Matthew Henry Complete CommentaryJob 3
on the Whole Bible
"You have heard of the patience of Job," says the apostle,
Jam. v. 11.
So we have, and of his impatience too. We wondered that a man should be
so patient as he was
but we wonder also that a good man should be so impatient as he is in
this chapter, where we find him cursing his day, and, in passion,
I. Complaining that he was born,
II. Complaining that he did not die as soon as he was born,
III. Complaining that his life was now continued when he was in misery,
In this it must be owned that Job sinned with his lips, and it is
written, not for our imitation, but our admonition, that he who things
he stands may take heed lest he fall.
|Job Curses His Day.
||B. C. 1520.|
1 After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day.
2 And Job spake, and said,
3 Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in
which it was said, There is a man child conceived.
4 Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above,
neither let the light shine upon it.
5 Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud
dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it.
6 As for that night, let darkness seize upon it; let it not
be joined unto the days of the year, let it not come into the
number of the months.
7 Lo, let that night be solitary, let no joyful voice come
8 Let them curse it that curse the day, who are ready to raise
up their mourning.
9 Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark; let it look
for light, but have none; neither let it see the dawning of the
10 Because it shut not up the doors of my mother's womb, nor
hid sorrow from mine eyes.
Long was Job's heart hot within him; and, while he was musing, the fire
burned, and the more for being stifled and suppressed. At length he
spoke with his tongue, but not such a good word as David spoke after a
long pause: Lord, make me to know my end,
Seven days the prophet Ezekiel sat down astonished with the captives,
and then (probably on the sabbath day) the word of the Lord came to
So long Job and his friends sat thinking, but said nothing; they
were afraid of speaking what they thought, lest they should grieve him,
and he durst not give vent to his thoughts, lest he should
offend them. They came to comfort him, but, finding his afflictions
very extraordinary, they began to think comfort did not belong to him,
suspecting him to be a hypocrite, and therefore they said nothing. But
losers think they may have leave to speak, and therefore Job first
gives vent to his thoughts. Unless they had been better, it would
however have been well if he had kept them to himself. In short, he
cursed his day, the day of his birth, wished he had never been born,
could not think or speak of his own birth without regret and vexation.
Whereas men usually observe the annual return of their birth-day with
rejoicing, he looked upon it as the unhappiest day of the year, because
the unhappiest of his life, being the inlet into all his woe. Now,
I. This was bad enough. The extremity of his trouble and the
discomposure of his spirits may excuse it in part, but he can by no
means be justified in it. Now he has forgotten the good he was born to,
the lean kine have eaten up the fat ones, and he is filled with
thoughts of the evil only, and wishes he had never been born. The
prophet Jeremiah himself expressed his painful sense of his calamities
in language not much unlike this: Woe is me, my mother, that thou
hast borne me!
Cursed be the day wherein I was born,
&c. We may suppose that Job in his prosperity had
many a time blessed God for the day of his birth, and reckoned it a
happy day; yet now he brands it with all possible marks of infamy. When
we consider the iniquity in which we were conceived and born we have
reason enough to reflect with sorrow and shame upon the day of our
birth, and to say that the day of our death, by which we are
freed from sin
is far better.
But to curse the day of our birth because then we entered upon the
calamitous scene of life is to quarrel with the God of nature, to
despise the dignity of our being, and to indulge a passion which our
own calm and sober thoughts will make us ashamed of. Certainly there is
no condition of life a man can be in in this world but he may in it (if
it be not his own fault) so honour God, and work out his own salvation,
and make sure a happiness for himself in a better world, that he will
have no reason at all to wish he had never been born, but a great deal
of reason to say that he had his being to good purpose. Yet it must be
owned, if there were not another life after this, and divine
consolations to support us in the prospect of it, so many are the
sorrows and troubles of this that we might sometimes be tempted to say
that we were made in vain
and to wish we had never been. There are those in hell who with good
reason wish they had never been born, as Judas,
But, on this side hell, there can be no reason for so vain and
ungrateful a wish. It was Job's folly and weakness to curse his day. We
must say of it, This was his infirmity; but good men have sometimes
failed in the exercise of those graces which they have been most
eminent for, that we may understand that when they are said to be
perfect it is meant that they were upright, not that they were
sinless. Lastly, Let us observe it, to the honour of the
spiritual life above the natural, that though many have cursed the day
of their first birth, never any cursed the day of their new-birth, nor
wished they never had had grace, and the Spirit of grace, given them.
Those are the most excellent gifts, above life and being itself, and
which will never be a burden.
II. Yet it was not so bad as Satan promised himself. Job cursed his
day, but he did not curse his God--was weary of his life, and would
gladly have parted with that, but not weary of his religion; he
resolutely cleaves to that, and will never let it go. The dispute
between God and Satan concerning Job was not whether Job had his
infirmities, and whether he was subject to like passions as we are
(that was granted), but whether he was a hypocrite, who secretly hated
God, and if he were provoked, would show his hatred; and, upon trial,
it proved that he was no such man. Nay, all this may consist with his
being a pattern of patience; for, though he did thus speak unadvisedly
with his lips, yet both before and after he expressed great submission
and resignation to the holy will of God and repented of his impatience;
he condemned himself for it, and therefore God did not condemn him, nor
must we, but watch the more carefully over ourselves, lest we sin after
the similitude of this transgression.
1. The particular expressions which Job used in cursing his day are
full of poetical fancy, flame, and rapture, and create as much
difficulty to the critics as the thing itself does to the divines: we
need not be particular in our observations upon them. When he would
express his passionate wish that he had never been, he falls foul upon
the day, and wishes,
(1.) That earth might forget it: Let it perish
let it not be joined to the days of the year,
"Let it be not only not inserted in the calendar in red letters, as the
day of the king's nativity useth to be" (and Job was a king,
"but let it be erased and blotted out, and buried in oblivion. Let not
the world know that ever such a man as I was born into it, and lived in
it, who am made such a spectacle of misery."
(2.) That Heaven might frown upon it: Let not God regard it from
"Every thing is indeed as it is with God; that day is honourable on
which he puts honour, and which he distinguishes and crowns with his
favour and blessing, as he did the seventh day of the week; but let my
birthday never be so honoured; let it be nigro carbone
notandus--marked as with a black coal for an evil day by him that
determines the times before appointed. The father and fountain of light
appointed the greater light to rule the day and the less lights to rule
the night; but let that want the benefit of both."
[1.] Let that day be darkness
and, if the light of the day be darkness, how great is that
darkness! how terrible! because then we look for light. Let the
gloominess of the day represent Job's condition, whose sun went down at
[2.] As for that night too, let it want the benefit of moon and stars,
and let darkness seize upon it, thick darkness, darkness that
may be felt, which will not befriend the repose of the night by its
silence, but rather disturb it with its terrors.
(3.) That all joy might forsake it: "Let it be a melancholy night,
solitary, and not a merry night of music and dancing. Let no joyful
voice come therein
let it be a long night, and not see the eye-lids of the morning
which bring joy with them."
(4.) That all curses might follow it
"Let none ever desire to see it, or bid it welcome when it comes, but,
on the contrary, let those curse it that curse the day. Whatever
day any are tempted to curse, let them at the same time bestow one
curse upon my birth-day, particularly those that make it their trade to
raise up mourning at funerals with their ditties of lamentation. Let
those that curse the day of the death of others in the same breath
curse the day of my birth." Or those who are so fierce and daring as to
be ready to raise up the Leviathan (for that is the word here),
who, being about to strike the whale or crocodile, curse it with the
bitterest curse they can invent, hoping by their incantations to weaken
it, and so to make themselves master of it. Probably some such custom
might there be used, to which our divine poet alludes. "Let it be as
odious as the day wherein men bewail the greatest misfortune, or
the time wherein they see the most dreadful apparition;" so
bishop Patrick, I suppose taking the Leviathan here to signify the
devil, as others do, who understand it of the curses used by conjurors
and magicians in raising the devil, or when they have raised a devil
that they cannot lay.
2. But what is the ground of Job's quarrel with the day and night of
his birth? It is because it shut not up the doors of his mother's
See the folly and madness of a passionate discontent, and how absurdly
and extravagantly it talks when the reins are laid on the neck of it.
Is this Job, who was so much admired for his wisdom that unto him
men gave ear, and kept silence at his counsel, and after his
words they spoke not again?
Surely his wisdom failed him,
(1.) When he took so much pains to express his desire that he had never
been born, which, at the best was a vain wish, for it is impossible to
make that which has been not to have been.
(2.) When he was so liberal of his curses upon a day and a night that
could not be hurt, or made any the worse for his curses.
(3.) When he wished a thing so very barbarous to his own mother as that
she had not brought him forth when her full time had come, which must
inevitably have been her death, and a miserable death.
(4.) When he despised the goodness of God to him in giving him a being
(such a being, so noble and excellent a life, such a life, so far above
that of any other creature in this lower world), and undervalued the
gift, as not worth the acceptance, only because transit cum
onere--it was clogged with a proviso of trouble, which now at
length came upon him, after many years' enjoyment of its pleasures.
What a foolish thing it was to wish that his eyes had never seen the
light, that so they might not have seen sorrow, which yet he might hope
to see through, and beyond which he might see joy! Did Job believe and
hope that he should in his flesh see God at the latter day
and yet would he wish he had never had a being capable of such a bliss,
only because, for the present, he had sorrow in the flesh? God by his
grace arm us against this foolish and hurtful lust of impatience.
|Job's Complaint of Life.
||B. C. 1520.|
11 Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the
ghost when I came out of the belly?
12 Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I
13 For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should
have slept: then had I been at rest,
14 With kings and counsellors of the earth, which built
desolate places for themselves;
15 Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with
16 Or as a hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants
which never saw light.
17 There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary
be at rest.
18 There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice
of the oppressor.
19 The small and great are there; and the servant is free
from his master.
Job, perhaps reflecting upon himself for his folly in wishing he had
never been born, follows it, and thinks to mend it, with another,
little better, that he had died as soon as he was born, which he
enlarges upon in these verses. When our Saviour would set forth a very
calamitous state of things he seems to allow such a saying as this,
Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the paps
which never gave suck
but blessing the barren womb is one thing and cursing the fruitful womb
is another! It is good to make the best of afflictions, but it is not
good to make the worst of mercies. Our rule is, Bless, and curse
not. Life is often put for all good, and death for all evil; yet
Job here very absurdly complains of life and its supports as a curse
and plague to him, and covets death and the grave as the greatest and
most desirable bliss. Surely Satan was deceived in Job when he applied
that maxim to him, All that a man hath will he give for his
life; for never any man valued life at a lower rate than he
I. He ungratefully quarrels with life, and is angry that it was not
taken from him as soon as it was given him
Why died not I from the womb? See here,
1. What a weak and helpless creature man is when he comes into the
world, and how slender the thread of life is when it is first drawn. We
are ready to die from the womb, and to breathe our last as soon as we
begin to breathe at all. We can do nothing for ourselves, as other
creatures can, but should drop into the grave if the knees did not
prevent us; and the lamp of life, when first lighted, would go out of
itself if the breasts given us, that we should suck, did not supply it
with fresh oil.
2. What a merciful and tender care divine Providence took of us at our
entrance into the world. It was owing to this that we died not from
the womb and did not give up the ghost when we came out of the
belly. Why were we not cut off as soon as we were born? Not because
we did not deserve it. Justly might such weeds have been plucked up as
soon as they appeared; justly might such cockatrices have been crushed
in the egg. Nor was it because we did, or could, take any care of
ourselves and our own safety: no creature comes into the world so
shiftless as man. It was not our might, or the power of our hand, that
preserved us these beings, but God's power and providence upheld our
frail lives, and his pity and patience spared our forfeited lives. It
was owing to this that the knees prevented us. Natural affection is put
into parents' he arts by the hand of the God of nature: and hence it
was that the blessings of the breast attended those of the womb.
3. What a great deal of vanity and vexation of spirit attends human
life. If we had not a God to serve in this world, and better things to
hope for in another world, considering the faculties we are endued with
and the troubles we are surrounded with, we should be strongly tempted
to wish that we had died from the womb, which would have
prevented a great deal both of sin and misery.
|He that is born to-day, and dies to-morrow,
Loses some hours of joy, but months of sorrow.
4. The evil of impatience, fretfulness, and discontent. When they thus
prevail they are unreasonable and absurd, impious and ungrateful. To
indulge them is a slighting and undervaluing of God's favour. How much
soever life is embittered, we must say, "It was of the Lord's mercies
that we died not from the womb, that we were not consumed." Hatred of
life is a contradiction to the common sense and sentiments of mankind,
and to our own at any other time. Let discontented people declaim ever
so much against life, they will be loth to part with it when it comes
to the point. When the old man in the fable, being tired with his
burden, threw it down with discontent and called for Death, and Death
came to him and asked him what he would have with him, he then
answered, "Nothing, but to help me up with my burden."
II. He passionately applauds death and the grave, and seems quite in
love with them. To desire to die that we may be with Christ, that we
may be free from sin, and that we may be clothed upon with our house
which is from heaven, is the effect and evidence of grace; but to
desire to die only that we may be quiet in the grave, and delivered
from the troubles of this life, savours of corruption. Job's
considerations here may be of good use to reconcile us to death when it
comes, and to make us easy under the arrest of it; but they ought not
to be made use of as a pretence to quarrel with life while it is
continued, or to make us uneasy under the burdens of it. 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,
and to be his in both,
Job here frets himself with thinking that if he had but died as soon as
he was born, and been carried from the womb to the grave,
1. His condition would have been as good as that of the best: I would
have been (says he,
with kings and counsellors of the earth, whose pomp, power, and
policy, cannot set them out of the reach of death, nor secure them from
the grave, nor distinguish theirs from common dust in the grave. Even
princes, who had gold in abundance, could not with it bribe Death to
overlook them when he came with commission; and, though they filled
their houses with silver, yet they were forced to leave it all behind
them, no more to return to it. Some, by the desolate places
which the kings and counsellors are here said to build for
themselves, understand the sepulchres or monuments they prepared
for themselves in their life-time; as Shebna
hewed himself out a sepulchre; and by the gold which the princes
had, and the silver with which they filled their houses, they
understand the treasures which, they say, it was usual to deposit in
the graves of great men. Such arts have been used to preserve their
dignity, if possible, on the other side death, and to keep themselves
from lying even with those of inferior rank; but it will not do: death
is, and will be, an irresistible leveller. Mors sceptra ligonibus
æquat--Death mingles sceptres with spades. Rich and poor meet
together in the grave; and there a hidden untimely birth
a child that either never saw light or but just opened its eyes and
peeped into the world, and, not liking it, closed them again and
hastened out of it, lies as soft and easy, lies as high and safe, as
kings and counsellors, and princes, that had gold. "And therefore,"
says Job, "would I had lain there in the dust, rather than to lie here
in the ashes!"
2. His condition would have been much better than now it was
"Then should I have lain still, and been quiet, which now I
cannot do, I cannot be, but am still tossing and unquiet; then I
should have slept, whereas now sleep departeth from my eyes;
then had I been at rest, whereas now I am restless." Now that
life and immortality are brought to a much clearer light by the gospel
than before they were placed in good Christians can give a better
account than this of the gain of death: "Then should I have been
present with the Lord; then should I have seen his glory face to face,
and no longer through a glass darkly." But all that poor Job dreamed of
was rest and quietness in the grave out of the fear of evil tidings and
out of the feeling of sore boils. Then should I have been quiet;
and had he kept his temper, his even easy temper still, which he was in
as recorded in the two foregoing chapters, entirely resigned to the
holy will of God and acquiescing in it, he might have been quiet now;
his soul, at least, might have dwelt at ease, even when his body lay in
Observe how finely he describes the repose of the grave, which
(provided the soul also be at rest in God) may much assist our triumphs
(1.) Those that now are troubled will there be out of the reach of
There the wicked cease from troubling. When persecutors die they
can no longer persecute; their hatred and envy will then
perish. Herod had vexed the church, but, when he became a prey
for worms, he ceased from troubling. When the persecuted die they are
out of the danger of being any further troubled. Had Job been at rest
in his grave, he would have had no disturbance from the Sabeans and
Chaldeans, none of all his enemies would have created him any trouble.
(2.) Those that are now toiled will there see the period of their
toils. There the weary are at rest. Heaven is more than a rest
to the souls of the saints, but the grave is a rest to their bodies.
Their pilgrimage is a weary pilgrimage; sin and the world they are
weary of; their services, sufferings, and expectations, they are
wearied with; but in the grave they rest from all their labours,
They are easy there, and make no complaints; there believers sleep in
(3.) Those that were here enslaved are there at liberty. Death is the
prisoner's discharge, the relief of the oppressed, and the servant's
There the prisoners, though they walk not at large, yet they
rest together, and are not put to work, to grind in that
prison-house. They are no more insulted and trampled upon, menaced and
terrified, by their cruel task-masters: They hear not the voice of
the oppressor. Those that were here doomed to perpetual servitude,
that could call nothing their own, no, not their own bodies, are there
no longer under command or control: There the servant is free from
his master, which is a good reason why those that have power should
use it moderately, and those that are in subjection should bear it
patiently, yet a little while.
(4.) Those that were at a vast distance from others are there upon a
The small and great are there, there the same, there all one,
all alike free among the dead. The tedious pomp and state which attend
the great are at an end there. All the inconveniences of a poor and low
condition are likewise over; death and the grave know no
|Levelled by death, the conqueror and the slave,
The wise and foolish, cowards and the brave,
Lie mixed and undistinguished in the grave.--Sir R. BLACKMORE.
20 Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life
unto the bitter in soul;
21 Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it
more than for hid treasures;
22 Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can
find the grave?
23 Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God
hath hedged in?
24 For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are
poured out like the waters.
25 For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and
that which I was afraid of is come unto me.
26 I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I
quiet; yet trouble came.
Job, finding it to no purpose to wish either that he had not been born
or had died as soon as he was born, here complains that his life was
now continued and not cut off. When men are set on quarrelling there is
no end of it; the corrupt heart will carry on the humour. Having cursed
the day of his birth, here he courts the day of his death. The
beginning of this strife and impatience is as the letting forth of
I. He thinks it hard, in general, that miserable lives should be
Wherefore is light in life given to those that are bitter in
soul? Bitterness of soul, through spiritual grievances, makes life
itself bitter. Why doth he give light? (so it is in the
original): he means God, yet does not name him, though the devil
had said, "He will curse thee to thy face;" but he tacitly reflects on
the divine Providence as unjust and unkind in continuing life when the
comforts of life are removed. Life is called light, because
pleasant and serviceable for walking and working. It is candle-light;
the longer it burns the shorter it is, and the nearer to the socket.
This light is said to be given us; for, if it were not daily renewed to
us by a fresh gift, it would be lost. But Job reckons that to those who
are in misery it is doron adoron--gift and no
gift, a gift that they had better be without, while the light only
serves them to see their own misery by. Such is the vanity of human
life that it sometimes becomes a vexation of spirit; and so alterable
is the property of death that, though dreadful to nature, it may become
desirable even to nature itself. He here speaks of those,
1. Who long for death, when they have out-lived their comforts and
usefulness, are burdened with age and infirmities, with pain or
sickness, poverty or disgrace, and yet it comes not; while, at the same
time, it comes to many who dread it and would put it far from them. The
continuance and period of life must be according to God's will, not
according to ours. It is not fit that we should be consulted how long
we would live and when we would die; our times are in a better hand
than our own.
2. Who dig for it as for hidden treasures, that is, would give
any thing for a fair dismission out of this world, which supposes that
then the thought of men's being their own executioners was not
so much as entertained or suggested, else those who longed for it
needed not take much pains for it, they might soon come at it (as
Seneca tells them) if they are pleased.
3. Who bid it welcome, and are glad when they can find the grave
and see themselves stepping into it. If the miseries of this life can
prevail, contrary to nature, to make death itself desirable, shall not
much more the hopes and prospects of a better life, to which death is
our passage, make it so, and set us quite above the fear of it? It may
be a sin to long for death, but I am sure it is no sin to long for
II. He thinks himself, in particular, hardly dealt with, that he might
not be eased of his pain and misery by death when he could not get ease
in any other way. To be thus impatient of life for the sake of the
troubles we meet with is not only unnatural in itself, but ungrateful
to the giver of life, and argues a sinful indulgence of our own passion
and a sinful inconsideration of our future state. Let it be our great
and constant care to get ready for another world, and then let us leave
it to God to order the circumstances of our removal thither as he
thinks fit: "Lord, when and how thou pleasest;" and this with such an
indifference that, if he should refer it to us, we would refer it to
him again. 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, to excuse himself in this earnest desire which he
had to die, pleads the little comfort and satisfaction he had in
1. In his present afflicted state troubles were continually felt, and
were likely to be so. He thought he had cause enough to be weary of
(1.) He had no comfort of his life: My sighing comes before I
The sorrows of life prevented and anticipated the supports of life;
nay, they took away his appetite for his necessary food. His griefs
returned as duly as his meals, and affliction was his daily bread. Nay,
so great was the extremity of his pain and anguish that he did not only
sigh, but roar, and his roarings were poured out like the waters
in a full and constant stream. Our Master was acquainted with grief,
and we must expect to be so too.
(2.) He had no prospect of bettering his condition: His way was
hidden, and God had hedged him in,
He saw no way open of deliverance, nor knew he what course to take; his
way was hedged up with thorns, that he could not find his path.
2. Even in his former prosperous state troubles were continually
feared; so that then he was never easy,
He knew so much of the vanity of the world, and the troubles to which,
of course, he was born, that he was not in safety, neither had he
rest then. That which made his grief now the more grievous was that
he was not conscious to himself of any great degree either of
negligence or security in the day of his prosperity, which might
provoke God thus to chastise him.
(1.) He had not been negligent and unmindful of his affairs, but kept
up such a fear of trouble as was necessary to the maintaining of his
guard. He was afraid for his children when they were feasting, lest
they should offend God
afraid for his servants lest they should offend his neighbours; he took
all the care he could of his own health, and managed himself and his
affairs with all possible precaution; yet all would not do.
(2.) He had not been secure, nor indulged himself in ease and softness,
had not trusted in his wealth, nor flattered himself with the hopes of
the perpetuity of his mirth; yet trouble came, to convince and remind
him of the vanity of the world, which yet he had not forgotten when he
lived at ease. Thus his way was hidden, for he knew not wherefore God
contended with him. Now this consideration, instead of aggravating his
grief, might rather serve to alleviate it. Nothing will make trouble
easy so much as the testimony of our consciences for us, that, in some
measure, we did our duty in a day of prosperity; and an expectation of
trouble will make it sit the lighter when it comes. The less it is a
surprise the less it is a terror.