3 After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2 He said:
3 “May the day of my birth perish,
and the night that said, ‘A boy is conceived!’
4 That day—may it turn to darkness;
may God above not care about it;
may no light shine on it.
5 May gloom and utter darkness claim it once more;
may a cloud settle over it;
may blackness overwhelm it.
6 That night—may thick darkness seize it;
may it not be included among the days of the year
nor be entered in any of the months.
7 May that night be barren;
may no shout of joy be heard in it.
8 May those who curse days curse that day,
those who are ready to rouse Leviathan.
9 May its morning stars become dark;
may it wait for daylight in vain
and not see the first rays of dawn,
10 for it did not shut the doors of the womb on me
to hide trouble from my eyes.
In verses 1-26, Job speaks and is in despair of his life. He experiences even greater sadness when he realizes God will not let him die (Psalm 58:8). It all seems very harsh but it’s easy to forget the intense physical anguish on top of a loss and grief that is hard to fully appreciate.
Chapter 3:1 – 42:6 is dense Hebrew poetry. It is a dramatic poem of speeches attempting to understand Job’s suffering.
Chapters 3:1 – 37:24 cover the cycles of dialogue between Job and his well-meaning friends, including Elihu (chapters 32-37).
Job was the first to break the week-long silence with a lament (3:1-26).
Job began his first speech by cursing the day of his birth, he effectively says “I wish I’d never been born.”
Job’s friends waited for Job to speak. They waited for an entire week. At last, Job spoke. Job explained that he was distraught. His life seemed to have no value. He felt as if he was waiting to die.
He had lost everything that have him meaning in life.
These are the words of a man who was so broken, he no longer cared. The language is dark and despairing. I think the only time I have experienced any feeling like this was when the full weight of my sin was exposed in July / August 2015 and those days of homelessness. As far as I can remember it was the only time in my life when I felt such anguish and despair. This was my own fault. Job’s experience was not his own fault. These were not consequences of his actions or inaction.
11 “Why did I not perish at birth,
and die as I came from the womb?
12 Why were there knees to receive me
and breasts that I might be nursed?
13 For now I would be lying down in peace;
I would be asleep and at rest
14 with kings and rulers of the earth,
who built for themselves places now lying in ruins,
15 with princes who had gold,
who filled their houses with silver.
16 Or why was I not hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child,
like an infant who never saw the light of day?
17 There the wicked cease from turmoil,
and there the weary are at rest.
18 Captives also enjoy their ease;
they no longer hear the slave driver’s shout.
19 The small and the great are there,
and the slaves are freed from their owners.
Job’s despair and grief is apparent as he longs for death and an end to the suffering, the thought that at least he could rest and the anguish and pain could end. I imagine that in extreme physical pain that is all that you long for. An end to the suffering and peace.
It is important to remember that this is poetry and as such we cannot assume a theological position from the words alone.
Job’s wrestling with the idea of death and the concept of death are real and emotive. The futility of life is exposed. He talks of Kings that worked hard, who built palaces and led great armies. They achieved many things. But now, gone. Their palaces are heaps of stone. Someone else owns their gold and silver now. And their bodies lie near the body of a child whom nobody knew.
Maybe he was thinking about the building of his own life and what he had now amounting to nothing. He really had nothing. He lost his wealth, he lost his family and now his health had failed him.
In the grave he presumes that even the wicked are released from turmoil and suffering. Slaves and prisoners experience no more anguish. The grave seems like an inviting place to be in this moment.
In a state of extreme suffering and emotional trauma death does seem inviting. Everything else does become rather meaningless.
20 “Why is light given to those in misery,
and life to the bitter of soul,
21 to those who long for death that does not come,
who search for it more than for hidden treasure,
22 who are filled with gladness
and rejoice when they reach the grave?
23 Why is life given to a man
whose way is hidden,
whom God has hedged in?
24 For sighing has become my daily food;
my groans pour out like water.
25 What I feared has come upon me;
what I dreaded has happened to me.
26 I have no peace, no quietness;
I have no rest, but only turmoil.”
Job repeatedly asked “why” his life went on (five times). His lament appears to be centered on why God preserved his life. Would it not have been better to blot him out.
Job was able to sympathise with other people because of his own trouble. Job always cared about other people (Job 29:12-17). But now Job knew how they suffered. This may be one of the key points of unexplained suffering. It may not be about sin at all but connection with those who are suffering.
Some of us may suffer as a result of sin and the usual and in many ways the right response is that it’s our own fault and simply a consequence of wrong behaviour. That may be technically the right response but often is not the response that God wants us to have. His desire is connection, compassion and love. This does not mean shying away from the truth but rather facing the truth fully and embracing the person fully. Sometimes the experience of suffering is the only thing that can wipe away the judgment in our soul and lead us to a life of connection and compassion.
I heard Stevie Wonder describe his “blindness” as a gift and something he is grateful for as he introduced his concert in Hyde Park last Summer (2016).
I know my own journey is a consequence of sin. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I certainly wouldn’t wish the fall out on any family but I still see it as a blessing. God has led me on this journey and began to soften me as a result. My family are connected in a way they could not have possibly been without it. I wish there was an easier way but we are stubborn beings.
In this chapter, all the way through, Job was speaking of a better place awaiting.
Job counts himself among those who seek death. He was miserable in life, as the people he mentioned were miserable. He knew there was coming a day, when all pain and suffering would be done away with.
Satan had earlier complained that God was protecting Job. He said that God was like a hedge round Job (Job 1:10).
Job was also aware of this. But Job did not realise that God was protecting him. Job was saying that his troubles were like a hedge round him. So Job could not escape from his troubles.
Satan spoke of a hedge of protection and blessing (1:10), whereas Job spoke of this hedge as a prison of living death.
Job wanted rest and quiet. He even wanted to be dead, so that he could sleep. But instead, he was always suffering. Nothing seemed to help him. And nothing comforted him.
Job wanted to please God in whatever circumstance he was in. This was now being threatened because of his great anguish. Maybe his greatest fear was violating his relationship with God.