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Job 3:5. “Let the blackness of the day terrify it.” Margin, “Let them terrify it as those who have a bitter day” The expression כִּמרִירֵי־יוֹם (chimrire-yom) gives rise to two classes of interpretations, according as the initial letter is regarded as a part of the noun, or as a particle. In the former case, it is best rendered “obscurations, or darkenings of the day:” from כָמַר (chamar), an unused root, signifying “to be dark, or blackened, as with heat.” So GESENIUS, who thinks the reference is to eclipses, always regarded by the ancients as portending calamities. The view also of BOCHART, NOTES, FAUSSET, ZÖCKLER, in “Lange,” &c. The first of the two nouns is thus regarded as an augmentative; the simple form כְמִירָא (chemira, from כְמַר chemar, “to be dark, or sad”), being applied in Syriac (Matthew 16:3) to a dark and lowering sky. So SCOTT, who translates it “greatest sorrows,” and in his metrical version: “Boding signs from all the quartered sphere.” LEE classes it with a sort of superlative in Arabic words signifying colours, &c., formed by reduplicating the last radical letter, and occasionally introducing a long vowel; and so renders the expression “blackest things of the day”—blackest terrors. Of the earlier interpreters, JUNIUS and TREMELLIUS render the words: “Darkness of the day.” COCCEIUS: “Blacknesses of the day,”—dark, hot, pestilential vapours. PAGNINUS, VATABLUS, and PISCATOR: “Heats, or vapours, of the day.” The Tigurine translators: “Most burning heats of the dog-days.” Bishop HALL: “A continued darkness.” Among later expositors, GOOD has: “Blasts of noontide”—the simoom, or hot wind of the desert. FRY: “Black blasts of the day.” BOOTIIROYD: “Thunder-clouds, blackening the day.” JENOUR: “Black darkness by day.” CAREY and CONANT, after GESENIUS: “Darkenings of the day.” BERNARD: “Black vapours.” OLSHAUSEN, DILLMANN, and DELITZSCH: “Darknesses of the sun,” as from clouds. HERDER, viewing the expression figuratively: “Blackness of misfortune.” UMBREIT understands by it: “Magical incantations which darken the day.” GROTIUS and CODURCUS regard the first noun as used for כִמְרֵי (chimre) or chemarims, a name given in the Old Testament to certain idolatrous priests (Zephaniah 1:4; Hosea 10:5; 2 Kings 23:5), and thus denoting “priests of the day,”—astrologers, who distinguish the character of days as lucky and unlucky, like the Roman “prefecti fastorum.”
If the initial letter כ, however, be viewed not as a part of the noun, but as a particle, it may be regarded either as one of comparison, or of emphasis. In this case, the noun מְרִירֵי (merire) will be viewed as derived from מָרַר (marar) “to be bitter,” as in Deuteronomy 32:24. So the translators of the ancient versions appear to have understood the expression. The Septuagint has: “Let the day be cursed;” or, according to GRABE’S emendation: “Let the day be troubled.” The VULGATE: “Let the day be involved in bitterness.” The TARGUM, SYRIAC, and AQUILA: “As bitternesses of the day.” So MARTIN’S French: “As the day of those to whom life is bitter.” DIODATI’S Italian: “The bitterest days.” MERCER and MORUS, like our marginal reading: “As those bitter in days.” MUNSTER, after the Syriac: “The bitternesses of the day.” SEB. SCHMIDT: “As bitternesses of day,”—rather to be so called than day itself. SCHULTENS: “As it were, the bitter things of the day,”—viz., misfortunes. ROSENM ÜLLER: “According to the bitternesses of the day”—calamities which render a day black and ill-omened, as Amos 8:10. ADAM CLARKE: “The bitterness of a day.” YOUNG: “As the most bitter of days.” LE CLERC derives the word, as the Septuagint appears to have done, from אָרַר (arar) “to curse:” “as those who curse the day.”
Job 3:8. “Who are ready to raise up their mourning;” Margin: “A leviathan.” A clause which has also two classes of interprepretations, according as the noun לִוְיָתָן (livyathan) is regarded as derived from לָוָה (lavah) “to twist into folds,” and so meaning a serpent, or sea monster, as in all the ancient versions; or from לָיָה (layah) “to mourn,” and so denoting lamentation, as in our authorised version. Of the other two words in the clause, הָעֲתִידִים tha-’athidhim, from עָתַד (’athadh), unused in Hebrew but found in Chaldaic; in the Pael form, עַתֵּד (attedh) “to appoint or prepare,” like the Arabic عٰتٌّدٰ (attuda, Vth. conjugation, to be skilled in an art), rather denotes, “those who are skilled, or expert.” So SCHULTENS, GESENIUS, NOYES, and ZÖCKLER. The SEPTUAGINT has: “He who is to rouse up,” &c. The VULGATE: “Those who are prepared,” &c. So the TARGUM, AQUILA, and SYMMACHUS, as well as LUTHER, MARTIN, and DIODATI. עוֹרֵר (‘orer), properly “to raise up from sleep,” as Psalms 44:23. So DE WETTE: “To wake up.” SCOTT, observing that the sign of the infinitive is omitted, views the expression as a periphrasis for the future tense of the indicative, according to the Syriac idiom. The same appears to have been done by the translator of the Septuagint.
Of those who regard the noun as derived from לָוָה (lauah =عٰتٌّدٰ) “to twist,” with the final syllable תָּן (tan) as the terminative form of the noun, are BOCHART, SCHULTENS, DATHE, and GESENIUS, who understands by the word a serpent of the larger kind, especially, as in chap. Job 41:1, a crocodile. The SEPTUAGINT, followed by the COPTIC and the ITALA, renders it, “the great whale.” The VULGATE leaves the word untranslated, “Leviathan.” According to NOYES, the word is a common name to denote monstrous animals of different kinds, here perhaps a monstrous serpent. BARNES: Used here to represent the most fierce and powerful of animals. ZÖCKLER: The great dragon—the enemy of the sun and moon—which, according to an ancient superstition, seeks to cause darkness by swallowing them up. According to GROTIUS, CODURCUS, and SEB. SCHMIDT, the persons in the text are represented as skilled in stirring up monsters by magic incantatious. DÖDERLEIN and Um-BREIT understand, “charming of serpents.” According to OSIANDER, NOYES, BARNES, and others, the reference is to sorcerers, or persons supposed to possess the power of making any day fortunate or unfortunate, or even to call forth terrific monsters from the forest or the deep, in order to gratify their own malice, or that of others, of whom Balaam is viewed as an example. WEMYSS has: “Skilled in conjuring up Leviathan.” Dr. CHALMERS understands: “Magicians and conjurers who raise, or pretend to raise up infernal spirits by their spells. HIRZEL, HAHN, and SCHLOTTMANN: the Constellation called the Dragon, between the Great and the Little Bear, or some other of the same name. So MAURER, who refers to the words of Horace as a parallel: “Quæ sidera excantata voce Thessala lunamque cœlo deripit.” LEE, understanding the whale, or some other monster, translates: “Who are ready to stir up a leviathan,”—which, he adds, none but the most desperate would do. BERNARD: “Ready to arouse the crocodile.” CONANT: Skilled to rouse the Leviathan.” HUFNAGEL observes that the expression is probably employed to denote the undertaking of a most perilous task. JENOUR renders it, “Prepared to stir up the Leviathan to battle; i.e., persons who hate life, and are prepared to expose themselves to certain death. So BOOTHROYD, who observes that in chap. Job 41:8-10, to arouse Leviathan is represented as inevitable destruction. Various other allusions are conjectured to be made in the expression. Reference is supposed by some to be made to the invocation of Typhon, the author of destruction, whose symbol was the crocodile, such as is found on a papyrus roll from Thebes. So CAREY, who also thinks an allusion may be made to an ancient custom of the Egyptians in hunting the crocodile on a particular day, and then, after killing it, throwing its dead body before the temple of their god. FAUCETT thinks a reference is made to those who claimed the power of controlling or rousing up wild beasts at their will. CALMET sees an allusion to the Atlantes, a people of Ethiopia, who were ready to kill and eat the crocodile. SIR G. WILKINSON, quoted by Carey, refers to the Tinty rites, who were expert in catching and overcoming the crocodile in the water. ADAM CLARKE thinks that persons are meant who are desperate enough to provoke the crocodile to tear them in pieces. M. HENRY thinks allusion is made to fishers who, being about to strike the whale or crocodile, curse it with the bitterest curses they can invent, in order to weaken its strength (!) Some of the older interpreters, as COCCEIUS, TIRINUS, and CARTWRIGHT, thought the allusion also to fishers, but as cursing under the vexations and disappointments of their calling. HUTCHESON of Edinburgh, regarded the allusion as made to mariners, who, in a storm, curse the day they went to sea, and are ready by their wishes to evoke the sea-monsters to swallow them up. CHAPPELOW, followed by COBBIN, thinks those persons meant whose business it was to curse the days esteemed ominous and inauspicious. SANCTIUS accounted for the expression on the ground that in execrations men commonly introduce things that are most horrible, as the leviathan. SCOTT, in his metrical translation, has: “Rouse fierce Leviathan from his oozy bed;” and adds, that probably the crocodile is meant, and that as it is natural to lament those who so miserably perished with bitter imprecations on the disastrous day, Job calls for the assistance of such language. Another construction of the words has been proposed, and has been adopted by SCHULTENS, and ROSENMÜLLER: “Let those who are skilled in that art, curse or brand it (his birthday) as the day that rouses up Leviathan”—as the dire mother of direst evils. Similarly COLEMAN: “as men promptly curse the day that evokes the crocodile from the deep.” Leviathan was regarded by AMBROSE, and the fathers in general, as another name for Satan, whom Christ was to encounter and overcome. GREGORY thought the persons in the text to be those who fell by the devil’s deceit. GUALTHER supposes them to be those who evoke Satan by incantations and witchcrafts. OSIANDER regards the word as equivalent to רְפָאִים (rephraim) the “spirits of the dead” mentioned in chap. Job 26:5. (in the E.V. “dead things”); and considers it here as denoting the Evil One, and spectres in general. By most of the earlier interpreters, who regarded the word as denoting some monster, the whale was the creature understood. So COCCEIUS, SCULTETUS, JUNIUS and TREMELLIUS, &C.
The sense of “lamentation,” as in our authorised version, from לָיָה (layah) = אָלהָ (alah) “to mourn,” was generally preferred by the earlier translators, as PISCATOR, MERCER, PAGNINUS, MORUS, MONTANUS, and VATABLUS. MARTIN, in his French version, has: “Who are ready to renew their mourning.” DIODATI, in his Italian: “Always ready to make new lamentations.” FRY renders the passage: “who are ready at raising their lamentations;” but supposes that the word is derived from לוּ (loo), “O that;—this syllable perhaps being the commencement of the solemn dirges or ululations of hired mourners, still common in the East; like the ἐλελελελελεῦ of IO in Prometheus Vinctus, the ulula of the Irish, and the ולולו (ululu) of the Arabians. According to TOWNSEND, the ideas of mourning and Leviathan are combined,—the mourning and that which was the cause of it; the allusion being to the idolatrous persecuting power that afflicted the Church of God between the commencement of the empire of the first Ninus, or Nimrod, and the calling of Abraham; and to the too late repentance of those who cursed the day when they gave their assistance to the founding and consolidating of that empire.
Job 3:14. “Which built desolate places for themselves.” הַבֹּנִים (habbonim), “who built up,” not “who built again.” So ZÖCKLER, as against CASTALIO, GOOD, and others. CAREY: “Who were building,” i.e., when overtaken by death. חֲרָבוֹת (kharâbhoth), plural of חָרְבָּה (hhorbah) dryness, desolation, from חָרֵב (kharebh), to be dried up, devastated; waste places, ruins: “who built ruins for themselves,” i.e. splendid edifices, as palaces or tombs, soon to become ruins or great stone heaps. So GESENIUS, UMBREIT, WINER, NOYES, CONANT, ZÖCKLER, and most moderns. VULGATE: “Who build solitudes for themselves.” The SEPTUAGINT appears strangely to have read the word as the plural of חֶרֶב (kherebh), a sword. The TARGUM, SYRIAC, and ARABIC, like the Vulgate, have: “Solitudes,” or “desert places.” SO MARTIN and DIODATI. LUTHER: “The wilderness.” PAGNINUS: “Solitary places.” DRUSIUS: “Destroyed places.” CASTALIO: “Ruins,” fallen palaces or towers. MERCER and VATABLUS, like the Vulgate: “Solitudes.” JUNIUS: “Splendid buildings in desolate places, where no one would have expected such.” JENOUR: “Waste places.” BOOTHROYD: “Ruins of former cities.” GOOD: “Ruined wastes.” YOUNG: “Wastes.” LEE: “Places now desolate.” PINEDA, followed by SCHULTENS, DÔDEBRLEIN, CAREY, and others, think the reference is to sepulchral monuments, as the pyramids. PARK-HURST: “Dreary sepulchral mansions, where the body is wasted, or consumed.” SCOTT, the translator, thinks that sepulchral grottoes are meant, such as those at Thebes, or the pyramids: “Whose burial mansions load the desert plains.” MICHAELIS regards the words as equivalent to חֲרָמוֹת (kharâmoth), and translates it, “temples, shrines, mausoleums.” ZÖCKLER observes that, though πι χραμ (pi-chram, “the temple”), is the name given to the pyramids, it is, perhaps, not the same with חֲרָביֹת; and that if mausoleums are intended, they are not necessarily those of Egypt. HIRZEL, with EWALD, DELITZSCH, STICKEL, &C., thinks mausoleums or pyramids are to be understood, and points to the ruins of Petra. BARNES observes that some of the most wonderful sepulchral monuments are found in the land of Edom to this day. TOWNS-END thinks the reference may be to the building of the Tower of Babel. The expression לָמוֹ (lamo), “for themselves,” is understood by some as meaning: “To make their name immortal.” So MERCER, VA-TABLUS, DRUSIUS, ADAM CLARKE. CODUR-CUS: “In order to display their wealth and power, enjoy retirement, or form new colonies.” GRYNŒUS: “To resist all-destroying death.” CAREY: “For their own tombs.” COLEMAN: “As habitations for themselves, either while living or dead.” NORAS thinks that the expression is so nearly pleonastic that it may be omitted. BARNES, on the other hand, thinks it full of emphasis; the ruinous structure being made for themselves alone. UMBREIT sees in it Job’s irony breaking out from the black clouds of melancholy.
COMMENCEMENT OF FIRST GREAT DIVISION OF THE POEM
Job’s bitter complaint and outburst of despondency—the more immediate occasion of the Controversy between him and his friends
I. Job breaks the prolonged silence (Job 3:1-2).
“After this,”—viz.: the visit of his friends and the seven days’ silence.—“Job opened his mouth.” Denoting—
(1) freeness of speech (Ezekiel 16:62; Ezekiel 29:4);
(2) earnestness in speaking (Proverbs 31:5-6; Isaiah 52:7);
(3) deliberate and grave utterance (Psalms 78:2; Proverbs 3:6). Orientals speak seldom, and then gravely and sententiously. Job long silent from his extraordinary calamity. Profound grief shuts the mouth (Psalms 77:4). Pent up anguish now finds a vent. His sufferings probably increasing, and his feelings now irrepressible. Patient till God’s anger seems to sink into his soul [Chrysostom]. Satan, to exasperate his feelings and depress his spirits, now acts on his mind and imagination, both directly and through his disease. The moment now arrived that Satan had been waiting for. Usually great danger in giving vent to pent up feelings. A double prayerful watch then needed not to sin with one’s tongue (Psalms 39:1; Psalms 141:3). Danger of speaking rather from heat of passion than light of wisdom. Better for Job had he kept his mouth close still [Trapp]. “Either say nothing or what is better than nothing” [Greek Proverb]. When God’s hand is on our back, our hand should be on our mouth [Brookes]. The maturity of grace proved by the management of the tongue (James 3:2).—“Job spake and said.” Every expression in Job’s speeches not to be vindicated. The rashness of his language acknowledged by himself (ch. Job 6:3). Job in the end not only hushed but humbled for what he had said (ch. Job 40:5). In judging of his language however we are to remember:—
1. The extremity of his sufferings and the depth of his distress. His language extravagant but natural. Stunned by his calamities. Great sufferings naturally generate great passions. Job’s sufferings to be viewed in connection with—
(1) His high unblemished character;
(2) His previous long continued prosperity;
(3) The prevalent ideas as to Divine retribution.
2. The time of his suffering also a time of spiritual darkness. Satan’s permission extended to the mind as well as the body. Mental confusion often the result of Satan’s buffetings. Times of outward trouble often those also of inward conflict.
3. The period at which Job lived. Twilight as compared with that of the Gospel. Topics of consolation limited. No suffering Forerunner and Example to contemplate. Prospects dim as regarded the future world. No Scriptures with examples written for patience and comfort.
4. The usually depressing nature of Job’s disease.
5. The fact that the holiest saint is nothing except as strengthened and upheld by Divine grace.
6. Even in Job’s complaint, no reproach is uttered against either the Author or instruments of his trouble.
II. Job curses the day of his birth (Job 3:1-3, &c.).
“Cursed his day.” Vilified, reproached, and execrated the day of his birth. A different word from that in Job 1:5; Job 1:11; Job 2:5; Job 2:9.; but the proper Hebrew word for cursing. Wished it to be branded as an evil, doleful, unhappy day. Similar language used by Jeremiah under less trying circumstances (Jeremiah 20:14-18). The words mark:—
1. Satan’s defeat. Job curses his day; Satan expected him to curse his God. Under law, Satan conquers; under grace, suffers defeat.
2. Job’s fall. The language a contrast with Job 1:21; Job 2:10. A secret and indirect reflection on Divine Providence. Job hitherto “a perfect man;” is he so now? (James 3:2). An end seen to all human perfection (Psalms 119:96). A believer’s fall consistent with final conquest (Micah 7:8). Faith and patience may both suffer eclipse without perishing (Luke 22:32). A sheep may fall into the mire, while a swine wallows in it [Brookes]. Satan’s sieve brings out the saint’s chaff. The Scripture verified (Ecclesiastes 7:20; 1 Kings 8:46; Proverbs 20:9; James 3:2). The man Christ Jesus the only Righteous One (1 John 2:2). Tempted in all points, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). The greatest sufferer, yet His only cry: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46). Endured anguish and temptation without abatement of love or trace of impatience. Thought also of the day of His birth, but with thankfulness and praise (Psalms 22:9-10).
3. The presence of the flesh in believers. In ch. Job 1:21 and Job 2:10, the Spirit spoke in Job; in Job 3:3, &c., the flesh. The flesh in Job cursed the day of his birth; the spirit in David blessed God for the same thing (Psalms 139:14-17). The believer is like Rebekah with two nations in her womb (Genesis 25:23). These in perpetual conflict with each other (Galatians 5:17; Romans 7:25). Hence “out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing” (James 3:10).
4. The folly and wickedness of sin. Foolish to curse a day at all; wicked to curse one’s birthday. Every day is God’s creature; our birthday, His creature to us for good. Under a dispensation of mercy, every man’s birthday either a blessing, or may be such. Present misery not to obliterate the remembrance of past mercy. The very thing which Job had formerly reproved in his wife (ch. Job 2:10).
5. The passionate vehemence of Job’s grief. Seen in the language and figures he employs. Job 3:5. “Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it.” Take away its beauty and make it abominable; or rather, as the margin: “Claim it for its own;” take it back and keep entire possession of it. Allusion to primeval chaotic darkness (Genesis 1:2).—“Let a cloud dwell upon it;” or, “let a mass of clouds pitch their tent over it.” The utterance of a deeply moved and excited spirit. Words similar in sense heaped together to intensify the idea. The eloquence of grief.—“Let the blackness of the day terrify it.” Let whatever tends to obscure the day, as eclipses, storms, clouds, hot winds, &c., make it dismal and frightful. The day on which Christ suffered, thus “terrified,” not by a natural but a supernatural darkness. “Surely nature is expiring, or the God of nature is suffering,”—said on that solemn occasion by a heathen philosopher.—Job 3:6. “Let it not come into the number of the months;”—let it disappear from the calendar; be made to drop out of memory and existence.—Job 3:7. “Let that night be solitary,” ungladdened by a single birth, and destitute of all social converse and festivity. Returns to the night of his conception. Sublime accumulation of poetic figures and tragic expressions.—“Let no joyful noise be heard therein;” no song or sound of mirth; no voice of natal or of nuptial joy. Let it be devoted to the wail of sorrow, or to deep perpetual silence.—Job 3:8. “Let them curse it that curse the day,”—either hired mourners, astrologers, or unhappy desperate persons; those accustomed to execrate daylight, the day of some special calamity, the day of their own birth, or that of some friend’s death. All such to be employed in execrating the day of Job’s birth.—“Who are ready to raise up their mourning;” or rather, as in the margin,—“to raise up a Leviathan,”—the crocodile or other monster (Isaiah 27:1). Same persons described. Probable reference to some popular superstition, or practice in lamentation and execration. Job wishes his birthday to be execrated by such persons in the strongest and most energetic language.—Job 3:9. “Neither let it see the dawning of the day.” The Hebrew full of poetic beauty,—“Let it not see the eyelids of the morning.” No cheerful rays of morning light glancing forth from the rising sun, to succeed that baleful night. Picture of eternal darkness. Heaven a nightless day, hell a dayless night [Trapp].
III. Job wishes he had never been, or had died when lie began to live (Job 3:11).
“Why died I not from the womb?” In the impetuosity and perplexity of his spirit, puts it in the form of a question. Questions often asked by a troubled spirit in petulance and rebellion. These questions among the things confessed by Job with humiliation and repentance (ch. Job 42:6). “God’s judgments a great deep; and he who asks why, will be driven out on this deep, for there is no chart to guide us” [Beecher]. That our times are in God’s hand quieted David’s spirit, but failed to quiet Job’s (Psalms 31:15). Observe:—
1. Times may come when the sweetest truths fail to comfort a child of God. Unbelief and passion shut out the light and refuse to be comforted.
2. Job’s language the common lament of fallen and suffering humanity. Heathen philosophy concluded that, in the view of the troubles of life, the best thing is not to be born at all; the next best is, to get out of the world as soon as possible.
3. Job’s question unanswerable but for the birth in Bethlehem. Better not to have been born at all, if not born again. With a Saviour provided and offered, our birth either a blessing, or might be. Under an economy of grace, life spared in mercy (Lamentations 3:22; 2 Peter 3:15).
4. A solemn question for each, Why did I not die from the womb? Life invested with the most solemn responsibilities. A solemn thing to die, perhaps more so to live. Important and mysterious purposes connected with each one’s life. The babe in the mother’s arms may prove a Moses, a David, or a Paul. “What will ever come of it?” said one to Franklin in reference to the first discovered balloon. “What will ever come of that?” replied Franklin, pointing to a baby in its cradle. Job ignorant, when he asked the question, that his name should become a synonym for suffering patience.
IV. Job describes the grave and state of the dead (Job 3:13-19)
The description grand, tragic, and poetical. Given according to outward appearance and in relation to earthly experience.
Death and the Grave
1. Death a state of quiet sleep (Job 3:13). A sleep as regards the animal frame. Gives the grave an attractiveness in a world of tumult and sorrow. Death a boon in such a world. The churchyard a hallowed resting place, where—“The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.” Only sin disturbs this beautiful idea. Sin plants thorns and deadly nightshade among roses and evergreens. Jesus takes away the sting of death, and makes the grave a bed of rest. The death of a believer pre-eminently a sleep (1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:10). The sleep in Jesus followed by a blessed awaking (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
2. The grave a place of general rendezvous (Job 3:14; Job 3:16; Job 3:19). “The small and great,”—infants that never saw the light, with kings and their counsellors of state, all gather in the common ante-room of the grave, waiting the resurrection summons. In the great cemetery of Cairo, the magnificent mausoleums of the caliphs are mingled with the humble graves of the poor. Common receptacle for “the wise and foolish, cowards, and the brave.”
3. A place of absolute equality (Job 3:19). “The small and great are there;” or, “are there the same.” On the same level, and in the same condition. The bones of the prince undistinguished in the charnel-house from those of the peasant. “Dust to dust” pronounced over the coffin of the monarch as well as that of the pauper. The burial place of Alexander the Great shown in an obscure corner in Alexandria. The only distinction in the next world determined by our character and conduct in this.
4. A place where the wicked cease from their oppression (Job 3:17-18). The grave an effectual check to the wrongs of the tyrant, the slave-owner, and the persecutor. Herod smitten in the midst of his murders and eaten up of worms (Acts 12:23).
5. A place of rest for the suffering and weary (Job 3:17-19). “The prisoners rest together;”—hearing no more “the cruel voice nor sounding rod.” Prisoners in the gold mines of Egypt, like slaves in more recent times, were driven to their work by the lash, their taskmasters being barbarian soldiers, who spoke a foreign language.—“The servant is free from his master.” Slavery viewed as, in most cases, worse than death. To make the repose of the grave real and complete was the mission of Jesus, (Matthew 11:28). The true rest in death taught in Hebrews 4:9; Revelation 14:13. The grave a sweet resting place only to those who have found rest in Christ. To believers, a place of rest—
(1) From the cares and troubles of life;
(2) From the oppression of man and the buffetings of Satan;
(3) From the burden of a carnal and sinful nature;
(4) From the conflict with sin and the flesh;
(5) From painful labours in the service of Christ and humanity. Do your work, and God will send you to rest in good time [Trapp].
6. A place exhibiting the vanity of earthly glory and riches (Job 3:14). Kings and counsellors of the earth among the tenants of the tomb (Isaiah 14:6; Ezekiel 32:21, &c.). “Earth’s proudest triumphs end in ‘Here he lies.’ ” “This” (a shroud fastened and carried at the top of a lance by his own command), “this is all that remains to Saladin the Great of all his glory.” “Conquer the whole earth, and in a few days such a spot as this (six feet of earth) will be all you have” [Constantine the Great to a miser]. All the glory of Napoleon dwindled down to a pair of military boots, which he insisted on having on when dying. Death and corruption mock “the pride of heraldry and the pomp of power.” The bodies of Egyptian kings and statesmen embalmed and preserved for thousands of years. Wealth and art may preserve the body’s form, but neither its life nor beauty.—“Which built desolate places for themselves.” Only that. Their gain and glory for which they laboured, only a desolation. Palaces to become ruins,—pyramids and mausoleums to be rifled of their contents. The ruins of Cæsar’s Golden Palace at Rome now partly covered with a peasant’s garden; those of Cleopatra’s palace at Alexandria scarcely distinguishable. The great pyramid at Ghizeh still standing, but shorn of its original beauty. The marble casing stripped from its sides to adorn a neighbouring city. Its granite sarcophagus, once containing the dust of Cheops, its royal founder, long empty. In the second pyramid, the body of its founder, Cephren, discovered a few years ago and brought to England. The Egyptian tombs themselves usually built in or near a desert. These tombs generally built on a scale of great extent and magnificence. Often hewn out of the solid rock and highly decorated. The rock-hewn tombs at Thebes about two miles in extent. Of the pyramids at Ghizeh, the largest occupies an area of 13 acres; the second 11. The whole one solid mass of masonry, with a small chamber or two in the centre. The height of the Great Pyramid, 479 feet, or 119 higher than St. Paul’s Church in London. These pyramids built by the Kings themselves, and for themselves. Begun at their accession, enlarged each successsive year of their reign, and closed, as if for ever, at their death. More care bestowed by the Egyptians on their tombs than on their dwellings. In Persia, royal sepulchres, apart from others, cut out high up in the face of steep cliffs. Shebna’s vanity (Isaiah 22:16). Some take more care about their sepulchres than their souls [Caryl]. A heathen poet says: “Light is the loss of a sepulchre;” but who can calculate the loss of a soul? (Matthew 16:26).—(Job 3:15). “With princes that had gold.” Had gold. Their riches a thing of the past. Their gold unable to bribe away death.—“Who filled their houses with silver,” which should rather have filled the hungry. Gold and silver often preserved to be a witness against its possessor. Treasure heaped together for the last days (James 5:3). Perhaps ordered by the possessors to be deposited with them in their tombs, also called their houses (Isaiah 22:16; Isaiah 14:18-19). Its presence there a bitter mockery, its former possessor able neither to use nor recognize it.
IV. Job complains that life is continued to the suffering and sorrowing (Job 3:20.)
“Wherefore is light given to them that are in misery?” &c. A tacit reflection on his Maker’s goodness, justice, and wisdom. Another of those things that Job repented of “in dust and ashes,” (Job 3:26).
Wisely and graciously continued even to sufferers.
1. If unprepared for death, the sufferer is spared in mercy for such preparation. Death to the unprepared the harbinger of death eternal. An infinitely greater evil to be cut off in sin than to be spared in suffering. The life of nature mercifully continued, that the life of grace may be obtained here, and the life of glory hereafter.
2. If prepared, the sufferer’s life is continued for various wise and gracious purposes.
(1.) For proof and trial of his slate. Suffering a touchstone of sincerity. Affliction the fire that tries the moral metal of the soul. God uses not scales to weigh our graces, but a touchstone to try them [Brookes].
(2.) For further sanctification. Afflictions God’s goldsmiths. The rising waves lifted the ark nearer heaven. Affliction the Christian man’s divinity. Deepens repentance for sin, the cause of all suffering. Promotes the exercise of Christian graces, especially meekness, patience, and submission. Even Christ learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Trials develope and strengthen Christian character. Each succeeding wave hardens the oyster-shell that encloses the pearl.
(3.) For enhancement of future glory and happiness. As we suffer with Christ we shall be glorified with him. Labour makes rest sweeter and the crown brighter.
(4.) For the benefit and edification of others. Suffering meekly borne by a believer exhibits the sustaining power of grace and so encourages others. The believer’s lamp often trimmed afresh at a fellow-christian’s sick bed. Christian animated to persevere through the Valley of the Shadow of Death by the sound of Faithful’s voice before him. Four hundred persons converted to Christ by witnessing Cæcilia’s demeanour under suffering.
(5.) For the glory of Him who is both the Author and Finisher of faith. Affliction meekly endured exhibits the faithfulness and love of God, and so leads both ourselves and others to praise Him (Isaiah 24:15; 1 Peter 1:7).—Suffering a blessing to society, and one of its regenerating forces. Tends to humble pride and check evil-doers. Exhibits the evil of sin, the vanity of the world, and the certainty of death. Affords room for the exercise of sympathy, compassion, and benevolence. Gives scope to self-sacrifice, the noblest form of humanity.
V. Job expresses his longing for death (Job 3:21).
“Which long for death, &c.” Said to be especially true of those who laboured in the gold mines of Egypt. A peculiar feature of Job’s disease. Probably suicide the temptation presented to him by Satan through his wife. Suicide Satan’s recipe for the ills of humanity. Job longs for death but is kept by grace from doing anything to procure it.
Our time in God’s hand, not our own. He is ill fitted to die who is unwilling to live. Physical death only a blessing to him who has been delivered from spiritual death, and so secured against death eternal. Death a monster only to be safely encountered when deprived of his sting. His terrors only quenched in the blood of Christ. Death only to be desired—
(1.) When our work is done;
(2.) When God pleases to call us;
(3.) That we may be freed from sin;
(4.) That we may be with Christ (Philippians 1:23). To bear life’s burden well is better than to be delivered from it. Grace makes a man willing to live, amidst life’s greatest privations and sufferings; willing to die, amidst its greatest enjoyments and comforts.—“And it cometh not.’ The extreme of misery to desire death and not be able to find it (Revelation 9:6). The misery of the damned. Endless existence the crown of hell’s torments. Salted with fire (Mark 9:49), The first death drives the soul out of the body; the misery of the second death is, that it keeps the soul in it.
VI. Job plaintively dwells on his sad condition (Job 3:23).
Describes himself as “A man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in,”—visited with troubles which he cannot understand, and from which he sees no way of escape. The soul in darkness misreads all God’s dealings, and only looks on the dark side. Satan had said of Job what Job here says of himself, but with greater truth. Satan truly but enviously viewed God as hedging Job round with protection and blessing; Job views God as unkindly hedging him round with darkness and trouble. Job ascribes to God what was really done by Satan with God’s permission, or by God only at Satan’s instigation. The memory of past good too often obliterated by the experience of present evil.—Represents his present calamities as the realisation of his worst fears (Job 3:25). “The thing which I greatly feared is come upon me.” A tender conscience fears reverses in the height of prosperity, and in consequence of it. A fall after great felicity an instinct of human nature. Paulus Emilius, a Roman general, on the death of his two sons immediately after an unusually splendid triumph, said: “I have always had a dread of fortune; and because in the course of this war she prospered every measure of mine, the rather did I expect that some tempest would follow so favourable a gale.” A wise man feareth, but a fool rageth and is confident” (Proverbs 14:16).
Fear of the Future
Apprehension of future evil right and profitable—
(1.) When it preserves from carnal and careless security (Psalms 30:6-7);
(2.) When it incites to the use of right means to prevent it (Proverbs 14:16);
(3.) When it leads us to prepare for it by seeking strength to endure it;
(4.) When it arises from the conviction of the uncertainty of earthly good (Proverbs 27:24);
(5.) When it produces earnestness in securing a better and enduring portion (Matthew 6:20);
(6.) When it leads to fidelity in the improvement of present benefits.
Such apprehension wrong and hurtful;—
(1.) When arising from undue anxiety about the continuance of present mercies;
(2.) When attended with anxiety and distrust about the future (Philippians 4:6);
(3.) When preventing the thankful enjoyment of present blessings (Ecclesiastes 2:23-24);
(4.) When leading to undue means to preserve them.
Apprehension and freedom from security no prevention of the evil (Job 3:26). “Yet trouble came.” Learn—
(1) Prayer and piety are no security against trouble. God has not promised to preserve his people from trouble, but to support them in it;
(2) No human caution or foresight is able to secure men against calamity. The race not to the swift nor the battle to the strong.
(3) To sit loose to earthly comforts is the best way to retain them, or to bear their removal. To God’s people no trouble comes unsent, or without a blessing in its bosom. Trouble in the believer’s inventory (1 Corinthians 3:21-22). Among the “all things” that work together for his good (Romans 8:28). Unable to separate him from Christ’s love (Romans 8:39). The storm makes the traveller wrap himself more closely in his mantle.
Trouble and its Uses to the Believer
To believers trouble is,—
1. Purifying. Affliction is God’s furnace for purging away our dross; his thorn for piercing through our pride. The Jews clung to idols till they were carried captive to Babylon. The three captives lost nothing in the furnace but their bonds.
2. Preservative. Often preserves from greater evils. Augustine missed his way, and so escaped intended mischief. The Christian’s armour rusts in time of peace. Salt brine preserves from putrefaction.
3. Fructifying. Affliction makes both fragrant and fruitful. God’s rod, like Aaron’s buds, blossoms, and bears almonds. Flowers smell sweetest after a shower. Vines said to bear the better for bleeding. Believers often most internally fruitful when most externally afflicted. Manasseh’s chain more profitable to him than his crown. Many trees grow better in the shade than the sunshine.
4. Teaching. Trouble teaches by experience. God’s rod a speaking one. At eventide light. Stars shine when the sun goes down. Some scriptures not understood by Luther till he was in affliction. God’s house of correction His school of instruction.
5. Brings consolation. Suffering times often the believer’s singing times. Songs in the night. As our tribulations in Christ, so our consolations. Every stone thrown at Stephen drove him nearer to Christ. Jacob’s most blessed sleep when he had only stones for his pillow. Paul’s sweetest epistles written when a prisoner at Rome. The most of Heaven seen by John when a lonely exile at Patmos. The darker the cloud the brighter the rainbow. God’s presence changes the furnace of trial into a fire of joy. God’s rod, like Jonathan’s staff, brings honey on its point.
6. Conforms us to Christ. God had one son without sin, but none without suffering. All His members to be conformed to His suffering image, though some resemble Him more than others [Rutherford].
7. Is the way to the Kingdom. Affliction, only a dark passage to our Father’s house,—a dark lane to a royal palace. The short storm that ends in an everlasting calm [Brookes].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26