Day #7 in the Hebrew text of Job (this chapter had 79 rare words!)
11 Why did I not die from the womb, depart from the belly and perish?
12 Why did the knees receive me?
And why breasts that I should suckle?
13 For now I lie down,
and I would have been quiet,
and I would have slept then;
I would have rested (to me).
14 with kings and counsellors of the earth who built desert [tombs] for themselves.
15 or with noblemen [having] gold,
the ones who have filled their houses [with] silver.
16 or [why] did I not “fall out” as a miscarried hidden one,
as infants who never see light?
17 There the wicked cease agitation;
and there the weary of strength will rest.
18 Together the prisoners are at ease,
they do not hear the voice of the slave-driver.
19 The small and great are there,
and the slave is free from his master.
- Remember, this is righteous Job speaking. No feelings are off-limits: he laments his torrid life and wishes he hadn’t been born to begin with.
- The Hebrew in verse 14 possibly speaks of kings building “desolate places” for themselves (it’s a difficult word to translate). Perhaps in a time of renowned Egyptian kings, there’s an allusion here to their monuments and tombs. Job appeals to death’s equality and prefers it to his present suffering.
- The word that linked the incessant sufferings that “fell upon” (נפל, niphal) Job in chapter 1 now reappears in verse 16 – literally, Job asks why “was I not as fallout [from the womb]”. Job 3:16 is a voice into those who have suffered miscarriage or abortion (the Hebrew could mean either). Job reaching for this metaphor in his grief unites him with mothers and infants who have suffered in this painful way.
20 Why is light given to the one who suffers,
and existence to the bitter of soul,
21 and to those who wait for death yet it does not [come],
and dig for it over hidden treasures?
22 [to] those who are happy, [who] rejoice with gladness when they find the grave.
23 to a man whose path is hidden, and God has hedged in?
24 For in place of my bread, my sighing comes,
and poured out like water are my howlings.
25 For the fear I feared, it arrives upon me;
and what I dread has come over me.
26 I am not at ease, but I am not quiet,
and I have no rest, but trouble comes.
- Verse 20 is the sufferer’s lament distilled – Why does God give us life only to bring suffering and “bitterness of soul”? Naomi likewise describes her pain of being widowed and bereft of any livelihood as “bitter” (Ruth 1:20), just as the Israelites described their bondage under the Egyptians as immensely “bitter” (Exodus 1:14).
- In verse 23, Job laments that God hedges in a man’s way, and hides his paths. Remember the adversary’s accusation in Job 1:10? He charges God with “fencing” Job in to protect him, yet ironically Job now laments that same hedging from God.
- “My groanings are poured out like water” (e.g. ESV) is too tame a translation. Here Job is “howling” like a lion does (see Job 4:10), and as Jesus relates to when he quotes these famous words on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my
groaninghowling?” (Ps 22:1) There’s no need to sanitise despair – sometimes you just want to scream and sob.
Thoughts on chapter 3:
- Every Christian should sit with this chapter at some stage in their lives. Even if we don’t feel what Job feels, someone we love does. Depression is real, and this is a relevant passage for us.
- Yet because Job’s “howlings” were shared by Christ Jesus on the cross – Christians know One who has walked the darkest valleys for our sins, and “howled” in agony as our loving Saviour. We suffer, but never without Someone who has been there before. A good truth to meditate on as we approach Good Friday.
- Job is raw, honest and hurt. Yet he expresses his grief on a foundation of God’s presence and control. Even when we question why God has trapped us in our houses right now, we’re acknowledging that he’s in control. God is sovereign even in our suffering.
- Again, no question, no feeling is off-limits with Dad. Likewise, I always try and allow my children permission to share how they really feel with me, even if it’s raw, amidst screams, and hard to take in.
- I wonder what songs you and I can turn to in order to express corporately our lament at this broken world, and the suffering in our lives? If we can’t sing words like this as a church family, has our worship music repertoire perhaps been infected by the therapeutic or prosperity gospel?