Job is here excusing what he could not justify, even his inordinate desire of death. Why should he not wish for the termination of life, which would be the termination of his miseries? To enforce this reason he argues,
I. From the general condition of man upon earth (Job 7:1): “He is of few days, and full of trouble. Every man must die shortly, and every man has some reason (more or less) to desire to die shortly; and therefore why should you impute it to me as so heinous a crime that I wish to die shortly?” Or thus: “Pray mistake not my desires of death, as if I thought the time appointed of God could be anticipated: no, I know very well that that is fixed; only in such language as this I take the liberty to express my present uneasiness: Isa. there not an appointed time (a warfare, so the word is) to man upon earth? and are not his days here like the days of a hireling?” Observe, 1. Man’s present place. He is upon earth, which God has given to the children of men, Ps. 115:16. This bespeaks man’s meanness and inferiority. How much below the inhabitants of yonder elevated and refined regions is he situated! It also bespeaks God’s mercy to him. He is yet upon the earth, not under it; on earth, not in hell. Our time on earth is limited and short, according to the narrow bounds of this earth; but heaven cannot be measured, nor the days of heaven numbered. 2. His continuance in that place. Isa. there not a time appointed for his abode here? Yes, certainly there is, and it is easy to say by whom the appointment is made, even by him that made us and set us here. We are not to be on this earth always, nor long, but for a certain time, which is determined by him in whose hand our times are. We are not to think that we are governed by the blind fortune of the Epicureans, but by the wise, holy, and sovereign counsel of God. 3. His condition during that continuance. Man’s life is a warfare, and as the days of a hireling. We are every one of us to look upon ourselves in this world, (1.) As soldiers, exposed to hardship and in the midst of enemies; we must serve and be under command; and, when our warfare is accomplished, we must be disbanded, dismissed with either shame or honour, according to what we have done in the body. (2.) As day-labourers, that have the work of the day to do in its day and must make up their account at night.
II. From his own condition at this time. He had as much reason, he thought, to wish for death, as a poor servant or hireling that is tired with his work has to wish for the shadows of the evening, when he shall receive his penny and go to rest, Job 7:2. The darkness of the night is as welcome to the labourer as the light of the morning is to the watchman, Ps. 130:6. The God of nature has provided for the repose of labourers, and no wonder that they desire it. The sleep of the labouring man is sweet, Eccl. 5:12. No pleasure more grateful, more relishing, to the luxurious than rest to the laborious; nor can any rich man take so much satisfaction in the return of his rent-days as the hireling in his day’s wages. The comparison is plain, the application is concise and somewhat obscure, but we must supply a word or two, and then it is easy: exactness of language is not to be expected from one in Job’s condition. “As a servant earnestly desires the shadow, so and for the same reason I earnestly desire death; for I am made to possess, etc.” Hear his complaint.
1. His days were useless, and had been so a great while. He was wholly taken off from business, and utterly unfit for it. Every day was a burden to him, because he was in no capacity of doing good, or of spending it to any purpose. Et vitae partem non attigit ullam—He could not fill up his time with any thing that would turn to account. This he calls possessing months of vanity, Job 7:3. It very much increases the affliction of sickness and age, to a good man, that he is thereby forced from his usefulness. He insists not so much upon it that they are days in which he has no pleasure as that they are days in which he does not good; on that account they are months of vanity. But when we are disabled to work for God, if we will but sit still quietly for him, it is all one; we shall be accepted.
2. His nights were restless, Job 7:3, 4. The night relieves the toil and fatigue of the day, not only to the labourers, but to the sufferers: if a sick man can but get a little sleep in the night, it helps nature, and it is hoped that he will do well, John 11:12. However, be the trouble what it will, sleep gives some intermission to the cares, and pains, and griefs, that afflict us; it is the parenthesis of our sorrows. But poor Job could not gain this relief. (1.) His nights were wearisome, and, instead of taking any rest, he did but tire himself more with tossing to and fro until morning. Those that are in great uneasiness, through pain of body or anguish of mind, think by changing sides, changing places, changing postures, to get some ease; but, while the cause is the same within, it is all to no purpose; it is but a resemblance of a fretful discontented spirit, that is ever shifting, but never easy. This made him dread the night as much as the servant desires it, and, when he lay down, to say, When will the night be gone? (2.) These wearisome nights were appointed to him. God, who determines the times before appointed, had allotted him such nights as these. Whatever is at any time grievous to us, it is good to see it appointed for us, that we may acquiesce in the event, not only as unavoidable because appointed, but as therefore designed for some holy end. When we have comfortable nights we must see them also appointed to us and be thankful for them; many better than we have wearisome nights.
3. His body was noisome, Job 7:5. His sores bred worms, the scabs were like clods of dust, and his skin was broken; so evil was the disease which cleaved fast to him. See what vile bodies we have, and what little reason we have to pamper them or be proud of them; they have in themselves the principles of their own corruption: as fond as we are of them now, the time may come when we may loathe them and long to get rid of them.
4. His life was hastening apace towards a period, Job 7:6. He thought he had no reason to expect a long life, for he found himself declining fast (Job 7:6): My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, that is, “My time is now but short, and there are but a few sands more in my glass, which will speedily run out.” Natural motions are more swift near the centre. Job thought his days ran swiftly because he thought he should soon be at his journey’s end; he looked upon them as good as spent already, and he was therefore without hope of being restored to his former prosperity. It is applicable to man’s life in general. Our days are like a weaver’s shuttle, thrown from one side of the web to the other in the twinkling of an eye, and then back again, to and fro, until at length it is quite exhausted of the thread it carried, and then we cut off, like a weaver, our life, Isa. 38:12. Time hastens on apace; the motion of it cannot be stopped, and, when it is past, it cannot be recalled. While we are living, as we are sowing (Gal. 6:8), so we are weaving. Every day, like the shuttle, leaves a thread behind it. Many weave the spider’s web, which will fail them, Job 8:14. If we are weaving to ourselves holy garments and robes of righteousness, we shall have the benefit of them when our work comes to be reviewed and every man shall reap as he sowed and wear as he wove.