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JOB 3

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Job Laments Job Deplores His Birth Job's Curse of the Day/Night of His Birth Job's Complaint to God Job Curses the Day of His Birth
3:1-10 3:1-2 3:1-10
(3-10)
3:1 3:1-2

(2-10)
    3:2-10
(2-10)
 
  3:3-10
(3-10)
    3:3-10
(3-10)
3:11-19
(11-19)
3:11-19
(11-19)
3:11-19
(11-19)
3:11-19
(11-19)
3:11-23
(11-23)
3:20-26
(20-26)
3:20-26
(20-26)
3:20-26
(20-26)
3:20-26
(20-26)
 
        3:24-26
(24-26)

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Job 3 begins the poetic section of the book. For a chart on the three cycles of dialogues between Job and his three comforters, see Introduction, VIII. B.

 

B. There is a strange relationship between the prose and poetic sections.

1. They form a unity. The plot and its background are only in the prose sections.

2. The patient Job of Job 1-2 has been replaced with a bitter sufferer!

3. They seem to be answering different theological questions.

4. Surprisingly the terrible loss of his possessions and family is never directly mentioned in the poetic section nor, for that matter, is his devastating, repulsive illness.

5. This disunity has been explained by different authors; however, this is totally unsubstantiated by any manuscript evidence or traditions.

 

C. Be sure to look at

1. SPECIAL TOPIC: WISDOM LITERATURE

2. SPECIAL TOPIC: HEBREW POETRY

 

D. Job 3 sets the literary and theological stage for the speeches of Job's three comforters. They are shocked by Job's imagery, theology, frank statements, and deep emotions.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 3:1-10
 1Afterward Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2And Job said,
 3"Let the day perish on which I was to be born,
 And the night which said, ‘A boy is conceived.'
 4May that day be darkness;
 Let not God above care for it,
 Nor light shine on it.
 5Let darkness and black gloom claim it;
 Let a cloud settle on it;
 Let the blackness of the day terrify it.
 6As for that night, let darkness seize it;
 Let it not rejoice among the days of the year;
 Let it not come into the number of the months.
 7Behold, let that night be barren;
 Let no joyful shout enter it.
 8Let those curse it who curse the day,
 Who are prepared to rouse Leviathan.
 9Let the stars of its twilight be darkened;
 Let it wait for light but have none,
 And let it not see the breaking dawn;
 10Because it did not shut the opening of my mother's womb,
 Or hide trouble from my eyes."

3:1 "Afterward" This refers to the seven day silence of Job 2:13.

▣ "Job opened his mouth" There is speculation that there was a Jewish tradition (see Jewish Study Bible, p. 1508) that the mourner must speak first before others present could speak.

▣ "cursed" This verb (BDB 886, KB 1103, Piel imperfect with waw) is not the euphemistic use of "bless" found in the Prologue, but another word that basically means "to trivialize" or "to make insignificant."

Although Job does not mention God, he is surely calling into question his life, which he would view as from God (i.e., Job 3:20,23). This unstated implication is what caused the three comforters to speak! They feel they must defend God and His ways with humans (i.e., "the two ways").

3:2 "And Job said" This is literally "and Job answered and said." This is a recurrent literary marker in Job for Job's dialogues. He is not answering a question from someone, except himself! In his speeches he talks through his feelings and thoughts out loud.

3:3-10 There is a series of 15 jussives which represent curse requests. They all relate to the day of his conception and later birth (cf. Jer. 20:14-18). Several of them relate to some kind of "darkness" metaphorical of his current situation. The ancients feared night and often personified it (i.e., imagery and myth; see Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, pp. 191-193).

Notice the different terms for darkness/lack of light. Darkness had metaphorical and demonic implications.

1. darkness, Job 3:4a – BDB 365

2. let not light shine on it, Job 3:4c

3. darkness, Job 3:5a – BDB 365

4.  black gloom, Job 3:5a – BDB 385

5. let a cloud settle on it, Job 3:5b

6. the blackness (only here), Job 3:5c – BDB 485

7. night, Job 3:6a – BDB 538

8. darkness, Job 3:6a – BDB 66

9. night, Job 3:7a – BDB 538

10. stars of twilight be darkened, Job 3:9a – BDB 364, KB 361, Qal imperfect

11. no light, Job 3:9b

12. not see dawn, Job 3:9c

Wow! The power of Hebrew parallelism and rich vocabulary (i.e., on selected subjects) shows the deep feelings.

3:3 "day" See Special Topic: Day (yom).

3:4 "May that day be darkness" The NET Bible (p. 760) suggests this is meant to reflect Genesis 1, but in a negative way (also NASB Study Bible, p. 696).

▣ "God" This is Eloah. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

▣ "light" This noun (BDB 626) is found only here and is opposite of "darkness" (BDB 365).

3:5 "blackness" This noun (BDB 485) is found only here in the OT. The NJB translates it as "eclipse," associating "blackness" with an eclipse (cf. Amos 8:9-10).

▣ "claim" The verb (BDB 145, KB 169, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense) basically refers to a near relative buying someone back (i.e., what Boaz does for Naomi through Ruth), but this does not seem to fit the imagery of Job 3:5. Some other suggestions (i.e., but with no textual support) are

1. pollute/defile – Targum, Vulgate

2. cover – TEV, Peshitta

3. stain – KJV, NEB

4. possess

5. reclaim – JPSOA, ABPS

6. seize – LXX

The NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 793, suggests "Job's curse asks that terrible darkness lay claim to his birthday rather than Yahweh rescue it from that doom (cf. Job 3:4)."

▣ "terrify" This verb (BDB 129, KB 147, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense) occurs 16 times in the OT, eight of them in Job (3:5; 7:14; 9:34; 13:11,21; 15:24; 18:11; 33:7), describing Job's fear. In this context (i.e., Job 3:5) it is part of Job's wishes about the destruction of the day of his birth.

3:7 The personification of night continues. In this verse, the word "barren" (BDB 166) occurs only here and Isa. 49:21. Its basic meaning is unproductive, rocky soil. Job prays the night of his birth produce no more children! This is imagery of deep pain and hopelessness.

3:8a The Hebrew word "day," יום (BDB 398), is changed by some scholars (i.e., Gunkel and Gordis) and REB, NAB to "sea," ים (BDB 410), so as to link up with Leviathan (cf. Job 7:12; 9:13; 26:12-13).

3:8b "Who are prepared to rouse Leviathan" This term (BDB 531) has several senses in the OT. There is an extensive description in Job 41. See notes online at Psalm 74:14 and Isaiah 27:1.

Job 3:8 is not addressed to Leviathan but to (1) skilled (literal meaning of adjective, BDB 800) fishermen or commercial sailors (AB, p. 26) or (2) magicians (cf. Job 3:8a, REB, NJB, NET Bible footnotes).

See usage of the verb "rouse" (BDB 734, KB 802, Polel infinitive construct) in another magic text in Isa. 14:9.

3:9 This refers to the first star (i.e., planet, probably Venus, which is seen at early dawn or twilight). If Job 3:8 has mythological imagery (i.e., Leviathan), then, so too, Job 3:9. The stars were seen as gods that controlled human's destiny (i.e., horoscope).

3:10 This refers to the night of Job's conception (cf. Job 3:3b; 1 Sam. 1:6).

▣ "from my eyes" The Tyndale OT Commentary on Job by Andersen suggests that this (BDB 744) be changed to the synonym of "womb" (BDB 588) used in Ruth 1:11, cf. Gen. 25:23. In this way "my womb" (BDB 105) of Job 3:10a is paralleled in Job 3:5b. This is the way the Moffatt translation deals with this verse.

The nature of Hebrew poetry (i.e., parallelism) and the similarity of Semitic roots gives moderns a possible way to interpret ancient, rare lexical forms.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 3:11-19
 11"Why did I not die at birth,
 Come forth from the womb and expire?
 12Why did the knees receive me,
 And why the breasts, that I should suck?
 13For now I would have lain down and been quiet;
 I would have slept then, I would have been at rest,
 14With kings and with counselors of the earth,
 Who rebuilt ruins for themselves;
 15Or with princes who had gold,
 Who were filling their houses with silver.
 16Or like a miscarriage which is discarded, I would not be,
 As infants that never saw light.
 17There the wicked cease from raging,
 And there the weary are at rest.
 18The prisoners are at ease together;
 They do not hear the voice of the taskmaster.
 19The small and the great are there,
 And the slave is free from his master."

3:11-19 This strophe begins with two questions related to Job's birth. He would have preferred to die at birth (cf. Job 10:18-19). This shows something of the depth of the agony he was experiencing.

He views death as a place of rest/ease for humans (i.e., Sheol, see Special Topic: Sheol). It is not viewed as a joyful place but a quiet (i.e., no conversation) place. The OT view of the afterlife is very ambiguous in light of the progressive revelation of the NT.

Job's view of the afterlife can be seen in Job 7:8-10,21; 10:21,22; 14:10-15,20-22; 16:22; 17:13-16; 19:25-27; 21:13,23-26; 24:19,20; 26:5,6; 34:22. It was the silent land of no return.

3:13 "been quiet" Sheol was viewed as a place of consciousness but of silence. No one praised God. A person was a mere shadow of the earthly person.

▣ "slept" In the OT death is described by the euphemism of sleep (BDB 445). This is imagery and should not be turned into doctrine. OT poetry is a poor place to build doctrines. Not that it does not state truth but it is in figurative language.

Andersen, in the Tyndale OT Commentary series, makes a good point here (pp. 106-107).

". . .the doctrine of rewards and punishments in the next world is not found in Job as an answer to the moral problem of the unequal fortunes of the present life. Job does not hope that death will rectify the injustice of his undeserved sufferings. It will be enough that it ends them. In the theology of this book, judgment is not postponed to the afterlife. It is only in a negative sense that the turbulence of life abates (verse 13) and the inequalities of life become irrelevant (14-19). In spite of the vagueness with which the living conditions of Sheol are described, the continuation of conscious personal existence and identity after death is clearly believed. The book knows nothing about the heaven of bliss or the hell of torment in later eschatology, but there is never a thought that death means extinction."

3:14-19 These verses list several groups (i.e., which denote all, cf. Job 3:19).

1. kings, Job 3:14

2. counselors, Job 3:14

3. princes, Job 3:15

4. miscarriages, Job 3:16

5. the wicked, Job 3:17a

6. the weary, Job 3:17b

7. prisoners, Job 3:18

8. the small and the great, Job 3:19

 

3:14 "Who rebuilt ruins for themselves" This phrase could be viewed as

1. positive, they rebuilt destroyed famous places (i.e., Isa. 58:12; 61:4)

2. negative, they rebuilt ruins (cf. NJB, "in desolate places")

3. negative, they built great buildings for themselves but they are now in ruins

The parallel (Job 3:15) phrases imply #1. The REB translates this as "who built for themselves cities now laid waste," which suggests #3.

3:16 Job wishes he were never born but if he were, he wishes he had been a stillbirth (cf. Job 3:11).

3:19a "there" This masculine singular adverb (BDB 214) is usually translated "he" (i.e., Isa. 41:4; 43:10) but it can function as "the same" (cf. Ps. 102:27). In this context it denotes the commonality of all those in Sheol. Death is the great "leveler" of humans!

3:19b "master" This is a characteristic use of Adon (BDB 10).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 3:20-26
 20"Why is light given to him who suffers,
 And life to the bitter of soul,
 21Who long for death, but there is none,
 And dig for it more than for hidden treasures,
 22Who rejoice greatly,
 And exult when they find the grave?
 23Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden,
 And whom God has hedged in?
 24For my groaning comes at the sight of my food,
 And my cries pour out like water.
 25For what I fear comes upon me,
 And what I dread befalls me.
 26I am not at ease, nor am I quiet,
 And I am not at rest, but turmoil comes."

3:20-26 This strophe also asks questions about suffering. It questions the reason for a life which knows pain (i.e., "why"). It is the rhetorical way to start the responses of his three comforters. It lists several valid accusations against God.

1. the way is hidden, Job 3:23a

2. God has hedged, Job 3:23b

3. the thing most feared, comes, Job 3:25

Job seeks the peace of death but experiences the terrible turmoil of sickness, confusion, and a sense of abandonment (i.e., the worst thing possible for a faithful follower—"why")! He sees no way out, except death.

3:20 "light" Light is used three times in this chapter in different ways.

1. Job 3:9 – physical light (i.e., of stars)

2. Job 3:16,20 – symbol of life

See Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, pp. 509-512.

3:22a

NASB,
NKJV,
NRSV"Who rejoice greatly"
NJB"They would be glad to see the grave-mound"

The difference is due to

1. גיל – BDB 162 I, lit. "joy" (MT)

2. גל – heap, pile (cf. Jos. 7:26; 8:29; 2 Sam. 18:17; NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 858); the emendation is an attempt to facilitate a parallelism

 

3:23 "a man whose way is hidden" Job feels that God has failed to give understanding (Job 19:6,8,12).

▣ "whom God has hedged in" In Satan's accusation he uses this imagery of a "hedge" to refer to God's protection (cf. Job 1:10; BDB 962 I, KB 1312), but here (BDB 692 II, KB 754) of God closing the path before Job (cf. Job 19:8).

3:25 "For what I fear comes upon me" This phrase is intensified by the use of the same root (BDB 808, KB 922, also note Job 4:14) in the noun and verb (i.e., a cognate accusative). From the context it seems that the loss of fellowship with God (the term is often used of YHWH's judgment, i.e., Deut. 28:66,67; Ps. 14:5; 53:5; Isa. 33:14; 44:8; Mic. 7:17) was the thing Job feared most (cf. Job 11:4-5). This is similar to Jesus on the cross quoting Psalm 22.

 

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