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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Job 3

Verses 1-6

II. THE DIALOGUE CONCERNING THE BASIS OF THE DIVINE-HUMAN RELATIONSHIP 3:1-42:6

This major part of the book begins with a personal lament in which Job expressed his agony (ch. 3). Three cycles of speeches follow in which Job’s friends dialogued with him about his condition (chs. 4-27). Job then voiced his despair in two soliloquies (chs. 28-31). Next Job’s fourth friend, Elihu, offered his solution to Job’s problem (chs. 32-37). The section closes with God speaking to Job twice and Job’s responses (chs. Job 38:1 to Job 42:6).

Verses 1-10

1. The wish that he had not been born 3:1-10

Job evidently considered his conception as the beginning of his existence (Job 3:3; cf. Psalms 139:13-16). His poetic description of his birth set forth his regret that he had left his mother’s womb alive (cf. Jeremiah 20:14-18).

"Leviathan [Job 3:8] was a seven-headed sea monster of ancient Near Eastern mythology. In the Ugaritic literature of Canaan and Phoenicia, eclipses were said to be caused by Leviathan’s swallowing the sun and moon. Job said, ’Let thou curse it [the night of my conception] who curse the day, who are prepared to arouse Leviathan.’ He was referring to a custom of sorcerers or enchanters, who claimed to have the power to make a day unfortunate by rousing the dragon asleep in the sea and inciting it to swallow the sun or moon. Thus, if the daytime or nighttime luminary were gone, Job’s birthday would, in a sense, be missing. Was Job indicating belief in a creature of mythology? No, he was probably doing nothing more than utilizing for poetic purposes a common notion that his hearers would understand. This would have been similar to modern adults’ referring to Santa Claus. Mentioning his name does not mean that one believes such a person exists." [Note: Zuck, Job, p. 24. Cf. 41:1; Psalms 74:14; 104:26; Isaiah 27:1. For fuller discussion of the Canaanite mythology involving Leviathan, see Marvin H. Pope, Job, pp. 329-31; and Smick, "Job," pp. 863-71.]

Job wanted to express in many ways his regret that he had been born. Evidently the reason Job longed for nonexistence was his failure to understand his relationship with God or his place in the universe. Job had many questions about the creation order. He seems to have realized that understanding his relationship to God and his place in creation required an understanding of creation. In clarifying Job’s relationships, Elihu and God also said much about creation. This appears to be the reason the creation motif is so prevalent in the Book of Job. [Note: See Parsons, pp. 145-47, for further discussion of the creation motif, and Leo G. Perdue, "Job’s Assault on Creation," Hebrew Annual Review 10 (1986):295-315.] An understanding of creation is indeed essential to our correct understanding of who we are and what our relationship to God is (Genesis 1-2). This is one reason people need to understand the Genesis record of creation accurately. [Note: Three fine organizations that provide books, pamphlets, audio tapes, videos, seminar speakers, etc. for all ages to this end are: The Institute for Creation Research, 10946 Woodside Avenue North, Santee, CA 92071; Answers in Genesis, P.O. Box 6330, Florence, KY 41022; and Creation Science Foundation, P.O. Box 6302, Acacia Ridge DC, QLD 4110, Australia.]

Verses 1-26

A. Job’s Personal Lament ch. 3

The poetic body to the book begins with a soliloquy in which Job cursed the day of his birth. This introductory soliloquy corresponds to another one Job gave at the end of his dialogue with his three friends (chs. 29-31), especially chapter 31 in which he uttered another curse against himself. These two soliloquies bracket the three cycles of speeches like the covers of a book and bind them together into a unified whole.

Evidently the passing of time brought Job no relief but only continued the irritation of his persisting pain. In chapter 2, Job restrained his words and manifested a submissive attitude. In chapter 3, his statements are assertive and angry. In this individual lament Job articulated a death wish. He actually expressed three wishes. Another way to divide chapter 3 is: Job’s curse (Job 3:3-13) and his lament (Job 3:14-26). [Note: Hartley, p. 88.]

Verses 11-19

2. The wish that he had died at birth 3:11-19

Another acceptable alternative to Job was that he had been stillborn, miscarried, or died immediately after birth. All the past joys in his life could not compensate for the present misery he felt. The rest of death was better than the turmoil of life for him now that he was suffering.

Verses 20-26

3. The wish that he could die then 3:20-26

Much of Job’s suffering was intellectual. He asked, "Why?" frequently in this soliloquy (Job 3:11-12; Job 3:20; Job 3:23) and in the dialogue that follows (Job 7:20-21; Job 9:29; Job 13:24; Job 21:4; Job 24:1).

"My groaning comes at the sight of my food" (Job 3:24) may mean that food was not appealing to him. Probably he also meant that his groaning was as regular and frequent as his meals. The parallel idea at the end of Job 3:24 means his pain was as unending as a stream.

This is how Job felt when he uttered this soliloquy. He was bitter (Job 3:20) but not out of control. He was angry with God (Job 3:23) but not cursing God. The writer used the same Hebrew word to describe Job as one "hedged in" by God with darkness and disfavor (Job 3:23) that Satan used to describe Job as one whom God had "made a hedge about" to protect him from evil (Job 1:10). Job was in despair but not defiant toward God. He was feeling his pain intensely but not accusing God of being unjust. His grief had not yet descended to its lowest depths.

Many people reach the same level in the strata of grief that Job did here. They long to die but do not contemplate suicide. Job evidently did not entertain the option of suicide because suicide implied that one had lost all hope in God. [Note: Hartley, p. 92.] The pressure of pain squeezes out the memories of past pleasures. The present agony becomes so overwhelming that sufferers often cannot see hope beyond it. My own father suffered with bone cancer and before he died longed for death even though he was a godly believer. This experience of great pain is the will of God for some people. We must not make the mistake of misjudging those who are going through this "valley of the shadow of death"-as Job’s friends did.

"These are the harshest words Job utters against himself in the entire book." [Note: Ibid., p. 101.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Job 3". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/job-3.html. 2012.