Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible

Job 3

Verse 1

JOB CHAPTER 3

Job curseth the day and services of his birth, Job 3:1-12. The ease and honours of death, Job 3:13-19. Life in anguish matter of complaint, Job 3:20-24. What he feared is now come upon him, Job 3:25,26.

He spake freely and boldly, as this phrase is used, Proverbs 31:8,9 Eph 6:19, and elsewhere,

and cursed his day, to wit, his birthday, as is evident from Job 3:3, which is called simply a man’s day, Hosea 7:5; which also some others, through the same infirmity, and in the same circumstances, have cursed, as we see, Jeremiah 20:14. In vain do some men endeavour to excuse this and the following speeches of Job, who afterwards is reproved by God and severely accuseth himself for them, Job 38:2 40:4 42:3,6. And yet he doth not proceed so far as to curse or blaspheme God, but makes the devil a liar in his prognostics. But although he doth not break forth into direct and downright reproaches of God, yet he makes secret and indirect reflections upon God’s providence. His curse was sinful, both because it was vain, being applied to an unreasonable thing, which was not capable of blessing and cursing, and to a day that was past, and so out of the reach of all curses; and because it was applied to one of God’s creatures, all which were and are in themselves very good, and pronounced blessed by God; and so they are, if we do not turn them into curses; and because it casts a blame upon God for bringing that day, and for giving him that life which that day brought into the world. He pronounceth that day an unhappy, woeful, and cursed day, not in itself, but with respect to himself.

Verse 3

Let the remembrance of that day be utterly lost; yea, I heartily wish that it had never been. Such wishes are apparently foolish and impatient, and yet have been sometimes forced from wise and good men in grievous distresses, not as if they expected any effect of them, but only to show their abhorrency of life, and to express the intolerableness of their grief, and to give some vent to their passions. In which it was said with joy and triumph, as happy tidings. Compare Jeremiah 20:15. Conceived; or rather, brought forth, as this word is used, 1 Chronicles 4:17; for the time of conception is unknown commonly to women themselves, and doth not use to be reported among men, as this day is supposed to be.

Verse 4

I wish the sun had never risen upon that day to make it day, or, which is all one, that it had never been; and whensoever that day returns, I wish it may be black, and gloomy, and uncomfortable, and therefore execrable and odious to all men.

From above, i.e. from heaven; either,

1. By causing the light of the sun which is in heaven to shine upon it. So it agrees both with the foregoing and following branches of this verse. Or,

2. By blessing and favouring it, or by giving his blessings to men upon it. Let it be esteemed by all an unlucky and comfortless day. Or, Let not God require it, i. e. bring it again in its course, as other days return. In this sense God is said to require that which is past, Ecclesiastes 3:15. Compare Job 3:3,6.

Verse 5

Darkness and the shadow of death, i.e. a black and dark shadow, like that of the place of the dead, which is a land of darkness, and where the light is darkness, as Job explains this very phrase, Job 10:21,22; or so gross and palpable darkness, that by its horrors and damps may take away men’s spirits and lives.

Stain it, i.e. take away its beauty and glory, and make it abominable, as a filthy thing. Or,

challenge it, i.e. take and keep the entire possession of it, so as the light may not have the least share in it.

Terrify it, to wit, the day, i.e. men in it. Let it be always observed as a frightful and dismal day.

Verse 6

Let darkness seize upon it, i. e. constant and extraordinary darkness, without the least glimmering of light from the moon or stars.

Joined unto the days of the year, i.e. reckoned as one, or a part of one, of them. The night is distinguished from the artificial day, but it is a part of the natural day, which consists of twenty-four hours. Or rather, let it not rejoice among the days, &c. Joy here, and terror, Job 3:5, are poetically and figuratively ascribed to the day or night with respect to men, who either rejoice or are affrighted in it. Let it be a sad, and as it were a funeral, day.

Let it not come into the number of the months, i.e. to be one of those nights which go to the making up of the months.

Verse 7

Solitary, i.e. destitute of all society of men meeting and feasting together, which commonly was done at night, suppers being the most solemn meals among divers ancient nations. See Mark 6:21 Luke 14:16 John 12:2 Revelation 19:9,17.

Let no joyful voice; neither of the bride and bridegroom, nor any that celebrate their nuptials, or any other merry solemnity.

Verse 8

That curse the day, i.e. their day, to wit, their birthday; for the pronoun is here omitted for the metre’s sake; for this and the following chapters are written in verse, as all grant. So the sense is, when their afflictions move them to curse their own birthday, let them remember mine also, and bestow some curses upon it. Or the day of their distress and trouble, which sometimes is called simply the day, as Obadiah 1:12. Or the day of the birth or death of that person, whose funerals are celebrated by the hired mourners, who in their solemn lamentations used to curse the day that gave them such a person, whom they should so suddenly lose; and therefore it had been better never to have enjoyed him, and to curse the day in which he died as an unlucky and execrable day. Or, the day, i.e. the daylight; which to some persons is a hateful thing, and the object of their curses, namely, to lewd persons and thieves, to whom the morning light is even as the shadow of death, Job 24:17; as also to persons oppressed with deep melancholy, as it is here implied, Job 3:20. So the sense is this, They who use to curse the day only, but generally love and bless the night, yet let this night be as abominable and execrable to them as the day-time generally is.

Who are ready to raise up their mourning; who are brimful of sorrow, and always ready to pour out their cries, and tears, and complaints, and with them curses, as men in great passions frequently do; or, such mourning men, or mourning women, whose common employment it was, and who were hired to mourn, and therefore were always ready to do so upon funeral occasions; of which see 2 Chronicles 35:25 Jeremiah 9:17,18,20 Eze 30:2 Joel 1:15 Amos 5:16 Matthew 9:23. And this sense suits with the use of the last word in Hebrew writers, of which a plain and pertinent instance is given by the learned Mercer. But because that word is commonly used in another sense for the leviathan, both in this book and elsewhere in Scripture, as Psalms 74:14 104:26 Isaiah 27:1, and because this very phrase of raising the leviathan is used afterward, Job 41:25, others render the words thus, who are prepared or ready to raise the leviathan. It is evident that the leviathan was a great and dreadful fish, or sea monster, though there be some disagreement about its kind or quality, and that the raising of or endeavouring to catch the leviathan was a dangerous and terrible work, as is plain from Job 41. And therefore those seamen who have been generally noted for great swearers and cursers, especially when their passions of rage or fear are raised, being now labouring to catch this sea monster, and finding themselves and their vessel in great danger from him, they fall to their old trade of swearing and cursing, and curse the day wherein they were born, and the day in which they ventured upon this most hazardous and terrible work. Others understand this leviathan mystically, as it is used Isaiah 27:1, for the great enemy of God’s church and people, called there also the dragon, to wit, the devil, whom the magicians both now do, and formerly did, use to raise with fearful curses and imprecations. Not as if Job did justify this practice, but only it is a rash and passionate wish, that they who pour forth so many curses undeservedly, would bestow their deserved curses upon this day.

Verse 9

Let the stars, which are the glory and beauty of the night, to render it amiable and delightful to men,

be covered with thick darkness, nd that both in the evening twilight, as is here expressed, when the stars begin to arise and shine forth; and also in the further progress of the night, even till the morning begins to dawn, as the following words imply.

Let it look for light, but have none; let its darkness be aggravated with the disappointment of its hopes and expectations of light. He ascribes sense or reasoning to the night, by a poetical fiction usual in all writers.

The dawning of the day, Heb. the eyelids of the day, i.e. the morningstar, which ushers in the day, and the beginning, and consequently the progress, of the morning light, and the day following. Let this whole natural day, consisting of night and day, be blotted out of the catalogue of days, as he wished before.

Verse 10

Because it shut not up, to wit, the night or the day; to which those things are ascribed which were done by others in them, as is frequent in poetical writings, such as this is. Or, he, i.e. God; whom in modesty and reverence he forbears to name. Yet he doth not curse God for his birth, as the devil presaged, but only wisheth that the day of his birth might have manifest characters of a curse impressed upon it. Shut not up the doors; that it might either never have conceived me, or at least never have brought me forth.

Mother’s; which word is here fitly supplied, both out of Job 1:21 31:18, where it is expressed; and by comparing other places where it is necessarily to be understood, though the womb only be mentioned, as Job 10:19 Psalms 58:3 Isaiah 48:8 Jeremiah 1:5.

Nor hid sorrow from mine eyes, because it did not keep me from entering into this miserable life, and seeing, i.e. feeling, or experiencing, (as that word is oft used,) those bitter sorrows under which I now groan.

Verse 11

From the womb, i.e. as soon as ever I was born, or come out of the womb. And the same thing is expressed in other words, which is an elegancy usual both in the Hebrew and in other languages.

Verse 12

Why did the knees prevent me? why did the midwife or nurse receive me, and lay me upon her knees, and did not suffer me to fall upon the bare ground, and there to lie, in a neglected and forlorn condition, till merciful death had taken me out of this miserable world, into which the cruel kindness of my mother and midwife hath betrayed me?

Why the breasts that I should suck? Why did the breasts prevent me, (which may be fitly understood out of the former member,) to wit, from perishing through hunger, or supply me, that I should have what to suck? Seeing my mother had not a miscarrying womb, but did unhappily bring me forth why had she not dry breasts? or why were there any breasts for me which I might suck? Thus Job most unthankfully and unworthily despiseth and traduceth these wonderful and singular mercies of God towards poor helpless infants, because of the present inconveniencies which he had by means of them.

Verse 13

Quiet; free from all those torments of my body and mind which now oppress me.

Verse 14

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.

Verse 16

Hidden; undiscerned and unregarded.

Untimely birth; born before the due time, and therefore extinct.

I had not been, to wit, in the land of the living, of which he here speaketh.

As infants which never saw light; being stifled and dead before they were born.

Verse 17

There, i.e. in the grave, which though not expressed, yet is clearly implied in the foregoing verses.

The wicked cease from troubling; the great oppressors and troublers of the world cease from all those vexations, rapines, and murders which here they procured.

There the weary be at rest; those who were here molested and tired out with their tyrannies, now quietly sleep with them, or by them.

Verse 18

The prisoners rest together, i.e. one as well as another; they who were kept in the strongest chains and closest prisons, and condemned to the most hard and miserable slavery, rest as well as those who were captives in much better circumstances. Or,

in like manner, ( as this word oft signifies,) as those oppressors and oppressed do.

The oppressor, or, exacter, or taskmaster, who urgeth and forceth them by cruel threatenings and stripes to greater diligence in the works to which they are condemned. See Exodus 3:7 5:6,10,13. Job meddles not here with their eternal state after death, or the sentence and judgment of God against wicked men, of which he speaks hereafter; but only speaks of their freedom from worldly troubles, which is the only matter of his complaint and present discourse.

Verse 19

The small and great, i.e. persons of all qualifies and conditions, whether higher or lower.

Are there, in the same place and state, all those kinds of distinctions and differences being for ever abolished.

Verse 20

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 Psalms 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?

Verse 21

i.e. Desire and pray for it with as much earnestness as men dig for treasure. But it is observable that Job durst not lay violent hands upon himself, nor do any thing to hasten or procure his death; but notwithstanding all his miseries and complaints, he was contented to wait all the days of his appointed time, till his change came, Job 14:14.

Verse 23

Why is light given? these words are conveniently supplied out of Job 1:20, where they are, all the following words hitherto being joined in construction and sense with them.

Whose way is hid, to wit, from him who knows not his way, i.e. which way to turn himself, what course to take to comfort himself in his miseries, or to get out of them; what method to use to please and reconcile that God who is so angry with him, seeing his sincere and exact piety, to which God is witness, doth not satisfy him; or what the end of these calamities will be.

Whom God hath hedged in; not with a hedge of defence, like that Job 1:10, but of offence and restraint, i.e. whom God hath put as it were in prison or pound, or like cattle in grounds enclosed with a high and strong hedge, over or through which they cannot get; so that he can see no way nor possibility to escape, but all refuge fails him.

Verse 24

Before I eat, Heb. before the face of my bread, i.e. either when I am going to eat, or rather, all the time whilst I am eating, (for so this phrase is used Psalms 72:5, before the face of the sun, &c.; that is, as we translate it, as long as the sun endureth,) I fall into bitter passions of sighing and weeping; partly because my necessity and duty obligeth me to eat, and so to support this wretched life, which I long to lose; and principally because of my uninterrupted pains of body, and horrors of my mind, which mix themselves with my very meat, and do not afford me one quiet moment. Compare Psalms 102:9.

My roarings, i.e. my loud outcries, more befitting a lion than a man, which yet extremity of grief forceth from me. Compare Psalms 22:1 32:3.

Like the waters, i.e. with great abundance, and irresistible violence, and incessant continuance, as waters flow in a river, or when they break the banks, and overflow the ground.

Verse 25

This is another reason why he is weary of his life, and why he repents that ever he was born, because he never enjoyed any solid and secure comfort.

The thing which I greatly feared is come upon me. Heb. I feared a fear, (i.e. a danger or mischief in one kind or other, the act being here put for the object, as joy and love are oft put for the things rejoiced in, or loved, and here fear for the thing feared. Or, I feared with fear, i.e. I feared greatly,) and it came. Even in the time of my peace and prosperity I was full of fears, considering the variety of God’s providences, the course and changeableness of this vain world, the infirmities and contingencies of human nature and life, God’s justice, and the sinfulness of all mankind. And these fears of mine were not vain, but are justified by my present calamities. So that I have never enjoyed any sound tranquillity since I was born; and therefore it hath not been worth my while to live, since all my days have been evil, and full of vexation and torment, either by the fear of miseries, or by the sufferance of them.

Verse 26

The three expressions note the same thing, which also was signified in the next foregoing verse, to wit, that even in his prosperous days he never was secure or at rest from the torment of fear and anxiety. Others, I did not misbehave myself in prosperity, abusing it by presumption, and security, and voluptuousness, whereby I might have provoked God thus to afflict me; but I lived soberly and circumspectly, walking humbly with God, and working out my salvation with fear and trembling, little expecting that God would be so fierce an enemy against me.

Yet trouble came, Heb. and trouble came, as I feared it would. So between fear and calamity my whole life hath been miserable, and I had reason to repent of it.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Job 3". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://pro.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/job-3.html. 1685.