Job Chapter 3: Job Curses the Day He was Born

Jan 9th, 2010 | By | Category: Job, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Job Chapter 3: Job Curses the Day He was Born

Job 3:1 After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day.

After the seven days, Job finally opened his mouth and broke the long silence. He “cursed his day,” that is, the day of his birth, because of the calamities that had occurred. All of the calamities had happened on the same day, the day of his eldest son’s birthday, when all his sons and daughters were gathered in the house that collapsed and killed them. Therefore, not only did Job now curse his own birthday, which occurred not long after the birthday of his oldest son, but we would surmise that the first day Job began to suffer the physical affliction— the eruption that affected him from the top of his head to the soles of his feet—was his birthday. Thus, in two ways, he was cursing his birthday—not only as the day of his birth but also from a calendrical standpoint.

The Book of Job is a gripping, dramatic story, but the lessons derived from it are more valuable than the story itself. Many who have read the Book of Job know little about it because of the complexity of detail, the type of language, and the thinking that was employed by the wise men of the East. These “comforters” were all wise in this world’s thinking; they were known for their apparent innate, natural wisdom in matters of everyday life, as is evident from the way they talked. Job, too, was a wise person along these lines, but far superior in his thinking.

Job 3:2 And Job spake, and said,

Job 3:3 Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.

The three comforters waited for Job to break the silence on the concluding day of the seven days. Out of deference, they wanted to hear his explanation of what had happened. Verse 3 starts the pertinent part of the chapter where Job bared his soul.

Job’s first words were, “Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.” The three men were close friends of Job, and having heard of the evil that had befallen him, they had come out of respect and to comfort him. However, they may not have known that the disease had its onset on Job’s birthday.

Comment: Although Job cursed his birthday, he did not curse God, which is what Satan said he would do and what his wife advised him to do. Therefore, he was not influenced by Satan or even by the counsel of his wife.

We should try to enter into Job’s experience in order to understand the words he uttered. To criticize Job under such trying circumstances would be unreasonable. In the final analysis, when  God spoke at the end of the book, even He did not find fault with Job along this line.

Lest there be a misunderstanding, verse 1, which reads, “After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day,” gives the sum and substance of the entire chapter. In other words, the rest of the chapter gives the details of that cursing by telling what Job said.

Consider Job’s situation. He was suffering a great affliction when along came three men to comfort him. He believed that comfort was their motive, and they had been with him for seven days. What did Job do now? He bared his whole heart to them. One would not normally confide in other people while suffering and having such troublous thoughts—unless those people were very close friends or a husband or a wife. Job opened his heart by disclosing what was really troubling him, and of course he expected, or anticipated, that when he had finished speaking, the three would comfort him. The three spoke gently at first, but their manner of speaking changed.

The Lord graciously affords us an insight into Job’s trial. As has been mentioned, Job did not curse God but cursed the experience that had befallen him and the loss of all his wealth, goods, and children, as well as the esteem of others. The theme “Let the day perish wherein I was born” is repeated throughout the chapter.

Job 3:4 Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it.

Job 3:5 Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it.

Job 3:6 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.

When we read the whole chapter, Job seems to have been cursing the particular date upon which he happened to be born.

Comment: Job 29:7-10 gives a sense of how revered Job was. “When I went out to the gate through the city, when I prepared my seat in the street! The young men saw me, and hid themselves: and the aged arose, and stood up. The princes refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth. The nobles held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth.”

Reply: There is no question that Job was highly revered and respected for his wisdom. In addition, others recognized that God’s spirit was in him, and they regarded his being placed in the seat of wisdom in their midst as the providence of God.

Job was particularly concerned about the date of his birth. In saying, “Let that day [of my birth] be darkness; let not God regard it from above,” Job was thinking introspectively and revealing his innermost thoughts. He continued, “Let the blackness of the day terrify it. 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.” Job was saying that he would not wish his calamity, or condition, to ever come on anyone else who, in succeeding generations, might happen to be born on the particular date of his birth in the calendrical year. In other words, “If possible, let this day be skipped in the calendar. Let it not come into cognition.”

Job 3:7 Lo, let that night be solitary, let no joyful voice come therein.

Job 3:8 Let them curse it that curse the day, who are ready to raise up their mourning.

Job 3:9 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:

Job 3:10 Because it shut not up the doors of my mother’s womb, nor hid sorrow from mine eyes.

The experience was crushing to Job. At the end of chapter 2, the Lord, in effect, gave His stamp of approval to Job, saying that Job did not let his lips bring forth what Satan was trying to get him to do, that is, to curse God. The fact that God commended Job and called him “perfect” is a proof that He looked upon Job as being perfect in obedience and as having a right spirit (Job 1:1). Job did the best a man could do under the same fallen genetic inheritance from Adam. But now Job’s lips were cursing the day of his birth. Later on, Job went even further in calling attention to the date of his birth, but at this point, he was emptying out the feelings of his heart to his friends, expecting that they would somehow console him. He was hoping for some explanation, which he could not ferret out.

People did not particularly look at the stars, signs, or omens with regard to birth until more or less the AD era. In ancient times, people regarded dates as events that had happened which were either joyful or calamitous, whereas the dates of medieval and modern history pertain more to saints, individuals, kings, etc. Israel was the exception, for the nation looked for the Messiah on a particular date.

Comment: A marginal reference gives an alternate translation for “their mourning” in verse 8 as “leviathan,” which is the same Hebrew word actually translated “leviathan” in Job 41:1. Which thought is correct?

Comment: The Companion Bible has “their mourning, a dragon” and says the reference is probably to the constellation.

Reply: Yes, “leviathan” would fit when viewed as being under the Dragon constellation, but the emphasis is on the baneful influence of that constellation upon human society. The Dragon constellation is used elsewhere in Scripture with another inflection. As for astrology, there is a great deal of truth with regard to the effect of the signs in the heavens upon people born under a certain constellation—not a particular 24-hour day but the season, which might be two days, three days, or even a week long. However, while there is some recognition of astrology in the Bible, it is a dangerous science because it takes time away from the study of the Scriptures, and although there is some truth in current astrology, that truth is mixed with a lot of error. For example, crops have been proven to be more favorable under certain signs in the heavens, and the moon also has an effect on crops.

Comment: Rotherham translates verse 8, “Let day-cursers denounce it, those skilled in rousing the dragon of the sky.”

Reply: Job wanted this day on the calendar to be skipped over. He even wished that the sun would not rise on that day. His words show that under extreme pressure, and sometimes not even under pressure, individuals who are trying to serve God faithfully say things emotionally that are not their true heart intent. However, we can see the need to reflect upon our statements each day and to ask for forgiveness where necessary, even though the Lord makes allowances for such expressions. As far as we know, when Job’s trial ended, God did not criticize him in a special or pertinent way for the words of this chapter, but God did say that Job was imprudent in some remarks. However, He looked on Job as being a faithful servant and rewarded him accordingly.

Job 3:11 Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?

Q: Does this verse indicate that only those who are born alive will receive a resurrection?

A: Yes, for the emphasis is not “Why died I not in the womb?” but “Why died I not from the womb?” From other Scriptures, we know that Job believed in a resurrection. In some expressions in later chapters, Job contradicted his calmer deliberations on the subject, but it is not unusual to overextend oneself when speaking emotionally. There is sin in a “multitude of words” (Prov. 10:19). In verse 10, Job said, “Because it shut not up the doors of my mother’s womb, nor hid sorrow from mine eyes.” Then verse 11 seems to be a disclaimer of what was stated in verse 10: “Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?” Verse 10 emotionally exposed Job’s thinking, and then he qualified, or modified, his statement in verse 11. We often have to adjust our thinking as well, sometimes even as we are having a study.

Comment: The Lord has provided a foundation of truth on certain issues throughout the various dispensations.

Reply: One example would be the statement in Genesis that after God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, Adam became a living soul.

Job 3:12 Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck?

This comment pertained to Job’s birth and nourishment. The Revised Standard Version reads, “Why did the knees receive me?” Without a midwife or his mother’s milk, he would have died at birth. The midwife sat on a stool or chair between the legs of the woman in labor so that she could cradle the baby when it came out of the womb. If the midwife’s knees were together, they would inhibit the process and cause complications. The word “prevent” had a completely different meaning in the old King’s English. For instance, it can mean “precede,” as in the New Testament (1 Thess. 4:15).

Job 3:13 For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest,

Job 3:14 With kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves;

Job 3:15 Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver:

Job 3:16 Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light.

Q: Is verse 16 talking about stillborns?

A: Yes. Job’s words applied not only to stillborns but also to miscarriages. Job did express some contradictions.

The three friends who were listening could not fully commiserate with Job because they did not have the same experience. They had not lost all of their wealth, family, and livestock. Of course Job did not lose his property, his personal house, or his wife, but he lost just about everything else. Neither did the three have boils from head to foot, so how could they properly judge Job’s situation? Their judgment of Job was based more on his words than on his actual experience.

The Bible is very, very truthful. In fact, it is so truthful that it even declares Satan’s lies. And while the statements of different individuals were truthfully recorded throughout the Bible, that does not necessarily mean they are God’s truth or God’s thinking on the matter. Whether the person was Job in the Old Testament or Peter in the New Testament or others, their statements were not necessarily spoken under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Statements that were uttered from personal feelings or experiences are not a “thus saith the LORD God” and thus cannot be compared with what God did and said.

Q: What was Job’s approximate age at this time?

A: Based on certain clues still to come, he was probably between 75 and 100 years old.

Job 3:17 There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.

Not being conscious, those who are dead are not troubled or weary. People in the Middle East tend to be flowery in their utterances, and that quality is beautiful under normal circumstances, whereas speech in our Western culture is generally colder. Thus Job was typical of those from Edom and Teman (a section of Edom).

Job 3:18 There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor.

Job 3:19 The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master.

Q: In verse 11, Job expressed the wish that he had died right after birth. In verse 16, he seems to have been asking for a stillbirth, so is this a contradiction? It would seem, therefore, that we cannot really prove from these verses at what point a resurrection is guaranteed.

A: Job was unburdening his tumultuous experience, so his emotional outburst was a mixed bag of statements, but we can see the turmoil that he was undergoing. As far as we know in regard to the individuals mentioned in the Bible, only our Lord, a perfect being, had a similar experience.

Comment: Job’s emotionalism seems similar to that of Jeremiah.

Reply: We know that Jeremiah read the Book of Job because at one time, he spoke along the same line. “Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad. And let that man be as the cities which the LORD overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide; Because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me. Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?” (Jer. 20:14-18). Unlike Job, Jeremiah was an emotional person throughout his whole life. However, Job was like Jeremiah when he was going through his suffering experience. What previously would have been a more serene reserve, by which Job could instill confidence in others, he lost in his traumatic experience through sheer physical lack of endurance. However, God knew his frame and thus allowed experiences to be recorded that would, in the estimation of some people, denigrate Job’s character. What was God’s judgment of Job on the whole? God rewarded Job for faithfulness because he manifested extraordinary character when he had lost so much and then said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). Job did not curse God or sin with his lips, and we can see from chapter 1 that he passed the supreme test.

This commendation helps us to realize how, in spite of all our imperfections and the contradictions that beset us in trying to be examples and followers of Jesus Christ, we make mistakes that other people recognize, but judgment of the true character of an individual is in God’s hands. He knows how to judge—to properly weigh and balance—the degree of our faithfulness and zeal in His service. He knows where to make and not to make allowances when mistakes are made. Job and Jeremiah both made some mistakes, but both were exemplary characters. We are thus given an insight into how God used those underneath His charge in both the Old and the New Testaments, although the latter is, of course, viewed from a little different perspective.

Job 3:20 Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul;

Job 3:21 Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures;

Job 3:22 Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave?

Job 3:23 Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in?

Job 3:24 For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters.

If we were in Job’s place and did not know about the philosophy of the permission of evil, our thinking would be the same as his, that is, if we had had his previous experience with all the light of favor, knowledge, understanding, happiness, and everything that accompanied his righteousness and goodness, and then severe calamities occurred—an opposite experience. Job was exposing the utter tumult in his soul. And we can thank God for giving us insight into Job’s contradictions, for they help us to see that God is truly like a Father and that He can understand some of the contradictions if they occur under unusual duress. Satan brought these calamities on Job, and Job had no knowledge of what had happened before the calamities. He was given much light, and then he had a very dark experience. Job could not understand the mixture of light and darkness in his own life.

Q: Was suicide ever broached?

A: As regards the high calling, it is our understanding that any of the consecrated who commit suicide will not be members of the Little Flock. Whether or not any who commit suicide will get life in the Great Company is another matter. We are frightened to make such a judgment.

We are more inclined to think that they will not, but we know of no Scripture that states the matter either way. For the Little Flock, however, to commit suicide would be taking the sacrifice off the altar.

“And my roarings are poured out like the waters.” Job was vomiting forth his troubling thoughts, as it were, in utterance to his friends. He was laying everything on the table for them to see. Job was unusual in his honesty and openness, for people normally would not so expose their inner thoughts before others, but he thought the three were his real friends. After all, they had sat quietly with him for seven days, mourning and not eating.

Job 3:25 For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.

Job 3:26 I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.

Verses 25 and 26 are an interesting end to the chapter. Do not we, as Christians, who have been trying to live faithfully according to the requirements of the gospel, have from time to time in our life—irrespective of what deeds, good or otherwise, we might have done— moments of wondering whether we will make our calling and election sure? Haven’t we had a foreboding, or premonition, that something dire awaits us? Even during the period of his serenity, peace, and favor with God, Job wondered with regard to the future. Calamities were the very thing he had greatly feared would come upon him. Any individuals in a position of authority or influence who see that the Lord has blessed them in connection with their deeds and works would at times realize that responsibility goes with the influence and thus might have disquieting thoughts of uncertainty as to what the future portends for them as individuals—as to what their ultimate fate will be. Job had such thoughts, even though God said in the beginning, in a qualified way, that he was “perfect” and none was like him in all the earth. This revealment about Job can be comforting to those who have similar thoughts. It is not strange thing that such experiences come even upon the very elect before they ultimately make their calling and election sure. Having this understanding is comforting, but it does not give us liberty to sin. As the Apostle Paul said, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid” (Rom. 6:1,2). This exposure of Job’s innermost thoughts is educational to us as Christians. Even while he was in safety and had rest prior to the calamities, he had a little doubt underneath. Job was hoping everything would end up in secure eternal favor with God.

(2001-2003 Study)

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