28 September 2010

Job 3:1-23

"Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?" (v.11)


Since God allowed Satan to torment Job in chapter 1, Job has lost his many livestock, all his children and has been afflicted with painful sores all over his body. So far, he has just accepted all this without complaint, but now he has had enough. Today's reading is one long complaint. Job is so distraught at all he has lost and in so much pain that he is brought to the point of wishing he had never been born.

The end of the previous chapter tells us that Job's friends have come to be with him, but he has been so altered that they don't recognise him at first and are so upset when they realise it is their friend that they weep, tear their clothes and sit with him for seven days and seven nights. Perhaps it is the presence of his friends that sets off Job's complaining...

We are not accustomed to reading such heartfelt complaints in the Bible, but in fact this is a common theme of the psalms, where the author is complaining not just to his friends but to God. In Psalm 79for example, the writer complains that other nations have defiled God's Temple, destroyed the people and made them a mockery among their neighbours. And in Psalm 89 King David cries that God promised him everything (verses 19-37) but has now rejected him and allowed his enemies to triumph (verses 38-51). Both psalms ask how long God will wait before taking action to save the psalmist.

It must have been hard for Job's friends to listen to his complaint. The chapters that follow give each of them the chance to reply to Job, though he doesn't find what they say to him very helpful.

To Ponder

How do you respond to Job's heartfelt statement of despair?

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like this? How did you come through it?

What would you do, or have said, if you were one of Job's friends?

Bible notes author

David Clough

David Clough is Professor of Theological Ethics in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Chester. He is a Methodist local preacher, a member of the Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment and the Faith and Order Network and drafted recent reports on peacemaking and climate change on behalf of the Methodist Church.