Job 3:14
With kings and counsellers of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves;
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(14) Desolate places—i.e., gorgeous tombs and splendid sepulchres, which, being tenanted only by the dead, are desolate; or it may mean that the places so built of old are now ruined and desolate. In the former sense it is possible that the Pyramids may here be hinted at.

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.With kings - Reposing as they do. This is the language of calm meditation on what would have been the consequence if he had died when he was an infant. He seems to delight to dwell on it. He contrasts it with his present situation. He pauses on the thought that that would have been an honorable repose. He would have been numbered with kings and princes. Is there not here a little spice of ambition even in his sorrows and humilation? Job had been an eminently rich man; a man greatly honored; an emir; a magistrate; one in whose presence even princes refrained talking, and before whom nobles held their peace; Job 29:9. Now he was stripped of his honors, and made to sit in ashes. But had he died when an infant, he would have been numbered with kings and courtsellers, and would have shared their lot. Death is repulsive; but Job takes comfort in the thought that he would have been associated with the most exalted and honorable among people. There is some consolation in the idea that when an infant dies he is associated with the most honored and exalted of the race; there is consolation in the reflection that when we die we shall lie down with the good and the great of all past times, and that though our bodies shall moulder back to dust, and be forgotten, we are sharing the same lot with the most beautiful, lovely, wise, pious, and mighty of the race. To Christians there is the richest of all consolations in the thought that they will sleep as their Savior did in the tomb, and that the grave, naturally so repulsive, has been made sacred and even attractive by being the place where the Redeemer reposed.

Why should we tremble to convey

Their bodies to the tomb?

There the dear flesh of Jesus lay,

And left a long perfume.

The graves of all his saints he blessed,

And softened every bed:

Where should the dying members rest

But with the dying Head?

And counsellors of the earth - Great and wise men who were qualified to give counsel to kings in times of emergency.

Which built desolate places for themselves - Gesenius supposes that the word used here (חרבה chorbâh) means palaces which would soon be in ruins. So Noyes renders it, "Who build up for themselves - ruins!" That is, they build splendid palaces, or perhaps tombs, which are destined soon to fall to ruin. Dr. Good renders it, "Who restored to themselves the ruined wastes;" that is, the princes who restored to their former magnificence the ruins of ancient cities, and built their palaces in them But it seems to me that the idea is different. It is, that kings constructed for their own burial, magnificent tombs or mausoleums, which were lonely and desolate places, where they might lie in still and solemn grandeur; compare the notes at Isaiah 14:18. Sometimes these were immense excavations from rocks; and sometimes they were stupendous structurcs built as tombs. What more desolate and lonely places could be conceived than the pyramids of Egypt - reared probably as the burial places of kings?

What more lonely and solitary than the small room in the center of one of those immense structures, where the body of the monarch is supposed to have been deposited? And what more emphatic than the expression - though" so nearly pleonastic that it may be omitted" ("Noyes") - "for themselves?" To my view, that is far from being pleonastic. It is full of emphasis. The immense structure was made for "them." It was not to be a common burial-place; it was not for the public good; it was not to be an abode for the living and a contributor to their happiness: it was a matter of supreme selfishness and pride - an immense structure built only run themselves. With such persons lying in their places of lonely grandeur, Job felt it would be an honor to be associated. Compared with his present condition it was one of dignity; and he earnestly wished that it might have been his lot thus early to have been consigned to the fellowship of the dead. It may be some confirmation of this view to remark, that the land of Edom, near which Job is supposed to have lived, contains at this day some of the most wonderful sepulchral monuments of the world; comp the notes at Isaiah 17:1.

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. With kings; I had then been as happy as the proudest monarchs, who after all their great achievements and enjoyments go down into their graves, where I also should have been sweetly reposed.

Which built desolate places for themselves; which, to show their great wealth and power, or to leave behind them a glorious name, rebuilt ruined cities, or built new cities and palaces, and other monuments, in places where before there was mere solitude and wasteness.

With the kings and counsellors of the earth,.... From whom he might descend, he being a person of great distinction and figure; and so, had he died, he would have been buried in the sepulchres of his ancestors, and have lain in great pomp and state: or rather this he says, to observe that death spares none, that neither the power of kings, who have long hands, nor the wisdom of counsellors, who have long heads, can secure them from death; and that after death they are upon a level with others; and even he suggests, that children that die as soon as born, and have made no figure in the world, are equal to them:

which built desolate places for themselves; either that rebuilt houses and cities that had lain in ruins, or built such in desolate places, where there had been none before, or formed colonies in places before uninhabited; and all this to get a name, and to perpetuate it to posterity: or rather sepulchral monuments are meant, such as the lofty pyramids of the Egyptians, and superb mausoleums of others; which, if not built in desolate places, yet are so themselves, being only the habitations of the dead, and so they are called the desolations of old, Ezekiel 26:20; and this is the sense of many interpreters (q); if any man desires, says Vansleb (r), a prospect and description of such ancient burying places, let him think on a boundless plain, even, and covered with sand, where neither trees, nor grass, nor houses, nor any such thing, is to be seen.

(q) Pineda, Bolducius, Patrick, Caryll, Schultens, and others. (r) Relation of a Voyage to Egypt, p. 91.

With kings and counsellors of the earth, which built {k} desolate places for themselves;

(k) He notes the ambition of them who for their pleasure as it were change the order of nature, and build in most barren places, because they would by this make their names immortal.

14. which built desolate places] The expression seems to be that which occurs several times in Scripture, e.g. Isaiah 58:12; Isaiah 61:4; Ezekiel 36:10; Ezekiel 36:33; Malachi 1:4, and means to build up or rebuild ruins, i. e. cities or habitations desolated or abandoned, and make them again inhabited. If this be the meaning the phrase must be used in a general way to indicate the greatness of those kings and counsellors when they were alive and the renown they won. To this idea the words in Job 3:15, princes who had gold, form a parallel. The speaker wishes to indicate that instead of lying in squalor and being the contempt of the low-born race of men as he now is (ch. 30), if he had died he would have been in company of the great dead who played famous parts in life. This appears to be the general idea of the words, but the phrase “built desolate places for themselves” is too vague in such a connexion, and the words “for themselves” suggest something definite and well-known as that which they built, as does the parallel expression “who filled their houses with silver.” The Hebrew word “desolate places” has a distant resemblance in sound to the Egyptian word Pyramids, and some adopt this sense here. There may be some corruption of the Text.

Verse 14. - With kings and counsellers of the earth. As a great man himself, nobly born probably, Job expects that his place in another world would have been with kings and nobles (see Isaiah 14:9-11, where the King of Babylon, on entering Sheol, finds himself among "all the kings of the nations"). Which built desolate places for themselves. Some understand "restorers of cities which had become waste and desolate;" others, "builders of edifices which, since they built them, have become desolate;" others, again, "builders of desolate and dreary piles," such as the Pyramids, and the rock-tombs common in Arabia, which were desolate and dreary from the time that they were built. The brevity studied by the writer makes his meaning somewhat obscure. Job 3:1413 So should I now have lain and had quiet,

I should have slept, then it would have been well with me,

14 With kings and councillors of the earth,

Who built ruins for themselves,

15 Or with princes possessing gold,

Who filled their houses with silver:

16 Or like a hidden untimely birth I had not been,

And as children that have never seen the light.

The perf. and interchanging fut. have the signification of oriental imperfecta conjunctivi, according to Ges. 126, 5; עתּה כּי is the usual expression after hypothetical clauses, and takes the perf. if the preceding clause specifies a condition which has not occurred in the past (Genesis 31:42; Genesis 43:10; Numbers 22:29, Numbers 22:33; 1 Samuel 14:30), the fut. if a condition is not existing in the present (Job 6:3; Job 8:6; Job 13:19). It is not to be translated: for then; כי rather commences the clause following: so I should now, indeed then I should. Ruins, הרבות, are uninhabited desolate buildings, elsewhere such as have become, here such as are from the first intended to remain, uninhabited and desolate, consequently sepulchres, mausoleums; probably, since the book has Egyptian allusions, in other passages also, a play upon the pyramids, in whose name (III-XPAM, according to Coptic glossaries) III is the Egyptian article (vid., Bunsen, Aeg. ii. 361); Arab. without the art. hirâm or ahrâm (vid., Abdollatf, ed. de Sacy, p. 293, s.).

(Note: We think that חרבות sounds rather like חרמות, the name of the pyramids, as the Arabic haram (instead of hharam), derived from XPAM, recalls harmân (e.g., beith harmân, a house in ruins), the synonym of hhardân (חרבאן).)

Also Renan: Qui se btissent des mausoles. Bttch. de inferis, 298 (who, however, prefers to read רחבות, wide streets), rightly directs attention to the difference between החרבות בנה (to rebuild the ruins) and לו בנה ח (to build ruins for one's self). With או like things are then ranged after one another. Builders of the pyramids, millionaires, abortions (vid., Ecclesiastes 6:3), and the still-born: all these are removed from the sufferings of this life in their quiet of the 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.

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