Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
THE POEM OR DEBATE ITSELF
FIRST SERIES IN IT
1. opened his mouth--The Orientals speak seldom, and then
sententiously; hence this formula expressing deliberation and gravity
He formally began.
cursed his day--the strict Hebrew word for "cursing:" not
the same as in
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
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
The birth of a male in the East is a matter of joy; often not so of a
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
is amplified in
Job 3:4, 5;
that on the night, in
5. Let . . . the shadow of death--("deepest darkness,"
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
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;
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
But the Hebrew for "mourning" elsewhere always denotes an
animal, whether it be the crocodile or some huge serpent
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,
This accords with UMBREIT'S view
or to the Ethiopians and Atlantes, who "used to curse the sun at his
rising for burning up them and their country"
claimed power to control or rouse wild beasts at will, as do the Indian
serpent-charmers of our day
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
(Ge 30:3; 50:23;
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"
especially in the New Testament, where the resurrection-awakening is
more clearly set forth
1Th 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
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
16. untimely birth--
preferable to the life of the restless miser
17. the wicked--the original meaning, "those ever restless," "full of
(Isa 57:20, 21).
the weary--literally, "those whose strength is wearied out"
18. There the prisoners rest--from their chains.
19. servant--The slave is there manumitted from slavery.
LIFE BECAUSE OF
20. Wherefore giveth he light--namely, God; often omitted reverentially
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
La 3:7, 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
[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