Please open your Bibles to Job 3:1-10.
Job chapter one (three?) continues to be introductory in nature. Job is now in the midst of his sufferings. He and his friends have been silent for a period of seven days. But now Job gives voice to his sufferings. After Job’s friends question why Job would do such, Job pleads that it is as natural for a man in his situation to give voice to his grief as it is for a donkey to bray when he doesn’t have grass or an ox to low when he doesn’t have fodder (Job 6:1-6). These remarks of Job in chapter three deal primarily with Job’s desire for his life to end so that his suffering will cease. The key verse to understanding this chapter, however, is verse twenty. “Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul”. Why do the righteous suffer? That is the question that will burden Job as well as Job’s three friends throughout the dialogues. Through the asking of this question, Job will teach us how to minister to those who are suffering. He will also teach us that sometimes it is simply God’s will that the righteous be allowed to suffer. In all of these things, the most important lesson that we will learn from Job is that regardless of what happens, God is always to be considered blameless for temptation to do evil.
Vs. 1-2 – Job begins speaking after enduring such awful sufferings. Job “curses” his day. The word “curse” is used here to indicate Job’s disdain for his existence in its current situation. Had Job not been under such adverse circumstances there would have been no reason to so disdain his “day.” The “day” that Job disdains is the day of his birth. This is made clear in verse three. So Job speaks.
Vs. 3-5 – Job doesn’t merely state that he wishes he had never been born, but rather, that the day and night of his birth itself would never have existed. He speaks of the day in verse four and five and then he speaks of the night in verses six through nine.
Of the day, he states that his desire was that 1) it had perished, 2) it had been darkness, 3) God had not regarded it, 4) the light had not shined on it and 5) it had been stained by death. Verse four’s comments in essence state that Job wished that the day had never existed. Verse five’s comments in essence state that Job wish death had controlled that day, particularly in regard to his own life.
In verse four, Job expresses his desire that the day had never existed by stating that he wished it had been a day of darkness. This is in essence equivalent to saying that he didn’t want that day to have existed. There is no such thing as a “dark” day. To state that he desired it to be darkness meant he didn’t want it to be. He then states the same thing when he says that he wished God had not regarded it. The implication here is that if God doesn’t acknowledge something, then it doesn’t exist. The third description is that the light would not shine on it. Again, the definition of a day is that the light shines. If the light doesn’t shine, then it’s not a day.
In verse five, Job expresses his wish that death (for him) had been present on that day. It’s almost as if he acknowledges the impossibility of the day existing and so now he turns to something more remotely possible, namely, that he had died instead of been born alive. In verse five, “darkness” refers more to the idea of the sorrow that surrounds death as opposed to verse four’s use of it to refer to non-existence. The expression “shadow of death” is a familiar one in the scriptures, used some sixteen times (compare Psalm 23:4, Isaiah 9:2, Matthew 4:16, and Luke 1:79 for its use in other contexts). The phrase simply refers to all things that are attendant surrounding death; it is death and all of its influence.
Job expresses his desire that death hold that day by talking about a “cloud” overshadowing it. We use the word “cloud” in the same sense today. We often say he has a “black cloud” over his head indicating that someone is in a melancholy mood. Such would have been the atmosphere on the day in which a dead child was born. Job also expresses the same thing when he speaks about the “blackness of the day.” Here, the blackness of the day is death. In Job’s time death was a mystery and as such it was time for sorrow and mourning. Under the Christian era, the veil of death has been taken away and the mystery of death revealed to us; the Christian has no reason to sorrow as if he had no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Job, however, didn’t have this information; death was still “black” to him.
We ought to pause to note that the book of Job was written before the time of Christ who gave hope to all men for eternal life (Titus 3:6,7). Generally speaking, Job doesn’t seem to have such hope. Job’s sole hope in the book appears to be that God will justify him before his friends. Other than that, Job’s desire is merely to be allowed to die. That Job didn’t know about the hope of eternal life may be because God had not revealed that information to Job. Such is not out of harmony with the scriptures which teach that the gospel was a “mystery” in the old times which was kept silent (Romans 16:25) and also that many of the prophets themselves did not understand that about which they were writing (1 Peter 1:10-12).
For the “blackness of the day” to “terrify” the day meant that Job desired that his own death had come on the day of his birth.
Vs. 6-9 – In these verses, Job curses the night of his birth. It wasn’t enough for Job simply to curse the day; he had to curse the night as well. This is poetry. It expresses a thing in the fullest way possible. If the day is cursed, then so must the night be cursed also. Verse six expresses Job’s desire for the night never to have existed. This parallel’s his desire for the day to never have existed. How could darkness seize the night? Isn’t it already dark? Darkness could seize upon the night in the sense that none of the nightly luminaries would shine upon it. It is the same as saying he didn’t want it to exist. That he didn’t want it joined to the days or the months of the year also is an expression of wishing that that particular day had never existed. In effect he says, “Don’t even let that night exist on the calendar!”
In verse seven the KJV has the word “solitary.” The ESV says “barren.” In other words, let it be barren of childbirth. To wish that no joyful cry had entered it, of course, refers to the joy of receiving a child. This is another way of wishing he had not been born.
In verse eight Job calls for all others have a death wish, to curse the night of his birth. Those who “curse the day” are those who desire death, as Job has already illustrated. A further description of these is that they are ready to raise up leviathan. The KJV says “mourning” but the ASV and ESV both have “leviathan.” This was a frightful sea creature that was great in size and power (see Job 41:1-10, Psalm 104:26). Those who were ready to “raise him up” were looking for their own deaths. They had a “death wish.”
In verse nine Job states what he implied in verse seven, namely, that the night’s luminaries wouldn’t shine. It is a reiteration of his desire that that night had not existed. To not let it see the dawning of the day is yet another expression indicating this as all nights eventually see the dawn.
Vs. 10 – Why did Job not want this day and night to exist? Because that was when his mother gave birth to him. That day didn’t close his mother’s womb so that he would be prevented from being born. But the second half of verse 10 is the key to this whole section. It was the sorrow that Job was presently experiencing that made him desire these things.
We need not think from these verses that Job literally didn’t want that day on the calendar, whatever it was, not to exist, but rather, that it didn’t exist from the standpoint that it was the day of his birth. In this regard, Job’s desires here are subjective due to his suffering. The day that he came into the world is what now offends him because that ultimately lead to these days of intense suffering and agony.