Job 3 Commentary


Job’s bitterness (3:1-26)

The long silence breaks when Job curses the day of his birth. He wishes he had never been born (3:1- 7). He would like sorcerers also to curse that dark day. If they have power over the mythical sea monster Leviathan, they should have power to declare the day of his birth a day of darkness and sorrow, a day on which no person should have been born (8-10). If he had to be born, he wishes he had been stillborn.

Then he would have gone straight to the place of the dead (11-16). Death releases all people from the sufferings of life, whether old or young, rich or poor, good or bad, kings or prisoners, masters or slaves (17-19).

Life only increases Job’s misery. He feels that he would be better dead than alive, better in darkness than in light. It is a cruel mockery when the sole purpose of life seems to be to make him conscious of his distress, the sole purpose of light to show him how horrible are his sufferings (20-24).

Yet Job’s suffering is more than physical. The inner conflict is more tormenting. According to what he has always believed, his great suffering means that he must be a great sinner, but he knows he is not. What he has always dreaded has apparently come true: he is cut off from God and he does not know why (25-26).

The debate

Although we shall see that in the end Job is proved right, this does not mean that everything he says during the debate is true (cf. 6:26; 42:1-6). Likewise, although the book will show that the arguments of the three friends are not the answer to Job’s suffering, this does not mean that everything they say is wrong.

The chief fault of the three friends is that they try to explain all the facts of human suffering on the basis that suffering is always the result of personal sin. Certainly, it sometimes is, but the special knowledge we are given in Chapters 1 and 2 of God’s control of events shows us that this is not always the case. No one can be certain of the underlying reason for another person’s suffering.

Also, amid all the friends’ words of advice there is no real sympathy for Job, and no acknowledgment of the remarkable patience and humble submission to God that he has already shown (see 1:21; 2:10).

They firmly believe their traditional theories, but they have never been in Job’s position where they can test those theories in practice. They are in the dangerous position of having religious beliefs without corresponding personal experience. While they talk about God, Job talks to God.

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