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Bible Commentaries
Job 3

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1


1. After this With the close of the Historical Introduction, Satan, as an open actor, disappears from the scene; the supernatural passes into abeyance; and we are for awhile left alone with Job, notwithstanding his friends still sit by in formal etiquette, and with professional sympathy. Faith has been triumphant in every conflict, and the very language of the original, and of our own beautiful English version, seems to partake of the spirit prevailing around the calmness and serenity of the victory towards which all had tended. We are as little prepared for the impending violent outburst of grief and despair, as Job was for the storm that destroyed his family and home. A dyke may for a long time hold the vast volumes of a flood in check, only to make the devastation the more disastrous when once it breaks away. Such is the flood, long kept back by the power of faith, that now bursts forth. We are borne along amid the wreck of broken thoughts, struggling images, and impassioned cries. It is the one lamentation of all literature overwhelming us with its awfulness, and leading us to grasp the rock that is higher than we.

The question naturally arises as to the immediate cause for Job’s so sudden precipitation from the assured heights of trust and resignation into the yawning depths of despair. However sincere the friends may have been at the outset of their ministrations, they somewhere failed in these, and dashed the cup of consolation with lees of bitterness. Their breedings over his peculiar afflictions must in some way have betrayed themselves to the keen eyes of Job. (See notes on Job 3:2; Job 6:14.) The failure of the friends was the failure of Job’s last earthly hope. The strained “back” of the sufferer was not equal to this, “the last straw” of grief. His cursing of every phase of existence proclaims that nothing now remains to Job but his grave and his God. The lamentation divides itself, according to Hahn, into, first, a wild cursing of life. which has brought his calamity; Job 3:3-10. Second, an ardent desire for death, to bring him rest; Job 3:11-19. Third, reproachful questioning of life, if indeed it must bring sorrow; Job 3:20-26.

Job opened his mouth A formula used when a speech of more than usual gravity is expected.

And cursed his day His birthday. (Job 3:3; Hosea 7:5.) He does not curse God. The issue made by Satan was, that he would “curse” ( renounce) “God.” The word here used is קלל , to speak ill, or make light of. Gesenius. (See note on barak, to curse, or renounce, Job 1:5.) “Job’s cursing the day may be viewed as simply an Oriental glowering over his misery, stopping at the second causes, and never dreaming of impeaching the divine First Cause. A logician might tell him that his words implicated the First Cause, and but for his paroxysm of woe he would be responsible; but he thinks no such implication. After the human probationary measure he is innocent still “perfect;” but tried by the absolute, as he soon will be, he is guilty.” Compare with this lament the more brief and polished, but less impressive, one of Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 20:14-18,) which of all Scriptures more nearly approaches the solemnly majestic and tragic wail of Job; and while “ that of Jeremiah is milder, softer, and more plaintive, peculiarly calculated to excite pity,” (LOWTH, Hebrews Poet.,) it is evidently modelled after this, the vastly older pattern. In this we are painfully affected by the intense subjectiveness of the protracted outcry which, better than any descriptive language, discloses the great deep of Job’s misery. Dean Swift, at the height of his glory, upon the return of his birthday, was wont to “lament it” by repeating this chapter. ROSCOE’S Life of Swift.

Verse 2

2. Job spake Hebrew, answered. Not their words, but their thoughts, as he had divined them. Or it may have respect to the occurrences of the last seven days (Comp. Matthew 11:25.) Umbreit regards the word as intensive, and intended to increase the force of the following word.

Verse 3

First long strophe JOB CURSES HIS EXISTENCE, Job 3:3-10.

a. He curses his birthday, Job 3:3-5.

3. Let the day perish Literally, Perish the day! I was to be born in it! Hitzig renders, אולד בו , in which I should be born. “The speaker, by a bold figure, places himself before his birth, and prays that the day which was to give him existence might be annihilated, so that he might be saved from the misery of living.” The fathers, who were disposed to palliate this entire lamentation, call attention to the thought that it is the day of his birth, and not that of his prospective death, that he execrates; which Isidorus beautifully illustrates by the tears of Christ, “who wept,” he says, “not so much that Lazarus had died, as that he must call back to waves and storms him who had reached the port, and bring again the crowned victor into the battlefield of life.”

And the night… it said Not, in which it was said, which takes away the startling abruptness of the original. Like a conscious existence, night personified has the power of speech. In the sublime conception of the poet, night makes report to the Most High of whatever takes place within its wide domain. The speculation is not unworthy of science, that all the deeds of the day are embodied in the reflected rays of light, from which they can never die out, at least so long as the light of the day continues to shine on through infinite space. In a similar manner night has a voice. Psalms 19:2. On which Stier remarks: “We are to understand not merely what we see by day and night in the heavens, but, as the expression naturally imports, (that is, if viewed without respect to the connexion,) the whole that is done by day and night under the heavens.”

A man child גבר , literally, a man. The birth of a son was one of the three great occasions of festivity among the Arabs. The two others, according to Pococke, were the birth of a foal of valued race, and the rising up of a poetical genius in any of their tribes. ( Spec. Hist. Ar., pp. 160, 367 . )

Verse 4

4. Let… regard it Literally, not seek it out, דרשׁ . That is, not concern himself about it; “so that it may remain without light, on the supposition that each single day owes its light to an especial care of God.” Dillmann.

Verse 5

5. The shadow of death צלמות tsal-maweth, was regarded by the ancients as one of the very few Hebrew compound words; but now, by De Dieu and many moderns, it is taken to be a derivative from צלם , to be dark. Compare Arabic, Zalima, of the same meaning. Ewald and Dillmann point differently, and read tsalmouth, black darkness;” the latter of whom looks upon the idea of shadow in connexion with sheol as a feeble word to express the extreme darkness of Orcus, (Sheol.) Its gradational use here in connexion with darkness, as well as elsewhere in Scripture, (chapters Job 10:21; Job 28:3; Job 34:22; Psalms 107:14,) points to its true meaning of deep and terrible darkness, such as the popular imagination in that day associated with the regions of the dead. It also appears in contradistinction to light, (Job 12:22;) as an attributive of sheol, (Job 10:21;) and in connexion with the gates of the world of the dead, (Job 38:17.). It is also used metaphorically for affliction, Job 16:16; and for evil and calamity, Psalms 44:19; Isaiah 9:2. On the supposition that it is a compound word, the idea of “shadow of death” may have sprung from the darkness so frequently noticed to creep over the sight of the dying, which even now strikes terror, if so be at evening time it be not light. Zechariah 14:7. (See note on Matthew 4:16.)

Stain it גאל , claim or redeem it, the common and accepted meaning of the word. Our translators, following the Targum, probably took their rendering from געל , a kindred form of the word. The day of Job’s birth was once their possession, (Genesis 1:2,) and as kinsmen the primeval darkness and chaos have a right to redeem and bring it back, as belonging to them, and not to the light. (Leviticus 25:25.)

Cloud dwell upon it “Let the cloud pitch its tent over it.” Schultens. This is an image common among the Arabs, and is thus illustrated by Schultens from the Arabic history of Tamerlane: “And when the darkness of the night shall dissolve its tents, and the dawn, as if marching forth to banquet, shall unfold her banners.”

The blackness כמרירי , (from כמר , “to be burnt,” “to be black,”) the darkenings or obscurations. The marginal rendering is that of Schultens, Mercer, etc. This is now of as little consideration as will be the proposed emendation of Hitzig, who changes the second ר into ד , thus making the expression similar to that of Job 24:13, (which see,) “like apostates from the light.” This view, which is not original, Furst had already condemned. The reading as above, “darkenings of the day,” is now generally accepted. Reference is supposed to be made to the darkness caused by an eclipse, which was thought by most ancient nations to forebode disaster. Thus Renan “Let an eclipse, fill it with terror.”

Verse 6

b. Job curses the night of his conception, Job 3:6-10.

6. Darkness אפל , darkness exceedingly dense. A poetical word, expressive of intenser gloom than חשׁךְ . Compare Exodus 10:21. Let it not be joined The marginal reading is more correct: “Let it not rejoice among the days of the year.” The night is here personified, and conceived of as rejoicing in her course as well as the day. Compare the similar personification of the sun, Psalms 19:5. “The night is not considered so much to rejoice on account of its own beauty… as to form one of the joyous and triumphant choral troop of nights that come in, in harmonious and glittering procession.” This view of Davidson is not sufficiently comprehensive, as appears from the following verse. The night that saw the beginning of his existence (his conception) should take upon itself the character of a mourner; it should be clad in darkness; it should still its notes of rejoicing, and forever maintain silence among its joyous kindred. The reader may compare the beautiful passage of Euripides: “Thee I invoke, thou self-created Being, who gavest birth to nature, and whom light and darkness, and the whole train of globes and planets, encircle with eternal music.”

Verse 7

7. Solitary גלמוד , barren, as in Isaiah 49:21. “It is a metaphor,” says Gesenius, “taken from the hard, sterile, and stony soil.” Let it be not only a night without Job’s birth, but without any births. With the Arab the birth of male children was celebrated by feasts, dances, and songs. POCOCKE, ibid., p. 160. That night, with the ancient curse of barrenness upon it, is to sit solitary and alone, in unbroken silence, in the everlasting darkness.

Verse 8

8. That curse the day Cursers of the day. Pliny says of the Atlantes, (Herodotus calls them Atarantes,) that as they look upon the rising and the setting sun they give utterance to direful imprecations against it as being deadly to themselves and their lands. ( Nat. Hist., book v, chap. 8.) Job does not refer to such, but to professional cursers, who imprecate evil on particular days. Superstition in the earliest times had its sorcerers, who were believed to possess the power, through incantations, of working injury to others. Balaam was summoned from his distant home to curse the people of Israel. Job invites those skilled in the art of cursing to join him in cursing that night.

Raise up their mourning Our version yields no intelligible meaning. The Septuagint renders the passage, “he that is ready to attack the great whale,” (or monster,) which is quite as meaningless.

The original reads, skilled to rouse up the dragon, (Leviathan.) This word, לויתן , has been a stumbling-block to all translators. The Complutensian editors (of the first polyglott, 1517) left it without attempting to translate it. Our own version, “their mourning,” together with that of Piscator and Tyndal, probably followed the Chaldee paraphrase, which may have been suggested by the ancient association of the profession of sorcery with professional mourning. They inferred that as the first clause of the verse meant sorcery, the second must mean “mourning.” 1. Furst, in common with modern lexicographers, gives the ground-form of the word as that which wreathes, or gathers itself into folds. Hence one meaning of the word is serpent, since it moves itself forward by folds. Umbreit and Vaihinger understand by the word a very large serpent. The art of charming serpents is common through the East. The serpent, too, fills a large place in all mythologies. In the last Indian Avatar, as well as in the Eddas, the world is to be destroyed by a serpent vomiting flames. 2.

According to Bochartus, Clericus, Carey, etc., the word should be rendered crocodile. This animal was regarded by the ancient Egyptians as the emblem of Typhon, the dark genius of their mythology. As it was in the shape of a crocodile that Typhon eluded the pursuit of Horus, they set apart a particular day for the hunt of this animal. They killed as many of them as they could, and afterwards threw their dead bodies before the temple of their god. The following translation of a papyrus found at Thebes gives us a form of the invocation of Typhon: “I invoke thee who livest in empty space: wind, or terrible invisible, all powerful, god of gods: maker of destruction: and maker of desolation: thou who hatest a flourishing family, since thou hast been expelled from Egypt and out of foreign countries.

Thou hast been named the all destroyer, and the invincible. I invoke thee Typhon Set: I perform thy magical rites. Because I invoke thee by thy genuine name, by virtue of which thou canst not refuse to hear… come to me entire, and walk, and throw down that man or that woman by cold and heat. He has wronged me,” etc. Herodotus (ii, 32, 33) relates of the travels of the Nasamonians in Africa, that they came to a great river which flowed by a town of dwarfs, and which abounded in crocodiles. In this connexion he strangely informs us that they were a nation of sorcerers. 3 . Others, (Hirtzel, Furst, Schlottmann, Ewald, etc.,) who cite Van Bohlen, think that the expression refers to the dragon in the heavens, a constellation which, according to eastern mythology, followed the sun and moon like a relentless enemy, sometimes surrounding them with his mighty folds, and so bringing on darkness. Throughout the East the ancients believed that their magicians could work upon this monster. A similar belief with respect to a monster called Rahu prevails among the Hindus to the present time. In times of eclipse the natives (as do the Chinese) raise a great din to compel the dragon to release his prey. Job’s wish, according to this view, was, that these day-cursers might rouse up this dragon, and thus effect a complete obscuration of the night. 4. The fathers looked upon the passage from a spiritual standpoint, and regarded it as referring to a spiritual encounter with Leviathan. They saw in it a prophecy of the incarnated One who should overcome the great serpent, which is hostile not only to the light, but to the God of light. (See extended citations in Wordsworth, who favours this view.) Such an interpretation, however, is unnatural and forced.

Verse 9

9. The dawning of the day Literally, Let it not see the eyelashes of the dawn; that is, the first rays of the sun. Sophocles speaks of the eyelid of the golden day. ( Antig., 103.) The Arab poets call the sun the eye of the day. In his early struggling rays their imagination traces eyebrows for the approaching sun. “Like the sun, before whose face the mantle of clouds is spread, while through the rifts his eyebrows appear.” But this and other citations, made by Schultens from the Arab muse, pale before the striking and tender beauty of our text. Milton has evidently borrowed from it

“Ere the high lawns appeared

Under the opening eyelids of the dawn

We drove afield.” Lycidas, 50. 26.

Verse 11

Second long strophe JOB WISHES THAT HE WERE DEAD, Job 3:11-19.

a. The four following questions form a climax: he follows the course of his life from its commencement in embryo ( מרחם ) to the birth, and from the joy of his father, who took the new-born child upon his knees, to the fuller development of the infant, and he curses this growing life in four phases. ARNHEIM and SCHOTTMANN, Job 3:11-13.

11. Why died I not Since for some inexplicable cause it was necessary that I should live, why did I not die before, or immediately when, I was born? Even the gay and frivolous life of the Greek, with all its glamour, could not hide the current of misery that pulsated through and through the nation’s heart. And yet little would we expect from the Greek such a maxim of despair as this of Theognis, (425:) “The best of all things is, not to be born and see the rays of the bright sun, but when born, to die as soon as possible, and lie buried under a load of earth”

Verse 12

12. Knees Metaphorically for lap.

Prevent An old English word, meaning anticipate. It was the custom, at a very ancient period, for the father, while music in the meanwhile was heard to sound, to clasp the new-born child to his bosom, and by this ceremony he was understood to declare it to be his own. Genesis 50:23. (JAHN, Archaeology, 161.) Among many ancient nations the father possessed the power of determining whether the child should be permitted to live. It was thus both in Greece and Rome. In Athens, Solon is said to have allowed the parent of the child to put it to death. The Emperor Augustus followed the sad custom by ordering a great-grandchild to be exposed to death. But child-murder and abortion among the Jews were punishable with death, according to the law. (DOLLINGER, Gentile, etc., 2:246, 271, 342.) It is more natural to interpret the passage as referring to the deep affection which nature has implanted within the bosom of the mother, which anticipates the helplessness and varied wants of the infant. The more pure the religion of the parent, the deeper, the more unselfish and abiding, the parental affection.

Verse 13

13. Then had I been at rest The gradation is to be remarked lain still, been quiet, have slept, been at rest. The idea of “rest” in our text, is not one of unconsciousness. The expressions are such as we ourselves continue to use in anticipation of the quiet of the grave. The inscriptions in the Catacombs are in harmony with this passage, (Job 3:13-20,) which we may not improperly regard as a strain from nature’s oratorio of the grave. “In those inscriptions the Christian is always at peace in pace. This phrase occurs either at the beginning or at the end of most of them as a necessary formula.” NORTHCOTE, Catac., p. 162. The idea of immortality was most vivid in the heart of the infant Church, “yet the Christian, not content with calling his burial ground a sleeping place, (cemetery,) pushes the notion of slumber to its fullest extent.” MAITLAND, Catac., page 42.

Verse 14

b. This rest he would have shared with all grades of conscious existence, not only the most prosperous in life, but the mere excrescences of being, Job 3:14-16.

14. Desolate places חרבות . Michaelis translates temples; Umbreit, ruins; Renan, mausolea; the Vulgate and Targum, solitudes. The word cannot mean ruins, in the proper sense of the term. Hitzig well remarks, that “such work is not characteristic of kings, and if it were, it is here unsuitable to the sense.” Nor is the idea of ruins applied proleptically to palaces and other structures they may have built, as some (Umbreit, Hahn, Noyes, etc.) have thought. To turn aside and speak of buildings that in time should become ruins, would not only be an unreasonable interruption of the thought, but introduce “a sense which does not magnify, but minishes, the reputation of the great dead.” If the idea of desolation be accepted, which is certainly one of the root meanings of the word, it must be applied to the purpose of the structure. This can be none other than the voidness, the desolation, of death. The context unquestionably points to some kind of burial structure. The sentence itself indicates the same: they built for themselves ( למו ) the house of desolation. Compare the “sepulchre for thyself;” three times repeated, Isaiah 22:16. With this (if we may accept the views of Ewald, Dillmann, and Delitzsch) agrees the derivation of the word horaboth. They regard it as kindred with hiram or ahram, the Arabic, and pi-chram, the Coptic, for pyramids. For the possible transition of the word, consult Dillmann in loc. Job’s frequent allusions to Egyptian matters justify us in presuming that he must have known of the pyramids as burial places of the mighty dead. They built for themselves They strove to transfer the aristocracy of life into the sad regions of the grave. They separated themselves from “the common herd” of the unknown dead, and by various devices strove to hide their sarcophagus in safety forever from human eye. It is a ghastly pre-eminence to which power and wealth lifted them, that of “lying in state” alone in the grave. These pyramidal and protective structures for the dead do not necessarily, as Sharpe maintains, speak of a resurrection, but of the foreboding, if not despair, under which their builders bent to the behest of death. For their hope was to a great extent, and perhaps entirely, wrapped up in the continued identity of the mummified body. Its destruction entailed a vague but sure calamity upon the soul. In the eighty-ninth chapter of the Egyptian “Book of the Dead,”

the body prays that “the guardians of heaven may not be ordered to destroy it… so as to send away my soul from my corpse,” in allusion to the expected re-union of the two. “Fully acknowledging the immortality of the soul,” says Osburn, ( Mon. Egypt, 1:446,) “the inventors of the idolatry of Egypt debased this doctrine by teaching that it was closely linked with, and contingent upon, the indestructibility of the lifeless body.” In contrast to the proud isolation of these, the great ones of earth, how simple the God’s-acre where rest the humble and pious dead.

Verse 15

15. Their houses Meaning, their tombs; thus Rosenmuller, Hirtel, and Hitzig. In like manner Isaiah (Isaiah 14:18) and Diodorus Siculus, (i, 51,) according to whom the Egyptians called their graves houses, οικοι . The ancients buried treasures with their dead. Josephus tells us that immense wealth was interred with David, and that about nine centuries afterward Hyrcanus opened one room of the sepulchre, and took out three thousand talents, part of which he gave to Antiochus, that the siege of the city might be raised. ( Antiq., vii, chap. 15.) Canon Cook cites a papyrus from the times of Rameses III., (contemporary with the early Judges,) which contains an account of the trial and execution of robbers who broke into several Egyptian tombs, and despoiled the mummies of large quantities of gold. Job specifies three classes of the fortunate dead:

1. Those whose display is greatest in death, Job 3:14.

2. Those most successful in life, Job 3:15.

3. Those who altogether failed of conscious existence in this life, Job 3:16. They are all one in the grave, and could he only have died as soon as he was born he would have been equally at rest. The splendid successes of life take upon them a different hue when contemplated from the brink of the grave. That the repose of death should be more to be desired than gold, and silver, and brilliancy of mortal estate, bears witness, not to emotions of envious regret on the part of Job over his own lost grandeur, as some have intimated nor is it “irony,” as Umbreit would have it, “which often blazes forth from the black cloud of melancholy” it is rather the view of an enlightened soul, that sees in the rest of the grave the shadow of the eternal “rest that remaineth for the people of God.” Even the heathen philosopher Aristotle, (cited by RAWLINSON, Christianity, etc., page 238,) looked upon man’s final happiness as an “energy of rest;” one single, pure, unchanging, and perpetual energy of thought; the silent contemplation of God and Godlike things.

Verse 16

16. Untimely birth A like figure appears in Psalms 58:8. A similarity has been traced in other passages between Job and the Psalms. That such resemblance should exist does not necessarily determine which of the works was written before the other. The most it attests is, that the prior work (Job) was received as a sacred book by later writers.

Verse 17

c. Then and there, for the first time, the inequalities in life’s allotments are brought to an end, Job 3:17-19.

17. There In the grave.

The wicked The man who rages. According to Kimchi, such is the idea of the root of the word רשׁע , to rage, to storm. He is inwardly torn by passions and appetites. The ocean is a befitting emblem of his ever-restless soul. (Isaiah 57:20.) His inward trouble leads him to trouble others. His present life an unceasing source of misery to himself and of pain to friends casts a dark shadow upon his own eternal condition and its relationship to others. To such a heart there is but one Being who can give rest. (Matthew 11:28.)

The weary be at rest Dr. Chalmers says of this verse, that “it is one of the Scripture’s prime memorabilia.” The ancient Egyptian called the abode of the dead “the covering of the weary.” Brugsch. Compare Bryant’s “Thanatopsis.” Those wasted by toil, and those stricken of sorrow, alike long for the grave as a place of rest. There is danger, however, lest the morbid spirit exaggerate the real evils of life, and, sighing for the grave, be guilty of bringing reproach upon the ways of God, his goodness, and his love. We may learn a lesson from the wounded soldier, who, absorbed in the battle, heeds little, and often knows not, the wounds he may have received, but fights on till the battle is over, and then, only then, asks for rest. Life’s soldier, (Job 7:1,) his soul each day filled with duty and laborious love, either heeds not or counts as small the present evil, and looks for repose only when God’s will shall have completed his existence. Those “wearied in strength” (see margin) may be referred to an incident in the life of Arnauld, the intrepid antagonist of the Vatican, and of “the grand monarque.” His friend Nicole, a companion in arms, expressed a wish to retire from the field, and to enjoy repose. “Repose!” replied Arnauld, “will you not have the whole of eternity to repose in?” Encyclop. Britannica, 8th ed., 1:81.

Verse 18

18. Rest שׁאננו , an intensive form of the verb, expressive of deep and abiding rest.

The oppressor נגשׂ , taskmaster. The same word appears in Exodus 5:6.

Verse 19

19. The first clause reads, literally, “The small and great, there ( is) he,” in the sense that they are the same, or on the same level. So in Psalms 22:9. “Thou art he,” that is, the same. (Isaiah 41:4.)

Verse 20


a. Why is life given to the wretched, when death is so much to be preferred? Job 3:20-22.

20. Wherefore is light given Literally, Wherefore doth he give light? which is far more expressive. The poet omits the name of deity, either because of secret misgiving as to the propriety of asking such a question, or because, in the bitterness of his heart, he grudges to name God. In the same manner, Adam, sullenly referring to his wife, (Genesis 3:12,) calls her she, not deigning to mention the once dear name, Eve. Hirtzel, however, adduces many passages where, in like manner, Job omits the name of God. (Job 8:18; Job 12:13; Job 16:7; Job 20:23; Job 22:21; Job 24:22-23, etc.; also Proverbs 10:24.) Notwithstanding, this significant silence at least an incipient suspense of faith already shadows forth the fierce storm in which passion will more directly arraign the ways of God. The most that Job now does, is to intimate that God is at the base of a scheme that thrusts life upon those who are too wretched to live. The poet (Longfellow) has truly sung

“This life of ours is a wild Eolian harp of many a joyous strain,

Yet under them all there runs a loud perpetual wail, as of souls in pain.”

Why has life been given to such? The question cannot be answered apart from belief in another life. The only key which unlocks the mystery of existence is that which faith proffers. This life is meant for soul-discipline. It is a brief but sharp tutelage for the true existence, which commences with death. (See an able sermon by Dr. Olin on “Life Inexplicable Except as a Probation,” page 28.)

Verse 21

21. Which long for death Of the sufferings of the miserable slaves anciently employed in the Egyptian mines, to whom Hitzig and others think Job refers, Diodorus Siculus gives a long and most painful description. It contains a passage strikingly similar to that of the text: “so that these miserable creatures always expect worse to come than that which they then at present endure, and therefore long for death, as far more desirable than life.” BOOTH’S Edit., 1:159.

Hid treasures Such is the instability of eastern governments, and the rapacity of monarchs, that it has ever been common for the wealthy to hide their treasures beneath the ground. There are many engaged, even at the present day, in digging for treasures supposed to have been concealed in the remote past. The fortunate finder, Dr. Thomson ( Land and the Book, 1:195) tells us, often swoons away. The digger “becomes positively frantic, digs all night with desperate earnestness, and continues to work till utterly exhausted. There are at this hour hundreds of persons thus engaged all over the country.” The figure sets before us the ardour and persistence of the search for death, and the overwhelming joy of discovery, and is one of the most powerful within the compass of literature. The antithesis of death to hidden treasures leads Ewald to remark that death, like such treasures, seems to come out of earth’s most secret womb, even as Pluto is the god of both. Dr. Evans bases upon the “Vav consecutive,” used here, the just observation that the digging for death is consequent upon waiting for it the passive waiting and longing being succeeded by the more active digging and searching for it. A terrible picture of the progress of human misery. (Compare the address of Eleazar, in JOSEPHUS, Wars of the Jews, b. vii, chap. viii, sec. 7.)

Verse 22

22. Rejoice exceedingly Literally, unto exultation, so as to leap for joy. The same figure occurs in Hosea 9:1. As is so frequently the case in Job, this verse furnishes a climax: 1) rejoice; 2) to exultation; 3) bound for joy.

Are glad ישׂישׂו , according to both Gesenius and Furst, embodies the figure of a horse ( סוס ) in his joyous gambols. (Compare Job 39:21, where The same word occurs.)

Verse 23

b. By making an application to himself of the preceding monody, Job brings his generalization to an end, Job 3:23-26.

23. To a man Job means himself, as is seen in the following verse. The antecedent is in Job 3:20. Job 3:21-22 are parenthetical.

Whose way is hid That is, so covered or obscure that he cannot see his way before him. “A man’s way is the exit for his energies of action or thought to go in; it is hidden when action and thought are paralyzed, and unable to find a passage through surrounding contradictions.” Davidson. Umbreit thinks the picture is taken from a wanderer who has lost his way, and, bewildered, falls into the most distressing solicitude.

God hath hedged in (Comp, Job 19:8; Lamentations 3:7; which may be regarded as a comment on the passage; and Hosea 2:6.) A gradation in thought; for not only is his “way hid,” but whichever way he may turn there is no egress: Eloah hath “hedged him around.” But a little before he would not mention the name of Deity; now that he does, it helps us to see down into the depth of his despair.

Verse 24

24. Before I eat Literally, In presence of my bread; that is, at the same time of my eating; or, “instead of my bread.” Hitzig. In either case the meaning is, “Sighing is my bread.” Juvenal attributes to the successful sinner “a perpetual anxiety, nor does it cease even at his hour of meal.” ( Perpetua anxietas, nec mensae tempore cessat.) Satires, 13. 211.

Roarings Roarings, as of a lion; or since מים , waters, is sometimes used for the great deep, Job may possibly have had in mind the roaring of the sea. The figure is no stronger than ours “a flood of tears.”

Like the waters In an uninterrupted flow, like water poured forth.

Verse 25

25. I greatly feared Literally, A fear I feared, and it came upon me.

The elegance of the Hebrew ( פחד פחדתי ) is lost in the A.V. Compare Psalms 53:5, see margin. A twofold illustration of such alliteration appears to the English reader in Isaiah 27:7, which is well expressed in our translation. (Compare Isaiah 22:17-18; Micah 2:4.) These quite equal in beauty the most admired alliterations of the classic poets: for instance, πονος πονω πονον φερει . SOPHOCLES, Ajax, 866. The form of the verb is come, ויאתיני , ( Vav consecutive,) closely binds the issue with the apprehension, and perhaps justifies Hirtzel and Dillmann in their interpretation: “The trouble he thought of, and which he deprecated, immediately came upon him.” Here Job may possibly refer to his solicitude over his children in connexion with their sudden and overwhelming destruction. Some (DENDY, Philos. of Myst.) have fancifully conceived that the apprehension of misfortune may prove its cause. Thus Montaigne was all his life fearful of “the stone,” and in old age it came upon him with all its terrors. Essays, ii, chap. 37. On the other hand, Davidson mistakingly suggests that the idea that Job “in the height of his felicity had been haunted by the presentiment of coming calamity, is opposed to the whole convictions of antiquity, and contradicted by the anguish and despair of the man under his suffering, which was to him inexplicable and unexpected.” On the convictions of antiquity, see Herodotus, 1:32; 3:40; 7:10, 46.

Verse 26

26. I was not in safety I was not at rest, nor was 1 secure; I rested not, yet trouble came. The common interpretation of this passage is, trouble came upon trouble, without any intermission or respite between them. Hitzig follows the Targum in supposing that the four clauses correspond to the four messengers of misfortune, who, by their quick succession, gave Job no opportunity for resting and recovering from the crushing effect of these continual strokes. The Septuagint, however, renders it, I was not at peace nor quiet, nor had I rest; yet WRATH came upon me; which justifies the view that this verse strikes the keynote of self-justification, heard now for the first time; a note to which the rest of the book resounds. He had lived for God, yet trouble came. He had not, like others, been at rest; in no sense had he sunk into spiritual torpor. The lowest depth is now disclosed: God had afflicted one who had been faithful to him. “Job’s self-justification as a man, after the measure of men, and before men, was just; but, as St. Paul says of Abraham, ‘not before God.’ Hence, when in a subsequent chapter God appears and speaks, he is condemned by both God and himself.” Nothing else in this lamentation justifies the apparent assault of Eliphaz, Job 4:6-7.

The chapter thus concludes with a few startling sentences, each one in the original consisting of two words. The first three are quite the same in meaning, and partake of the tumult of mind through which the servant of God is now passing. Such redundancy or pleonasm is an embellishment common among poets of every age and country, and is often used to express mental perturbation. Comp. Isaiah 8:22.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 3". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/job-3.html. 1874-1909.
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