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Job 3:3-16


3:3 “Let the day on which 1  I was born 2  perish,

and the night that said, 3 

‘A man 4  has been conceived!’ 5 

3:4 That day 6  – let it be darkness; 7 

let not God on high regard 8  it,

nor let light shine 9  on it!

3:5 Let darkness and the deepest

shadow 10  claim it; 11 

let a cloud settle on it;

let whatever blackens the day 12  terrify it!

3:6 That night – let darkness seize 13  it;

let it not be included 14  among the days of the year;

let it not enter among the number of the months! 15 

3:7 Indeed, 16  let that night be barren; 17 

let no shout of joy 18  penetrate 19  it!

3:8 Let those who curse the day 20  curse it 21 

those who are prepared to rouse 22  Leviathan. 23 

3:9 Let its morning stars 24  be darkened;

let it wait 25  for daylight but find none, 26 

nor let it see the first rays 27  of dawn,

3:10 because it 28  did not shut the doors 29  of my mother’s womb on me, 30 

nor did it hide trouble 31  from my eyes!

Job Wishes He Had Died at Birth 32 

3:11 “Why did I not 33  die 34  at birth, 35 

and why did I not expire

as 36  I came out of the womb?

3:12 Why did the knees welcome me, 37 

and why were there 38  two breasts 39 

that I might nurse at them? 40 

3:13 For now 41  I would be lying down

and 42  would be quiet, 43 

I would be asleep and then at peace 44 

3:14 with kings and counselors of the earth

who built for themselves places now desolate, 45 

3:15 or with princes who possessed gold, 46 

who filled their palaces 47  with silver.

3:16 Or why 48  was 49  I not buried 50 

like a stillborn infant, 51 

like infants 52  who have never seen the light? 53 

1 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).

2 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.

3 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.

4 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.

5 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.

6 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.

7 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.

8 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.

9 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]).

10 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.

11 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.

12 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”).

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

14 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.

15 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).

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

17 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.

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

19 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.

20 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.

21 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).

22 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).

23 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.

24 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.

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

26 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.”

27 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.

28 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.

29 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).

30 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.

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

32 sn Job follows his initial cry with a series of rhetorical questions. His argument runs along these lines: since he was born (v. 10), the next chance he had of escaping this life of misery would have been to be still born (vv. 11-12, 16). In vv. 13-19 Job considers death as falling into a peaceful sleep in a place where there is no trouble. The high frequency of rhetorical questions in series is a characteristic of the Book of Job that sets it off from all other portions of the OT. The effect is primarily dramatic, creating a tension that requires resolution. See W. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry, 340-41.

33 tn The negative only occurs with the first clause, but it extends its influence to the parallel second clause (GKC 483 §152.z).

34 tn The two verbs in this verse are both prefix conjugations; they are clearly referring to the past and should be classified as preterites. E. Dhorme (Job, 32) notes that the verb “I came out” is in the perfect to mark its priority in time in relation to the other verbs.

35 tn The translation “at birth” is very smooth, but catches the meaning and avoids the tautology in the verse. The line literally reads “from the womb.” The second half of the verse has the verb “I came out/forth” which does double duty for both parallel lines. The second half uses “belly” for the womb.

36 tn The two halves of the verse use the prepositional phrases (“from the womb” and “from the belly I went out”) in the temporal sense of “on emerging from the womb.”

37 tn The verb קִדְּמוּנִי (qiddÿmuni) is the Piel from קָדַם (qadam), meaning “to come before; to meet; to prevent.” Here it has the idea of going to meet or welcome someone. In spite of various attempts to connect the idea to the father or to adoption rites, it probably simply means the mother’s knees that welcome the child for nursing. See R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 42.

sn The sufferer is looking back over all the possible chances of death, including when he was brought forth, placed on the knees or lap, and breastfed.

38 tn There is no verb in the second half of the verse. The idea simply has, “and why breasts that I might suck?”

39 sn The commentaries mention the parallel construction in the writings of Ashurbanipal: “You were weak, Ashurbanipal, you who sat on the knees of the goddess, queen of Nineveh; of the four teats that were placed near to your mouth, you sucked two and you hid your face in the others” (M. Streck, Assurbanipal [VAB], 348).

40 tn Heb “that I might suckle.” The verb is the Qal imperfect of יָנַק (yanaq, “suckle”). Here the clause is subordinated to the preceding question and so function as a final imperfect.

41 tn The word עַתָּה (’attah, “now”) may have a logical nuance here, almost with the idea of “if that had been the case…” (IBHS 667-68 §39.3.4f). However, the temporal “now” is retained in translation since the imperfect verb following two perfects “suggests what Job’s present state would be if he had had the quiet of a still birth” (J. E. Hartley, Job [NICOT], 95, n. 23). Cf. GKC 313 §106.p.

42 tn The copula on the verb indicates a sequence for the imperfect: “and then I would….” In the second half of the verse it is paralleled by “then.”

43 tn The text uses a combination of the perfect (lie down/sleep) and imperfect (quiet/rest). The particle עַתָּה (’attah, “now”) gives to the perfect verb its conditional nuance. It presents actions in the past that are not actually accomplished but seen as possible (GKC 313 §106.p).

44 tn The last part uses the impersonal verb “it would be at rest for me.”

45 tn The difficult term חֳרָבוֹת (khoravot) is translated “desolate [places]”. The LXX confused the word and translated it “who gloried in their swords.” One would expect a word for monuments, or tombs (T. K. Cheyne emended it to “everlasting tombs” [“More Critical Gleanings in Job,” ExpTim 10 (1898/99): 380-83]). But this difficult word is of uncertain etymology and therefore cannot simply be made to mean “royal tombs.” The verb means “be desolate, solitary.” In Isa 48:21 there is the clear sense of a desert. That is the meaning of Assyrian huribtu. It may be that like the pyramids of Egypt these tombs would have been built in the desert regions. Or it may describe how they rebuilt ruins for themselves. He would be saying then that instead of lying here in pain and shame if he had died he would be with the great ones of the earth. Otherwise, the word could be interpreted as a metonymy of effect, indicating that the once glorious tomb now is desolate. But this does not fit the context – the verse is talking about the state of the great ones after their death.

46 tn The expression simply has “or with princes gold to them.” The noun is defined by the noun clause serving as a relative clause (GKC 486 §155.e).

47 tn Heb “filled their houses.” There is no reason here to take “houses” to mean tombs; the “houses” refer to the places the princes lived (i.e., palaces). The reference is not to the practice of burying treasures with the dead. It is simply saying that if Job had died he would have been with the rich and famous in death.

48 tn The verb is governed by the interrogative of v. 12 that introduces this series of rhetorical questions.

49 tn The verb is again the prefix conjugation, but the narrative requires a past tense, or preterite.

50 tn Heb “hidden.” The LXX paraphrases: “an untimely birth, proceeding from his mother’s womb.”

51 tn The noun נֵפֶל (nefel, “miscarriage”) is the abortive thing that falls (hence the verb) from the womb before the time is ripe (Ps 58:9). The idiom using the verb “to fall” from the womb means to come into the world (Isa 26:18). The epithet טָמוּן (tamun, “hidden”) is appropriate to the verse. The child comes in vain, and disappears into the darkness – it is hidden forever.

52 tn The word עֹלְלִים (’olÿlim) normally refers to “nurslings.” Here it must refer to infants in general since it refers to a stillborn child.

53 tn The relative clause does not have the relative pronoun; the simple juxtaposition of words indicates that it is modifying the infants.

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