“Why did I not die at birth? Why did I not perish when I came from the womb? Why did the knees receive me? Or why the breasts, that I should nurse? Job 3:11, 12
Chapter 3-31. Job’s Dialogue with Friends
Three of Job’s friends hear of his tragedy and come to offer comfort. Stunned by his misery, they sit with him in silence for a week. This section of the book is a report of the dialogue which follows as the 4 men struggle to understand Job’s suffering. In the dialogue Job’s fears, frustration, and his suppressed resentment are expressed.
Job complains. At last Job speaks, and all the anguish he has struggled to hold in spills in a flood of despair. Job curses the day of his birth, wishing fervently that it could be blotted from history. Nonexistence seems preferable to what Job experiences now. Or at least Job might have died stillborn. Then he would lie in the company of the great and insignificant, all of whom have found release from life’s turmoil. Job cannot understand why God, who gives man life, should then permit that life to be made bitter by misery. In a last lament, Job confesses that what he has feared all along has come; in his confusion he is bereft of peace and quietness.
1 After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.
What typically troubles God’s saints in their suffering is not the physical pain, but the mental anguish. Job cannot understand the “why” of his experience, which has shaken his most cherished beliefs about God.
On being human. One of the great values of Job is that the book teaches us not to try to deny our humanity. Some commentators have been as critical of Job as his 3 friends for expressing his anguish so strongly. But let’s remember God characterized him as a “blameless and upright” man who feared God.
In the OT, “fearing” God often serves to express both faith and a godly lifestyle. Even the most spiritual of us is subject to human weaknesses. Job’s honesty in expressing his feelings reminds us that God understands our feelings and accepts them as we work through our times of suffering to a deeper, more perfect faith. Remember Job, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel a similar despair.
May it turn to darkness (3:4). There is a gentle irony here. God spoke and created day, saying “let there be light” (Gen. 1:3). Now Job wishes he could reverse the process and blot out the day he was born.
If you should ever share Job’s feelings, remember that first day of creation. Everything that God creates is intended for, and will bring forth, good. This includes the day you were born, even if you can see no good in it now.
Nonexistence (3:1-10). There is something unique and precious in God’s gift of life. It is better to have been born and lived life, even when our enjoyment of it is marred by suffering. Trust God. Remember that while the nonexistence never began, you are a someone who will never end! Whatever this life holds, eternity will be filled with joy.
The great leveler? (3:11-19) Job is again expressing his emotios in powerful poetic imagery. To Job, both the great men of the world and the insignificant seem to find in death the rest that he yearns for. Job muses he might have died at birth and avoided the turmoil.
17 There the wicked cease from troubling, And there the weary are at rest. 18 There the prisoners rest together; They do not hear the voice of the oppressor. 19 The small and great are there, And the servant is free from his master.
Note that despite his despair, Job does not consider suicide. Life is a gift from God. Despite his anguish, Job makes no attempt to end the life he has been given.
“Why?” (3:20-25). This is one of the unanswerable questions that makes trust in God an act of faith. Why God gives life and yet permits some who receive that gift to experience misery is answered in part later on in Job. But why God permits you or me to suffer is not answered in this life.
“What I feared” (3:25). This verse 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 for God.