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Bible Commentaries

Dunagan's Commentary on the Bible

Job 3

Verse 1

At the end of the book we will be informed that Job will say some things during his suffering that are not true (Job 38:2; 42:3-6), that actually cloud the issue rather than throwing light upon it. Therefore, as we begin to examine the first of Job's speeches let us make sure that we keep this fact in mind. God is allowing Job to vent, but there is ignorance and error included in this venting.

3:1 “Afterward Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth”: “The silence of Job and his friends was broken when Job bemoaned that he had ever been born and expressed his longing to die. Perhaps this week of agony impressed on him his sense of loss and reinforced the relentless pain of his disease. Perhaps too he reflected on the injustice of his condition. In his sad soliloquy of a death wish, Job did not curse God, as Satan had predicted (1:11; 2:5), nor did Job contemplate suicide. But he did regret his birth (3:1-10), wished he had been born dead (3:11-19), and longed to die (3:20-26)” (Bible Knowledge Comm. p. 722). Some have called what follows a “Niagara of anguish”. To curse the day means that he despised it, held it in contempt, and in effect wished he had never been born.

Note in all of this, Job never attempted to take his own life. “But why not? Only if there is a God to whom we will give account because neither suffering nor death is our ultimate concern” (Strauss p. 26).

Verse 2

3:2-3 "Job said, 'Let the day perish on which I was to be born, and the night which said, 'A boy is conceived'"

"If the day on which he was born had been wiped from the calendar, he could have avoided being born. Job then backed up to the moment at night when he was conceived. Apparently, he considered conception the beginning of his existence. The night was personified as knowing and announcing the sex of the child conceived" (Zuck pp. 22-23). Job's suffering is that of the man who wants to die but cannot. Yet Job must realize that the answer to his questions is not found in dying, but in living.

Verse 4

3:4 "May that day be darkness; let not God above care for it, nor light shine on it": "Job hoped that God, by not noticing that day, would therefore not notice him" (Bible Knowledge Comm. p. 722). "He wished that day (the day of his birth) could be so annihilated that even God would forget it" (Gaebelein p. 890).

Verse 5

3:5-6 "Let darkness and black gloom claim it; let a cloud settle on it; let the blackness of the day terrify it. As for that night, let darkness seize it; let it not rejoice among the days of the year; let it not come into the number of the months": "Job wanted the day lost in total darkness, not even numbered anymore as a day in the calendar" (p. 890). The word for "blackness" in the above verse means the blackness accompanying an eclipse, tornado, or heavy storm clouds.

Verse 7

3:7 "Behold, let that night be barren": Literally, "stony", because stony ground is unproductive, meaning that his mother would have been barren and thus unable to conceive him. "Let no joy shout enter it": In the ancient world, people customarily shouted when a boy was born.

Verse 8

3:8 "Let those curse it who curse the day, who are prepared to rouse Leviathan": This may refer to professional cursers such as Balaam (Numbers 22-24). The term "Leviathan" comes from the Hebrew liwayh , wreath, meaning something coiled. In ancient mythology, the term Leviathan was used for a monster of chaos who lived in the sea, and who could be professionally aroused. "The figure then may be of an awakened monster of chaos which could perhaps swallow the day or even usher in the end of days" (Gaebelein pp. 890-891). "In the Ugaritic literature of Canaan and Phoenicia, eclipses were said to be caused by Leviathan's swallowing the sun or moon" (Zuck p. 24). Obviously, in consideration of what God said of Job, it is clear that Job did not embrace mythology; rather he is using poetic language. In Canaanite and Phoenician literature this creature is named "Lotan" and was viewed as being able to alter world order, even to the point of being able to conceal the sun and moon. Certain supposed experts in magic were thought to be able to arouse this creature and blot out the heavenly bodies.

Verse 9

3:9 "Let the stars of its twilight be darkened; let it wait for light but have none, and let it not see the breaking dawn": "The morning stars are actually the planets Venus and Mercury, easily seen at dawn because of their brilliance. The 'breaking dawn' is literally 'eyelids of the morning', a metaphor in which the morning rays of sunlight coming over the horizon at dawn are likened to the opening eyelids of a person waking up. Job did not want light on his conceptual night" (Zuck p. 24).

Verse 10

3:10 "Because it did not shut the opening of my mother's womb, or hide trouble from my eyes": He prays that he would have never seen the light of day, and that being born has simply resulted in his present suffering. The term trouble here means sorrow and labor.

The wish that he had died at birth

The day of his conception and birth had not been blotted out; the next thing was to wish that he had been stillborn.

Verse 11

3:11 "Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?": Notice the repetition of the word "why" in this section (3:12,20,23). Here is the common question echoed by so many since Job, "Why God, why?"

Verse 12

3:12 "Why did the knees receive me, and why the breasts, that I should suck?": "Why was his life preserved so that after birth he was placed on his father's (Genesis 48:12; 50:23) or mother's knees (Isaiah 66:12), and then nourished from the beasts?" (Jackson p. 29).

Verse 13

3:13 "For now I would have lain down and been quiet; I would have slept then, I would have been at rest": Death in Scripture is at times compared to sleep (John 11:11,14; 1 Thess. 4:14). This imagery does not suggest that man is unconscious in death, but rather the word "sleep" describes the state of the physical body in death. "As the sleeper does not cease to exist while his body sleeps, so the dead person continues to exist despite his absence from the region in which those who remain can communicate with him, and that, as sleep is known to be temporary, so the death of the body will be found to be" (Jackson pp. 30-31). Death is preferred, not because Job would cease to exist, but rather because for the righteous it was a place of comfort and rest (Revelation 14:13). Even though Job longs for death to release him from his suffering, Job does not take his own life.

Verse 14

3:14 "With kings and with counselors of the earth": Clearly the realm of the dead is not one of unconsciousness or annihilation, for Job sees death as being a realm filled with great men of the past. He would join such exalted personalities. "Who rebuilt ruins for themselves": This does not refer to the pyramids build by pharaohs as some commentators have supposed, rather it means that they either built cities that became ruins, or rebuilt ruined cities.

Verse 15

3:15 "Or with princes who had gold, who were filling their houses with silver": "At least he would have shared the fate of kings and counselors who had built great cities upon the ruins of others, or with princes who had in life accumulated much wealth. Albert Barnes wondered if there might not be 'a little spice of ambition' in Job's complaint. He himself had been a rich and famous man; now he is reduced to poverty and pain. But had he died at birth, he would have possessed a lot in common with the famous of the earth" (Jackson p. 30).

Verse 16

3:16 "Or like a miscarriage which is discarded, I would not be, as infants that never saw light": Here he wishes that he had been miscarried and thus discarded, literally hidden or buried from a life of suffering. Notice how his present suffering has hidden from Job's mind all the happiness of his former years of prosperity.

Verse 17

3:17 "There the wicked cease from raging": At death the wicked cease their trouble making and turmoil. Job is not saying that at death the wicked are at rest (Luke 16:19ff), but rather death ends their life of rebellion. In this life the wicked are in a constant state of agitation, nothing satisfies them, they are always either troubling themselves or others. In the grave alone do they seem to rest. Compare with Isaiah 57:20. "And there the weary are at rest": Literally the weary in strength, those who strength has been utterly exhausted and worn out. Here Job probably refers to people like himself. He looks to death as his only hope for rest and peace from his present troubles. Jesus points out that there is another place of rest for the weary (Matthew 11:28-30).

Verse 18

3:18 "The prisoners are at ease together; they do not hear the voice of the taskmaster": Prisoners are also at ease here, no longer hearing their taskmasters shouting at them to work harder.

Verse 19

3:19 "The small and the great are there, and the slave is free from his master": "Even prisoners and slaves are released here" (Jackson p. 30). Dead slaves and prisoners presently have more peace than Job! "This picturesque language expresses the experience of rest which a dead person seemingly has, in contrast with the restless condition of the living, who suffer" (Bible Knowledge Comm. p. 723).

Verse 20

3:20 "Why is light given to him who suffers, and life to the bitter of soul": For the fourth time in this speech, Job asked "why?". At this moment it did not make any sense to him that God would give life to someone who like himself was so miserable and in so much pain. In this passage "light" equals "life". "Why is a miserable man forced to continue on the earth to see the light of day?" "Man often speaks as if he were wiser than his Maker, and could have much improved the system of the universe, if he had had the arranging of it" (P.P. Comm. p. 52).

Verse 21

3:21 "Who long for death, but there is none, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures": His suffering is so intense that at this point death seems like a hidden treasure, an exquisite pleasure! "Neither the quiet waiting nor the anxious effort to die does any good. Death does not come, and like buried treasure it is not found" (Zuck p. 26). "The term 'who long for death' expresses Job's eagerness for death. Buried treasure creates its own fever to dominate all searchers. Even the rumor of treasure creates almost uncontrolled excitement. This is the kind of frenzied search for death which is enslaving Job" (Zuck p. 32). Please note that earnestly longing for something does not make it right and neither does it prove that such is the will of God. Job longed for death, yet death for Job was not God's will at this time. Let us make sure that we don't confuse our own desires with what God wants done. This is the common complaint, "Why can't men die when they are ready?" From this book we will learn the foolishness of asking such a question, for if given the choice man would often choose the wrong time to die. Job thinks he is ready to die right now, but he isn't.

Verse 22

3:22 "Who rejoice greatly, and exult when they find the grave?" Job feels that the dead rejoice because they are finally released from their suffering. Yet this would only be true for the righteous (Philippians 1:21,23). Many people who finally find death do not rejoice at all (Luke 16:19ff). In addition, Paul will long for the next life not so he can avoid suffering, but because he can be with Christ. Simply longing for death so one can "rest" from the trials of this life is not the right reason to die.

Verse 23

3:23 "Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, and whom God has hedged in?"

Satan had complained that God had created a protective hedge around Job and now Job complains that he has been hedged in by suffering. "Job is bewildered because he cannot see his way. He finds himself suddenly hedged in and no path is visible before him. His suffering restricted him from having any hope in his future and limited freedom of movement. Here for the first time Job asserted that God was the cause of his affliction" (Zuck p. 27). "Many attempts have been made to excuse Job---the emotional nature of Oriental expression, the unenlightened age in which he lived, the extreme severity, diversity, and extended nature of his misfortune, but they all fall short" (Jackson p. 31). Even while suffering, God will hold him entirely accountable for everything that he says, even foolish things (Matthew 12:36; Job 38:1ff). Venting never gives us the right to accuse God or criticize the way He is running the world.

Verse 24

3:24 "For my groaning comes at the sight of my food": "Thus means either that he groaned when he looked at food (because his illness removed his appetite and made food repulsive) or that his groaning was as frequent and regular as his food; that is, it was daily and continuous" (Zuck p. 27). "And my cries pour out like water": "His loud groaning under his pain was like the noise and unending nature of a rushing stream of water" (p. 27).

Verse 25

3:25 "For what I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me": Many feel that when Job had heard of the loss of one blessing he feared that he would lose others. "He probably means that as difficulties began to assault him, he commenced to fearfully suspect that others were on the way---and he was not wrong" (Jackson p. 32). "Surrounded by trouble, drowned by trouble, agitation keeps coming. Will it ever stop?" (Strauss p. 33).

Verse 26

3:26 "I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, and I am not at rest, but turmoil comes": Job is definitely not at peace and neither is he content (Philippians 4:10-13).

Closing Comments

· Here Job voices not the injustice of his condition, but the agony of it.

· We must never underestimate the pressures and trials that can come upon us. We must prepare ourselves spiritually for the ups and downs of life (1 Corinthians 10:12).

· Job's impatience is written, not for our imitation, but for our learning (Romans 15:4).

· Let us also remember that this chapter, as well as others in the book, record exactly what Job and his friends said and is the product of inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16), but the human speakers themselves are not inspired. That is, God is not speaking through Job in this chapter and neither is He speaking through his friends (Job 42), for at the end of the book God rebukes Job and his friends.

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Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Job 3". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dun/job-3.html. 1999-2014.