Job 3:20
Why is light given to him that is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul;
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(20) Wherefore is light given.—Comp. the connection between life and light in Psalm 36:9 and John 1:4.

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?3:20-26 Job was like a man who had lost his way, and had no prospect of escape, or hope of better times. But surely he was in an ill frame for death when so unwilling to live. Let it be our constant care to get ready for another world, and then leave it to God to order our removal thither as he thinks fit. Grace teaches us in the midst of life's greatest comforts, to be willing to die, and in the midst of its greatest crosses, to be willing to live. Job's way was hid; he knew not wherefore God contended with him. The afflicted and tempted Christian knows something of this heaviness; when he has been looking too much at the things that are seen, some chastisement of his heavenly Father will give him a taste of this disgust of life, and a glance at these dark regions of despair. Nor is there any help until God shall restore to him the joys of his salvation. Blessed be God, the earth is full of his goodness, though full of man's wickedness. This life may be made tolerable if we attend to our duty. We look for eternal mercy, if willing to receive Christ as our Saviour.Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery? - The word "light" here is used undoubtedly to denote "life." This verse commences a new part of Job's complaint. It is that God keeps people alive who would prefer to die; that he furnishes them with the means of sustaining existence, and actually preserves them, when they would consider it an inestimable blessing to expire. Schultens remarks, on this part of the chapter, that the tone of Job's complaint is considerably modified. He has given vent to his strong feelings, and the language here is more mild and gentle. Still it implies a reflection on God. It is not the language of humble submission. It contains an implied charge of cruelty and injustice; and it laid the foundation for some of the just reproofs which follow.

And life unto the bitter in soul - Who are suffering bitter grief. We use the word "bitter" yet to denote great grief and pain.

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.

Heb. Wherefore (for what cause, or use, or good) doth he (i.e. God, though he forbear to name him, out of that holy fear and reverence which still he retained towards him) give light? either the light of the sun, which the living only behold, Ecclesiastes 6:5 7:11; or the light of life, as may seem both by the next words, and by comparing Psalm 56:13, and because death is off set forth by the name of darkness, as life by the name of light. These are strong expostulations with God, and quarrelling with his providence and with his blessings; but we must consider that Job was but a man, and a man of like passions and infirmities with other men, and now in grievous agonies, being not only under most violent, and yet continual, torments of body, but also under great disquietments of mind, and the deep sense of God’s displeasure, and was also left to himself, that he might see what was in his heart, and that all succeeding ages might have in him an illustrious example of man’s infirmity, and the necessity of God’s grace to help them in time of need. And therefore it is no wonder if his passions boil up and break forth in same indecent and sinful expressions.

Unto the bitter in soul; unto such to whom life itself is very bitter and burdensome. Why doth he obtrude his favours upon those who abhor them? Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery,.... That labours under various calamities and afflictions, as Job did, being stripped of his substance, deprived of his children, and now in great pain of body and distress of mind; who, since he died not so soon as he wished he had, expostulates why his life is protracted; for that is what he means by light, as appears from the following clause, even the light of the living, or the light of the world; which though sweet and pleasant to behold to a man in health, yet not to one in pain of body and anguish of mind, as he was, who chose rather to be in the dark and silent grave; this he represents as a gift, as indeed life is, and the gift of God: the words may be rendered, "wherefore does he give light?" (y) that is, God, as some (z) supply it, who is undoubtedly meant, though not mentioned, through reverence of him, and that he might not seem to quarrel with him; the principle of life is from him, and the continuance and protraction of it, and all the means and mercies by which it is supported; and Job asks the reasons, which he seems to be at a loss for, why it should be continued to a person in such uncomfortable circumstances as he was in; though these, with respect to a good man as he was, are plain and obvious: such are continued in the world under afflictions, both for their own good, and for the glory of God, that their graces may be tried, their sins purged away or prevented, and they made more partakers of divine holiness; and be weaned from this world, and fitted for another, and not be condemned with the world of the ungodly:

and life unto the bitter in soul; whose lives are embittered to them by afflictions, comparable to the waters of Marah, and to wormwood and gall, which occasion bitterness of spirit in them, and bitter complaints from them; see Job 13:26.

(y) "quare dat", Cocceius, Schmidt, Schultens, Michaelis. (z) So Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. vid. Schultens in loc.

Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and {n} life unto the bitter in soul;

(n) He shows that the benefits of God are not comfortable, unless the heart is joyful, and the conscience quieted.

20. Wherefore is light given] This is a possible translation, but more probably we should render, wherefore gives He light? the Author of light and life being alluded to obliquely and not named. The bitter is plur., those that are bitter in soul. Job’s eye looks over mankind and sees many in the same condition of misery as himself. Comp. ch. Job 7:1 seq.

20–26. Why does God continue life to the wretched, who long for death?

The vision of the peacefulness of death passes away, and Job awakens again to the consciousness of his real condition, and his words, which had sunk into calmness as he contemplated the peace of death, now seem to rise again like the storm after a lull, Wherefore gives He light to him that is in misery? He does not name though he alludes to God, and the indirect reference though partly due to reverence betrays a rising alienation in his heart. His question is one of anguish and impatience. His own condition throws its gloom over all human life, and he puts the question first generally, Job 3:20-22; there are many like him seeking death and unable to find it, who would exult for joy if they could find the grave. Then he comes to the individual, Job 3:23, meaning himself, Wherefore gives He life to the man whose way is hid? the man who cannot see and cannot move, who can discover no solution of the riddle of his life, and find no course of action to relieve himself, who lies in the grasp of a calamity which has too surely come from God, and which has introduced confusion among all the principles of religion which he has hitherto held and into the relation to God in which he has hitherto stood, Job 3:23. And finally he adds some touches to the picture of his misery, his constant moaning, and the unbroken succession of troubles that afflict him, which come so thick that he has no respite from one before another overtakes him, Job 3:24-26.Verse 20. - Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery? Why, Job asks, is the miserable man forced to continue on the earth and see the light to-day? Why is he not sent down at once to the darkness of the grave? Surely this would have been better. Man often speaks as if he were wiser than his Maker, and could have much improved the system of the universe, if he had had the arranging of it; but he scarcely means what he says commonly. Such talk is, however, foolish, as is all captious questioning concerning the ways of God. The proper answer to all such questioning is well given by Zophar in Job 11:7, 8, "Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell (Sheol); what canst thou know?" And life unto the bitter in soul (see the comment on ver. 11, ad fin.). 13 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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