Job 3:12
Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck?
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(12) Preventi.e., “Why was I nursed with care instead of being allowed to fall to the ground and be killed?”

3:11-19 Job complained of those present at his birth, for their tender attention to him. No creature comes into the world so helpless as man. God's power and providence upheld our frail lives, and his pity and patience spared our forfeited lives. Natural affection is put into parents' hearts by God. To desire to die that we may be with Christ, that we may be free from sin, is the effect and evidence of grace; but to desire to die, only that we may be delivered from the troubles of this life, savours of corruption. It is our wisdom and duty to make the best of that which is, be it living or dying; and so to live to the Lord, and die to the Lord, as in both to be his, Ro 14:8. Observe how Job describes the repose of the grave; There the wicked cease from troubling. When persecutors die, they can no longer persecute. There the weary are at rest: in the grave they rest from all their labours. And a rest from sin, temptation, conflict, sorrows, and labours, remains in the presence and enjoyment of God. There believers rest in Jesus, nay, as far as we trust in the Lord Jesus and obey him, we here find rest to our souls, though in the world we have tribulation.Why did the knees prevent me? - That is, the lap of the nurse or of the mother, probably the latter. The sense is, that if he had not been delicately and tenderly nursed, he would have died at once. He came helpless into the world, and but for the attention of others he would have soon died. Jahn supposes (Archae section 161) that it was a common custom for the father, on the birth of a son, to clasp the new-born child to his bosom, while music was heard to sound, and by this ceremony to declare it as his own. That there was some such recognition of a child or expression of paternal regard, is apparent from Genesis 50:23. Probably, however, the whole sense of the passage is expressed by the tender care which is necessarily shown to the new-born infant to preserve it alive. The word rendered "prevent" here קדם qâdam, means properly to anticipate, to go before, as the English word "prevent" formerly did; and hence, it means to go to meet anyone in order to aid him in any way. There is much beauty in the word here. It refers to the provision which God has made in the tender affection of the parent to "anticipate" the needs of the child. The arrangement has been made beforehand. God has taken care when the feeble and helpless infant is born, that tender affection has been already created and prepared to meet it. It has not to be created then; it is not to be excited by the suffering of the child; it is already in existence as an active, powerful, and self-denying principle, to "anticipate" the needs of the newborn babe, and to save it from death. 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). Why did the knees prevent me? why did the midwife or nurse receive me, and lay me upon her knees, and did not suffer me to fall upon the bare ground, and there to lie, in a neglected and forlorn condition, till merciful death had taken me out of this miserable world, into which the cruel kindness of my mother and midwife hath betrayed me?

Why the breasts that I should suck? Why did the breasts prevent me, (which may be fitly understood out of the former member,) to wit, from perishing through hunger, or supply me, that I should have what to suck? Seeing my mother had not a miscarrying womb, but did unhappily bring me forth why had she not dry breasts? or why were there any breasts for me which I might suck? Thus Job most unthankfully and unworthily despiseth and traduceth these wonderful and singular mercies of God towards poor helpless infants, because of the present inconveniencies which he had by means of them.

Why did the knees prevent me?.... Not of the mother, as Jarchi, but of the midwife, who received him into her lap, and nourished and cherished him, washed him with water, salted, and swaddled him; or it may be of his father, with whom it was usual to take the child on his knees as soon as born, see Genesis 50:23; which custom obtained among the Greeks and Romans (o); hence the goddess Levana (p) had her name, causing the father in this way to own his child; his concern is, that he did not fall to the ground as he came out of his mother's womb, and with that fall die; and that he was prevented from falling by the officious knees of the midwife; that he was not suffered to fall, and be left there, without having any of the usual things done to him for the comfort and preservation of life, which was sometimes the case, Ezekiel 16:4,

or why the breasts that I should suck? since a miscarrying womb was not given, and death did not seize him immediately upon birth, but all proper care was taken to prevent it, he asks, why was there milk in the breasts of his mother or nurse to suckle and nourish him? why were there not dry breasts, such as would afford no milk, that so he might have been starved? thus he wishes the kindest things in nature and Providence had been withheld from him.

(o) Homer. Iliad. 9. Vid. Barthii Animadv. ad Claudian. in Nupt. Honor. ver. 341. (p) Kipping. Antiqu. Roman. l. 1. c. 1. sect. 10.

Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck?
12. the knees prevent me] Rather, receive, or meet me. The reference may be to the father’s knees, on which the new born child was laid, or more general. As to the expression, see Genesis 50:23; Isaiah 66:12. The sufferer’s eye runs over all the chances of death which he had miserably lost, when he came from the womb, was laid upon the knees, and pressed to the breasts. The sorrow of his later years transmutes (as it does still with others) the tender affections and solicitudes lavished on his infancy, and makes them seem bitter cruelties.

Verse 12. - Why did the knees prevent me? i.e. "Why did my mother take me on her knees and nurse me, instead of casting me on the ground, where I should have perished?" There seems to be an allusion to the practice of parents only bringing up a certain number of their children (see Rosenmuller, 'Scholia in Vit. Test.,' vol. 5. p. 101). Or why the breasts that I should suck? i.e. "Why were breasts offered to me, that I should suck them? How much better would it have been if I had been allowed to perish of inanition!" Job 3:1210 Because it did not close the doors of my mother's womb,

Nor hid sorrow from my eyes.

11 Why did I not die from the womb,

Come forth from the womb and expire?

12 Why have the knees welcomed me?

And why the breasts, that I should suck?

The whole strophe contains strong reason for his cursing the night of his conception or birth. It should rather have closed (i.e., make the womb barren, to be explained according to 1 Samuel 1:5; Genesis 16:2) the doors of his womb (i.e., the womb that conceived concepit him), and so have withdrawn the sorrow he now experiences from his unborn eyes (on the extended force of the negative, vid., Ges. 152, 3). Then why, i.e., to what purpose worth the labour, is he then conceived and born? The four questions, Job 3:11., form a climax: he follows the course of his life from its commencement in embryo (מרהם, to be explained according to Jeremiah 20:17, and Job 10:18, where, however, it is מן local, not as here, temporal) to the birth, and from the joy of his father who took the new-born child upon his knees (comp. Genesis 50:23) to the first development of the infant, and he curses this growing life in its four phases (Arnh., Schlottm.). Observe the consecutio temp. The fut. אמוּת has the signification moriebar, because taken from the thought of the first period of his conception and birth; so also ואגוע, governed by the preceding perf., the signification et exspirabam (Ges. 127, 4, c). Just so אינק, but modal, ut sugerem ea.

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