Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentJOB 3
JOB'S PITIFUL CRY FROM THE DEPTHS OF HIS AGONY
Here we come to the long middle section of Job, which is characterized by a number of speeches by Job and his friends. These speeches are not mere conversation, but essay-like statements of the sentiments, theological convictions, philosophies and exhortations of the speakers.
"Job speaks nine times in this section, Eliphaz and Bildad three times each, Zophar twice, Elihu once, and God once, his declaration ending the colloquy."F1
Job broke the silence which marked the first period of his friend's visit; and his bitter cursing of the day he was born is a feature of this first chapter.
"Cursing one's natal day is not a very wise act, since it could not have any effect whatever; but even so great a prophet as Jeremiah did the same thing (Jeremiah 20:14-18). All that this chapter really means is that Job, in the depths of his misery, wishes that he had never been born, or that he had died in infancy."F2
Watson entitled this chapter, "The Cry From the Depth."F3
Verses 1, 2
After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day. And Job answered and said:
Writers have understood this to mean "after the seven days and nights of silence," but the text does not say that. "In the Ugaritic texts, `after this' introduces the transition to a new episode."F4 Here we have the beginning of the second section of Job.
JOB'S EXPRESSION OF SUPERLATIVE GRIEF
Let the day perish wherein I was born,
And the night which said, There is a man-child conceived.
Let that day be darkness;
Let not God from above seek for it.
Neither let the light shine upon it.
Let darkness and the shadow of death claim it for their own;
Let a cloud dwell upon it;
Let all that maketh black the day terrify it.
As for that night, let thick darkness seize upon it:
Let it not rejoice among the days of the year;
Let it not come into the number of the months.
Lo, let that night be barren;
Let no joyful voice come therein.
Let them curse it that curse the day,
Who are ready to rouse up Leviathan.
Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark:
Let it look for light, but have none;
Neither let it behold the eyelids of the morning.
Because it shut not up the doors of my mother's womb,
Nor hid trouble from mine eyes."
"Though Job will not curse God, he does curse his life; his soliloquy here is one of the most poignant expressions of despair ever written."F5 "Job's trust in God is not destroyed, but it is overcast with thick clouds of melancholy and doubt."F6
In the times when Job lived, there was not given any inspired revelation regarding the hope and blessing of the redeemed to be realized in the future. He had no way of knowing that, "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18). One's heart instinctively reaches out toward this ancient sufferer, who even in his despair refused to renounce his faith in God.
Let the day perish wherein I was born, And the night which said, There is a man-child conceived. Let that day be darkness; Let not God from above seek for it, Neither let the light shine upon it. Let darkness and the shadow of death claim it for their own; Let a cloud dwell upon it; Let all that maketh black the day terrify it. As for that night, let thick darkness seize upon it: Let it not rejoice among the days of the year; Let it not come into the number of the months. Lo, let that night be barren; Let no joyful voice come therein. Let them curse it that curse the day, Who are ready to rouse up leviathan. Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark: Let it look for light, but have none; Neither let it behold the eyelids of the morning: Because it shut not up the doors of my [mother's] womb, Nor hid trouble from mine eyes.
(Job 3:8). This was a mythological sea-monster whom some charlatans pretended to be experts to rouse up against those whom the charlatan cursed. The mention of this here should not be taken as evidence that Job believed either in Leviathan, or such experts.F7 Isaiah also mentioned Leviathan; and for the scriptural use of that myth as a metaphorical reference to Satan, see my commentary on Isaiah under Isa. 27:1. It is now common to interpret Leviathan as the crocodile.
Neither let it behold the eyelids of the morning
(Job 3:9). The Hebrew here has, The eyelashes of Shahar;F8 But the use of this Canaanite god of the dawn is purely poetic and without any taint of polytheism.F9
We shall find other references to mythological ideas in Job, but these are no reflection upon the views of Job as a devout monotheist. There are many mythological echoes in the speech patterns of all nations. Our own names for the days of the week and the months of the year are derived from ancient mythology. January is named for the Roman god of portals and beginnings; the word February is from a pagan festival celebrated in that month; March, like one of the planets, is named from Mars, the Roman god of war; May comes from Mata a pagan goddess of growth; June is derived from Juno, in Roman mythology; she was the wife of Jupiter, the goddess of marriage, and the queen of the gods; the name Tuesday is from Tiu (pronounced: te-oo), worshipped by the Teutons as the god of war; our name for Wednesday comes from Woden, the old English name for the chief of the Norse gods; and Saturday was derived from Saturn the Roman god of agriculture.F10
"Job's cry of misery is repeated three times in this chapter, with ever deepening pathos (Job 1-10,11-19,20-16)."F11
MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?
Why died I not from the womb?
Why did I not give up the ghost when my mother bare me?
Why did the knees receive me?
Or why the breasts that I should suck?
For now should I have lain down and been quiet;
I should have slept; then had I been at rest.
With kings and counselors of the earth,
Who built up waste places for themselves;
Or with princes that had gold,
Or filled their houses with silver:
Or as a hidden untimely birth I had not been,
As infants that never saw light.
There the wicked cease from troubling;
And there the weary are at rest.
There the prisoners are at ease together;
They hear not the voice of the taskmaster.
The small and the great are there:
And the servant is free from his master."
We have entitled this paragraph with the central cry of the seven words of Jesus Christ from the Cross (Matthew 27:46). There was no immediate answer for Job, the pitiful sufferer, and there was no immediate answer to that cry from the Cross; but there was an answer. For Jesus our Lord, the answer came when an angel rolled away the stone from his grave, not to let the Lord out, but to let the witnesses of his resurrection in to behold the empty tomb. For Job, the answer came from the mighty whirlwind when the voice of God healed him, confounded his foolish "comforters," blessed him twice as much as formerly, and extended his life to a full two hundred years!
Therefore when we struggle with the inexplicable sorrows and tribulations of our mortal existence; from these blessed words, we learn that for ourselves, as for Job, there is most certainly an answer.
Why died I not from the womb? Why did I not give up the ghost when my mother bare me? Why did the knees receive me? Or why the breast, that I should suck? For now should I have lain down and been quiet; I should have slept; then had I been at rest, With kings and counsellors of the earth, Who built up waste places for themselves; Or with princes that had gold, Who filled their houses with silver: Or as a hidden untimely birth I had not been, As infants that never saw light. There the wicked cease from troubling; And there the weary are at rest. There the prisoners are at ease together; They hear not the voice of the taskmaster. The small and the great are there: And the servant is free from his master.
(Job 3:11-12). Where is the man who has not, in his heart if not vocally, cried these same pitiful questions when confronted with some soul-chilling sorrow? We have heard them at a thousand funerals; and always, the only recourse that men have is to, Trust God where we cannot see!
Why did the knees receive me
(Job 3:12)? Franks wrote that, This question reflects a time when the father would choose whether to bring up his child or not. If he did, he took it upon his knees as a sign of adoption (Genesis 50:23), and then handed it to the mother or to the nurse.F12 Interesting as this comment is, we cannot find any agreement with it in the text. The character of Hebrew poetry is that the same thought is often repeated in consecutive clauses; and the mention of his mother's breasts in the succeeding clause is overwhelming evidence that it is the mother's knees, not the fathers, which are mentioned in the preceding clause.
Anderson observed that, "The Book of Job knows nothing of the heaven of bliss or the hell of torment, but there is never a thought that death means extinction."F13 Note that all who ever lived, the kings and counselors, as well as the slaves and stillborn infants, do not merely cease to exist in the grave, "They are at rest."
Job 3:14-19 stress the cessation of all social distinctions in death.
"Wronged and wrong-doer alike with meekened face
And cold hands folded o'er a still heart,
Pass the green threshold of our common grave,
Whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart."
-- John Greenleaf Whittier
The meaning of some of these clauses is explained by the clause following. For example, the prisoners of Job 3:18 are not those in prison, but the captives who are driven to forced labor by taskmasters.
JOB IS TORTURED BOTH PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY
Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery,
And life unto the bitter in soul;
Who long for death, but it cometh not,
And dig for it more than for hid treasures;
Who rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave?
Why is light given to a man whose way is hid,
And whom God hath hedged in?
For my sighing cometh before I eat,
And my groanings are poured out like water.
For the thing which I fear cometh upon me,
And that which I am afraid of cometh unto me.
I am not at ease, neither am I quiet, neither have I rest;
But trouble cometh."
In spite of the fact that Job longed for the release of his miseries in death, there is not the slightest hint in anything that he said of any desire to commit suicide. Suicide is simply one thing that practically all of the great souls mentioned in the Bible rejected as any kind of a practical solution, only four suicides being mentioned in the whole Bible.
We have here as terrible a picture of human misery as may be found anywhere in the literature of all mankind. One might think that Job's misery could not possibly have been made any worse; but not so! Wait until old Eliphaz opens his mouth!
Footnotes for Job 3
1: Henry H. Halley's Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House), p. 227.
2: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 7d, p. 49.
3: The Expositor's Bible, Vol. 14, p. 85.
4: The Anchor Bible (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982), Vol. 15, p. 28,
5: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 563.
6: C. F. Keil, Keil-Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), Vol. 4, p. 84.
7: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 563.
8: Tyndale Old Testament Commentary, Vol. 13, p. 104.
10: Britannica World Language Dictionary.
11: Arthur S. Peake, A Commentary on the Bible (London: T. C. and E. C. Jack, Ltd., 1924), p. 349.
12: Arthur S. Peake, A Commentary on the Bible (London: T. C. and E. C. Jack, Ltd., 1924), p. 349.
13: Tyndale Old Testament Commentary, op. cit., p. 107.