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the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Job 3

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

Verses 1-26

Job Curses his Day

Job curses the day of his birth. He asks why he did not die at birth: why should his wretched life be prolonged?

We are now confronted with a striking change in Job’s frame of mind from that presented in Job 2:10. Probably a considerable interval had elapsed before his friends arrived. He complains in the speeches which follow of the emaciated state into which he had fallen, and that from being the honoured of all he had become a byword to his neighbours: cp. Job 1:3; Job 19:8-22; Job 30:1-15. it is evident from this chapter that he has been brooding over the miseries of his condition and the hopelessness of the future, and complaint has taken the place of resignation. The presence of his friends only provokes him to give vent to his anguish. In their silent amazement he sees as in a mirror the extent of his own misery. He casts himself confidently on their sympathetic comprehension, and freely utters the dark thoughts he has hitherto restrained. He knows that if left to himself he may lose the fear of the Almighty, and trusts that they will deliver him from this temptation. But an obsolete theology froze their power to help.

Job 3 - Job 42:6 are poetical in form, not in exact metre as if for song, but rhythmical for reading. The parts of which the couplet or triplet forming the verse are composed show a marked parallelism, the thought in one half corresponding to or completing the thought in the other. Job 3 is a good example.

There is much similarity between this chapter and Jeremiah 20:14-18, but the thoughts are those natural to the Hebrew mind, and we need not necessarily suppose them to be borrowed in either case.

3-10. Job curses the day of his birth.

1. His day] the day of his birth. It was thought that the days of the year had an existence of their own, so that any given day would come round again in its turn. Hence Job is not cursing a day which long ago ceased to be, but one which year by year comes back to blight the happiness of others as it blighted his: see on Job 3:5.

3. Observe the piled-up malediction. The power and pathos of the chapter are remarkable.

5. Stain it] RV ’claim it for their own.’ Blackness of, etc.] RV ’all that maketh black the day’; e.g. eclipses and unusual darknesses.

6. Let it not be joined, etc.] let it be blotted out of the calendar. The ancients believed in lucky and unlucky days. Let this day ruin no more lives, it has ruined enough.

7. Solitary] RV ’barren.’ No joyful voice] as on the occasion of a birth.

8. Let them curse it that curse the day] A reference to magicians who professed to be able to cast spells on a day and make it unlucky, apparently causing eclipses, as the next line suggests. Who are ready to raise up their mourning] RV ’Who are ready to raise up leviathan’ (a mythical dragon). It was an ancient superstition that when an eclipse happened it was caused by a dragon which swallowed the sun or moon, or enfolded them in its coils, and so created darkness. A curious present-day confirmation of this idea occurs in the daily papers of Nov. 11, 1901. In a telegram from Peking it was reported that for the first time in history a few foreigners were invited to be present at the Chinese Board of Rites to witness ’the rescuing of the sun, which was suffering from the attacks of a dragon. The rescue was accomplished by means of prostrations, the burning of incense, and beating of drums and gongs.’

9. Dawning of the day] lit. ’eyelids of the morning.’

11-19. Job asks why he did not die at birth; a very fine passage expressive of great bitterness of soul.

12. Prevent me] RV ’receive me.’ It was usual for the newborn child to be laid on its father’s knees in token of ownership. If he suffered it to remain he pledged himself to bring it up.

14. Desolate places] RM ’solitary piles’: cp. the pyramids of Egypt, which were the royal burying-places.

15-19. In reading these verses, in spite of their great beauty, we cannot help contrasting the vague and cheerless ideas about the future state in these early days with the clearer knowledge and glorious hope of the Christian. Although believing that the soul retained its consciousness, men do not appear to have regarded death as but the beginning of a higher form of existence, in looking forward to which man learns to bear the trials of life with patience. They thought of Sheol as the dim and cheerless underworld, where the pale shades of the departed dragged on a colourless existence, dark and monotonous. Yet the gloom of Sheol is to Job a welcome refuge, where he would be at peace. How terrible must be the pain from which he would gladly escape to so wretched a home.

15. Perhaps an allusion to the valuables buried in ancient tombs.

18. Oppressor] rather, ’taskmaster.’

20-26. Job asks why his wretched life should be prolonged.

22. There may be a connexion of thought here with the ’hid treasures’ of Job 3:21. The idea is perhaps that of violating an ancient tomb. The entrance was usually hidden carefully.

23. Whose way is hid] in perplexity and doubt.

24. Translate, ’For my sighings are instead of my eating, and my groans are poured out like drink’: cp. Psalms 42:3.

25, 26. The verbs should all be in the present tense in these vv. Job’s grief and sickness make him full of gloomy forebodings, which are constantly being realised.

The passionate complaints and longings for death in this chapter testify to the agitation of Job’s soul. There are signs of impatience and resentment at God’s dealings, which shock his friends and evidently influence the tone of their language towards him in the debate which follows.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Job 3". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/job-3.html. 1909.
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