Job 3


Job curses the day of his birth, and regrets that he ever saw

the light, 1-12.

Describes the empire of death and its inhabitants, 13-19.

Regrets that he is appointed to live in the midst of sorrows,

for the calamities which he feared had overtaken him, 20-26.


Verse 1. After this opened Job his mouth] After the seven days'

mourning was over, there being no prospect of relief, Job is

represented as thus cursing the day of his birth. Here the poetic

part of the book begins; for most certainly there is nothing in

the preceding chapters either in the form or spirit of Hebrew

poetry. It is easy indeed to break the sentences into hemistichs;

but this does not constitute them poetry: for, although Hebrew

poetry is in general in hemistichs, yet it does not follow that

the division of narrative into hemistichs must necessarily

constitute it poetry.

In many cases the Asiatic poets introduce their compositions

with prose narrative; and having in this way prepared the reader

for what he is to expect, begin their deevans, cassidehs, gazels,

&c. This appears to be the plan followed by the author of this

book. Those who still think, after examining the structure of

those chapters, and comparing them with the undoubted poetic parts

of the book, that they also, and the ten concluding verses, are

poetry, have my consent, while I take the liberty to believe

most decidedly the opposite.

Cursed his day.] That is, the day of his birth; and thus he gave

vent to the agonies of his soul, and the distractions of his mind.

His execrations have something in them awfully solemn,

tremendously deep, and strikingly sublime. But let us not excuse

all the things which he said in his haste, and in the bitterness

of his soul, because of his former well established character of

patience. He bore all his privations with becoming resignation to

the Divine will and providence: but now, feeling himself the

subject of continual sufferings, being in heaviness through

manifold temptation, and probably having the light of God

withdrawn from his mind, as his consolations most undoubtedly

were, he regrets that ever he was born; and in a very high strain

of impassioned poetry curses his day. We find a similar execration

to this in Jeremiah, Jer 20:14-18, and in other places; which, by

the way, are no proofs that the one borrowed from the other; but

that this was the common mode of Asiatic thinking, speaking, and

feeling, on such occasions.

Verse 3. There is a man-child conceived.] The word harah

signifies to conceive; yet here, it seems, it should be taken in

the sense of being born, as it is perfectly unlikely that the

night of conception should be either distinctly known or


Verse 4. Let that day be darkness] The meaning is exactly the

same with our expression, "Let it be blotted out of the calendar."

However distinguished it may have been, as the birthday of a man

once celebrated for his possessions, liberality, and piety, let it

no longer be thus noted; as he who was thus celebrated is now the

sport of adversity, the most impoverished, most afflicted, and

most wretched of human beings.

Let not God regard it from above] al yidreshehu,

"Let Him not require it"-let Him not consider it essential to the

completion of the days of the year; and therefore he adds, neither

let the light shine upon it. If it must be a part of duration, let

it not be distinguished by the light of the sun.

Verse 5. Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it]

yigaluhu, "pollute or avenge it," from gaal, to vindicate,

avenge, &c.; hence goel, the nearest of kin, whose right it

was to redeem an inheritance, and avenge the death of his relative

by slaying the murderer. Let this day be pursued, overtaken, and

destroyed. Let natural darkness, the total privation of the solar

light, rendered still more intense by death's shadow projected

over it, seize on and destroy this day, εκλαβοιαυτην, Septuagint;

alluding, perhaps, says Mr. Parkhurst, to the avenger of blood

seizing the offender.

Let a cloud dwell upon it] Let the dymme cloude fall upon

it.-Coverdale. Let the thickest clouds have there their

dwelling-place-let that be the period of time on which they shall

constantly rest, and never be dispersed. This seems to be the

import of the original, tishcan alaiv ananah. Let

it be the place in which clouds shall be continually gathered

together, so as to be the storehouse of the densest vapours, still

in the act of being increasingly condensed.

Let the blackness of the day terrify it.] And let it be lapped

in with sorrowe.-Coverdale. This is very expressive: lap

signifies to fold up, or envelope any particular thing with fold

upon fold, so as to cover it everywhere and secure it in all

points. Leaving out the semicolon, we had better translate the

whole clause thus: "Let the thickest cloud have its dwelling-place

upon it, and let the bitterness of a day fill it with terror." A

day similar to that, says the Targum, in which Jeremiah was

distressed for the destruction of the house of the sanctuary; or

like that in which Jonah was cast into the sea of Tarsis; such a

day as that on which some great or national misfortune has

happened: probably in allusion to that in which the darkness that

might be felt enveloped the whole land of Egypt, and the night in

which the destroying angel slew all the first-born in the land.

Verse 6. As for that night, let darkness seize upon it] I think

the Targum has hit the sense of this whole verse: "Let darkness

seize upon that night; let it not be reckoned among the annual

festivals; in the number of the months of the calendar let it not

be computed."

Some understand the word ophel as signifying a dark storm;

hence the Vulgate, tenebrosus turbo, "a dark whirlwind." And hence

Coverdale, Let the darck storme overcome that night, let it not be

reckoned amonge the dayes off the yeare, nor counted in the

monethes. Every thing is here personified; day, night, darkness,

shadow of death, cloud, &c.; and the same idea of the total

extinction of that portion of time, or its being rendered ominous

and portentous, is pursued through all these verses, from the

third to the ninth, inclusive. The imagery is diversified, the

expressions varied, but the idea is the same.

Verse 7. Lo, let that night be solitary] The word hinneh,

behold, or lo, is wanting in one of De Rossi's MSS., nor is it

expressed in the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, or Arabic.

The word galmud, which we translate solitary, is

properly Arabic. From [Arabic] ghalama or jalama, signifying to

cut off, make bare, amputate, comes [Arabic] jalmud, a rock, a

great stone; and [Arabic] jalameedet, weight, a burden, trouble,

from which we may gather Job's meaning: "Let that night be

grievous, oppressive, as destitute of good as a bare rock is of

verdure." The Targum gives the sense, In that night let there be


Let no joyful voice come therein.] Let there be no choirs of

singers; no pleasant music heard; no dancing or merriment. The

word renanah signifies any brisk movement, such as the

vibration of the rays of light, or the brisk modulation of the

voice in a cheerful ditty. The Targum has, Let not the crowing of

the rural or wild cock resound in it. Let all work be intermitted;

let there be no sportive exercises, and let all animals be totally


Verse 8. Let them curse it that curse the day] This translation

is scarcely intelligible. I have waded through a multitude of

interpretations, without being able to collect from them such a

notion of the verse as could appear to me probable. Schultens,

Rosenmuller, and after them Mr. Good, have laboured much to make

it plain. They think the custom of sorcerers who had execrations

for peoples, places, things, days, &c., is here referred to; such

as Balaam, Elymas, and many others were: but I cannot think that a

man who knew the Divine Being and his sole government of the world

so well as Job did, would make such an allusion, who must have

known that such persons and their pretensions were impostors and

execrable vanities. I shall give as near a translation as I can of

the words, and subjoin a short paraphrase:

yikkebuhu orerey yom haathidim orer livyathan; "Let

them curse it who detest the day; them who are ready to raise up

the leviathan." That is, Let them curse my birthday who hate

daylight, such as adulterers, murderers, thieves, and banditti,

for whose practices the night is more convenient; and let them

curse it who, being like me weary of life, are desperate enough to

provoke the leviathan, the crocodile, to tear them to pieces. This

version is nearly the same as that given by Coverdale. Let them

that curse the daye give it their curse also, then those that be

ready to rayse up leviathan. By leviathan some understand the

greatest and most imminent dangers; and others, the devil, whom

the enchanters are desperate enough to attempt to raise by their


Calmet understands the whole to be spoken of the Atlantes, a

people of Ethiopia, who curse the sun because it parches their

fields and their bodies; and who fearlessly attack, kill, and eat

the crocodile. This seems a good sense.

Verse 9. Let the stars of the twilight thereof] The stars of the

twilight may here refer to the planets Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and

Mercury, as well as to the brighter fixed stars.

Let it look for light] Here the prosopopoeia or personification

is still carried on. The darkness is represented as waiting for

the lustre of the evening star, but is disappointed; and these for

the aurora or dawn, but equally in vain. He had prayed that its

light, the sun, should not shine upon it, Job 3:4; and here he

prays that its evening star may be totally obscured, and that it

might never see the dawning of the day. Thus his execration

comprehends every thing that might irradiate or enliven it.

Verse 10. Because it shut not up the doors] Here is the reason

why he curses the day and the night in which he was conceived and

born; because, had he never been brought into existence, he would

never have seen trouble. It seems, however, very harsh that he

should have wished the destruction of his mother, in order that

his birth might have been prevented; and I rather think Job's

execration did not extend thus far. The Targum understands the

passage as speaking of the umbilical cord, by which the foetus is

nourished in its mother's womb: had this been shut up, there must

have been a miscarriage, or he must have been dead born; and thus

sorrow would have been hidden from his eyes. This seeming gloss

is much nearer the letter and spirit of the Hebrew than is

generally imagined. I shall quote the words:

ki lo sagar dalthey bitni, because it did not shut up the doors

of my belly. This is much more consistent with the feelings of

humanity, than to wish his mother's womb to have been his grave.

Verse 11. Why died I not from the womb] As the other

circumstance did not take place, why was I not still-born, without

the possibility of reviviscence? or, as this did not occur, why

did I not die as soon as born? These three things appear to me to

be clearly intended here:-1. Dying in the womb, or never coming to

maturity, as in the case of an abortion. 2. Being still-born,

without ever being able to breathe. 3. Or, if born alive, dying

within a short time after. And to these states he seems to refer

in the following verses.

Verse 12. Why did the knees prevent me?] Why was I dandled on

the knees? Why was I nourished by the breasts? In either of the

above cases I had neither been received into a mother's lap, nor

hung upon a mother's breasts.

Verse 13. For now should I have lain still] In that case I had

been insensible; quiet-without these overwhelming agitations;

slept-unconscious of evil; been at rest-been out of the reach of

calamity and sorrow.

Verse 14. With kings and counsellors of the earth] I believe

this translation to be perfectly correct. The counsellors,

yoatsey, I suppose to mean the privy council, or advisers of

kings; those without whose advice kings seldom undertake wars,

expeditions, &c. These mighty agitators of the world are at rest

in their graves, after the lives of commotion which they have led

among men: most of whom indeed have been the troublers of the

peace of the globe.

Which built desolate places] Who erect mausoleums, funeral

monuments, sepulchral pyramids, &c., to keep their names from

perishing, while their bodies are turned to corruption. I cannot

think, with some learned men, that Job is here referring to those

patriotic princes who employed themselves in repairing the ruins

and desolations which others had occasioned. His simple idea is,

that, had he died from the womb, he would have been equally at

rest, neither troubling nor troubled, as those defunct kings and

planners of wars and great designs are, who have nothing to keep

even their names from perishing, but the monuments which they have

raised to contain their corrupting flesh, mouldering bones, and


Verse 15. Or with princes that had gold] Chief or mighty men,

lords of the soil, or fortunate adventurers in merchandise, who

got gold in abundance, filled their houses with silver, left all

behind, and had nothing reserved for themselves but the empty

places which they had made for their last dwelling, and where

their dust now sleeps, devoid of care, painful journeys, and

anxious expectations. He alludes here to the case of the covetous,

whom nothing can satisfy, as an Asiatic writer has observed, but

the dust that fills his mouth when laid in the grave.-SAADY.

Verse 16. Or as a hidden untimely birth] An early miscarriage,

which was scarcely perceptible by the parent herself; and in this

case he had not been-he had never had the distinguishable form of

a human being, whether male or female.

As infants] Little ones; those farther advanced in maturity, but

miscarried long before the time of birth.

Verse 17. There the wicked cease] In the grave the oppressors of

men cease from irritating, harassing, and distressing their fellow

creatures and dependents.

And there the weary be at rest.] Those who were worn out with

the cruelties and tyrannies of the above. The troubles and the

troubled, the restless and the submissive, the toils of the great

and the labours of the slave, are here put in opposition.

Verse 18. The prisoners rest together] Those who were slaves,

feeling all the troubles, and scarcely tasting any of the

pleasures of life, are quiet in the grave together; and the voice

of the oppressor, the hard, unrelenting task-master, which was

more terrible than death, is heard no more. They are free from his

exactions, and his mouth is silent in the dust. This may be a

reference to the Egyptian bondage. The children of Israel cried by

reason of their oppressors or task-masters.

Verse 19. The small and great are there.] All sorts and

conditions of men are equally blended in the grave, and ultimately

reduced to one common dust; and between the bond and free there is

no difference. The grave is

"The appointed place of rendezvous, where all

These travellers meet."

Equality is absolute among the sons of men in their entrance into

and exit from the world: all the intermediate state is disparity.

All men begin and end life alike; and there is no difference

between the king and the cottager. A contemplation of this should

equally humble the great and the small. The saying is trite, but

it is true:-

Pallida mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas,

Regumque turres.

HOR. Odar. lib. i., Od. iv., ver. 13.

"With equal pace impartial Fate

Knocks at the palace as the cottage gate."

Death is that state,

"Where they an equal honour share

Who buried or unburied are.

Where Agamemnon knows no more

Than Irus he contemn'd before.

Where fair Achilles and Thersites lie,

Equally naked, poor, and dry."

And why do not the living lay these things to heart?

There is a fine saying in Seneca ad Marciam, cap. 20, on this

subject, which may serve as a comment on this place:

MORS-servitutem invito domino remittit; haec captivorum catenas

levat; haec e carcere eduxit, quos exire imperium impotens

vetuerat. Haec est in quo nemo humilitatem suam sensit; haec quae

nulli paruit; haec quae nihil quicquam alieno fecit arbitrio.

Haec, ubi res communes fortuna male divisit, et aequo jure genitos

alium alii donavit, exaequat omnia.

"Death, in spite of the master, manumits the slave. It loosens

the chains of the prisoners. It brings out of the dungeon those

whom impotent authority had forbidden to go at large. This is the

state in which none is sensible of his humiliation. Death obeys no

man. It does nothing according to the will of another. It reduces,

by a just law, to a state of equality, all who in their families

and circumstances had unequal lots in life."

Verse 20. Wherefore is light given] Why is life granted to him

who is incapable of enjoying it, or of performing its functions?

Verse 21. Which long for death] They look to it as the end of

all their miseries; and long more for a separation from life, than

those who love gold do for a rich mine.

Verse 22. Which rejoice exceedingly.] Literally, They rejoice

with joy, and exult when they find the grave.

There is a various reading here in one of Kennicott's MSS.,

which gives a different sense. Instead of who rejoice,

eley gil, with JOY, it has eley gal, who rejoice at the

TOMB, and exult when they find the grave.

Verse 23. To a man whose way is hid] Who knows not what is

before him in either world, but is full of fears and trembling

concerning both.

God hath hedged in?] Leaving him no way to escape; and not

permitting him to see one step before him.

There is an exact parallel to this passage in La 3:7, 9:

He hath hedged me about that I cannot get out. He hath inclosed

my ways with hewn stone. Mr. Good translates the verse thus: To

the man whose path is broken up, and whose futurity God hath

overwhelmed. But I cannot see any necessity for departing from the

common text, which gives both an easy and a natural sense.

Verse 24. For my sighing cometh] Some think that this refers to

the ulcerated state of Job's body, mouth, hands, &c. He longed for

food, but was not able to lift it to his mouth with his hands, nor

masticate it when brought thither. This is the sense in which

Origen has taken the words. But perhaps it is most natural to

suppose that he means his sighing took away all appetite, and

served him in place of meat. There is the same thought in

Ps 42:3:

My tears have been my meat day and night; which place is not an

imitation of Job, but more likely Job an imitation of it, or,

rather, both an imitation of nature.

My roarings are poured out] My lamentations are like the noise

of the murmuring stream, or the dashings of the overswollen


Verse 25. For the thing which I greatly reared] Literally, the

fear that I feared; or, l feared a fear, as in the margin. While

I was in prosperity I thought adversity might come, and I had a

dread of it. I feared the loss of my family and my property; and

both have occurred. I was not lifted up: I knew that what I

possessed I had from Divine Providence, and that he who gave might

take away. I am not stripped of my all as a punishment for my


Verse 26. I was not in safety] If this verse be read

interrogatively, it will give a good and easy sense: Was I not

in safety? Had I not rest? Was I not in comfort? Yet trouble came.

It is well known that, previously to this attack of Satan, Job was

in great prosperity and peace. Mr. Good translates, I had no

peace; yea, I had no rest. Yea, I had no respite, as the trouble

came on; and refers the whole to the quick succession of the

series of heavy evils by which he was tried. There is a similar

thought in the Psalmist: Deep crieth unto deep at the noise of thy

water-spouts; all thy waves and thy billows have gone over me;

Ps 42:7. One evil treads on the heels of another.

IN this chapter Job's conflict begins. Now, and not before,

Satan appears to have access to his mind. When he deprived him of

his property, and, what was still dearer, of his sons and his

daughters, the hope of his family, he bore all with the most

exemplary patience, and the deepest resignation to the Divine

will. When his adversary was permitted to touch his body, and

afflict it in the most grievous and distressing manner, rendered

still more intolerable by his being previously deprived of all the

comforts and necessaries of life; still he held fast his

integrity; no complaint, no murmur was heard. From the Lord's hand

he received his temporal good; and from that hand he received his

temporal evil, the privation of that good. Satan was, therefore,

baffled in all his attempts; Job continued to be a perfect and

upright man, fearing God, and avoiding evil. This was Job's

triumph, or rather the triumph of Divine grace; and Satan's defeat

and confusion.

It is indeed very seldom that God permits Satan to waste the

substance or afflict the body of any man; but at all times this

malevolent spirit may have access to the mind of any man, and

inject doubts, fears, diffidence, perplexities, and even unbelief.

And here is the spiritual conflict. Now, their wrestling is not

with flesh and blood-with men like themselves, nor about secular

affairs; but they have to contend with angels, principalities and

powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world, and

spiritual wickednesses in heavenly places. In such cases Satan is

often permitted to diffuse darkness into the understanding, and

envelope the heavens with clouds. Hence are engendered false views

of God and his providence, of men, of the spiritual world, and

particularly of the person's own state and circumstances. Every

thing is distorted, and all seen through a false medium.

Indescribable distractions and uneasiness are hereby induced; the

mind is like a troubled sea, tossed by a tempest that seems to

confound both heaven and earth. Strong temptations to things which

the soul contemplates with abhorrence are injected; and which are

followed by immediate accusations, as if the injections were the

offspring of the heart itself; and the trouble and dismay

produced are represented as the sense of guilt, from a

consciousness of having, in heart, committed these evils. Thus

Satan tempts, accuses, and upbraids, in order to perplex the soul,

induce skepticism, and destroy the empire of faith. Behold here

the permission of God, and behold also his sovereign control: all

this time the grand tempter is not permitted to touch the heart,

the seat of the affections, nor offer even the slightest violence

to the will. The soul is cast down, but not destroyed; perplexed,

but not in despair. It is on all sides harassed; without are

fightings, within are fears: but the will is inflexible on the

side of God and truth, and the heart, with all its train of

affections and passions, follows it. The man does not wickedly

depart from his God; the outworks are violently assailed, but not

taken; the city is still safe, and the citadel impregnable.

Heaviness may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.

Jesus is soon seen walking upon the waters. He speaks peace to the

winds and the sea: immediately there is a calm. Satan is bruised

down under the feet of the sufferer, the clouds are dispersed, the

heavens re-appear, and the soul, to its surprise, finds that the

storm, instead of hindering, has driven it nearer to the haven

whither it would be.

The reader who closely examines the subject will find that this

was the case of Job. The following chapters show the conflict of

the soul; the end of the book, God's victory and his exaltation.

Satan sifted Job as wheat, but his faith failed not.

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