Please open your Bibles to Job 3:11-19
Vs. 11-12 – In these verses, Job questions why he didn’t die at or near birth. He indicates this in several manners. First he wonders why he did not die in the womb from complications of pregnancy. Second he wonders why he didn’t die after childbirth perhaps due to complications in the delivery. Third, why was his mother (or nurse) such a good caretaker to prevent him from dying prematurely. This is the significance of the question, “Why did the knees prevent me?” Fourth, why didn’t he die from malnutrition, that is, from lack of milk as a babe. Job, in his suffering, reasons that it would have been better for him to have died in one of these ways than to have lived until the day when he would have to suffer so. Suffering can cause us to want to be dead rather than alive.
We must note, however, that Job never acted upon these desires for death nor did his friends. If such sentiments had been expressed in our day and age it wouldn’t be too long before someone obtained a court order and had Job’s food and water taken away from him so that he would starve to death. Or perhaps they would have called for the suicide doctor to come administer a deadly dose of poison so that Job’s life would expire. Even in the midst of this suffering, there was a line that Job and his friends knew not to cross. Regardless of how fragile a life may be there is no excuse for causing the death of an innocent person (Proverbs 6:16-17). Nor is there any excuse for committing suicide, which is really just self murder (Romans 1:29).
Vs. 13-16 – In these verses, Job wants to know why he couldn’t have had rest like the kings and princes of old or like a still born child. Job seemingly would prefer the rest of death rather than the anguish through which he was going at this time. Of course, Job, had he died as an infant, would have had spiritual rest, but this is not the kind of rest to which Job refers. He is referring here to the physical appearance of rest in that of a corpse.
Job reasons that the kings, counselors, and princes of the earth who have built for themselves tombs in the desolate places where their bodies could rest would indeed be the place that he desired at this time. Whether they were ornately furnished or not matter not to Job. It was simply that they had places of rest that tempted him so. Having one’s body ravaged by disease and receiving no rest during either night or day due to the intense pain in which one is suffering (Job 30:17), the grave must have looked like an appealing sight to Job.
Job even considers that he would have been better of if he was miscarried or still born. Even that would have been better than the suffering what he is now undergoing.
Vs. 17-19 – In these verses, Job posits that in death one is free from such wretched suffering as he is undergoing and can have rest. It is in death, Job reasons, that one no longer has to worry about persecution by the wicked. It is in death that those who work and toil and labor and from which their weary bodies are worn out, no longer have concern over such travail. It is in death that prisoners and slaves no longer must bend to the rod of their master’s oppression. Death offers no exceptions; both the small and great succumb to it eventually. There is no respect of persons in death.
We must note that in Job’s day and age not as much revelation had been given regarding the state of the soul at death. Perhaps Job thought of death as a place of rest for all, both righteous and wicked. From the physical appearance of death, it certainly appears that way. We know, however, that the Bible teaches that death isn’t a place of rest for the wicked (Revelation 14:11), but only for the righteous (Revelation 14:13).
The wise man declares in the book of Ecclesiastes 7:2-4, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Certainly more would do well if they would consider death seriously more often in their life than the callous and frivolous attitudes that many display toward the subject. How ought we to consider death today? It is certainly appointed for all men (Hebrews 9:27) and it is not something that we ought to desire if we haven’t lived the kind of life that God wants us to live (1 Corinthians 15:56). For such, only misery awaits after this life (Matthew 25:46). The Christian, on the other hand, has nothing to fear from death (1 Corinthians 15:57) and so does not sorrow at death as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). The Christian has great hope for eternal life and so death is welcome to him and is a blessing (Psalm 116:15).