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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Job 3

A.M. 2484. B.C. 1520.

We have here Job cursing his birth-day, and complaining that he was born, Job 3:1-10 . Complaining that he did not die as soon as he was born, Job 3:11-19 . Complaining that his life was continued now he was in misery, Job 3:20-26 .

Verse 1

Job 3:1. After this Job opened his mouth The days of mourning being now over, and no hopes appearing of Job’s amendment, but his afflictions rather increasing, he bursts into a severe lamentation; he wishes he had never existed, or that his death had immediately followed his birth; life under such a load of calamity appearing to him the greatest affliction. Undoubtedly Satan, who had been permitted to bring the fore-mentioned calamities upon him, and to torment his body so dreadfully, had also obtained liberty to assault his mind with various and powerful temptations. This he now does with the utmost violence, injecting hard thoughts of God, as being severe, unjust, and his enemy; that he might shake his confidence and hope, and produce that horror and dismay, which might issue in his cursing God. For, as is justly observed by Mr. Scott, unless we bring these inward trials into the account, during which we may conclude that he was deprived of all comfortable sense of God’s favour, and filled with a dread of his wrath, we shall not readily apprehend the reason of the change that took place in his conduct, from the entire resignation manifested in the preceding chapters, to the impatience which appears here, and in some of the subsequent parts of this book. But this consideration solves the difficulty: the inward conflict and anguish of his mind, added to all his outward sufferings, caused the remaining corruption of his nature to work so powerfully, that at length it burst forth in many improper expressions. And cursed his day His birth-day, as is evident from Job 3:3. In vain do some endeavour to excuse this and the following speeches of Job, who afterward is reproved by God, and severely accuses himself for them, Job 38:2; Job 40:4; Job 42:3; Job 42:6. And yet he does not proceed so far as to curse God, and therefore makes the devil a liar: but although he does not break forth into direct reproaches of God, yet he makes indirect reflections upon his providence. His curse was sinful, both because it was vain, being applied to what was not capable of receiving blessing or cursing, and because it reflected blame on God for bringing that day into existence, and for giving him life on that day. Some other pious persons, through a similar infirmity, when immersed in deep troubles, have vented their grief in the same unjustifiable way. See Jeremiah 20:14.

Verse 3

Job 3:3. Here the metrical part of this book begins, which in the original Hebrew is broken into short verses, and is very beautiful, thus: שׂאבד יום אולד בו Jobad jom ivaled bo, והלילה אמר הרה גבר Vehalailah amar horah geber.

Let the day perish wherein I was born, And the night which said, A man child is conceived.

Let the day perish, &c. So far from desiring, according to the general and prevailing custom, that my birth-day should be celebrated; that any singular tokens of joy and gratulation should be expressed on it, in remembrance of my coming into the world, my earnest and passionate desire is, that it may not so much as be reckoned one of the days of the year, but that both it and the remembrance of it may be utterly lost. And the night in which it was said With joy and triumph, as happy tidings, There is a man-child conceived Or rather, brought forth, as the word הרה , harah, signifies, (1 Chronicles 4:17,) for the exact time of conception is commonly unknown to women themselves, and certainly is not wont to be reported among men, as this day is supposed to be. Indeed, this latter clause is only a repetition of the former, expressing that, whether it was day or night when he was born, he wished the time to be forgotten. Heath translates the words, And the night which said, See, a man-child is born; and he observes, from Schultens, “that the bearing of a son was considered a matter of great consequence among the Arabians; the form of their appreciation of happiness to a new-married woman being, ‘May you live happy, and bring forth male children.’“

Verse 4

Job 3:4. Let that day be darkness I wish the sun had never risen on that day; or, which is the same thing, that it had never been: and whensoever that day returns, instead of the cheering and refreshing beams of light arising upon it, I wish it may be covered with gross, thick darkness, and rendered black, gloomy, and uncomfortable; let not God regard it from above From heaven, by causing the light of heaven to visit it; or, let God make no more inquiry after it than if such a day had never been. Dr. Waterland renders it, Let not God take account of it.

Verse 5

Job 3:5 . Let darkness and the shadow of death Let the most dismal darkness, like that of the place of the dead, which is a land of darkness, and where the light is darkness, Job 10:21-22; or darkness so gross and palpable, that its horrors are insupportable; stain it Take away its beauty and glory, and render it abominable as a filthy thing; or, rather, challenge or claim it, as the word יגאלהו , jigaluhu, here used, may properly be rendered, the verb גאל , gaal, signifying, primarily, to avenge, redeem, rescue, deliver, claim, possess. Indeed, as Houbigant justly observes, “There enters nothing of pollution into the idea of darkness.” Let a cloud dwell upon it, &c. Let the thickest clouds wholly possess it, and render it terrible to men. Dr. Waterland renders the last clause, Let the blackness make it hideous.

Verse 6

Job 3:6. As for that night, let darkness seize upon it Constant and extraordinary darkness, without the least glimmering of light from the moon or stars; darkness to the highest degree possible. Thus, as Job had thrown out his resentment against the day in which he was both, so now the severity of his censure falls on his birth-right; and his style, we find, increases and grows stronger. Our translation, indeed, makes no difference in the expression of darkness; namely, “Let that day be darkness; as for that night, let darkness seize upon it.” But the Hebrew is very different: for חשׁךְ , choshec, is applied to the day, and אפל , ophel, to the night, which latter word signifies a much greater degree of darkness than the former. See Joel 2:2; in the Hebrew, where the latter word, אפלה , ophelah, means thick and terrible darkness. Let it not be joined unto the days of the year Reckoned as one, or a part of one of them. Or rather, Let it not rejoice among the days, &c., for יחד , jechad, from חדה , chadah, lætari, to rejoice, may properly be so rendered. Joy here, and terror Job 3:5, are poetically and figuratively ascribed to the day or night, with respect to men who may either rejoice or be affrighted therein. Let it not rejoice, that is, let it be a sad, and, as it were, a funeral day. Let it not come into the number of the months May every month be looked upon as perfect and complete without taking that night or day into the number.

Verse 7

Job 3:7. Let that night be solitary Destitute of all society of men, meeting and feasting together. Let it afford no entertainment or pleasure of any kind; let no joyful voice come therein No music, no harmony of sound be heard, no cheerful or pleasing voice admitted! Let no expressions of joy be so much as once attempted, however engaging and affecting they may be.

Verse 8

Job 3:8. Let them curse it that curse the day That is, their birth-day: when their afflictions move them to curse their own birth-day, let them remember mine also, and bestow some curses upon it; who are ready to raise up their mourning Who are full of sorrow, and always ready to pour out their cries, and tears, and complaints. A late writer paraphrases this verse as follows: “So little am I concerned to have my birth-night celebrated by any public demonstrations of joy, by any solemn blessing or giving of thanks, that I would rather choose to hire a set of those men, whose business it is to curse the days that are esteemed inauspicious, and who are always ready on such occasions. Let them be produced, and let them apply all their skill in raising their mournful voices to the highest pitch: and let them study to find out proper expressions to load it with the highest and heaviest imprecations.” If the reader will consult Poole and Dodd on the passage, he will find some reasons adduced which go to justify this exposition; but for which we have not room here.

Verse 9

Job 3:9. Let the stars of the twilight thereof, &c. That adorn the heavens with so much beauty and lustre, never be seen that night. Let it look for light, but have none Let it wait with the greatest impatience for some pleasing refreshment from thick, heavy clouds hanging over it; but let not the smallest degree of light appear; neither let it see the dawning of the day Neither let it perceive the least glimpse of those bright rays, which, with so much swiftness, issue from the rising sun.

Verse 10

Job 3:10. Because it shut not up my mother’s womb Because it did not confine me to the dark prison of the womb, but suffered me to escape from thence; nor hid sorrow from mine eyes Because it did not keep me from entering into this miserable life, and seeing or experiencing those bitter sorrows under which I now groan.

Verses 11-12

Job 3:11-12. Why died I not from the womb? It would surely have been far better, and much happier for me, had I either expired in the womb where I received my life, or it had been taken from me the very moment my eyes saw the light of this world. Why did the knees prevent me? Why did the midwife or nurse receive and lay me upon her knees, and not suffer me to fall upon the bare ground, till death had taken me out of this sorrowful world, into which their cruel kindness hath betrayed me? Why did the breasts prevent me from perishing through hunger, or supply me that I should have what to suck? Thus Job unthankfully despises these wonderful mercies of God toward poor, helpless infants.

Verses 13-14

Job 3:13-14. For now should I have lain still, and been quiet Free from those torments of body, and that anguish of mind, which now oppress me. With kings and counsellors of the earth I had then been as happy as the proudest monarchs, who, after all their great achievements, go down into their graves; which built desolate places for themselves Who distinguished themselves for a while, and to show their great wealth and power, and to leave behind them a glorious name, and perpetuate their memories, with great labour and expense erected pompous and magnificent buildings; and, to render themselves the more famous, raised them up in places which seemed before to be forsaken, and abandoned to entire desolation.

Verses 15-16

Job 3:15-16. Or with princes that had gold, &c. My repose and security from worldly anxieties would have been the same with that of those princes who were once celebrated for their wealth, and whose birth entitled them to large treasures of gold and silver. Or as a hidden That is, undiscerned and unregarded; untimely birth Born before the due time, and therefore extinct. I had not been To wit, in the land of the living, of which he here speaks; as infants which never saw light As those fœtuses that were never quickened, and come to nothing, or those infants which are stifled and dead before their birth.

Verse 17

Job 3:17. There the wicked cease from troubling In the grave the great oppressors and troublers of the world cease from their vexatious rapines and murders; and there the weary be at rest Those who were here molested, and tired out with their tyrannies, oppressions, and injuries, now quietly sleep with them.

Verse 18

Job 3:18. There the prisoners rest together That is, one as well as another; they who were lately deprived of their liberty, kept in the strongest chains and closest prisons, and condemned to the most hard and miserable slavery, rest as well as those who were captives in much better circumstances. They hear not the voice of the oppressor Or exactor, or taskmaster, (as the word נגשׁ , nogesh, is translated Exodus 5:6,) who urges and forces them, by cruel threatenings and stripes, to labour beyond their strength. Job does not here take into consideration their eternal state after death, of which he speaks hereafter, but only their freedom from worldly troubles, which is the sole matter of his present discourse.

Verse 19

Job 3:19. The small and great are there It should rather be rendered, are equal there; persons of all qualities and conditions, whether higher or lower, are in the same circumstances. There is no distinction in the grave, but the meanest and most despised peasant is in a situation equal to that of his rich and powerful neighbour. The man of birth and fortune appears there to no advantage: he commands no place; he usurps no authority; neither does he lord it over the poorest or meanest of the human race. And the servant is free from his master The most contemptible slave, who was entirely subject to the impositions and exactions of his owner, has got his discharge, and is now free from the power of him that tyrannized over him: a good reason this, why those who have power should use it moderately, and why those that are in subjection should take it patiently.

Verse 20

Job 3:20. Wherefore is light given למה יתן , lama jitten; why doth he give, or hath he given, light, namely, the light of life, to him that is in misery, whose life is a scene of sorrow and distress, loaded and pressed with numberless calamities? and life unto the bitter in soul Unto those whose life itself is very bitter and burdensome, whose souls are full of heaviness, being overpowered with the weight of affliction? Why doth he obtrude his favours upon those that abhor them?

Verse 21

Job 3:21. Who long for death With eagerness and impatience, as the Hebrew means. Who calls aloud for death, as Heath translates it. Qui ægre expectant, inhiant morti, who anxiously long and gasp for death; but it cometh not They long and gasp in vain. And dig for it more than for hid treasures Whose thoughts and wishes are so intent on their dissolution, that they expect it with as much earnestness as miners look for their golden treasures, who, being indefatigable in their pursuit, spare neither time nor labour, but penetrate still further into the deep caverns of the earth, to find out and enrich themselves with the secret, wished-for gain. It is observable, that Job durst not do any thing to hasten or procure his death. Notwithstanding all his miseries, he was contented to wait all the days of his appointed time till his change should come, Job 14:14.

Verse 22

Job 3:22. Which rejoice exceedingly, when they can find the grave To be thus impatient of life, for the sake of the trouble we meet with, is not only unnatural in itself, but ungrateful to the Giver of life, and shows a sinful indulgence of our own passion. Let it be our great and constant care to get ready for another world: and then let us leave it to God to order the circumstances of our removal thither.

Verse 23

Job 3:23. Why is light given to a man whose way is hid? Hid from him; who knows not his way, that is, which way to turn himself, what course to take to obtain comfort in his miseries, or to get out of them. And whom God hath hedged in Whom God hath put, as it were, in a prison, so that he can see no way or possibility of escape; but all refuge fails him.

Verse 24

Job 3:24. For my sighing cometh before I eat Hebrew, before the face of my bread. Instead of enjoying the satisfaction of being refreshed with the common necessaries that are afforded us, and taking any pleasure in eating and drinking, which are granted for comfort as well as sustenance, my cries and tears are my meat and drink. And my roarings are poured out like the waters So severe is my pain, and so great my anguish, that the agonies and outcries, which are extorted from me, are of no common sort: they are deep and noisy; hideous and frightful, and such as may be compared to the loud roarings of a lion. And though I strive, and take much pains, to check and silence them, yet I find it is to no purpose; for they force their way with irresistible violence and incessant continuance, in great abundance; like so many sudden and impetuous streams of waters, when a river breaks its banks and overflows the adjacent grounds.

Verse 25

Job 3:25. For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me Before this flood of misery was poured upon me, I was indeed under great and strong apprehensions, which I could not account for, of something or other that would happen to me; something extremely grievous and afflicting; something as bad, nay, worse than death itself. For I considered the variety of God’s providences, the changeableness of this vain world, the infirmities and contingencies to which human nature is liable in the present life, God’s justice, and the sinfulness of all mankind. And it is now evident that these fears of mine were not in vain, for they are justified by my present calamities. I may, therefore, say that I have never enjoyed any sound tranquillity since I was born; and, of consequence, it hath not been worth my while to live, since all my days have been evil, and full of trouble and distress, either by the fear of miseries or by the suffering of them.

Verse 26

Job 3:26. I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet Three expressions denoting the same thing, which was also signified in the verse immediately preceding, namely, that even in his prosperous days he never esteemed himself secure, or was perfectly free from the torment of fear and anxiety. Or, his meaning is, I did not misbehave myself in prosperity, abusing it by presumption and security; but I lived circumspectly, walking humbly with God, and working out my salvation with fear and trembling. Yet trouble came As I feared it would. So that between fear and calamity my whole life has been uncomfortable, and I had reason to repent of it. Therefore, in this sense also his way was hid, and he knew not why God contended with him.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 3". Benson's Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/job-3.html. 1857.