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Bible Commentaries
Job 3

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary


The Fourth Voice In Job 3: The Sufferer

The voice of the sufferer (Job 3:1-26). After seven days of silent suffering, Job spoke, not to curse God but to curse the day of his birth. "Why was I ever born?" has been sobbed by more than one hurting child of God, including the Prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:14-18). This is not quite the same as saying, "I wish I were dead"; though Job did express that desire more than once (Job 6:9; Job 7:15-16; Job 14:13). At no time did Job speak of ending his own life. Job’s "birthday lament" is not a defense of suicide or so-called "mercy killing." It is the declaration of a man whose suffering was so intense that he wished he had never been born.

When you are hurting, you may say and do a lot of things that you later regret. Job’s suffering was so great that he forgot the blessings that he and his family had enjoyed for so many years. Had he never been born, he would never have been the greatest man in the East! But pain makes us forget the joys of the past; instead, we concentrate on the hopelessness of the future. Job’s friends heard his words but did not feel the anguish of his heart, and they took the wrong approach to helping him handle his trials. They argued with his words instead of ministering to his feelings.

Job cursed two nights: the night of his conception and the night of his birth (3:1-13). Conception is a blessing that comes from God (Genesis 30:1-2; Psalms 139:13-16); so when we curse a blessing, we are questioning the goodness of God. (Note that Job said a child was conceived, not "a mass of protoplasm" or "a thing." He was a person from conception.)

The key word here is darkness. When a baby is born, it comes out of darkness into the light; but Job wanted to stay in the darkness. In fact, he thought it would have been better if he had been born dead! Then he would have gone to the world of the dead (Sheol) and not had to face all this misery.

He closed his curse with four "why?" questions that nobody but God could answer. It is easy to ask why but difficult to get the right answer. There is nothing wrong with asking why, as long as we don’t get the idea that God owes us an answer. Even our Lord asked, "Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46) But if the Lord did tell us why things happen as they do, would that ease our pain or heal our broken hearts? Does reading the X ray take away the pain of a broken leg? We live on promises, not explanations; so we shouldn’t spend too much time asking God why.

The last half of the lament is a description of the world of the dead, the place the Jews called Sheol (Job 3:13-26). That’s where Job wanted to be! The Old Testament does not give a complete and final revelation of life after death; that had to await the coming of the Savior (2 Timothy 1:10). Job saw Sheol as a shadowy place where the small and great rested together, away from the burdens and sufferings of life on earth. Job would rather be dead and have rest than be alive and bear the misery that had come to him. After all, he was in the dark as far as his future was concerned (Job 3:23), so he might as well be in the darkness of Sheol.

Job shares a secret at the close of his lament (vv. 25-26): before all his troubles started, he had a feeling—and a fear—that something terrible was going to happen. Was it an intuition from the Lord? Sometimes God’s people have these intuitions, and it motivates them to seek God’s face and pray for His help. Is that what Job did? We don’t know, but we do know that he was a broken man whose worst fears had now been realized.

It is unfortunate that the three friends laid hold of Job’s lament instead of his statement of faith (Job 1:21; Job 2:10). After hearing him curse his birthday, they felt it necessary to rebuke him and come to God’s defense.

Now the discussion begins. Soon it will become a debate, then a dispute; and the Lord will have to intervene to bring matters to a head.

Job 3 Questions

1. When Job finally spoke, he cursed _____ ______.

2. How long had he sat without saying anything?

3. What had Job realized about his friends, while they were sitting there?

4. Who is Satan generally after?

5. What did Job say in Job 3:3?

6. He was really wishing he had never ________.

7. What was he saying about the day he was born, in Job 3:4?

8. What was Job 3:6 telling us about Job?

9. The statements that Job was making, in verse 9, is the same way many people feel who are _______ ______.

10. In Job 3:10, he was wishing he had never been __________.

11. In Job 3:14, Job is speaking of the _____________ of building great kingdoms for themselves.

12. The princes who stacked up gold, ________ and left it for someone else.

13. There is a ________ ______ for those who die knowing the LORD.

14. What was the plight of prisoners in that day?

15. There will be no _________ in heaven.

16. God is not a _________ of persons.

17. In this entire chapter, what was Job speaking of?

18. Why do some people look forward to death?

19. What great apostle looked forward to death?

20. Who was Job speaking of in Job 3:23?

21. Who did Job believe his great distress was from?

22. Job’s roaring was poured out like the __________.

23. What was the only fear that Job had?

24. Fear of God is the beginning of _________.

25. How did Job attempt to keep his relationship with God open? 26. Who told Satan that Job was perfect and upright?

27. What was the greatest pain that Job felt?

28. This was an attack of Satan on a ____________ man.

29. Troubles and trials come to __________.

30. Quote John 16:33.

Verses 1-2

Job 3:1-2

Job 3


"After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed his day. And Job answered and said:"

Writers have understood this to mean "after the seven days and nights of silence," but the text does not say that. "In the Ugaritic texts, `after this’ introduces the transition to a new episode." Here we have the beginning of the second section of Job.



Here we come to the long middle section of Job, which is characterized by a number of speeches by Job and his friends. These speeches are not mere conversation, but essay-like statements of the sentiments, theological convictions, philosophies and exhortations of the speakers.

"Job speaks nine times in this section, Eliphaz and Bildad three times each, Zophar twice, Elihu once, and God once, his declaration ending the colloquy."

Job broke the silence which marked the first period of his friend’s visit; and his bitter cursing of the day he was born is a feature of this first chapter.

"Cursing one’s natal day is not a very wise act, since it could not have any effect whatever; but even so great a prophet as Jeremiah did the same thing (Jeremiah 20:14-18). All that this chapter really means is that Job, in the depths of his misery, wishes that he had never been born, or that he had died in infancy."

Watson entitled this chapter, "The Cry From the Depth."

Job 3:1-2

"After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed his day. And Job answered and said:"

Writers have understood this to mean "after the seven days and nights of silence," but the text does not say that. "In the Ugaritic texts, `after this’ introduces the transition to a new episode." Here we have the beginning of the second section of Job.

E.M. Zerr:

Job 3:1. Cursed his day. The first word is not the severe term that is usually seen in its use. It has the sense as if Job had said, "My day was a very unprofitable one." The connection shows he had reference to the day of his birth.

Job 3:2. This is a proper place to make some remarks on the several statements of Job about his condition. It has been charged that Job was really not very patient since he had so much to say about his afflictions. Such a criticism overlooks two vital truths. God wished us to have an inspired account of the experiences of Job, and that made it necessary for him to give us all the details. Another thing, the meaning of patience is misunderstood. It does not mean the false pretense of having nothing to complain of when all the indications were to the effect that the complaints were many and just. The fundamental meaning of the word is perseverance. Job complained much of his afflictions, yet he never permitted them to move him in a single instance from the path of righteousness. That is what constitutes true patience. And so, as he was writing by inspiration, the greater the detail used in describing his condition, the more significance we will see in such statements as in James 5:11.

Verses 3-10

Job 3:3-10

Job 3:3-10


"Let the day perish wherein I was born,

And the night which said, There is a man-child conceived.

Let that day be darkness;

Let not God from above seek for it.

Neither let the light shine upon it.

Let darkness and the shadow of death claim it for their own;

Let a cloud dwell upon it;

Let all that maketh black the day terrify it.

As for that night, let thick darkness seize upon it:

Let it not rejoice among the days of the year;

Let it not come into the number of the months.

Lo, let that night be barren;

Let no joyful voice come therein.

Let them curse it that curse the day,

Who are ready to rouse up Leviathan.

Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark:

Let it look for light, but have none;

Neither let it behold the eyelids of the morning.

Because it shut not up the doors of my mother’s womb,

Nor hid trouble from mine eyes."

"Though Job will not curse God, he does curse his life; his soliloquy here is one of the most poignant expressions of despair ever written." "Job’s trust in God is not destroyed, but it is overcast with thick clouds of melancholy and doubt."

In the times when Job lived, there was not given any inspired revelation regarding the hope and blessing of the redeemed to be realized in the future. He had no way of knowing that, "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18). One’s heart instinctively reaches out toward this ancient sufferer, who even in his despair refused to renounce his faith in God.

"Leviathan" (Job 3:8). This was a mythological sea-monster whom some charlatans pretended to be experts to rouse up against those whom the charlatan cursed. "The mention of this here should not be taken as evidence that Job believed either in Leviathan, or such experts." Isaiah also mentioned Leviathan; and for the scriptural use of that myth as a metaphorical reference to Satan, see my commentary on Isaiah under Isaiah 27:1. It is now common to interpret Leviathan as "the crocodile."

"Neither let it behold the eyelids of the morning" (Job 3:9). The Hebrew here has, "The eyelashes of Shahar"; "But the use of this Canaanite god of the dawn is purely poetic and without any taint of polytheism."

We shall find other references to mythological ideas in Job, but these are no reflection upon the views of Job as a devout monotheist. There are many mythological echoes in the speech patterns of all nations. Our own names for the days of the week and the months of the year are derived from ancient mythology. January is named for the Roman god of portals and beginnings; the word February is from a pagan festival celebrated in that month; March, like one of the planets, is named from Mars, the Roman god of war; May comes from Mata a pagan goddess of growth; June is derived from Juno, in Roman mythology; she was the wife of Jupiter, the goddess of marriage, and the queen of the gods; the name Tuesday is from Tiu (pronounced: te-oo), worshipped by the Teutons as the god of war; our name for Wednesday comes from Woden, the old English name for the chief of the Norse gods; and Saturday was derived from Saturn the Roman god of agriculture.

"Job’s cry of misery is repeated three times in this chapter, with ever deepening pathos (Job 1-10, 11-19, 20-26)."

E.M. Zerr:

Job 3:3. Day perish means that said day would better not have come. Day is used as a date in general, and night refers to the period in that date when childbirth usually takes place.

Job 3:4. From a figurative viewpoint, Job regards his birthday as so useless that God might well rule it out of all the record of facts.

Job 3:5. Job pictured the elements of creation as challenging his birthday, questioning its right to be recognized, because of the great emptiness it brought him.

Job 3:6. So unprofitable has the night of his birth proved to be, that it should be stricken from the calendar.

Job 3:7. Solitary is from a word that means fruitless. Since the night that ushered him into the world had proved to be so fruitless, there was nothing over which any voice could be joyful.

Job 3:8. Mourning is from LIVYATHAN and Strong defines it, "a wreathed animal, i. e. a serpent (especially the crocodile or some other large seamonster)." The curse due the night of his birth was so heavy that it could well require the strength of one who could raise up a sea-monster.

Job 3:9. As complete darkness would compare with a state of worthlessness, so Job pictured the day of his birth thereby; he even specified the divisions of the period. In the beginning of night the stars are wont to furnish some light; as the night draws to an end the dawning from the sun again brings some light. But on the occasion of that fateful event of his birth it was all inappropriate.

Job 3:10. The pronoun it refers to the day of Job’s birth. Now then, because it brought him forth he pronounced the curse upon it described in the several preceding verses. And in the present verse he makes the complaint that the day did not obstruct his mother’s womb so that he could not have been born. This desolate picture of Job must not be criticized, for there is another similar expression in the New Testament. In Matthew 26:24, Jesus told of a man who would have been better off had he never been born. That was not because his fate was anything to be compared with that of Job; the likeness is in the idea of escaping from an unfavorable experience by not being born.

Verses 11-19

Job 3:11-19

Job 3:11-19


"Why died I not from the womb?

Why did I not give up the ghost when my mother bare me?

Why did the knees receive me?

Or why the breasts that I should suck?

For now should I have lain down and been quiet;

I should have slept; then had I been at rest.

With kings and counselors of the earth,

Who built up waste places for themselves;

Or with princes that had gold,

Or filled their houses with silver:

Or as a hidden untimely birth I had not been,

As infants that never saw light.

There the wicked cease from troubling;

And there the weary are at rest.

There the prisoners are at ease together;

They hear not the voice of the taskmaster.

The small and the great are there:

And the servant is free from his master."

We have entitled this paragraph with the central cry of the seven words of Jesus Christ from the Cross (Matthew 27:46). There was no immediate answer for Job, the pitiful sufferer, and there was no immediate answer to that cry from the Cross; but there was an answer. For Jesus our Lord, the answer came when an angel rolled away the stone from his grave, not to let the Lord out, but to let the witnesses of his resurrection in to behold the empty tomb. For Job, the answer came from the mighty whirlwind when the voice of God healed him, confounded his foolish "comforters," blessed him twice as much as formerly, and extended his life to a full two hundred years!

Therefore when we struggle with the inexplicable sorrows and tribulations of our mortal existence; from these blessed words, we learn that for ourselves, as for Job, there is most certainly an answer.

"Why? ... Why? ... Why?... Why?" (Job 3:11-12). Where is the man who has not, in his heart if not vocally, cried these same pitiful questions when confronted with some soul-chilling sorrow? We have heard them at a thousand funerals; and always, the only recourse that men have is to, "Trust God where we cannot see"!

"Why did the knees receive me" (Job 3:12)? Franks wrote that, "This question reflects a time when the father would choose whether to bring up his child or not. If he did, he took it upon his knees as a sign of adoption (Genesis 50:23), and then handed it to the mother or to the nurse." Interesting as this comment is, we cannot find any agreement with it in the text. The character of Hebrew poetry is that the same thought is often repeated in consecutive clauses; and the mention of his mother’s breasts in the succeeding clause is overwhelming evidence that it is the mother’s knees, not the fathers, which are mentioned in the preceding clause.

Anderson observed that, "The Book of Job knows nothing of the heaven of bliss or the hell of torment, but there is never a thought that death means extinction." Note that all who ever lived, the kings and counselors, as well as the slaves and stillborn infants, do not merely cease to exist in the grave, "They are at rest."

Job 3:14-19 stress the cessation of all social distinctions in death.

"Wronged and wrong-doer alike with meekened face

And cold hands folded o’er a still heart,

Pass the green threshold of our common grave,

Whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart."

- John Greenleaf Whittier

The meaning of some of these clauses is explained by the clause following. For example, the prisoners of Job 3:18 are not those in prison, but the captives who are driven to forced labor by taskmasters.

E.M. Zerr:

Job 3:11. If the first described escape could not have taken place, then he wished that he might have been born dead, or at least to have died immediately at birth.

Job 3:12. One meaning of prevent is to assist. The knees assisted the life of Job while he was held thereon. This assistance was especially accomplished as he was in that position and nursed his mother’s breasts.

Job 3:13. Had the foregoing wishes of Job been allowed to occur, then he would have been saved all his present distress, and instead of all this sorrow he would have been at rest. This, by the way, is against the teaching that death ends all there is of man. Job believed that if he had died in his mother’s arms he would have been at rest. An unconscious person has no appreciation of rest, therefore Job believed that the death of his infant body would have brought him consciousness and rest.

Job 3:14. For desolate places Moffatt gives us pyramids, and the lexicon supports the rendering. The pyramids were built as burial places for the kings. Job gives us to understand that death places all mankind on a level whether king or infant, and the rest that an early death would have brought him would have afforded him something far better than the pomp of royalty with all its outward show of pleasure.

Job 3:15. The thought in this verse is practically the same as the one in the verse just considered, and the reader will please consult that passage again.

Job 3:16. This is similar in thought to Job 3:10-11. Job expressed a wish that he had had a premature birth so that his existence would have been hidden.

Job 3:17. There is an adverb of place and refers to the state of those who had the lot described by the foregoing verses. That lot may briefly be summed up by reference to a death that occurred before one had to enter the trials of life. It was the idea of Job that an early death could bring him only a state of rest. There, in such a state, the wicked would indeed cease from troubling.

Job 3:18-19. The desirable experiences described in these verses would be the lot of the one pictured in the verses we have been considering. The whole passage of the last several verses describes the condition of one who passed out of this life while pure, thereby escaping the sorrows of the world of sin and sinners.

Verses 20-26

Job 3:20-26

Job 3:20-26


"Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery,

And life unto the bitter in soul;

Who long for death, but it cometh not,

And dig for it more than for hid treasures;

Who rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave?

Why is light given to a man whose way is hid,

And whom God hath hedged in?

For my sighing cometh before I eat,

And my groanings are poured out like water.

For the thing which I fear cometh upon me,

And that which I am afraid of cometh unto me.

I am not at ease, neither am I quiet, neither have I rest;

But trouble cometh."

In spite of the fact that Job longed for the release of his miseries in death, there is not the slightest hint in anything that he said of any desire to commit suicide. Suicide is simply one thing that practically all of the great souls mentioned in the Bible rejected as any kind of a practical solution, only four suicides being mentioned in the whole Bible.

We have here as terrible a picture of human misery as may be found anywhere in the literature of all mankind. One might think that Job’s misery could not possibly have been made any worse; but not so! Wait until old Eliphaz opens his mouth!

E.M. Zerr:

Job 3:20. Wherefore means "why is it?" Light is used in reference to the mature existence of a man when he is compelled to undergo the misery of misfortune; Job could not see the reason for such an experience.

Job 3:21-22. The unfortunate person described above would rather die than live, and he would gladly obtain it by greater exertion than that used by the searcher for gold. Of course it must be understood that Job would not commit any violence against himself in order to obtain death. His comparison was only for the purpose of expressing his natural yearning for rest in death.

Job 3:23. This verse starts the same as Job 3:20, then makes mention of a man whose way is hid. The phrase in italics means that the man is "at the end of his row" and does not know where to go next. Hedged in means about the same as the preceding phrase commented upon. It might be illustrated by a man who had found himself at the "dead end" of a street since it says that God had hedged him in.

Job 3:24. Sighing and roaring are used to refer to the same thing in this place. The comparison to waters is made for two reasons; waters have long been considered as a figure of troubles, and the full flowing of waters illustrates the volume of Job’s ills.

Job 3:25-26. We do not have any information about how or when Job had the thoughts expressed in this paragraph. There is a certain amount of uneasiness that is natural to any man, but this seems to have been something special in the experience of Job. The word yet is not in the original and should not be in the translation, for it makes a false impression. The word sometimes has the force of "nevertheless" and is more commonly so used. That would not be correct in this case because there is no contrast between the thoughts on each side of the word. If it is retained in the text at all it should be used in the sense of "and furthermore," which is one of its meanings. That would make the paragraph teach that Job first had fear and dread of some kind of misfortune, then it came upon him in reality.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Job 3". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/job-3.html.
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