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Job 3:20

Context
Longing for Death 1 

3:20 “Why does God 2  give 3  light to one who is in misery, 4 

and life to those 5  whose soul is bitter,

Job 33:30

Context

33:30 to turn back his life from the place of corruption,

that he may be enlightened with the light of life.

1 sn Since he has survived birth, Job wonders why he could not have died a premature death. He wonders why God gives light and life to those who are in misery. His own condition throws gloom over life, and so he poses the question first generally, for many would prefer death to misery (20-22); then he comes to the individual, himself, who would prefer death (23). He closes his initial complaint with some depictions of his suffering that afflicts him and gives him no rest (24-26).

2 tn Heb “he”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

3 tn The verb is the simple imperfect, expressing the progressive imperfect nuance. But there is no formal subject to the verb, prompting some translations to make it passive in view of the indefinite subject (so, e.g., NAB, NIV, NRSV). Such a passive could be taken as a so-called “divine passive” by which God is the implied agent. Job clearly means God here, but he stops short of naming him (see also the note on “God” earlier in this verse).

sn In vv. 11, 12, and 16 there was the first series of questions in which Job himself was in question. Now the questions are more general for all mankind – why should the sufferers in general have been afflicted with life?

4 sn In v. 10 the word was used to describe the labor and sorrow that comes from it; here the one in such misery is called the עָמֵל (’amel, “laborer, sufferer”).

5 tn The second colon now refers to people in general because of the plural construct מָרֵי נָפֶשׁ (mare nafesh, “those bitter of soul/life”). One may recall the use of מָרָה (marah, “bitter”) by Naomi to describe her pained experience as a poor widow in Ruth 1:20, or the use of the word to describe the bitter oppression inflicted on Israel by the Egyptians (Exod 1:14). Those who are “bitter of soul” are those whose life is overwhelmed with painful experiences and suffering.



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