on Jeremiah 20 :14
Cursed be the day wherein I was born - If we take these words literally, and suppose them to be in their proper place, they are utterly inconsistent with that state of confidence in which he exulted a few minutes before. If they are the language of Jeremiah, they must have been spoken on a prior occasion, when probably he had given way to a passionate hastiness. They might well comport with the state he was in Jeremiah 20:9. I really believe these verses have got out of their proper place, which I conjecture to be between the eighth and ninth verses. There they will come in very properly; and might have been a part of his complaint in those moments when he had purposed to flee from God as did Jonah, and prophesy no more in his name. Transpositions in this prophet are frequent; therefore place these five verses after the eighth, and let the chapter end with the thirteenth, and the whole will form a piece of exquisite poetry, where the state of despair and the hasty resolutions he had formed while under its influence, and the state of confidence to which he was raised by the succouring influence of God, will appear to be both illustrative of each other, and are touched with a delicacy and fervor which even a cold heart must admire. See Job 3:3 (note), and the notes there. The two passages are very similar.
on Jeremiah 20 :14
The sense of this expression in Job is plain. He wished there never had been such a day, and then he would not have been born. It is impossible to vindicate these expressions in Job and Jeremiah, unless it be on the supposition that it is highly worked poetic language, caused by sorrow so acute that it could not be expressed in prose. We are to remember, however, if this seems to us inconsistent with the existence of true piety, that Job had far less light than we have; that he lived at an early period of the world, when the views of the divine government were obscure, and that he was not sustained by the hopes and promises which the Christian possesses now. What light he had was probably that of tradition, and of the result of careful observation on the course of events. His topics of consolation must have been comparatively few. He had few or no promises to sustain him. He had not had before him, as we have, the example of the patient Redeemer. His faith was not sustained by those strong assurances which we have of the perfect rectitude of the divine government. Before we blame him too severely, we must place ourselves in imagination in his circumstances, and ask what our piety would have done under the trials which afflicted "him." Yet with all allowances, it is not possible to vindicate this language; and while we cannot but admire its force and sublimity, and its unequalled power and boldness in expressing strong passion, we at the same time feel that there was a lack of proper submission and patience. - It is the impassioned language of a man who felt that he could bear no more; and there can be no doubt that it gave to Satan the hope of his anticipated triumph.
And the night in which it was said - Dr. Good renders this, "And the night which shouted." Noyes, "And the night which said." So Gesenius and Rosenmuller, "Perish the night which said, a man child is conceived." The Vulgate renders it, "The night in which it was said;" the Septuagint, "That night in which they said." The Chaldee paraphrases the verse, "Perish the day in which I was born, and the angel who presided ever my conception." Scott, quoted by Good, translates it, "The night which hailed the new-born man." The language throughout this imprecation is that in which the night is "personified," and addressed as if it were made glad by the birth of a son. So Schultens says, "Inducitur enim "Nox illa quasi conscia mysterii, et exultans ob spem prolis virilis." Such personifications of day and night are common among the Arabs; see Schultens. It is a representation of day and night as "sympathizing with the joys and sorrows of mankind, and is in the truest vein of Oriental poetry."
There is a man child conceived - Hebrew גבר geber - "a man;" compare John 16:21. The word "conceived" Dr. Good renders "brought forth" So Herder translates it. The Septuagint, Ἰδοὺ ἄρσεν Idou arsen - "lo, a male" The common translation expresses the true sense of the original. The joy at the birth of a male in Oriental countries is much greater than that at the birth of a female. A remarkable instance of an imprecation on the day of one's birth is found in a Muslim book of modern times, in which the expressions are almost precisely the same as in Job. "Malek er Nasser Daub, prince of some tribes in Palestine, from which however he had been driven, after many adverse fortunes, died in a village near Damascus in the year 1258. When the crusaders had desolated his country, he deplored its misfortunes and his own in a poem, from which Abulfeda (Annals, p. 560) has quoted the following passage: 'O that my mother had remained unmarried all the days of her life! That God had determined no lord or consort for her! O that when he had destined her to an excellent, mild, and wise prince, she had been one of those whom he had created barren; that she might never have known the happy intelligence that she had born a man or woman! Or that when she had carried me under her heart, I had lost my life at my birth; and if I had been born, and had seen the light, that, when the congratulating people hastened on their camels, I had been gathered to my fathers.'" The Greeks and the Romans had their unlucky days (ἡμέραι ἀποφρύδες hēmerai apofrudes "dies infausti"); that is, days which were unpropitious, or in which they expected no success in any enterprise or any enjoyment. Tacitus (Annals, xiv. 12) mentions that the Roman Senate, for the purpose of flattering Nero, decreed that the birthday of Agrippina should be regarded as an accursed day; ut dies natalis Agrippinae inter nefastos esset. See Rosenmuller, All. u. neue Morgenland, "in loc" Expressions also similar to those before us, occur in Ovid, particularly in the following passage, "Epist. ad Ibin:"
Natus es infelix (ita Dii voluere), nec ulla
Commoda nascenti stella, levisve fuit.
Lux quoque natalis, ne quid nisi tristo videres,
Turpis, et inductis nubibus atra fuit.
Sedit in adverso nocturnas culmine bubo,
Funereoque graves edidit ore sonos.
We have now similar days, which by common superstition are regarded as unlucky or inauspicious. The wish of Job seems to be, that the day of his birth might be regarded as one of those days.
on Jeremiah 20 :14
20:14 Cursed - This sudden change makes some think that these words proceeded from Jeremiah rather as a repetition of a former passion into which the abuses of his enemies had put him, than as the immediate product of his spirit at this time.