“Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?” (3:11) Why, Job wanted to know, was I ever born alive? Why did I not die when I was born?
“Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck?” (3:12) Job wondered, Why did they not just leave me to die after I was born? Why did my mother hold me on her knees and feed me. It would have been better if I had just died. “For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest.” (3:13)
Job went on to describe what he thought it would be like to be dead, “With kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves.” (3:14) In Job’s mind, it would be like going off to a private place, alone and away from noise, activity, and other people. He felt that the place of death would be a peaceful, quiet place.
“Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver.” (3:15) Death would be a place with no worries, Job thought. He imagined it as somewhere that he would have no cares, no needs. He would be at ease, like rulers that had gold, and houses full of silver. He would never have want of anything.
“Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light.” (3:16) Perhaps, Job thought, it would have been better if I had not even made it to birth. Why did my mother not miscarry me before I was even old enough for her to know she was going to have a baby? Why did I grow big enough to be seen and remembered?
Death, in Job’s mind, was a way of escape, a way out of difficulty. “17There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest. 18There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor.” (3:17,18) In death, the wicked could not cause trouble. The prisoner no longer toiled under the oppressor. There one could be left alone and not tormented. Surely death was better than life.
Death is fair; it plays no favorites. “The small and great are there.” (3:19a) The doors of death welcome all -- rich and poor, young and old, the lowest of society and the highest ruler. There is no discrimination in death. To Job, death was also a place of freedom. He declared that in death “the servant is free from his master.” (3:19b)
Job began to wonder, If death is better than life, why is God allowing me to live on still in misery? Job longed for death, but it would not come to him. Surely he would be glad if he could only find the grave. But he could not find death because God had hedged him in. “Wherefore,” cried Job, “is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul; 21Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures; 22Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave? 23Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in?” (3:20-23)
At this point Job’s sufferings and sorrows were so overwhelming that death seemed very welcoming. He said, “24For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters. 25For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. 26I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.” (3:24-26)
Job sighted before he ate. Was it time to eat again? Food held no attraction for him. He ate it because it was necessary. His pain was so great that he cried, his tears pouring out like water. He groaned with every move.
Job did not understand why all this had come upon him. It was the thing he had feared the most. How had it happened? He was not careless, just assuming that his family and property would be safe. He had things in order and kept watch. He prepared himself against trouble the best he knew how. Yet it came. Why had it come?
These longings of Job and his questions are interesting to ponder. Some of his “Why?” questions seem rather harsh.
Why did I not die in the womb?
Why was I born alive?
Why did my mother hold me on her knees and feed me? Why did she not just let me die?
Was job considering his mother when he asked these questions? Would she not be upset if she heard them? How could Job think she could have no feeling toward her baby boy? How could Job think she would neglect her son and let him starve? Surely she was a good mother and had done her best.
Perhaps, after voicing these questions, Job thought about his mother’s feelings. He changed his question and asked, Why was I not miscarried before my mother even knew she going to have a baby. Why did I not just come as an untimely birth, as though I had not been? (See Job 3:16) If Job’s mother had not known she was pregnant, she would not sorrow at his loss because she would not have know that she had lost him.
It is not that Job was inconsiderate of others. He just felt at that time that it would have been better if he had never grown up. As an infant, he would not have been old enough to remember trouble and sorrow. He would have no memory of it if he had died then. He wished he could erase the memory of it now.
Even though Job’s statements were strong ones, they were not bitter statements. Job was not angry with God. He just did not understand why all these things were happening to him. God was not displeased with Job for asking “Why?”. Nowhere in the book of Job does it say that God chided him for these questions or that it was sinful for him to ask them. They were not accusations against God. They were simply the wonderings of a hurting heart.