISH.
20. Wherefore giveth he light--namely, God; often omitted reverentially ( Job 24:23 , Ecclesiastes 9:9 ). Light, that is, life. The joyful light ill suits the mourners. The grave is most in unison with their feelings.
23. whose way is hid--The picture of Job is drawn from a wanderer who has lost his way, and who is hedged in, so as to have no exit of escape ( Hosea 2:6 , Lamentations 3:7 Lamentations 3:9 ).
24. my sighing cometh before I eat--that is, prevents my eating [UMBREIT]; or, conscious that the effort to eat brought on the disease, Job must sigh before eating [ROSENMULLER]; or, sighing takes the place of good ( Psalms 42:3 ) [GOOD]. But the first explanation accords best with the text.
my roarings are poured out like the waters--an image from the rushing sound of water streaming.
25. the thing which I . . . feared is come upon me--In the beginning of his trials, when he heard of the loss of one blessing, he feared the loss of another; and when he heard of the loss of that, he feared the loss of a third.
that which I was afraid of is come unto me--namely, the ill opinion of his friends, as though he were a hypocrite on account of his trials.
26. I was not in safety . . . yet trouble came--referring, not to his former state, but to the beginning of his troubles. From that time I had no rest, there was no intermission of sorrows. "And" (not, "yet") a fresh trouble is coming, namely, my friends' suspicion of my being a hypocrite. This gives the starting-point to the whole ensuing controversy.