Are not their days like those of hired labourers?
2 Like a slave longing for the evening shadows,
or a hired labourer waiting to be paid,
3 so I have been allotted months of futility,
and nights of misery have been assigned to me.
4 When I lie down I think, ‘How long before I get up?’
The night drags on, and I toss and turn until dawn.
5 My body is clothed with worms and scabs,
my skin is broken and festering.
Job’s words now turn away from Eliphaz and turn back towards God as his lament continues. The language here is similar to the language that Solomon uses in Ecclesiastes. There is an evident wrestling going on as he attempts to reconcile his plight with a gracious and loving God.
Job complains that even a slave has relief from his labour and masters control at night, that even a slave is rewarded for his work but his suffering knows no end.
Like the worker and the slave, Job waited. But Job was waiting to die. Job’s death was the only reward that Job expected.
6 “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,
and they come to an end without hope.
7 Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath;
my eyes will never see happiness again.
8 The eye that now sees me will see me no longer;
you will look for me, but I will be no more.
9 As a cloud vanishes and is gone,
so one who goes down to the grave does not return.
10 He will never come to his house again;
his place will know him no more.
Job uses metaphorical language to convey life’s transience. The words are similar to those found in the Psalms (Psalms 39:4-6; 62:9; 89:47-48; 144:3-4). The reality of life and death drove the psalmist to God. In contrast Job spoke as one without hope.
The weaver’s shuttle spins rapidly. In the same way, life appears to pass quickly.
All our lives are but a breath, this does not just refer to Job and his predicament but me too. Life is fragile, very precarious and uncertain. It is a “vapour”, a mist, easily broken and dissipated. It soon vanishes.
It is like the “wind”, noisy and blusterous, full of stir and tumult but then it swiftly passes and sweeps away, and does not return.
I think about people I knew who are no longer with us. My grandparents, my Vicki my first wife, my friends and fellow band members John & Chris and the list goes on. I think about Bayo a great friend from my early Christian days up until his untimely death a few years ago, I think about Juvarne who sang beautifully at our wedding.
I think about even well known people who died in the last several years …Michael Jackson, David Bowie and many others. They all made some kind of noise in my life for one reason or another but they are mist. They make no more noise. Life has gone. The same will happen to everyone.
The idea of never coming to his house again is an interesting and somewhat haunting thought. Sometimes I have had the opportunity to revisit houses I used to live in or even simply go past them. So many memories were created in those places and yet to see them again, they are inhabited by someone else who has no attachment to those memories that are mine. The houses are changed. A cutting from my grandfathers grapevine that I planted in my house in Braintree is gone. It is no more. The story has ended.
We are a mist but something greater awaits.
11 “Therefore I will not keep silent;
I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit,
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
12 Am I the sea, or the monster of the deep,
that you put me under guard?
13 When I think my bed will comfort me
and my couch will ease my complaint,
14 even then you frighten me with dreams
and terrify me with visions,
15 so that I prefer strangling and death,
rather than this body of mine.
16 I despise my life; I would not live forever.
Let me alone; my days have no meaning.
Job now turned his lament toward God, with questions that are focused on his prolonged misery. If Job’s life was a breath that would inevitably expire one day, why did God bother guarding him like some monster of the “sea”? Why not train His eye elsewhere and let Job slip this mortal coil? Is this some macabre game or experiment?
The use of the word “therefore” indicates a conclusion on the basis of all he had said in verses 1-10.
Job had decided that since his life seemed to be so hopeless, he would complain. He had not previously revealed his bitter feelings. Now was time to open up and express his hurt.
He questioned God about the issue of attempting to control him like some sea monster.
“Is it so needful to watch me as you would watch a threatening sea monster?”
Job was not an animal, or a sea monster that had no control over their lives. He was a man with feelings. He was restrained as if he had no thoughts or feelings. He felt as if God had forgotten him.
The agony Job experienced was constant. He could barely sleep, yet when he did, he was haunted by nightmares he believed came from God. He longed for death to relieve him of this terror.
The word for “no meaning” is the same word “hevel” often translated “meaningless” or “futile” in Ecclesiastes. It is frequently used in scripture to describe transience of life, that life is a vapour or mist (Ecclesiastes1:2-4).
Man does not live in this body forever. Job wanted to know why he could not just die now and cut the time short. It appears that Job does not have a sense of the eternal in these early chapters and it makes me wonder if that is the point of the wisdom literature …to point us to eternity.
17 “What is mankind that you make so much of them,
that you give them so much attention,
18 that you examine them every morning
and test them every moment?
19 Will you never look away from me,
or let me alone even for an instant?
20 If I have sinned, what have I done to you,
you who see everything we do?
Why have you made me your target?
Have I become a burden to you?
21 Why do you not pardon my offenses
and forgive my sins?
For I will soon lie down in the dust;
you will search for me, but I will be no more.”
Job is now immersed in self pity and darkness. It’s really not surprising when you consider the torment and suffering he is experiencing but he questions God about why he is so important, , that God would spend all this attention on him? Why did God cause all this misery to someone so insignificant?
God refines us through suffering, he use it to shape us, to form Christ in us and to increase our trust in him (Hebrews 12:7-11) (Romans 8:28-30). This lesson would become clear to Job later (Job 23:10).
Why God should take a pleasure in his daily suffering? Why does not God allow one morning, or one moment, to pass without inflicting pain on a creature so feeble and so frail?
These are raw but honest questions. In the bigger picture there is an authentic wrestling going on much like the wrestling we see in the Psalms. Many of the Psalms follow a pattern of “why are you doing this to me God? Why are you against me?” but finish on a point of surrender and trust “I will praise your name forever”, “Your unfailing love is amazing, I take pleasure in your presence”. The book of Job is effectively doing the same thing across 42 chapters.
The expression “Till I swallow down my spittle” is a strange statement. It was an Arabic proverb, indicating “a brief moment”. Job was asking for a moment “to catch his breath”.