JOB 3:1-25

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February 4, 2000

    Job's lament begins the poetical section of the book.  That the use of poetry reflects the historical situation is denied by many.  The argument is made that it would be strange for one to speak poetry during a moment of intense personal pain.  This reflects a western intellectual view of suffering and its relationship to poetry.  Westerners, who are approaching this as an academic question divorced from real personal suffering, divorce the two concepts as being compatible.  Yet within the western experience of suffering there are ample examples of people turning to creative endeavors as a release for their feelings and pain.  For example, in the community of those ravaged by AIDS, there has emerged a body of art, literature, and poetry that is intensely beautiful and profound.

    When King David received the news of Saul and Jonathan's deaths he composed the Song of the Bow.  When Jeremiah viewed the destruction of Jerusalem he composed the acrostic lament we call Lamentations.  It was a part of their culture to repond to evil one of two ways.  The first was uncontolled weeping and the second was the structuring of life.  The ritualistic acts Job and his friends did in chapter two were a part of the latter experience.

    If this poetic section reflects the historical situation then how does one read it?  The answer that is usually given is that it was composed and spoken slowly and deliberately at the time of the suffering.  But, does this mean that this is a verbatim report?  Not necessarily, but it is the view this writer that the written form catches the essence of what was originally said.  This would add to the drama of the text if one conceptualizes the scene as being a creative act on the part of the sufferer and a moment of intense agony as he simultaneously is wracked by his disease.  The following material reflects the understanding that poetry was and is a legitimate means of expressing grief.



New American Standard Version, Updated
(C)opyright 1995 by the Lockman Foundation

        This speech must be compared with Job's last speech to his friends.  In that speech Job displays, in a strange way, a desire to live.  In his suffering he grows from a wish for death to a wish for life.

Afterward Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 

And Job said, 

I.    Editor's Summary: The Cursing of the Day of Birth 
1.  In this section Job comes very close to doing what Satan wagered.

2.  What he did do was curse God's way and work.

3.  What he did not do is curse God.

4.   It is of interest that the word (qalal/is only found on the lips of Job in this book (3:1, 7:6, 9:25, 24:18, 40:4).

Let the day perish on which I was to be born, 

And the night which said, 'A boy is conceived.'

    A.   A General Curse of His Birth and Conception
5. Compare this verse with the NIV version.  How does the NIV version remove the reference to sexual activity?
May that day be darkness; 
Let not God above care for it,
Nor light shine on it. 
Let darkness and black gloom claim it; 
Let a cloud settle on it; 
Let the blackness of the day terrify it. 
    B.    The Specific Curse of the Day of His Birth
6.   What Job is asking for is that God undo the created order on his behalf.  As you read the speeches of Job's friends see if they make this point.
As for that night, let darkness seize it; 
Let it not rejoice among the days of the year; Let it not come into the number of the months.
Behold, let that night be barren; 
Let no joyful shout enter it. 
Let those curse it who curse the day, 
Who are prepared to rouse Leviathan. 
Let the stars of its twilight be darkened; 
Let it wait for light but have none, 
And let it not see the breaking dawn;
    C.    The Specific Curse of the Night of His Conception
7.  Not only a curse but a curse upon his parents sexual pleasure (i.e.. the joyful shout)

8.  Please note that to Job Leviathan is a demonic character that is invoked in curses.  The last topic that God covers is Leviathan.  Leviathan  is going to be understood in that context in the same way as he is presented here.  Read the Leviathan section and see what God says about arousing him (Job 41).  Again we see that in dealing with his creatures whether good (Job) or evil (Satan) God returns a creatures words to him.

Because it did not shut the opening of my mother's womb, Or hide trouble from my eyes.     D.    The Reason for the Curse
9.   It is of interest that Job wanted all of his life obliterated, both the good and the bad, because the evil was so great.
Why did I not die at birth, 
Come forth from the womb and expire? 
Why did the knees receive me, 
And why the breasts, that I should suck? 
II. The Cursing of Self: Why did I Not Die

     A.    The Questioning of His Existence

 10.   Usually the scene described for us is considered to be one of beauty.  When a child was born the mother would be in a squatting position, draw the newly born child on to her lap, and offer the child the breast.  It was a moment of intense psychological bonding.
For now I would have lain down and been quiet; 
I would have slept then, I would have been at rest,
    B.    The Result: Peace for a Weary Soul
11. Comparatively speaking his pain was greater than the pain his mother would have felt if he had died at birth.  The despair of a mother losing an infant would have been better than his pain.
With kings and with counselors of the earth, 
Who rebuilt ruins for themselves; 
Or with princes who had gold, 
Who were filling their houses with silver. 
    C.    People With Whom He would Share Death 
12.   The point seems to be that all find rest from earthly endeavors in death.
            1.    The Great
13.    These appear to be people who his culture would call successful, but they too are victims of death and life.  In life they did great things, but were brought down.
Or like a miscarriage which is discarded,
I would not be, 
As infants that never saw light.

There the wicked cease from raging, 
And there the weary are at rest. 
The prisoners are at ease together;
They do not hear the voice of the taskmaster

            2.    The Small
14.    The would represent people who were unsuccessful in life, but for whom death gave them a reward of freedom.  They were the victims not only of life, but of the preceding men.
.The small and the great are there, 
And the slave is free from his master. 
           3.    The Conclusion of the Section
Why is alight given to him who suffers, 
And life to the bitter of soul, 

Who along for death, but there is none, 
And dig for it more than for hidden treasures, 

Who rejoice greatly, 
And exult when they find the grave?

Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden,
And whom God has hedged in? 

III.    Why Do People Like Me Continue to Live?

    A.    His Questioning

15    The section seems to look at Job as not an isolated incident, but as a part of a larger group.

16.  Notice that Job maybe has been hearing Satan's temptation.  Satan in his first encounter with God had accused Job of hedging (hedging = building a barrier around) Job in  to keep evil out, but here Job uses the same idea to describe the barrier that keeps evil in.  God has thus been maligned by both Job and Satan.  This speech of Job in my opinion is as close as Job comes to saying what Satan wants and this phrase is the worst part of this speech.

For my groaning comes at the sight of my food, 
And my cries pour out like water. 
For what I fear comes upon me, 
And what I dread befalls me. 
I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, 
And I am not at rest, but turmoil comes.
    B.    His Condition: Physical & Psychological
17.   If modern medical and psychological  principles were applied to him what would the doctors of those disciplines say of his condition?

18.   A question I have is whether or not Job is only referring to his immediate condition when he speaks of what he fears or is he speaking of the larger context?  Remember he feared his children would be condemned by God for their parties and he would take measures to prevent that.  What he dreaded came upon him: his children were struck down while partying.  My answer is that it is an ongoing process starting with his children and moving into his paranoid present.


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