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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Job 3

Verses 1-26

Job 3:1 . After this opened Job his mouth. The Masoretic Jews, as well as our modern divines, seem agreed that Job now began the drama, and spake in poetic effusions of verse. They say the same of the prophets; and our infidels call the prophets all poets. The psalms we know have a poetic character, and mostly run in metaboles. But where shall we find in the prophetic writings, with the exception of certain passages, any thing analogous to ancient poësy? We have Greek poetry of various metres. The Sibyline verses are hexameters, and the Voluspa of our northern prophetess or pythoness, is in biameters; two feet, or four syllables in a line. The poetry of the holy prophets is then left without a name; for the poetic accents and numbers which they use were not allowed to disturb the sense. Fenelon, in his Telemaque, has admirably succeeded in a similar kind of flowing metre, lively in figures, and impressive in sentiment. Job cursed his day; that is, his birthday. The ancient princes made great feasts at their birthdays. The Trojans called Helen’s son, “prince of the city.” Jeremiah, in anguish of heart for a despised ministry and a lost country, uses if possible, still stronger language than Job. Jeremiah 20:14-18. The cloud of darkness for the time was too impervious for the eye of faith; yet he arraigns not the Almighty at his bar. The language, as was usual with the ancients, is strong; but self-murder is abhorred. God sends sunshine after the darkest day.

Job 3:8 . Let them curse it that curse the day, who are ready to raise up their mourning. The plainest reader must suspect that the translation here is unsuccessful. Hebrew, לויתן Leviathan, which in anger disturbs the seas, denotes storms of trouble and grief. Therefore Gussetius, in his commentary on Hebrew grammar, reads, under the root לוה , “Let the execrators of days, who are ever ready to excite leviathan, execrate it.” The allusion is to the unhallowed language of mariners, who are apt to curse the tempest, or to the pythonesses and incantators, who execrate unlucky days.

Job 3:10 . Nor hid sorrow from mine eyes. Why had not leviathan, as in the Hebrew text, the crocodile, been prepared to swallow me up?

Job 3:11 . Why died I not from the womb? This verse begins the second part of Job’s anguish.

Job 3:19 . The servant, the slave, is free from his master. This is a strong word to designate the bitterness of slavery; but assuredly it is more bitter still to deny the poor slaves the consolations of religion, as was heretofore the case in the British colonies.

Job 3:23 . Why is light given to a man? Light is put here for life, because in a morning it cheers and revives a slumbering world by the return of day.

REFLECTIONS.

Job was the first to open his mouth, and grief is eloquent when it finds a tongue. Overwhelmed with darkness, and seeing no way of escape, the language of anguish is surely admissible now, if ever admissible at all. The ebullitions of his soul turn on the preference he gives to the state of the dead, compared to his present groaning under all his complicated afflictions. But though he groans under the hand of the Almighty, he dares not arraign his justice, nor dream of accelerating his exit. Riding on the tempest in darkness, pain and anguish, he merely regrets his birth, and does it in a torrent of the sublimest grief, in which he represents his complicated miseries as having overbalanced all the blessings and advantages of life. As David in grief for Saul and Jonathan said, Let there be no rain, no dew on the mountains of Gilboa; so says Job of the night of his birth, Let no joyful voice be there; let the stars not give twilight, nor the light of the morning succeed.

The second part of Job’s anguish is uttered in the strong forms of interrogatives. Why died I not from the womb. My children are dead; my servants are slain; my cattle are carried away; heaven and earth have fought against me. The kings, the wise men of the earth, who have built for themselves mausoleums in desolate places, sleep in repose. The tomb, which refuses admission to me, is their retreat. There the wicked cease from wars; there the prisoner has broken his chains, and the slave is liberated from the lash of his master. The visitations which I feared, when offering sacrifices for my children, are come upon me.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 3". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/job-3.html. 1835.