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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Job 3



Verses 1-26



Job 3-28

The Outbreak of Job’s Despair as the Theme and Immediate Occasion of the Colloquy

Job 3

a. Job curses his existence

Job 3:1-10

1 After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day 2 And Job spake, and said,

3 Let the day perish wherein I was born,

and the night in which it was said, There is a Prayer of Manasseh -child conceived!

4 Let that day be darkness;

let not God regard it from above,

neither let the light shine upon it!

5 Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it;

let a cloud dwell upon it;

let the blackness of the day terrify it!

6 As for that night, let darkness seize upon it;

let it not be joined unto the days of the year,

let it not come into the number of the months!

7 Lo, let that night be solitary;

let no joyful voice come therein!

8 Let them curse it that curse the day,

who are ready to raise up their mourning!

9 Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark;

let it look for light but have none;

neither let it see the dawning of the day!

10 —because it shut not up the doors of my mother’s womb,

nor hid sorrow from mine eyes.

b. He wishes that he were in the realm of the dead rather than in this life

Job 3:11-19

11 Why died I not from the womb?

why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?

12 Why did the knees prevent me?

or why the breasts that I should suck?

13 For now should I have lain still, and been quiet;

I should have slept, then had I been at rest,

14 With kings and counsellors of the earth,

which built desolate places for themselves;

15 or with princes that had gold,

who filled their houses with silver:

16 or as a hidden untimely birth I had not been,

as infants which never saw light.

17 There the wicked cease from troubling,

and there the weary be at rest.

18 There the prisoners rest together;

they hear not the voice of the oppressor.

19 The small and great are there;

and the servant is free from his master.

c. He asks why Hebrews, being weary of life, must still live

Job 3:20-26

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

and life unto the bitter in soul;

21 which long for death, but it cometh not;

and dig for it more than for hid treasures;

22 which rejoice exceedingly,

and are glad, when they can find the grave?

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

and whom God hath hedged in?

24 For my sighing cometh before I eat,

and my roarings are poured out like the waters.

25 For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me,

and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.

26 I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet;

yet trouble came!


1. The caption or prose introduction of Job’s out-gushing lamentation. Job 3:1-2.

Job 3:1. After this opened Job his mouth and cursed his day. [אַחֲרֵי־כֵן: after the appearance of the friends, their seven days’ silence, and after their conduct had wrought its full effect on the mind of Job.—E. “Opened his mouth; פָּתַח in conformity to the sensuous and poetic nature of Hebrew speech and thought, which uses the physical action to represent the mental.” Dav.]. “His day,” viz.: his birthday—the day on which he had come into the world. Comp. Job 1:4.

[See Conant’s note in loco, proving that “in most of the cases quoted in support of the signification to speak up, to begin speaking (Ges. Lex2, and others), the reference to something prior, as the occasion of speaking, is clear, and in all of them there is ground for the writer’s choice of this form of expression.”] Here accordingly it is the persistent and expressive silence of the friends to which Job replies, not to any question, nor to any uttered remark of theirs.—וַיּאֹמַר, with Pattach in the final syllable, although the word is Milel, is found only in the prose captions of the discourses in our book; here, however, in every case: comp. Job 4:1; Job 6:1; Job 8:1, etc.—After these brief words of introduction, begins the poetic part of the book, distinguished by the poetic accentuation of the Masoretes. Comp. Introd. § 3. “From this point on the epic calmness with which the hero has suffered, and the poet told his story, yields to the pathos of the drama.” Dillmann. The contents of this first tragic, high-soaring, poetic discourse of Job are expressly given in the caption in Job 3:1 as being the cursing of the day of his own birth, an ardently expressed longing for death. Comp. Jeremiah’s abbreviated imitation in Job 20:14-18. [“There is a passage of Jeremiah so exactly similar that it might almost be imagined a direct imitation: the meaning is the same, nor is there any very great difference in the phraseology; but Jeremiah fills up the ellipses, smooths and harmonizes the rough and uncouth language of Job, and dilates a short distich into two equal distichs, consisting of somewhat longer verses.… The imprecation of Jeremiah has more in it of complaint than of indignation; it is milder, softer, and more plaintive, peculiarly calculated to excite pity, in moving which the great excellence of this prophet consists: while that of Job is more adapted to strike us with terror than to excite our compassion.” Lowth. And to the same effect Michaelis: Jobi est tragica illa et regia tristitia, dicam, an desperatio: Jeremiæ flebiles elegi, misericordiam provocantes, nec lacrimis major luctus.”] In respect of form, this mournful lamentation, which contains the theme and starting point of the following discussions, falls into three strophes of about equal length; Job 3:3-10; Job 3:11-19; and Job 3:20-26, of which the last alone gives evidence of a slight abridgement at the end, and that no doubt intentional, as the short, blunt breaking off of the second member of Job 3:26, which consists of only two words, וַיָּבֹא רגֶז, gives us to understand. That, with the majority of modern expositors, we are to adopt this three-fold division of the strophes, and not, with Stickel and Delitzsch, a greater number of divisions, longer or shorter, is made certain by the לָמָּה, which recurs at the beginning of the 2 d and 3 d strophes (comp. Introd. l. c.).

2. First Long Strophe: Job curses his existence; Job 3:3-10.—First strophe: Job 3:3-5.

[גָבֶר, “not a Prayer of Manasseh -child, Eng. Ver, but a Prayer of Manasseh, the name proper to the mature state being applied by anticipation to the infant or embryo. The emphasis is not upon the sex, implying greater joy at the birth of a son than a daughter; Job says, ‘a Prayer of Manasseh,’ because he is speaking of himself.” Green. Heb. Chrest.]

Job 3:4-5. A special curse of the day of birth: an expansion of Job 3:3 a.

Job 3:4. That day—let it be darkness.—Let it be a dies ater s. infaustus. Whether the thought particularly intended Isaiah, that at each annual return of the birth-day darkness, that is to say, stormy weather, should prevail instead of bright and clear weather (Hirz, Dillmann), may well be doubted in view of the indefinite brevity of the language. Moreover such a meteorological interpretation would have something trivial about it.—Let not God from above ask after it:i.e. let not God, who is throned on high above ( Job 31:2; Job 31:28), interest himself in it from thence (comp. דרש in Deuteronomy 11:12), let him not bring it forth out of its dark hiding-place. [“Let it pass away as a thing lost and unsought.” Con.] And let not light shine forth upon it.—נְהָרָה, “radiance of light, brightness of day,” found only here; one of the many feminine forms of nouns peculiar to our book, such as עֲנָנָה, Job 3:5; כִּסְלָה, Job 4:6; תָּהֳלָה, Job 4:18; דִּבְרָה, Job 5:8 (Hirz.).

Job 3:5. Let darkness and death-shade reclaim it.—גָּאַל, to redeem, reclaim, to make good one’s right to (not=געל, to defile, Targ.), [“stain” E. V. The expression seems to refer back to Genesis 1:2, which mentions the primeval darkness, out of which by the Divine Fiat the light, together with its product, the day, was evolved. That Darkness was thus the original proprietor of the days, and is here called on to reclaim Job’s birth-day. E. “The idea being that that day was a stray portion of the kingdom of death in the midst of light, and to be reclaimed again by death.” Dav.] The conceptions “darkness and death-shade” form a sort of hendiadys, signifying “the thickest darkness, the deepest death-gloom:” comp. Job 10:21; Job 34:22, etc.; also Luke 1:79 (צלמות, Isaiah, with Ew. § 270 c, and with Dillm, to be read צַלְמוּת, and defined “black darkness”). Let clouds encamp above it: continually to hide it [עננה, collective: תשכו, to pitch one’s tent; fig. for settling or spreading]. Comp. יֹום עָנָןוַעֲרָפֶל. Joel 2:2.—Let the obscuration of the day terrify it: or literally “the obscurations of the day” [i.e. all that makes a day dark and dismal. E.]. Instead of the כִּמְרִירֵי י׳ of the Masora (to which reading Ges, Schlott, Hahn, adhere: [“the Chireq is an attenuated Pattach from the lessening of the tone in the construct state:” Con.]), we are to read כִּמְרִירֵי י׳, and take the sing. of this construct plural as a synonym of חַכְלִיל (“duskiness”), a noun of the same formal structure (comp. also שֵׁפְרִיר, “tapestry,” and other similar words of like structure in Ewald, § 157, a): [“with the third radical repeated, as is customary in words descriptive of color.” Dillmann]. The “darkening,” blackening of the day (כַּמְרִיר from the root כמר, “to be burnt, blackened”) is a result produced in a specially marked and striking manner by the eclipse of the sun; for which reason we are here to associate solar eclipses with the dark mass of clouds, thus intensifying the effect (Olsh, Dillm, Del, etc.). If we adhere to the Masoretic reading we should have to follow Aquila, the Targum, the Vulgate, in translating: terreant eum quasi amaritudines diei [Marg. of E. V.: “let them terrify it, as those who have a bitter day.” Hengst.: “May whatever is bitter to a day terrify it:” according to his explanation, Job would have retribution overtake that day; and as he himself had been filled with bitternesses, he would have the day from which all his sufferings took their origin, be afflicted with whatever might be bitter to it. E.]. But this instead of a strengthening, would be a weakening of the thought. Umbreit’s explanation: “let it be terrified as by incantations (comp. Arab. marîr, incantamentum), which darken the day,” anticipates that which is not expressed until further on, in Job 3:8, and is furthermore chargeable with being excessively artificial. [With Umbreit’s may be classified the rendering of Merx, who, reading כֹמְרֵי יֹום, translates: “May the priests of day frighten it away!” There can be little doubt that the rendering “darkenings of the day” is the one best suited to the context, and this whether with Ges, Con, etc., we retain the Masoretic Chiriq, or with Ewald, Zöckler, etc., change it to Pattach.—E.]

Second Strophe: Job 3:6-10. A special curse of the night of conception: an expansion of Job 3:3 b. The reason why this expansion is twice as long as that of Job 3:3 a, is found by Hirzel and Dillmann to lie in the fact that it was in particular the night of his conception which gave Job his existence (see Job 3:10). [“Twice as many verses, for it was twice as guilty, and the crime of his existence lay chiefly with it.” Dav.] This, however, would be attributing to the author altogether too much premeditation and systematic deliberation.

Job 3:6. That night—let thick darkness take it;i.e. let everlasting darkness seize on it and hold it fast as its possession, so that it can never come forth into the light of day. [“אֹפֶל, an intenser gloom than חשֶׁךְ, deepest primitive darkness, chaos and ‘old night.’ ” Dav.] Let it not rejoice among the days of the year.—אַל יִחַדְּ (for אַל יִחְדְּ, with an auxiliary Pattach [furtive]; comp. Ewald, § 224, c. [Green, § 109, 2], from חָדָה, gaudere ( Exodus 18:9), is evidently equivalent to: “let it not be glad of its existence among the days of the year.” [“The night is not considered so much to rejoice on account of its own beauty—fingitur pulchra nox de se ipsa gandere, Ges.—as to form one of the joyous and triumphant choral troop of nights, that come in harmonious and glittering procession.” Dav.] More insipid is the sense given by the reading followed by the Targum and Symmachus: אַל יֵחַד, “let it not be joined to the days of the year, let it not be enrolled among them,” Comp. Ges49:6. [So E. V, Ren, Merx]. [“Of course not natural days, as in Job 3:3-4, but civil days, embracing the entire diurnal period, in which sense they include the night.” Green. Chrest.] Let it not come into the number of the months:i.e. let it not be numbered among the days, the sum of which constitutes the twelve months of the year (LXX. correctly: μηδὲ ἀριθμηθείη εἰς ἡμέρας μηνῶν). Comp. Wieseler, Beiträge zur richtigen Würdigung der Evangelien und der evangel. Geschichte, Gotha, 1869, p291; which correctly finds here a reference to the fact that the ancient Hebrews reckoned according to the lunar year; i.e. by years of 354 days (consisting of twelve months, alternating in length between30,29 days, and equalized with the solar year by an intercalary month of30 days about every three years).

Job 3:7. Ha, that night!—let it be barren. גַּלְמוּד, lit. “stony hard,” here and also in Isaiah 49:21 (where it is used of [Zion, personified as] a woman), the same as “barren.” [“Sitting in the everlasting darkness, that Night remains barren. It utters no shout of joy over the children born to it.” Schlott. This sense is in better harmony with the etymology, and the vivid personification of the passage, as well as Job’s vindictive feeling over the fact that that night had conceived him, than the “solitary” of the Eng. Ver. (Vulg. “desolate,” Syr.—E.] Let no shout of joy come therein.—רְנָנָה, not “a song of the spheres” (Fries), [a conception and expression foreign to the Heb.: see the opposite thought, expressed Psalm 19:3.—E.]; but a jubilant shout of joy over the birth (or conception) of a man.

Job 3:8. Let them curse it who curse days, they who are skilled to rouse up the dragon [leviathan]. [“He wishes everything dire and dreadful to be heaped upon it, or employed against it, not only all real evils, but even such as are imaginary and fictitious. He therefore invokes the aid of sorcerers, who curse the day, who claim the power of inflicting curses on it.” Green, Chrest.] אֹרְרֵי־יוֹם, “cursers of the day,” i.e. sorcerers, who, according to the superstition of the old oriental world, knew how by their ban to make dies infausti, and who, therefore, had the power so to bewitch any particular day as to make it a day of misfortune. This art of sorcery, the actual existence of which the poetic style of the discourse concedes and assumes without going further, is characterized still more particularly, and with vivid gradation in the language, by the following clause: “they who are skilled (capable, empowered) to rouse up (עֹרֵר in poetry for לְעֹרֵר, comp. Ewald § 285, c) leviathan,” i.e. the great dragon, who is the enemy of the sun and the moon, and seeks accordingly by swallowing them up to create darkness. That there is here an allusion to this well-known superstition in respect to solar and lunar eclipses, which is found among several other nationalities, e.g. the ancient inhabitants of India (see Bohlen, Das alte Indien, I:290), the Chinese (Käuffer, Das chines. Volk, p123), the North-African natives of Algeria (comp. Delitzsch1:79) appears: (1) From the connection, which forbids our taking לִוְיָתָן either as in40:25 seq.; Psalm 104:26, in its usual sense, of the crocodile, or again of terrestrial serpents (dragons), and Song of Solomon, with Umbreit and others, to think of snake-charmers or crocodile-tamers. (2) From the parallel passage in Job 26:13, where the mention of “the fleeing serpent” points to the same astronomical superstition. (3) From Isaiah 27:1, where the collocation of the words לִרֳתָן נָחָשׁ בָּרִיחַ designate the same mythical being (the dragon râhu or kêtu of the Hindûs). The poet accordingly in the passage before us gives to the curse that is to be pronounced on the day this highly poetic turn, by wishing that the sorcerers might secure the consummation of the curse by instigating the celestial dragon against the sun and moon, thus producing an eclipse of those bodies. To identify that dragon here (and in Job 26:13) with a constellation, by a reference to the dragon whose convolutions lie between the Great and Little Bear, or to any other serpent-figure among the stars (Hirz, Hahn, Schlott, etc.), does not harmonize well with the unmistakable meaning of עֹרֵר, “to excite, rouse up.” [The explanation of Umbreit, Rosenm, Noy, Baruch, etc., a little more fully stated, is that “the verse probably refers to a class of persons who were supposed to have the power of making any day fortunate or unfortunate, to control future events, and even to call forth the most terrific monsters from impenetrable forests, or from the deep, for the gratification of their own malice, or that of others. Balaam, whom Balak sent for to curse Israel, affords evidence of the existence of a class of persons who were supposed to be capable of producing evil by their imprecations.” Noyes. One objection to this view is stated above by Zöckler, that it is not favored by the connection. Another objection suggested by Dav. is that “it is somewhat flat. The second member, instead of rising in significance, seems to fall, for to curse the day appears a much profounder exercise of power, reaching much further, and laying a spell much deeper, even on the hidden principles of nature and time, than any mere charming of an animal, however terrible.” According to the Fathers (whom Lee and Words. follow), Leviathan here is typical of Satan, “the great spiritual Leviathan.” When it is remembered that the same writers find the same typical significance in the description of “leviathan” in chap41, the extravagance of the fancy will at once appear. Davidson objects that “it cannot be shown that the superstition [above referred to] was current in Semitic lands; it belongs to India.” It is true, however, that among the Egyptians, with whose institutions the author of this book was well acquainted, eclipses were attributed to the victory of Typhon over the sun-god, that the crocodile (the leviathan of chap41.) was a representative of Typhon, and moreover that Egypt was celebrated above all lands for her sorcery. These three facts taken together would of themselves suffice to account for and to explain Job’s language in the passage before us.—E.]

Job 3:9. Let the stars of the twilight be dark; the stars, namely, of its morning twilight, the precursors of approaching day-light, the meaning accordingly being: Let this night be followed by no genuine day’s radiance. In favor of this sense of נֶשֶׁף, to wit, morning twilight, crepusculum, may be urged, apart from the two following members of the verse, the analogy of Job 7:4; Psalm 119:147, where נֶשֶׁף has the same signification, though elsewhere certainly it signifies the evening twilight (diluculum), as e.g. Job 24:15; Proverbs 7:9; 2 Kings 7:5. And let it not gaze upon the eye-lashes of the dawn. Delitzsch: “let it not refresh itself with the eye-lashes of the dawn:” correctly as to the sense; for here, as always רָאָה בְ denotes beholding with the feeling of pleasure, enjoying the sight of anything. “The eye-lashes of the dawn” (the same expression is found in Job 41:10) are the first rays of the rising dawn, opening as it were its eyes: comp. χρυσέης ἡμέρας βλέφαρον, Soph. Antiq103. [To be noted is the full form of the fut. יִרְאֶה, instead of the apocopated.]

[Comp. Job 19:17, where the expression בְּנֵי בִטְנִי, acc. to Ges, means brethren born out of the same mother’s womb. See, however, on the passage. “Juvenal has used the same liberty of expression, Sat6:1:124: Ostenditque tuum, generose Britannice, ventrem.” Con.]—And so hide sorrow from my eyes. The force of the negation extends out of the first over this, the second member of the verse, as is the case also in Job 3:11. Comp. Gesen. § 152 [§ 149], 3. [The influence of the negative extended here by means of Vav consecutive. See Ewald § 351 a.] The indefinite, and, so to speak, absolute term, עָמָל, denotes some great and fearful affliction which Job was even then suffering.

3. Second Long Strophe: Job utters his choice to be in the realm of the dead rather than in this life, Job 3:11-19. The strophe embraces three sub-divisions, or strophes, of equal length, each consisting of three verses.

a. [The wish that he had died at birth.]

[The Fut. (or Imperf.) אֶגְוַע expressing that which is subsequent to the Pret. (Perf.) יָצָאתִי.]

[“The longing and anxious desire of the yearning mother to nurse her unborn darling has never been so happily expressed elsewhere.” Good.] There is certainly nothing in the passage which points to any custom of heathen antiquity, involving the formal recognition of the child by the father, as Hirzel supposes. [At all events, as Dillm. observes, such a recognition is not the leading thought of the passage.—E.] And what (=why) the breasts that I should suck?—[“There is a certain impatience and disgust in the מָה: Why, what were the breasts that I should suck?” Dav. The dual forms of the original, “two knees,” “two breasts,” are preserved in the translation by Dav. and Renan, perhaps with needless literality.] כּי consecutive, as in chs. Job 6:11; Job 7:12; Job 10:6—and often. The Imperf. (Fut.) אֵינַק describing an action immediately following after that which is previously mentioned, like אֶגְוַע, Job 3:11; אֶשְׁקוֹט and יָנוּחַ, Job 3:13, etc.

Job 3:13. For now I should have lain down and been quiet. A reason for the wish contained in the questions of Job 3:10; Job 3:12; therefore כִּי here=“for,” not “surely” (Del.)—עַתָּה, like אָז elsewhere, “then, by this time.” Comp. Job 13:19; 1 Samuel 13:13. I should have slept (lit.: “I should have fallen asleep;” and so also in the first member: “I should have laid myself down”), then would there be rest for me, viz., the rest of the dead in the under-world, of the shades in Sheol, which, as compared with the inexpressible misery of this upper world, is evermore rest and repose. For the impersonal use of נוּחַ comp. Isaiah 23:12; Nehemiah 9:28.

b. Job 3:14-16. A more particular description of the rest in the realms of the dead, which Job longs for. Job 3:14-15 are still dependent on the verbs in Job 3:13.

[The expression as it stands in the text is certainly a difficult one, and unquestioning confidence in regard to the true interpretation is scarcely to be looked for. The rendering adopted by Zöckler, “who have built themselves ruins,” is indeed, as he claims, the simplest and most obvious rendering of the words as they now read. But, on the other hand, it may be urged: (1) This proleptic ironical use of the word “ruins” in the connection would be an unlooked for and an artificial interruption of the pathetic flow of thought—of the ardent, plaintive yearning for death, or for the condition in which death would place him. (2) The kind of irony which would thus be expressed is unsuited to the state of Job’s feelings in this discourse. Irony there is in the passage doubtless, but it is the irony of personal feeling, suggested by the contrast between his present misery and destitution, and the rest and equality of the grave. The irony which would have led him to see ruins in the palaces of the great would have been altogether alien to the intense subjectivity of his mood. Job is here thinking of himself—of what he would have been—of the rest, and the equality with earth’s greatest, which would have been his, had he died at his birth. To interject here a sudden satire on the destiny awaiting the external splendor of others would be untrue to nature, and so unworthy of the poet’s art. (3) The anticipation of ruin seems scarcely in harmony with the particular object of the immediate context, which is to describe the greatness of kings and counsellors, as of men high in rank and rich in their possessions. As Davidson says of this interpretation, it is “a sense which does not magnify, but minishes, the reputation of the great dead.” On the other hand, the interpretation “mausoleums” or “pyramids” is in harmony with the particular object of the context, enhancing the greatness of the persons spoken of, as well as with the general train of thought and feeling in this strophe, dwelling as it does on the condition and surroundings of the dead. It does not seem unreasonable, therefore, to conclude either that the word in its present form may be thus defined, or that the word in its original form being an unusual one, or of foreign origin, it was afterwards modified under the influence of the familiar Hebrew phrase, “to build ruins,” בָּנָה חֳרָבוֹת.—E.]

Job 3:15. Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver.—If the חרבות of the preceding verse are not “pyramids,” the בָּתִּים of this verse cannot possibly be understood to mean “houses of the dead,” as Hirzel explains. But even if that construction of the former verse be the true one, it would still be in the highest degree unnatural, artificial, and forced, to understand the expression in the passage before us as meaning any thing else than the riches which princes during life heap up in their palaces. Comp. Job 22:18.

Job 3:16. Or like a hidden untimely birth I should not be.—I should not exist, have no being. נֶפֶל, lit. a “falling away” (ἔκτρωμα), an abortion, as in Psalm 58:9; Ecclesiastes 6:8. For טָמַן in the sense of “to hide in the ground, to bury,” comp. Genesis 35:4; Exodus 2:12. The second member more particularly describes the condition of these abortions, as of those who never saw the light (“the light of life;” comp. Job 33:30). Furthermore, as to its contents, the entire verse, although varying in construction from the verse preceding, is by the אוֹ at the beginning made co-ordinate with it; and this immediate juxtaposition of the founders of great palaces [or pyramids], of rich millionaires, and—of still-born babes! produces a contrast most bizarre and startling in its effect. “All these are removed from the sufferings of this life in the quiet of their grave—be their grave a ‘ruin’ gazed upon by their descendants, or a hole dug out in the earth, and again filled in as it was before.” Delitzsch.

c. Job 3:17-19. Exhibiting more in detail the extent to which death equalizes the inequalities of men’s lots in life.

Job 3:17. There the wicked have ceased their raging.—שָׁם, in the state of the dead, in the under-world [“conceived of after the analogy of sepulchral caves, and where the dead were deemed to preserve the same relations which they had held during their life.” Ren.]. רְשָׁעִים, the godless, the abandoned, who are ruled by evil passions and lusts, as in Isaiah 48:22; Isaiah 57:21; Psalm 1:4, etc. Hence רֹגֶז is the stormy agitation, or inward raging of such men [“corresponds to the radical idea of looseness, broken in pieces, want of restraint, therefore of Turba, contained etymologically in רָשָׁע.”—Del.]; comp. Isaiah 57:20; Jeremiah 6:7. Dillmann understands by the “raging of the wicked” the furious ravaging of insolent tyrants, with which is then vividly contrasted in the second member the enfeebled, powerless condition of those who are “exhausted of strength.” But there is nothing in the connection to show that any such contrast was intended between tyrants and the oppressed, between persecutors and the persecuted; and even the mention of the “taskmaster” in Job 3:18 has nothing in it to confirm this interpretation, which arbitrarily attributes to רְשָׁעִים the sense of עריצים. Comp. Job 15:20; Job 27:13; Isaiah 13:11; Isaiah 25:3; Psalm 37:25, etc. [in most of which passages, however, it will be found that the parallelism sustains the notion of the equivalence of the two terms, and of the frequent use of the former in the sense assigned to it by Dillmann. Do we not hear in these words an echo of Job’s own calamities? Were not the turbulent, restless, fierce Chaldeans and Sabeans fit types of the רְשָׁעִים with their רֹגֶז? and was not Job himself in his present helplessness one of the very יְגִיעֵי כֹחַ?—E.]

[“The Pilelשַׁאֲנַן signifies perfect freedom from care.” Del.]—They hear not the taskmaster’s voice, i.e., the voice of the overseer, or slave-driver, issuing his orders, urging to work, and threatening with blows. Comp. Genesis 3:7; Genesis 5:6; Genesis 5:10; Zechariah 9:8.

[So Umbr, Ew, Del, Wem, Elz. The thought is substantially the same, according to either view. According to the former, הוּא refers with emphasis to each subject, individually, “ Hebrews, each is there,” implying equality of condition; according to the latter, הוּא has more the quality of a predicate, expressing equality of condition. The former is preferable, as being simpler, more customary, and better suited to the double subject, “small” and “great.” Elsewhere in the sense of idem it is used of a single subject. Comp. ref. above.—E.] Furthermore, the second member: “and free (is) the servant from his master,” shows in a special manner that our verse is parallel in sense to the preceding; as there “prisoners” and “taskmasters” are contrasted, so here in the first member “small” and “great,” in the second “servant” and “master.” [Davidson, perhaps, finds too much in these words when he says (although the remark is a striking one): “It is this last that fascinates Job in the place of the dead—the slave is free from his master; and Job is the slave, and one whom he will not name is the master—Has not man a hard service on the earth, and as the days of a hireling are his days?” Job 7:1.]

4. Third Long Strophe (divided into two shorter strophes of three and four verses respectively): Job asks, why must Hebrews, who is weary of life, still live? Job 3:20-26.

a. [The question in a general form.]

[The Eng. Ver. takes the verb impersonally: “Wherefore is light given, etc.?” And so Good, Lee, Wemyss, Ren, etc. Schlottmann and Green also prefer the impersonal construction on the ground that it is better suited to the present discourse and the state of feeling from which it proceeds, and that supplying ‘God’ as the subject “gives an uncalled-for appearance of open and conscious murmuring to these moanings of uncontrollable anguish.” It is to be observed, however, that in verse 23 the hedging of man about is directly ascribed to God; and that although God is not formally challenged by name as yet, there is through the whole discourse an audible under-tone of suppressed defiance, which seems all the time on the point of expressing itself. At the same time, one cannot but feel that this Curse is a cry of anguish rather than a cry of defiance, and that the suppression of God’s name in this connection is a most natural manifestation of Job’s feelings in their present stage of development—although, as Hirzel has shown, it is quite in our author’s manner thus to omit the name of God. See Job 8:18; Job 12:13; Job 16:7; Job 20:23; Job 22:21; Job 25:2; Job 27:22; Job 30:19. “Gives he, a distant fling at God, though a certain reverence refuses to utter His name, but He is at the base of such awful entanglement and perverse attitude of things.” (Dav.).—E.]

Parallel with לְעָמֵל, “to the wretched,” stands in the second member, לְמָרֵי נֶפֶשׁ, “to the troubled in soul,” those whose heart is troubled [lit. “the bitter in soul,” i.e., those whose souls have known life’s bitterness.—E.] The same expression is found in Proverbs 31:6; 1 Samuel 1:10; 1 Samuel 22:2.

Job 3:21-22 contain specifications in participial form of the phrase מָרֵי נֶפֶשׁ, with finite verbs attached in the second member of each verse, a construction which elsewhere also is not unfrequently met with (see Ew. § 350, b).

Job 3:21. Who wait long for death—and it comes not (lit. “and it is not,” וְאֵינֶנּוּ, comp. verse9), and dig for it more than for [hidden] treasures.—The Imperf. consec. וַיַּחְפְּרוּ is used here in the sense of the Present, as also elsewhere occasionally (see Ew. § 342. a). [The Vav. consec. would indicate 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.—E.] It is not necessary (with Hahn and Schlottmann) to translate by the subjunctive form, “who would dig” (would willingly do so). Delitzsch’s assumption, that the fut. consec. is used “because the sufferers are regarded as now at last dead,” is altogether too artificial. The discourse presents rather an ardent longing after death on the part of those who are as yet living—and this longing is described so as to harmonize with the figurative representation of a “digging after pearls or treasures.” Comp. chap, Job 28:1 sq, 9 sq. [Ewald, not inaptly: “for death, like such treasures, seems to come out of earth’s most secret womb, even as Pluto is the god of both.”] On חפּר with accus. of the thing which is dug out, comp. Exodus 7:24 [showing the incorrectness of the assertion that in the sense of digging, the verb takes only the accusative of the cavity produced by digging, and so justifying the rendering “to dig” here.—E.]

Job 3:22. Who are joyful, even to rapture—heightening the thought: usque ad exultationem, exactly as in Hosea 9:1. In like manner the following יָשִׂישׂוּ contains a still further advance in the strength of the thought. [“The verse is a climax, (1) rejoice, (2) to exultation, (3) dance for joy.” Dav.

“Who rejoice, even to exultation,

And are triumphant, when they can find out the grave.”—


[The individual application of Job’s question.]

[Renan translates:

“To the man whose way is covered with darkness,

And whom God has environed with a fatal circle.”

“He means, by having his way hid, being bewildered and lost: the world and thought and providence become a labyrinth to him, out of which and in which no path can be found, his speculative and religious belief hopelessly entangled, and his heart palsied and paralyzed by its own conflicting emotions and memories, so that action and thought were impossible, a hedge being about him, his whole life and condition being contradiction and inexplication, a step or two leading to a stand-still in any direction.” Dav.]

Job 3:24. For [כִּי, personal confirmation of the preceding statement] instead of my bread comes my sighing.—לִפְנֵי here not in the local sense, “before” [“in presence of it, and hence in effect along with it. Meaning: even at that season of enjoyment and thankfulness, when food is partaken, I have only pain and sorrow.” Con.], but as also in Job 4:19; 1 Samuel 1:16, “for, instead of” (comp. the Latin pro). [Akin to this is the definition “like,” from the idea of comparison involved in that of presence or nearness. So Schult, Dav, Ren.] Less suitable is the temporal construction: “before my food [=before I eat] sighing still comes to me.” [“My groans anticipate my food.” Wem.] (so Hahn, Hirz, Schl, etc., after the LXX, Vulgate, etc.) [The temporal sense is somewhat differently given by Green, Chrest., “before, sooner than; perpetually repeated, with greater frequency than his regular food.” The suggestion found in Rosenm, Baruch, etc., that Job’s disease made his food loathsome in the act of eating gives a meaning needlessly offensive, and is not suited either to the connection or to the terms employed. The fut. תָּבֹא is used in the frequentative sense.—E.] And my groans pour themselves forth like water:i.e. as incessantly as water, which flows ever onward, or is precipitated from a height. As is evident, a strong comparison, and one which would be greatly weakened by the explanation of Hirzel and others, who find in it an allusion to the water of Job’s daily drink, parallel with לחם, his daily bread. For the masc, וַיִּתְּכוּ before the fem. subj. שַׁאֲגתַי, comp. Job 16:22; Ewald § 191 b. [Future frequentative like תָּבֹא], For שַׁאֲגָה, lit. roaring ( Job 4:10) in the sense of groaning, the moaning of a sufferer. Comp. Psalm 22:2; Psalm 32:3.

Job 3:25. For if I trembled before anything, it forthwith came upon me. Lit.: “For a fear have I feared, and forthwith it has overtaken me.” [“Let me but think of a terror,” פחד פ׳׳ is present and concessive, אִם understood, suppose me to fear a fear, to conceive a terror; it is no sooner conceived than realized: and not past and positive, I feared a fear, as if Job, in the height of his felicity, had been haunted by the presentiment of coming calamity, a meaning which 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. The picture refers exclusively to the present misery of the man.… It overtakes me, וַיֶּאֶתָיֵנִי, vav consec. introduces the issue of the dread: the thing dreaded immediately comes.” Dav. So Green in Chrest.: “The meaning is not that he had apprehensions in his former prosperity, which have now been fulfilled; but all that is dreadful in his esteem has been already, or is likely soon to be (יָבֹא, fut.), realized in his experience. He endures all that he has ever conceived that is frightful.”] For the poetic full-sounding form יֶאֱתָיֵנִי, comp. chap, Job 12:6; Job 16:22; Job 30:14 (Ew. § 252, a. [Green, § 172, 3]).

[Merx, transposing Job 3:23, introduces it here, as immediately following Job 3:25. His version accordingly reads as follows:

For the Terror, of which I was afraid, overtook me;

And that which with shuddering I looked for came to me,

To the man whose path was covered;

Whom Eloah hedged in round about.

He thus makes the לְ before גֶבֶר a repetition of the לִי, end of Job 3:25, and not of לְעָמֵֹל, Job 3:20, according to the old position. He further would make the verse in its new position an ironical echo of Satan’s words in Job 1:10.—The conjecture is certainly highly ingenious. But there are decisive objections to the change. The first and weightiest is that the irony loses all its force, and the words themselves become all but meaningless in Job’s mouth when it is remembered that the words were first spoken by Satan in the heavenly council, where Job was not present. It is an essential part of the mystery of the drama here unfolded that Job knows nothing whatever of the transactions between God and Satan. Any conscious allusion to anything in those transactions on the part of Job would be a blunder of art of which our author is incapable; and without such conscious intent the words lose all their pertinency. Moreover, the verse in its old position, as is remarked in the notes above, furnishes the transition from the general description of Job 3:20-22 to the more personal application of Job 3:24-26.—E.]

Job 3:26. I have no quiet, no repose, no rest; and still trouble comes. On the abrupt brevity of the second member, comp. above, No1.—רֹגֶז, here certainly more in the sense of grief, pain, trembling, than of passionate excitement, or rage, and so with a meaning different from Job 3:17 : but always (and so in Job 3:17, as well as here) of an inward affection, not of external “distress” (Schlott.), or of a “storm” (Hahn), etc. Vaihinger’s rendering: “restless life,” is correct as to sense, but fails of doing justice to the pointed brevity of the expression. [The Vulgate reads this verse interrogatively: “Was I not in safety? had I no rest? was I not in comfort? Yet trouble came.” So also the Targ. with curious amplifications: “Did I not dissimulate when it was told me concerning the oxen and the asses? did I not sleep when it was told me concerning the fire?” etc.]


1. In so far as we may be disposed to find the theme of the following discussion in the preceding chapter, it behooves us in any case to hold for certain that this theme is expressed only partially, and altogether formally, or only, so to speak, in an interrogative form. Job certainly does not come across the question in this discourse. To curse his existence, to ask again and again after the incomprehensible Wherefore of that existence—this constitutes the whole of this violent outbreak of feeling, with which Job initiates the discussion which follows. He does not give the slightest intimation in regard to the right way of solving the problem which torments him—the problem touching the enigma of his sorrowful existence; indeed he makes not the slightest attempt at such a solution. He pours forth in all its bitterness and harshness his despairing lamentation concerning the helpless misery of Prayer of Manasseh, who is become the object of the divine anger. What he puts forth vividly reminds us from beginning to end of those well-known utterances of the Greek poets, which declare it best never to have been born, and next best to die as quickly as possible. Comp. Theognis:

ΙΙάντων μὲν μὴ φῦναι ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἄριστον

μηδ̓ ἐσιδεἰν αὐγὰς οξέος ἠελίου·

φυντα δ̓ ὅπως ὥκιστα πύλας Αΐδαο περῆσαι

καὶ κε͂ισθαι πολλὴν γῆν ἐπαμησάμενον,–

also the similar expressions of Bacchylides (Fragm. 3), Æsop (Anthol. Gr. x123), Sophocles (Oed. Col. 1225: μὴ φῦναι τὸν ἄπαντα νικᾷ λόγον τὸ δ̓ ἐπῇν φανῆ, βῆναι κεῖθεν, ὄθεν περ ἤκει, πολὺ δεύτερον, ῶς τάχιστα: not to have been born surpasses everything which can be said: or if one has come to the light, to descend there whence he came as quickly as possible is by far the second best thing), of Alexis (in Athenæus, Deipnos. iii124, 6), of Pliny (Hist. Nat. vii1), etc. Especially current in heathen literature, although indeed often enough hinted at by the singers of the Old Testament, especially in the Psalm and the Lamentations of Jeremiah, is this manifoldly uttered lament over the ruined estate, the bankruptcy of the natural man in his unredeemed condition, left to himself, delivered over without remedy to the consequences of sin—a lament which here falls on our ears, without a single ray of comfort from on high to shine on its deep gloom, without any alleviating influence whatever from the hope of a better Hereafter, of which not a trace is as yet visible here.

2. Notwithstanding all this, however, Job does not altogether fall into the tone of those heathen, of those ἐλπίδα μὴ ἔχοντες καὶ ἅθεοι ἐν τὡ κόσμῳ ( Ephesians 2:12; comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:13). He does indeed ask: Why does God give light to the sorrowful, and life to the bitter in soul ( Job 3:20)? He is not found now, as aforetime ( Job 1:21 seq.), praising God in the midst of his sufferings; in so far as with all earnestness he curses his birth and conception, he is palpably guilty of “sinning with his lips” ( Job 2:10), instead of exhibiting, as he had previously done, a childlike pious submission. But he by no means goes over to the side of Satan, that enemy of God, who is the author of his temptation. He does not go so far astray as presumptuously to “curse God to His face” ( Job 1:11; Job 2:7), as Satan had purposed that he should. He curses indeed the divine act of creation which had given him being, but not the Creator himself; the curse which he pronounces on his day does not put forth that wicked blasphemous sentiment which H. Heine expresses in one of his last poems:

“ ’Tis well to die; but better still

It were had mother never borne us.”

His words are words of lamentation and despondency, of doubt and questioning, but not words of blasphemy, nor even of atheistic doubt, renouncing all faith in a living, good and just God. They show, indeed, that the trust which he had hitherto exercised in God had been violently shaken, that there was a wavering and faltering in the child-like obedience which, with touching loyalty, he had hitherto constantly yielded to God. But they are nevertheless only preparatory to the later, and far more passionate outbreaks of discontent with God’s dealings to which he gives way. Even when he mentions here a man whose way God has “hidden and hedged about” ( Job 3:23), he is still far from indulging in any accusation of God as a cruel and unjust persecutor; it is as yet a comparatively harmless complaint, in the utterance of which the bitter accusation of his later discourses is only remotely anticipated. It is a fact, however, that he who has hitherto lived blamelessly in his fidelity to God does, in the complaints which in this discourse gush forth from his heart, enter on that downward path which, in proportion as his friends prove themselves to be unskilful comforters, and as physicians accomplished only in torturing, not in healing, leads him ever further from God and ever deeper into the abyss of joyless despair. Comp. Delitzsch (1:84): “Job nowhere says, that he will have nothing more to do with God; he does not renounce his former faithfulness. In the mind of the writer, however, as may be gathered from Job 2:10, this speech is to be regarded as the beginning of Job’s sinning. If a Prayer of Manasseh, on account of his sufferings, wishes to die early, or not to have been born at all, he has lost his confidence that God, even in the severest suffering, designs his highest good; and this want of confidence is sin. There Isaiah, however, a great difference between a man who has in general no trust in God, and in whom suffering only makes this manifest in a terrible manner, and the man with whom trust in God is a habit of his soul, and is only momentarily repressed, and, as it were, paralyzed. Such interruption of the habitual state may result from the first pressure of unaccustomed suffering; it may then seem as though trust in God were overwhelmed, whereas it has only given way to rally itself again. It Isaiah, however, not the greatness of the affliction in itself which shakes his sincere trust in God, but a change of disposition on the part of God, which seems to be at work in the affliction. The sufferer considers himself as forgotten, forsaken and rejected of God; therefore he sinks into despair; and in this despair expression is given to the profound truth (although with regard to the individual that expression is a sinful weakness), that it is better never to have been born, or to be annihilated, than to be rejected of God (comp. Matthew 26:24, καλὸν ἦναὐτῷ εἰ οὐκ ἐγεννήθη ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖνος). In such a condition of spiritual, and, as we know from the prologue, of Satanic temptation ( Luke 22:31; Ephesians 6:16), is Job. He does not despair when he contemplates his affliction, but when he looks at God through it, who, as though He were become his enemy, has surrounded him with his affliction as with a rampart. … It is indeed inconceivable that a New Testament believer, even under the strongest temptation, should utter such imprecations, or especially such a question of doubt as in Job 3:20 : Wherefore is light given to the miserable? But that an Old Testament believer might very easily become involved in such conflicts of belief may be accounted for by the absence of any express divine revelation to carry his mind beyond the bounds of the present.”[FN1]


The above chapter presents as a whole but little material for homiletic use. The description of human misery, as here elaborated by Job, before the coming of the Redeemer, is too much pervaded by a passionate one-sidedness, to be susceptible of practical application in the way of exhortation or encouragement. Unless, as with many of the ancient and most of the Romish commentators, the discourse of Job be idealized, and that which is objectionable in it be set aside, after the fashion of an artificial, moralistic and allegoristic exegesis, it presents more which from the Christian point of view is to be censured than to be accepted as sound and authoritative teaching. It behooves us at all events to treat it critically, and from the stand-point of a higher and maturer evangelical perception of the truth to discriminate in Job’s complaints and doubtful questionings that which belongs wholly to the Old Testament era, before Christ, and to an imperfectly regenerated humanity, and which is incompatible with the spirit and belief of a suffering saint under the New Dispensation. It behooves us, in a word, to set beside each other the impatient sufferer, Job, with the most patient of all sufferers, Christ. It behooves us to show the contrast between him, who, oppressed by the weight of his sufferings, cursed the day of his birth, and Him, who, when confronted by a yet more bitter and terrible cup of suffering, prayed: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt!” It must be noted that Job, in cursing his existence, and thereby (at least indirectly) calling in question God’s goodness and justice, departs from the stand-point of the pious sufferers of the Old Testament, and seemingly betakes himself to that of the heathen in their disconsolate and hopeless estate (comp. Doctrinal Remarks, No1), whereas the strongest utterance of lamentation and anguish which Christ puts forth is that exclamation from the Psalm: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” Let this question of the Crucified One accordingly be taken, and put alongside of the two questions of Job beginning with the interrogative “why” ( Job 3:11 seq. and Job 3:20 seq.), and this comparison be formulated thus: The “Why” of the suffering Job, and that of Christ; or: Job and Christ, the sorely tried sufferers, and the different questions addressed by them to God. Comp. Brentius in his introductory Meditation on the Chap.: Christ exclaims that He is forsaken, because the Lord appears solely in the character of Judges, inflicting sentence of death, thus hiding in the meanwhile His paternal στοργὴ. This the Scriptures call sometimes forsaking, sometimes being asleep. There is the same judicial character in the treatment of Job. For during his first trials (chap1–2) he feels the Lord to be as yet his Father, and His hand to be supporting him; and so he stands without difficulty, being founded on a firm rock. But now, the Father being hidden from him, a horrible sentence of death is set before him. No longer therefore do you hear thanksgivings from him, but blasphemies and curses, so that you may say, that the Lord alone is good and true, but that every Prayer of Manasseh, however just and pious, is a liar.

Particular Passages. Job 3:3-10 : Osiander: If a man’s heart be not ruled and curbed by the grace of the Holy Spirit, it fumes and rages under the cross, instead of bearing it patiently.—Wohlfarth: This saying (“Cursed be the day wherein I was born,” etc.) is rightly imputed to the tried sufferer as a great sin by the Holy Scripture, and by himself, because the day of our birth comes to us from God, the best Father, and makes us witnesses of so many instances of His grace.… Job’s case may warn you against incurring such guilt, as to murmur against your Lord, and teach you, so far from cursing the day of your birth, much rather to thank God for it, Psalm 134:14 sq.

Job 3:11-19. Brentius: The godly and the ungodly alike declare that death is the last limit of earthly affairs, that it is a quiet deliverance from life’s ills. But the one class declare this in unbelief, the other in faith. For the godly man … wishes to depart and to be with Christ, seeing that he has no other release from the sinfulness of the flesh than death, which nevertheless is not his death, but his redemption. But the ungodly, feeling in himself the heavy scourgings of Divine judgment, desires death as rest and deliverance from these scourgings. It is unbelief, however, that produces this wish, which longs after death, not because of the sinfulness of the flesh, but on account of the scourgings.—v. Gerlach. Death seems in this and in similar sections of the book (as is so often the case also in the Psalm) as a state of peace and quiet, it is true, but as being at the same time a pale, empty, shadowy existence, such as it was conceived to be among the heathen, as e.g. in the Eleventh Book of the Odyssey.… These and similar descriptions we are not to esteem as the human representations appropriate to a crude superstitious age; rather is this to be regarded as the actual condition of the departed without the redemption which is through Christ. It was in this condition that Christ found them after completing His redemptive work on earth, when He preached to the “spirits in prison” ( 1 Peter 3:18 sq.).… The awful truth of these descriptions of the realm of the dead in our book and in the Psalm should accordingly fill even the Christian, who still lives in the body and in the world with holy earnestness, when he remembers the character of that state which follows a life out of Christ; and how with these descriptions the narrative which Jesus gives of the rich man in the place of torment links itself.

Job 3:20-26. Cocceius: Under the yoke of the law, before the revelation of the Gospel, a burden lay upon our fathers, such as they could neither bear nor lay aside. And although they panted after the liberty of the sons of God, there were still so many hindrances in the way, that they could never enjoy the full blessedness which results from a conscience τετελειωμένη, and inwardly absolved.… Whoever, therefore, of them cursed his life should be regarded by us not so much as resisting the ordinance of God, or spurning His kindness, but rather as panting after the liberty of the Gospel, while struggling with the yoke of the law.—Zeyss (on Job 3:23-24): God often shuts up the way of His children with the thorns of affliction, in order that they may never turn aside out of it; He knows, however, how easily to open it again, after He has tried them first.… The bread of tears is the most common food of pious Christians in this world; it is their comfort, however, that the true bread of joy will certainly follow hereafter; Psalm 80:6; Psalm 102:10; Psalm 126:5-6; John 16:20. Hengstenberg: The answer to Job’s questions is this: God chastises the pious in righteous retribution, and for their good, but He does not deliver them over to death. There is no “wretched one” ( Job 3:21) in Job’s sense of the term, understanding by it, as he does, one who is absolutely miserable. The man who should be permanently miserable would be so in consequence of his sin, as the penalty of his delinquency, the suffering which should lead him to God, and put him in spiritual union with Him, having driven him away from God.


FN#1 - On the relation of Jeremiah’s outburst of despair ( Job 20:14-18), in which the prophet partially imitates in expression the passage before us, to Job’s similar Lamentations, comp. Delitzsch (i86 seq, who is certainly right in calling attention to the greater brevity of the passage in Jeremiah, and who is for that reason not disinclined, with Hitzig, to attribute to the prophet a momentary paroxysm of excitement, occasioned by the extremely disconsolate condition of his nation at that time); also Nägelsbach on Jeremiah l. c.; as also Hengstenberg. Das Buch Hiob, p120 [see also Lowth’s remarks in the Exegetical Notes].


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Job 3:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

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Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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