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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–10
Verses 1–10

Long was Job’s heart hot within him; and, while he was musing, the fire burned, and the more for being stifled and suppressed. At length he spoke with his tongue, but not such a good word as David spoke after a long pause: Lord, make me to know my end, Ps. 39:3, 4. Seven days the prophet Ezekiel sat down astonished with the captives, and then (probably on the sabbath day) the word of the Lord came to him, Ezek. 3:15, 16. So long Job and his friends sat thinking, but said nothing; they were afraid of speaking what they thought, lest they should grieve him, and he durst not give vent to his thoughts, lest he should offend them. They came to comfort him, but, finding his afflictions very extraordinary, they began to think comfort did not belong to him, suspecting him to be a hypocrite, and therefore they said nothing. But losers think they may have leave to speak, and therefore Job first gives vent to his thoughts. Unless they had been better, it would however have been well if he had kept them to himself. In short, he cursed his day, the day of his birth, wished he had never been born, could not think or speak of his own birth without regret and vexation. Whereas men usually observe the annual return of their birth-day with rejoicing, he looked upon it as the unhappiest day of the year, because the unhappiest of his life, being the inlet into all his woe. Now,

I. This was bad enough. The extremity of his trouble and the discomposure of his spirits may excuse it in part, but he can by no means be justified in it. Now he has forgotten the good he was born to, the lean kine have eaten up the fat ones, and he is filled with thoughts of the evil only, and wishes he had never been born. The prophet Jeremiah himself expressed his painful sense of his calamities in language not much unlike this: Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me! Jer. 15:10. Cursed be the day wherein I was born, Jer. 20:14 We may suppose that Job in his prosperity had many a time blessed God for the day of his birth, and reckoned it a happy day; yet now he brands it with all possible marks of infamy. When we consider the iniquity in which we were conceived and born we have reason enough to reflect with sorrow and shame upon the day of our birth, and to say that the day of our death, by which we are freed from sin (Rom. 6:7), is far better. Eccl. 7:1. But to curse the day of our birth because then we entered upon the calamitous scene of life is to quarrel with the God of nature, to despise the dignity of our being, and to indulge a passion which our own calm and sober thoughts will make us ashamed of. Certainly there is no condition of life a man can be in in this world but he may in it (if it be not his own fault) so honour God, and work out his own salvation, and make sure a happiness for himself in a better world, that he will have no reason at all to wish he had never been born, but a great deal of reason to say that he had his being to good purpose. Yet it must be owned, if there were not another life after this, and divine consolations to support us in the prospect of it, so many are the sorrows and troubles of this that we might sometimes be tempted to say that we were made in vain (Ps. 89:47), and to wish we had never been. There are those in hell who with good reason wish they had never been born, as Judas, Matt. 26:24. But, on this side hell, there can be no reason for so vain and ungrateful a wish. It was Job’s folly and weakness to curse his day. We must say of it, This was his infirmity; but good men have sometimes failed in the exercise of those graces which they have been most eminent for, that we may understand that when they are said to be perfect it is meant that they were upright, not that they were sinless. Lastly, Let us observe it, to the honour of the spiritual life above the natural, that though many have cursed the day of their first birth, never any cursed the day of their new-birth, nor wished they never had had grace, and the Spirit of grace, given them. Those are the most excellent gifts, above life and being itself, and which will never be a burden.

II. Yet it was not so bad as Satan promised himself. Job cursed his day, but he did not curse his God—was weary of his life, and would gladly have parted with that, but not weary of his religion; he resolutely cleaves to that, and will never let it go. The dispute between God and Satan concerning Job was not whether Job had his infirmities, and whether he was subject to like passions as we are (that was granted), but whether he was a hypocrite, who secretly hated God, and if he were provoked, would show his hatred; and, upon trial, it proved that he was no such man. Nay, all this may consist with his being a pattern of patience; for, though he did thus speak unadvisedly with his lips, yet both before and after he expressed great submission and resignation to the holy will of God and repented of his impatience; he condemned himself for it, and therefore God did not condemn him, nor must we, but watch the more carefully over ourselves, lest we sin after the similitude of this transgression.

1. The particular expressions which Job used in cursing his day are full of poetical fancy, flame, and rapture, and create as much difficulty to the critics as the thing itself does to the divines: we need not be particular in our observations upon them. When he would express his passionate wish that he had never been, he falls foul upon the day, and wishes,

(1.) That earth might forget it: Let it perish (Job 3:3); let it not be joined to the days of the year, Job 3:6. “Let it be not only not inserted in the calendar in red letters, as the day of the king’s nativity useth to be” (and Job was a king, Job 29:25), “but let it be erased and blotted out, and buried in oblivion. Let not the world know that ever such a man as I was born into it, and lived in it, who am made such a spectacle of misery.”

(2.) That Heaven might frown upon it: Let not God regard it from above, Job 3:4. “Every thing is indeed as it is with God; that day is honourable on which he puts honour, and which he distinguishes and crowns with his favour and blessing, as he did the seventh day of the week; but let my birthday never be so honoured; let it be nigro carbone notandus—marked as with a black coal for an evil day by him that determines the times before appointed. The father and fountain of light appointed the greater light to rule the day and the less lights to rule the night; but let that want the benefit of both.” [1.] Let that day be darkness (Job 3:4); and, if the light of the day be darkness, how great is that darkness! how terrible! because then we look for light. Let the gloominess of the day represent Job’s condition, whose sun went down at noon. [2.] As for that night too, let it want the benefit of moon and stars, and let darkness seize upon it, thick darkness, darkness that may be felt, which will not befriend the repose of the night by its silence, but rather disturb it with its terrors.

(3.) That all joy might forsake it: “Let it be a melancholy night, solitary, and not a merry night of music and dancing. Let no joyful voice come therein (Job 3:7); let it be a long night, and not see the eye-lids of the morning (Job 3:9), which bring joy with them.”

(4.) That all curses might follow it (Job 3:8): “Let none ever desire to see it, or bid it welcome when it comes, but, on the contrary, let those curse it that curse the day. Whatever day any are tempted to curse, let them at the same time bestow one curse upon my birth-day, particularly those that make it their trade to raise up mourning at funerals with their ditties of lamentation. Let those that curse the day of the death of others in the same breath curse the day of my birth.” Or those who are so fierce and daring as to be ready to raise up the Leviathan (for that is the word here), who, being about to strike the whale or crocodile, curse it with the bitterest curse they can invent, hoping by their incantations to weaken it, and so to make themselves master of it. Probably some such custom might there be used, to which our divine poet alludes. “Let it be as odious as the day wherein men bewail the greatest misfortune, or the time wherein they see the most dreadful apparition;” so bishop Patrick, I suppose taking the Leviathan here to signify the devil, as others do, who understand it of the curses used by conjurors and magicians in raising the devil, or when they have raised a devil that they cannot lay.

2. But what is the ground of Job’s quarrel with the day and night of his birth? It is because it shut not up the doors of his mother’s womb, Job 3:10. See the folly and madness of a passionate discontent, and how absurdly and extravagantly it talks when the reins are laid on the neck of it. Isa. this Job, who was so much admired for his wisdom that unto him men gave ear, and kept silence at his counsel, and after his words they spoke not again? Job 29:21, 22. Surely his wisdom failed him, (1.) When he took so much pains to express his desire that he had never been born, which, at the best was a vain wish, for it is impossible to make that which has been not to have been. (2.) When he was so liberal of his curses upon a day and a night that could not be hurt, or made any the worse for his curses. (3.) When he wished a thing so very barbarous to his own mother as that she had not brought him forth when her full time had come, which must inevitably have been her death, and a miserable death. (4.) When he despised the goodness of God to him in giving him a being (such a being, so noble and excellent a life, such a life, so far above that of any other creature in this lower world), and undervalued the gift, as not worth the acceptance, only because transit cum onere—it was clogged with a proviso of trouble, which now at length came upon him, after many years’ enjoyment of its pleasures. What a foolish thing it was to wish that his eyes had never seen the light, that so they might not have seen sorrow, which yet he might hope to see through, and beyond which he might see joy! Did Job believe and hope that he should in his flesh see God at the latter day (Job 19:26), and yet would he wish he had never had a being capable of such a bliss, only because, for the present, he had sorrow in the flesh? God by his grace arm us against this foolish and hurtful lust of impatience.