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Bible Commentaries
Job 3

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-26


(See the Job Book Comments for Introductory content and general conclusions and observations).

IV

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE POETICAL DRAMA AND JOB’S COMPLAINT

Job 3:1-26.


The names and lineal descent of the human persons in the drama, their relationship, and their religious ideas are as follows:


1. Job was a descendant of Uz, the son of Nahor, who was the brother of Abraham (Genesis 22:20-21). The father of Abraham and Nahor was an idolater, but Nahor shared in the light given to Abraham. Hence it is said, "The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor." So, also, Nahor’s descendants shared the knowledge of the true God.


2. Eliphaz was a descendant of Teman, the son of Esau, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. Hence his knowledge of God. Eliphaz, himself a prophet, received revelations (Job 4:12-17). Teman, his country, ages later, was renowned for wisdom (Jeremiah 49:7).


3. Bildad was a descendant of Shuah, the son of Abraham and Keturah (Genesis 25:1-2). Hence his traditional knowledge of God.


4. Zophar was a Namathite. Naamah in Joshua’s time was a city bordering on Edom and included by conquest in Judah’s territory. Hence, probably, Zophar was also a descendant of Esau, or possibly one of the Amorite confederates of Abraham ’ (Genesis 14:13).


5. Elihu, the Buzite, was a descendant of Buz, the brother of Uz the son of Nahor the brother of Abraham (Genesis 22:20). Hence his knowledge of the true God. The religious ideas of these men were founded on the tradition of special revelations from God. Eliphaz was a prophet and probably received revelations direct from God. The agreement of their ideas doubtless was due to their common source and wherein they disagreed was due to deviations caused by not having a written revelation and the different points of view from which they made observations) as individuals. It is probable that Job’s ideas with reference to sin and suffering were the same as these three friends which were commonly accepted as the theory till his experience upset them and put Job to thinking. Elihu was most correct of all, but not that he had more light than the others but because, in all probability, he was more balanced in his observations, and thus formed better conclusions. In view of the striking and distinguishing characteristics of these five men, the peculiarities of mind, temper, and creed, the good and bad elements of their respective arguments, so clearly brought out in the development of this discussion, and in view of their peculiarities of style, idioms of speech and local references, bearing on the times, country, and habitat assigned to each, and in view of subsequent Old Testament and New Testament references to the story, to which one of these two conclusions are we driven:


1. Are they fictitious persons, children of the writer’s creative brain, who weaves his background of story in the drapery of a parable, and then sets forth in the literary form of a poetical drama his philosophy concerning divine providence?


2. Is this history; are these real persons voicing their own actual experiences, observations, and convictions; is everything true to character – the time, the persons, the events, the style, and the idioms of speech?


They are not fictitious persons, children of the writer’s creative brain, like the characters of a novel, but are real persons, voicing their own actual experiences, observations, convictions, and their several philosophies of life. They are all descendants of Shem and of the two brothers, Abraham and Nahor, though none of them in the promised line through Abraham which developed into the chosen nation. The place of the book is Uz, a district of central Arabia, southeast of Palestine, touching or connecting with Edom on the south, the lower Euphrates on the east, and on the northeast the mountains east of the Jordan. In loose terms, it is known as the East Country, a country largely desert, traversed by caravans, largely pastoral, but with agricultural sections and with settled communities here and there that in that time were called cities.


The time in general and in particular is as follows:


1. In general, the patriarchal days somewhere between the time of Jacob and the bondage in Egypt


2. In particular, some months after Job was smitten with leprosy (Job 7:3; Job 29:2)


The theme of the poetical drama is the mystery of divine Providence in the government of men prior to revelation, and the three necessities which this trial of Job reveals as relating to law, worship, the future state, prayer, and the supernatural interference with men, as illustrated in the case of Job are as follows:


1. The necessity of a revelation


2. The necessity of the incarnation


3. The necessity of a daysman (See Psalm 19; 73.)


Now the following is a good, brief outline of the poetical drama and epilogue:

THE POETICAL DRAMA, JOB 3:1-42:6

Act I. Job’s complaint (Job 3)

Act II. Debate with the three friends (Job 4-26)
Scene 1. – First round of speeches (Job 4-14)


Scene 2. – Second round of speeches (Job 15-21)


Scene 3. – Third round of speeches (Job 22-26)


Act III. Job’s formal restatement of his case (Job 27-31)

Act IV. Interposition of Elihu (Job 32-37)

Act V. Intervention of God (Job 38:1-42:6)


Scene 1. – First arraignment and reply (Job 38:1-40:5)


Scene 2. – Second arraignment and reply (Job 40:6-42:6)

THE EPILOGUE, PROSE, (Job 42:7-17)


1. God’s rebuke of the three friends (Job 42:7)


2. Job’s intercession (Job 42:8)


3. Job’s exaltation (Job 42:9-17)


It will be noted that this drama consists of five acts and many scenes. It commences with Job 3 and closes with Job 42:6.


The several acts are Job’s complaint, the debate with the three friends, Job’s restatement of the case, Elihu’s interposition, and Jehovah’s intervention.


The problem of the prose prologue, "Can there be disinterested piety?" having been solved affirmatively, now gives way for an entirely new and broader problem: The solution of the mystery of God’s providential dealings with man on earth and in time, particularly in the undeserved sufferings of the righteous and in the undeserved prosperity of the wicked. This problem assumes in the progress of the discussion many shades of interrogative form, as follows:


1. Is exact justice meted out to man on earth so that we may infallibly infer his moral character from the blessings or sufferings which come upon him?


2. If this be true in general, in the case of the individual, to what extent is the problem complicated by the unity and responsibility of society as blessings or sufferings come upon a community, a city, a tribe, or a nation? What becomes of the individual case in this larger view? How much greater the complications when the individual is seen to be only an infinitesimal part of the universe?


3. Can the finite mind solve such a problem? Is this life the whole of man’s life? If not, what the folly of inferring character from an imperfect view of a fragment of earth life and of seeking a final judgment in each passing dispensation of time?


4. Considering man’s ignorance of the extraneous and supernatural forces, both good and bad, which touch man’s life, can he confidently infer the cause, purpose, and extent of temporal adversity and prosperity?


5. Are all earth sufferings penal and all of its blessings a reward of desert?


6. Can unaided man find out and comprehend the Almighty and Omniscient? Can man contend with the Almighty without a Surety? Is there not a necessity for a divine incarnation so that man unterrified may talk to God face to face as with a friend? Shall not God become visible, palpable, and human before a solution is possible? In view of human imperfection and divine perfection is not a superhuman interpreter needed in order to man’s full understanding? In view of sin, is not a daysman, or mediator, needed? In view of requisite holiness and the dreadfulness of sin, is not a written revelation, and infallible standard of right, needed that man may authoritatively know the indictment against him and how to meet it?


The discussion of these and kindred questions not only set this book apart as the profoundest philosophy of time, but also clearly indicates its object, namely, a preparation for a written revelation and an incarnation which will supply the needed surety, umpire, daysman, mediator, and redeemer. Now I will give a summary of Job’s complaint which is a brief outline of Job 3. He complains:


1. That he was ever born (Job 3:1-10)


2. That he had not died at birth (Job 3:11-15)


3. That he had not been an abortion, failing of being before reaching the period of quickening (Job 3:16-19)


4. That he cannot now die (Job 3:20-26) He means, by cursing the day of his birth, this: Let not God regard it; let man leave it out of the calendar; let those who curse days neglect not to curse this one; let it be eclipsed by darkness and let this darkness be the deepest, even the shadow of death.


By cursing the night of his conception he means: Let it be solitary and barren; let it have no dawn; let it be an eternal night.


Days may become accursed or blessed in the popular mind, by association with great events. Friday, or hangman’s day, is counted unlucky for marriages, the undertaking of new enterprises, or the commencing of a journey. November 5 as long marked for celebration in the English Calendar because the date of the discovery of the Guy Fawkes’ gunpowder plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. So, in the American Calendar, July 4 becomes Independence Day. The presumption of cursing one three-hundred-and-sixty-fifth part of all future time because of one calamity to one man is an awful presumption, yet Job himself afterward called these words "rash words," extorted by great anguish (Job 6:1-3) and that as "speeches of one that is desperate; they are as wind" and called not for serious reproof (Job 6:26).


In Job 3:13-19 we have Job’s idea of the peace and restfulness of death, so far as its subjects can be touched by the living. He says that there they are quiet, asleep, at rest, with counselors, and princes, like unborn infants; no troubles from the wicked and no oppression of servants. Though Job so thoroughly believed that his disease was incurable, his restoration to former prosperity impossible, was hopeless of vindication in his life, and so earnestly longed and begged for a speedy death, yet he never did think of suicide, and the bearing of this on the superiority of his religion over all the great heathen philosophies is tremendous. Compare Hamlet’s soliloquy commencing, "To be, or not to be, that is the question." Job’s idea of man’s responsibility to God pre-vented him from thinking of suicide. He believed in the absolute ownership of God as to human life, and man therefore has no right to take his own life. He understood the disposition of life to belong to God. On the other hand, heathen philosophies taught that if life’s ills became unbearable, man had a right to end his own life under such circumstances by his own hand. They never realized the sanctity of human life as taught by the Christian religion. Thus, Job had a better religion than men attained to by philosophical inquiry.


The meaning of "shadow of death," in the book of Job, in the Psalms, and the Prophets is not death itself, but as a shadow it may fall across the path of life at any point. In Pilgrim’s Progress Bunyan locates the "Valley of the Shadow of Death," early in the pilgrimage and not just before death. "Death" is one thing, and the "shadow of death" is an entirely different thing.


There is a difficulty in the text, translation and meaning of Job 3:8. The word rendered "leviathan" occurs elsewhere in the book. What is a leviathan? Does the crocodile of the Nile come up to the description in Job 41? Is it possible that "leviathan" in Job 3:8 is used figuratively like "the great dragon" in Revelation 12:7? In the phrase, "let them that curse the day," is there a reference to enchanters or to the power attributed to Balaam by Balack in Numbers 22:6-7? The Revised Version is in keeping with the Hebrew in this passage. It is properly translated "who are ready to rouse up leviathan." "Leviathan" literally means crocodile, but in this passage it is used, I think, in a figurative sense, meaning reptile, serpent, the devil.

QUESTIONS

1. What the names and lineal descent of the human persons in the drama, showing their relationship and accounting for their religious ideas?

2. What can you say of the character of this book, negatively and positively?

3. What the place of the book?

4. What the time in general and in particular?

5. What the theme of the poetical drama?

6. What three necessities does this trial of Job reveal?

7. Give an outline of the poetical drama and epilogue.

8. What in particular the new problem of the drama?

9. What the various interrogative forms of this new problem?

10. What the purpose of the book as set forth in the discussion of these questions?

11. Give a summary of Job’s complaint.

12. What does he mean by cursing the day of his birth?

13. What does he mean by cursing the night of his conception?

14. How many days become accursed or blessed in the popular mind? Give examples.

15. What can you say of the presumption of cursing one three-hundred-and-sixty-fifth part of all future time because of one calamity to one man and how does Job afterward regard it?

16. Why did Job not commit suicide?

17. What was Job’s idea of the peace and restfulness of death, so far as its subjects can be touched by the living?

18. What the meaning of "shadow of death," in the book of Job, in the Psalms, and in the Prophets?

19. What the difficulty in the text, translation and meaning of Job 3:8. The word rendered "leviathan" occurs elsewhere in the book. What is a leviathan? Does the crocodile of the Nile come up to the description in Job 41? Is it possible that "leviathan" in Job 3:8 is used figuratively like "the great dragon" in Revelation 12:7? In the phrase, "let them that curse the day," is there a reference to enchanters or to the power attributed to Balaam by Balack in Numbers 22:6-7?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Job 3". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/job-3.html.
 
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