Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day.
THE POEM OR DEBATE ITSELF (Job 3:2-42:6). FIRST SERIES IN IT (Job 3:1-14:22). JOB FIRST (Job 3:1-26).
Job 3:1-19. Job Curses the Day of His Birth and Wishes for Death.
1. opened his mouth—The Orientals speak seldom, and then sententiously; hence this formula expressing deliberation and gravity (Ps 78:2). He formally began.
cursed his day—the strict Hebrew word for "cursing:" not the same as in Job 1:5. Job cursed his birthday, but not his God.
And Job spake, and said,
2. spake—Hebrew, "answered," that is, not to any actual question that preceded, but to the question virtually involved in the case. His outburst is singularly wild and bold (Jer 20:14). To desire to die so as to be free from sin is a mark of grace; to desire to die so as to escape troubles is a mark of corruption. He was ill-fitted to die who was so unwilling to live. But his trials were greater, and his light less, than ours.
Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.
3. the night in which—rather "the night which said." The words in italics are not in the Hebrew. Night is personified and poetically made to speak. So in Job 3:7, and in Ps 19:2. The birth of a male in the East is a matter of joy; often not so of a female.
Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it.
4. let not God regard it—rather, more poetically, "seek it out." "Let not God stoop from His bright throne to raise it up from its dark hiding-place." The curse on the day in Job 3:3, is amplified in Job 3:4, 5; that on the night, in Job 3:6-10.
Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it.
5. Let … the shadow of death—("deepest darkness," Isa 9:2).
stain it—This is a later sense of the verb [Gesenius]; better the old and more poetic idea, "Let darkness (the ancient night of chaotic gloom) resume its rights over light (Ge 1:2), and claim that day as its own."
a cloud—collectively, a gathered mass of dark clouds.
the blackness of the day terrify it—literally, "the obscurations"; whatever darkens the day [Gesenius]. The verb in Hebrew expresses sudden terrifying. May it be suddenly affrighted at its own darkness. Umbreit explains it as "magical incantations that darken the day," forming the climax to the previous clauses; Job 3:8 speaks of "cursers of the day" similarly. But the former view is simpler. Others refer it to the poisonous simoom wind.
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.
6. seize upon it—as its prey, that is, utterly dissolve it.
joined unto the days of the year—rather, by poetic personification, "Let it not rejoice in the circle of days and nights and months, which form the circle of years."
Lo, let that night be solitary, let no joyful voice come therein.
7. solitary—rather, "unfruitful." "Would that it had not given birth to me."
Let them curse it that curse the day, who are ready to raise up their mourning.
8. them … curse the day—If "mourning" be the right rendering in the latter clause of this verse, these words refer to the hired mourners of the dead (Jer 9:17). But the Hebrew for "mourning" elsewhere always denotes an animal, whether it be the crocodile or some huge serpent (Isa 27:1), such as is meant by "leviathan." Therefore, the expression, "cursers of day," refers to magicians, who were believed to be able by charms to make a day one of evil omen. (So Balaam, Nu 22:5). This accords with Umbreit's view (Job 3:7); or to the Ethiopians and Atlantes, who "used to curse the sun at his rising for burning up them and their country" [Herodotus]. Necromancers claimed power to control or rouse wild beasts at will, as do the Indian serpent-charmers of our day (Ps 58:5). Job does not say they had the power they claimed; but, supposing they had, may they curse the day. Schuttens renders it by supplying words as follows:—Let those that are ready for anything, call it (the day) the raiser up of leviathan, that is, of a host of evils.
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:
9. dawning of the day—literally, "eyelashes of morning." The Arab poets call the sun the eye of day. His early rays, therefore, breaking forth before sunrise, are the opening eyelids or eyelashes of morning.
Because it shut not up the doors of my mother's womb, nor hid sorrow from mine eyes.
Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?
Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck?
12. Why did the knees prevent me?—Old English for "anticipate my wants." The reference is to the solemn recognition of a new-born child by the father, who used to place it on his knees as his own, whom he was bound to rear (Ge 30:3; 50:23; Isa 66:12).
For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest,
13. lain … quiet … slept—a gradation. I should not only have lain, but been quiet, and not only been quiet, but slept. Death in Scripture is called "sleep" (Ps 13:3); especially in the New Testament, where the resurrection-awakening is more clearly set forth (1Co 15:51; 1Th 4:14; 5:10).
With kings and counsellers of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves;
14. With kings … which built desolate places for themselves—who built up for themselves what proved to be (not palaces, but) ruins! The wounded spirit of Job, once a great emir himself, sick of the vain struggles of mortal great men, after grandeur, contemplates the palaces of kings, now desolate heaps of ruins. His regarding the repose of death the most desirable end of the great ones of earth, wearied with heaping up perishable treasures, marks the irony that breaks out from the black clouds of melancholy [Umbreit]. The "for themselves" marks their selfishness. Michaelis explains it weakly of mausoleums, such as are found still, of stupendous proportions, in the ruins of Petra of Idumea.
Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver:
15. filled their houses with silver—Some take this to refer to the treasures which the ancients used to bury with their dead. But see Job 3:26.
Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light.
16. untimely birth—(Ps 58:8); preferable to the life of the restless miser (Ec 6:3-5).
There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.
17. the wicked—the original meaning, "those ever restless," "full of desires" (Isa 57:20, 21).
the weary—literally, "those whose strength is wearied out" (Re 14:13).
There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor.
18. There the prisoners rest—from their chains.
The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master.
19. servant—The slave is there manumitted from slavery.
Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul;
Job 3:20-26. He Complains of Life because of His Anguish.
20. Wherefore giveth he light—namely, God; often omitted reverentially (Job 24:23; Ec 9:9). Light, that is, life. The joyful light ill suits the mourners. The grave is most in unison with their feelings.
Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures;
Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave?
Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in?
23. whose way is hid—The picture of Job is drawn from a wanderer who has lost his way, and who is hedged in, so as to have no exit of escape (Ho 2:6; La 3:7, 9).
For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters.
24. my sighing cometh before I eat—that is, prevents my eating [Umbreit]; or, conscious that the effort to eat brought on the disease, Job must sigh before eating [Rosenmuller]; or, sighing takes the place of good (Ps 42:3) [Good]. But the first explanation accords best with the text.
my roarings are poured out like the waters—an image from the rushing sound of water streaming.
For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.
25. the thing which I … feared is come upon me—In the beginning of his trials, when he heard of the loss of one blessing, he feared the loss of another; and when he heard of the loss of that, he feared the loss of a third.
that which I was afraid of is come unto me—namely, the ill opinion of his friends, as though he were a hypocrite on account of his trials.
I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.
26. I was not in safety … yet trouble came—referring, not to his former state, but to the beginning of his troubles. From that time I had no rest, there was no intermission of sorrows. "And" (not, "yet") a fresh trouble is coming, namely, my friends' suspicion of my being a hypocrite. This gives the starting-point to the whole ensuing controversy.