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"May the Day Perish on Which I Was Born" (Job 3) February 23-24

A week after his friends arrive, when Job at last speaks, he is no longer the composed, almost stoic figure of the previous chapter. He pours out his heart in a flood of emotion, wishing he had never been born or that he had died at birth. Some might argue that Job's pious integrity was based merely on personal advantage after all—that his faith and resolve were quickly overthrown. But that is much too hard of an evaluation. Recall that Job was evidently scraping at his unbearable sores and mulling over his plight for months at this point (see 7:3). People in agony and torment often cry out and say things they don't fully mean.

The danger for Job here is in the possibility of bitterness and despair overwhelming his thinking altogether. As The Expositor's Bible Commentary notes on this chapter: "In chapter 3 Job established an attitude that largely colored all that he said in the succeeding chapters. In all his many words of despair, nowhere would he come closer to cursing God to his face (2:5) than here in chapter 3. By cursing the day of his birth, he was questioning the sovereign wisdom of his Creator [and, it should be added, implying that there was no worthwhile value in having lived as a servant of God]. At this point the drama is intense, for the Accuser whom we shall never see again seems to have triumphed. Whether he has or not will be determined by what follows."

In verse 8, Job even expresses the wish that those "who curse the day"—perhaps meaning professional cursers like the false prophet Balaam (see Numbers 22-24)—had aimed their hexes at his date of birth. He refers to these cursers also as "those who are ready to arouse Leviathan." Leviathan was understood to be a monster or dragon of the deep. Perhaps the idea was that these cursers would call forth Leviathan to bring forth a deluge from the sea to cause utter calamity, in this case against his birthday. Such a statement from Job would not necessarily mean that he believed these cursers had such power. Rather, he could merely have been lamenting: If only they could have…and if only they did. Yet we should consider that Leviathan, as we will later see in our reading of chapter 41, may on some level be a figurative description of Satan. If that was in Job's thinking, then perhaps he knew that the cursers did have access to real spiritual power—that of the devil—to work dark magic and decree hexes. The irony here would be immense: If only the devil had killed me…

The irony is even greater near the end of the chapter. Job, longing for death to end his suffering (verses 20-23), perceived that it was God's protective hedge that kept at bay the death for which he longed (see verse 23). How true this was! Note here that Job was in no way contemplating suicide. As much as he wanted to die, he realized that life and death were within God's purview alone (see also 7:15-21; 10:18-22). Indeed, we should observe that in all Job said, he did not reject God or God's laws.

In 3:25, Job surprisingly reveals that he has lived in fear of what has befallen him. The Bible Reader's Companion suggests in its note on this verse: "This may be the key to the reason God permitted Job's suffering. Job fears God and tries to serve Him. Yet he also fears the future. Perhaps through his experience Job will find a deeper faith, one that frees him from terror of the future and permits a deeper love of God."

Finally, in ending his opening speech with the words, "I have no rest, for trouble comes" (verse 26), Job seems to recognize that the coming of his friends brings fresh turmoil and discomfort. It is likely that he well knew that his friends would view his suffering as evidence of sin and therefore hypocrisy. This, then, gives the starting point to the great controversy of the book that follows.

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