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Job 3:1-10


II. Job’s Dialogue With His Friends
(3:1-27:33) 1 

Job Regrets His Birth

3:1 After this Job opened his mouth 2  and cursed 3  the day he was born. 4  3:2 Job spoke up 5  and said:

3:3 “Let the day on which 6  I was born 7  perish,

and the night that said, 8 

‘A man 9  has been conceived!’ 10 

3:4 That day 11  – let it be darkness; 12 

let not God on high regard 13  it,

nor let light shine 14  on it!

3:5 Let darkness and the deepest

shadow 15  claim it; 16 

let a cloud settle on it;

let whatever blackens the day 17  terrify it!

3:6 That night – let darkness seize 18  it;

let it not be included 19  among the days of the year;

let it not enter among the number of the months! 20 

3:7 Indeed, 21  let that night be barren; 22 

let no shout of joy 23  penetrate 24  it!

3:8 Let those who curse the day 25  curse it 26 

those who are prepared to rouse 27  Leviathan. 28 

3:9 Let its morning stars 29  be darkened;

let it wait 30  for daylight but find none, 31 

nor let it see the first rays 32  of dawn,

3:10 because it 33  did not shut the doors 34  of my mother’s womb on me, 35 

nor did it hide trouble 36  from my eyes!

1 sn The previous chapters (1-2) were prose narrative, this chapter, however, commences the poetic section of the book (chs. 3-41) containing the cycles of speeches.

2 sn The detailed introduction to the speech with “he opened his mouth” draws the readers attention to what was going to be said. As the introduction to the poetic speech that follows (3:3-26), vv. 1-2 continue the prose style of chapters 1-2. Each of the subsequent speeches is introduced by such a prose heading.

3 tn The verb “cursed” is the Piel preterite from the verb קָלַל (qalal); this means “to be light” in the Qal stem, but here “to treat lightly, with contempt, curse.” See in general H. C. Brichto, The Problem ofCursein the Hebrew Bible (JBLMS); and A. C. Thiselton, “The Supposed Power of Words in the Biblical Writings,” JTS 25 (1974): 283-99.

4 tn Heb “his day” (so KJV, ASV, NAB). The Syriac has “the day on which he was born.” The context makes it clear that Job meant the day of his birth. But some have tried to offer a different interpretation, such as his destiny or his predicament. For this reason the Syriac clarified the meaning for their readers in much the same way as the present translation does by rendering “his day” as “the day he was born.” On the Syriac translation of the book of Job, see Heidi M. Szpek, Translation Technique in the Peshitta to Job (SBLDS).

5 tn The text has וַיַּעַן (vayyaan), literally, “and he answered.” The LXX simply has “saying” for the entire verse. The Syriac, Targum, and Greek A have what the MT has. “[Someone] answered and said” is phraseology characteristic of all the speeches in Job beginning with Satan in 1:9. Only in 40:1 is it employed when God is speaking. No other portion of the OT employs this phraseology as often or as consistently.

6 tn The relative clause is carried by the preposition with the resumptive pronoun: “the day [which] I was born in it” meaning “the day on which I was born” (see GKC 486-88 §155.f, i).

7 tn The verb is the Niphal imperfect. It may be interpreted in this dependent clause (1) as representing a future event from some point of time in the past – “the day on which I was born” or “would be born” (see GKC 316 §107.k). Or (2) it may simply serve as a preterite indicating action that is in the past.

8 tn The MT simply has “and the night – it said….” By simple juxtaposition with the parallel construction (“on which I was born”) the verb “it said” must be a relative clause explaining “the night.” Rather than supply “in which” and make the verb passive (which is possible since no specific subject is provided, but leaves open the question of who said it), it is preferable to take the verse as a personification. First Job cursed the day; now he cursed the night that spoke about what it witnessed. See A. Ehrman, “A Note on the Verb ‘amar,” JQR 55 (1964/65): 166-67.

9 tn The word is גֶּבֶר (gever, “a man”). The word usually distinguishes a man as strong, distinct from children and women. Translations which render this as “boy” (to remove the apparent contradiction of an adult being “conceived” in the womb) miss this point.

10 sn The announcement at birth is to the fact that a male was conceived. The same parallelism between “brought forth/born” and “conceived” may be found in Ps 51:7 HT (51:5 ET). The motifs of the night of conception and the day of birth will be developed by Job. For the entire verse, which is more a wish or malediction than a curse, see S. H. Blank, “‘Perish the Day!’ A Misdirected Curse (Job 3:3),” Prophetic Thought, 61-63.

11 tn The first two words should be treated as a casus pendens (see D. J. A. Clines, Job [WBC], 69), referred to as an extraposition in recent grammarians.

12 sn This expression by Job is the negation of the divine decree at creation – “Let there be light,” and that was the first day. Job wishes that his first day be darkness: “As for that day, let there be darkness.” Since only God has this prerogative, Job adds the wish that God on high would not regard that day.

13 tn The verb דָּרַשׁ (darash) means “to seek, inquire,” and “to address someone, be concerned about something” (cf. Deut 11:12; Jer 30:14,17). Job wants the day to perish from the mind of God.

14 tn The verb is the Hiphil of יָפַע (yafa’), which means here “cause to shine.” The subject is the term נְהָרָה (nÿharah,“light”), a hapax legomenon which is from the verb נָהַר (nahar, “to gleam” [see Isa 60:5]).

15 sn The translation of צַלְמָוֶת (tsalmavet, “shadow of death”) has been traditionally understood to indicate a dark, death shadow (supported in the LXX), but many scholars think it may not represent the best etymological analysis of the word. The word may be connected to an Arabic word which means “to be dark,” and an Akkadian word meaning “black.” It would then have to be repointed throughout its uses to צַלְמוּת (tsalmut) forming an abstract ending. It would then simply mean “darkness” rather than “shadow of death.” Or the word can be understood as an idiomatic expression meaning “gloom” that is deeper than חֹשֶׁךְ (khoshekh; see HALOT 1029 s.v. צַלְמָוֶת). Since “darkness” has already been used in the line, the two together could possibly form a nominal hendiadys: “Let the deepest darkness….” There is a significant amount of literature on this; one may begin with W. L. Michel, “SLMWT, ‘Deep Darkness’ or ‘Shadow of Death’?” BR 29 (1984): 5-20.

16 tn The verb is גָּאַל (gaal, “redeem, claim”). Some have suggested that the verb is actually the homonym “pollute.” This is the reading in the Targum, Syriac, Vulgate, and Rashi, who quotes from Mal 1:7,12. See A. R. Johnson, “The Primary Meaning of gaal,” VTSup 1 (1953): 67-77.

17 tn The expression “the blackness of the day” (כִּמְרִירֵי יוֹם, kimrire yom) probably means everything that makes the day black, such as supernatural events like eclipses. Job wishes that all ominous darknesses would terrify that day. It comes from the word כָּמַר (kamar, “to be black”), related to Akkadian kamaru (“to overshadow, darken”). The versions seem to have ignored the first letter and connected the word to מָרַר (marar, “be bitter”).

18 tn The verb is simply לָקַח (laqakh, “to take”). Here it conveys a strong sense of seizing something and not letting it go.

19 tn The pointing of the verb is meant to connect it with the root חָדָה (khadah, “rejoice”). But the letters in the text were correctly understood by the versions to be from יָחַד (yakhad, “to be combined, added”). See G. Rendsburg, “Double Polysemy in Genesis 49:6 and Job 3:6,” CBQ 44 (1982): 48-51.

20 sn The choice of this word for “moons,” יְרָחִים (yÿrakhim) instead of חֳדָשִׁים (khodashim) is due to the fact that “month” here is not a reference for which an exact calendar date is essential (in which case חֹדֶשׁ [khodesh] would have been preferred). See J. Segal, “‘yrh’ in the Gezer ‘Calendar,’” JSS 7 (1962): 220, n. 4. Twelve times in the OT יֶרַח (yerakh) means “month” (Exod 2:2; Deut 21:13; 33:14; 1 Kgs 6:37, 38; 8:2; 2 Kgs 15:13; Zech 11:8; Job 3:6; 7:3; 29:2; 39:2).

21 tn The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “behold”) in this sentence focuses the reader’s attention on the statement to follow.

22 tn The word גַּלְמוּד (galmud) probably has here the idea of “barren” rather than “solitary.” See the parallelism in Isa 49:21. In Job it seems to carry the idea of “barren” in 15:34, and “gloomy” in 30:3. Barrenness can lead to gloom.

23 tn The word is from רָנַן (ranan, “to give a ringing cry” or “shout of joy”). The sound is loud and shrill.

24 tn The verb is simply בּוֹא (bo’, “to enter”). The NIV translates interpretively “be heard in it.” A shout of joy, such as at a birth, that “enters” a day is certainly heard on that day.

25 tn Not everyone is satisfied with the reading of the MT. Gordis thought “day” should be “sea,” and “cursers” should be “rousers” (changing ’alef to ’ayin; cf. NRSV). This is an unnecessary change, for there is no textual problem in the line (D. J. A. Clines, Job [WBC], 71). Others have taken the reading “sea” as a personification and accepted the rest of the text, gaining the sense of “those whose magic binds even the sea monster of the deep” (e.g., NEB).

sn Those who curse the day are probably the professional enchanters and magicians who were thought to cast spells on days and overwhelm them with darkness and misfortune. The myths explained eclipses as the dragon throwing its folds around the sun and the moon, thus engulfing or swallowing the day and the night. This interpretation matches the parallelism better than the interpretation that says these are merely professional mourners.

26 tn The verb is probably “execrate, curse,” from קָבַב (qavav). But E. Ullendorff took it from נָקַב (naqav, “pierce”) and gained a reading “Let the light rays of day pierce it (i.e. the night) apt even to rouse Leviathan” (“Job 3:8,” VT 11 [1961]: 350-51).

27 tn The verbal adjective עָתִיד (’atid) means “ready, prepared.” Here it has a substantival use similar to that of participles. It is followed by the Polel infinitive construct עֹרֵר (’orer). The infinitive without the preposition serves as the object of the preceding verbal adjective (GKC 350 §114.m).

28 sn Job employs here the mythological figure Leviathan, the monster of the deep or chaos. Job wishes that such a creation of chaos could be summoned by the mourners to swallow up that day. See E. Ullendorff, “Job 3:8,” VT 11 (1961): 350-51.

29 tn Heb “the stars of its dawn.” The word נֶשֶׁף (neshef) can mean “twilight” or “dawn.” In this context the morning stars are in mind. Job wishes that the morning stars – that should announce the day – go out.

30 tn The verb “wait, hope” has the idea of eager expectation and preparation. It is used elsewhere of waiting on the Lord with anticipation.

31 tn The absolute state אַיִן (’ayin, “there is none”) is here used as a verbal predicate (see GKC 480 §152.k). The concise expression literally says “and none.”

32 sn The expression is literally “the eyelids of the morning.” This means the very first rays of dawn (see also Job 41:18). There is some debate whether it refers to “eyelids” or “eyelashes” or “eyeballs.” If the latter, it would signify the flashing eyes of a person. See for the Ugaritic background H. L. Ginsberg, The Legend of King Keret (BASORSup), 39; see also J. M. Steadman, “‘Eyelids of Morn’: A Biblical Convention,” HTR 56 (1963): 159-67.

33 tn The subject is still “that night.” Here, at the end of this first section, Job finally expresses the crime of that night – it did not hinder his birth.

34 sn This use of doors for the womb forms an implied comparison; the night should have hindered conception (see Gen 20:18 and 1 Sam 1:5).

35 tn The Hebrew has simply “my belly [= womb].” The suffix on the noun must be objective – it was the womb of Job’s mother in which he lay before his birth. See however N. C. Habel, “The Dative Suffix in Job 33:13,” Bib 63 (1982): 258-59, who thinks it is deliberately ambiguous.

36 tn The word עָמָל (’amal) means “work, heavy labor, agonizing labor, struggle” with the idea of fatigue and pain.

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