Job entreats attention. (1-6) The prosperity of the wicked. (7-16) The dealings of God's providence. (17-26) The judgement of the wicked is in the world to come. (27-34)
Verses 1-6 Job comes closer to the question in dispute. This was, Whether outward prosperity is a mark of the true church, and the true members of it, so that ruin of a man's prosperity proves him a hypocrite? This they asserted, but Job denied. If they looked upon him, they might see misery enough to demand compassion, and their bold interpretations of this mysterious providence should be turned into silent wonder.
Verses 7-16 Job says, Remarkable judgments are sometimes brought upon notorious sinners, but not always. Wherefore is it so? This is the day of God's patience; and, in some way or other, he makes use of the prosperity of the wicked to serve his own counsels, while it ripens them for ruin; but the chief reason is, because he will make it appear there is another world. These prospering sinners make light of God and religion, as if because they have so much of this world, they had no need to look after another. But religion is not a vain thing. If it be so to us, we may thank ourselves for resting on the outside of it. Job shows their folly.
Verses 17-26 Job had described the prosperity of wicked people; in these verses he opposes this to what his friends had maintained about their certain ruin in this life. He reconciles this to the holiness and justice of God. Even while they prosper thus, they are light and worthless, of no account with God, or with wise men. In the height of their pomp and power, there is but a step between them and ruin. Job refers the difference Providence makes between one wicked man and another, into the wisdom of God. He is Judge of all the earth, and he will do right. So vast is the disproportion between time and eternity, that if hell be the lot of every sinner at last, it makes little difference if one goes singing thither, and another sighing. If one wicked man die in a palace, and another in a dungeon, the worm that dies not, and the fire that is not quenched, will be the same to them. Thus differences in this world are not worth perplexing ourselves about.
Verses 27-34 Job opposes the opinion of his friends, That the wicked are sure to fall into visible and remarkable ruin, and none but the wicked; upon which principle they condemned Job as wicked. Turn to whom you will, you will find that the punishment of sinners is designed more for the other world than for this, ( Jude 1:14 Jude 1:15 ) . The sinner is here supposed to live in a great deal of power. The sinner shall have a splendid funeral: a poor thing for any man to be proud of the prospect of. He shall have a stately monument. And a valley with springs of water to keep the turf green, was accounted an honourable burial place among eastern people; but such things are vain distinctions. Death closes his prosperity. It is but a poor encouragement to die, that others have died before us. That which makes a man die with true courage, is, with faith to remember that Jesus Christ died and was laid in the grave, not only before us, but for us. That He hath gone before us, and died for us, who is alive and liveth for us, is true consolation in the hour of death.
Job 21:1-34 . JOB'S ANSWER.
2. consolations--If you will listen calmly to me, this will be regarded as "consolations"; alluding to Eliphaz' boasted "consolations" ( Job 15:11 ), which Job felt more as aggravations ("mockings," Job 21:3 ) than consolations ( Job 16:2 ).
3. literally, "Begin your mockings" ( Job 17:2 ).
4. Job's difficulty was not as to man, but as to God, why He so afflicted him, as if he were the guilty hypocrite which the friends alleged him to be. Vulgate translates it, "my disputation."
if it were--rather, "since this is the case."
5. lay . . . hand upon . . . mouth--( Proverbs 30:32 , Judges 18:19 ). So the heathen god of silence was pictured with his hand on his mouth. There was enough in Job's case to awe them into silence ( Job 17:8 ).
6. remember--Think on it. Can you wonder that I broke out into complaints, when the struggle was not with men, but with the Almighty? Reconcile, if you can, the ceaseless woes of the innocent with the divine justice! Is it not enough to make one tremble? [UMBREIT].
7. The answer is Romans 2:4 , 1 Timothy 1:16 , Psalms 73:18 , Ecclesiastes 8:11-13 , Luke 2:35 -end; Proverbs 16:4 , Romans 9:22 .
old--in opposition to the friends who asserted that sinners are "cut off" early ( Job 8:12 Job 8:14 ).
8. In opposition to Job 18:19 , 5:4 .
9. Literally, "peace from fear"; with poetic force. Their house is peace itself, far removed from fear. Opposed to the friends' assertion, as to the bad ( Job 15:21-24 , 20:26-28 ), and conversely, the good ( Job 5:23 Job 5:24 ).
10. Rather, "their cattle conceive." The first clause of the verse describes an easy conception, the second, a happy birth [UMBREIT].
11. send forth--namely, out of doors, to their happy sports under the skies, like a joyful flock sent to the pastures.
little ones--like lambkins.
children--somewhat older than the former.
dance--not formal dances; but skip, like lambs, in joyous and healthful play.
12. take--rather, "lift up the voice" (sing) to the note of [UMBREIT].
organ--not the modern "organ," but the "pipe" ( Genesis 4:21 ). The first clause refers to stringed, the latter, to wind instruments; thus, with "the voice" all kinds of music are enumerated.
13. wealth--Old English Version for "prosperity."
in a moment--not by a lingering disease. Great blessings! Lengthened life with prosperity, and a sudden painless death ( Psalms 73:4 ).
14. Therefore--rather, "And yet they are such as say," &c., that is, say, not in so many words, but virtually, by their conduct (so the Gergesenes, Matthew 8:34 ). How differently the godly ( Isaiah 2:3 ).
ways--The course of action, which God points out; as in Psalms 50:23 , Margin.
15. (Compare Jeremiah 2:20 , Proverbs 30:9 , Margin, Exodus 5:2 ).
what profit--( Job 35:3 , Malachi 3:14 , Psalms 73:13 ). Sinners ask, not what is right, but what is for the profit of self. They forget, "If religion cost self something, the want of it will cost self infinitely more."
16. not in their hand--but in the hand of God. This is Job's difficulty, that God who has sinners prosperity (good) in His hand should allow them to have it.
is--rather, "may the counsel of the wicked be far from me!" [UMBREIT]. This naturally follows the sentiment of the first clause: Let me not hereby be thought to regard with aught but horror the ways of the wicked, however prosperous.
17. Job in this whole passage down to Job 21:21 quotes the assertion of the friends, as to the short continuance of the sinner's prosperity, not his own sentiments. In Job 21:22 he proceeds to refute them. "How oft is the candle" (lamp), &c., quoting Bildad's sentiment ( Job 18:5 Job 18:6 ), in order to question its truth (compare Matthew 25:8 ).
how oft--"God distributeth," &c. (alluding to Job 20:23 Job 20:29 ).
sorrows--UMBREIT translates "snares," literally, "cords," which lightning in its twining motion resembles ( Psalms 11:6 ).
18. Job alludes to a like sentiment of Bildad ( Job 18:18 ), using his own previous words ( Job 13:25 ).
19. Equally questionable is the friends' assertion that if the godless himself is not punished, the children are ( Job 18:19 , 20:10 ); and that God rewardeth him here for his iniquity, and that he shall know it to his cost. So "know" ( Hosea 9:7 ).
20. Another questionable assertion of the friends, that the sinner sees his own and his children's destruction in his lifetime.
drink--( Psalms 11:6 , Isaiah 51:17 , Lamentations 4:21 ).
21. The argument of the friends, in proof of Job 21:20 , What pleasure can he have from his house (children) when he is dead--("after him," Ecclesiastes 3:22 ).
when the number, &c.--Or, rather, "What hath he to do with his children?" &c. (so the Hebrew in Ecclesiastes 3:1 , 8:6 ). It is therefore necessary that "his eyes should see his and their destruction" (see Job 14:21 ).
cut off--rather, when the number of his allotted months is fulfilled ( Job 14:5 ). From an Arabic word, "arrow," which was used to draw lots with. Hence "arrow"--inevitable destiny [UMBREIT].
22. Reply of Job, "In all these assertions you try to teach God how He ought to deal with men, rather than prove that He does in fact so deal with them. Experience is against you. God gives prosperity and adversity as it pleases Him, not as man's wisdom would have it, on principles inscrutable to us" ( Isaiah 40:13 , Romans 11:34 ).
those . . . high--the high ones, not only angels, but men ( Isaiah 2:12-17 ).
23. Literally, "in the bone of his perfection," that is, the full strength of unimpaired prosperity [UMBREIT].
24. breasts--rather, "skins," or "vessels" for fluids [LEE]. But [UMBREIT] "stations or resting-places of his herds near water"; in opposition to Zophar ( Job 20:17 ); the first clause refers to his abundant substance, the second to his vigorous health.
moistened--comparing man's body to a well-watered field ( Proverbs 3:8 , Isaiah 58:11 ).
26. ( Ecclesiastes 9:2 ).
27. Their wrongful thoughts against Job are stated by him in Job 21:28 . They do not honestly name Job, but insinuate his guilt.
28. ye say--referring to Zophar ( Job 20:7 ).
the house--referring to the fall of the house of Job's oldest son ( Job 1:19 ) and the destruction of his family.
prince--The parallel "wicked" in the second clause requires this to be taken in a bad sense, tyrant, oppressor ( Isaiah 13:2 ), the same Hebrew, "nobles"--oppressors.
dwelling-places--rather, "pavilions," a tent containing many dwellings, such as a great emir, like Job, with many dependents, would have.
29. Job, seeing that the friends will not admit him as an impartial judge, as they consider his calamities prove his guilt, begs them to ask the opinion of travellers ( Lamentations 1:12 ), who have the experience drawn from observation, and who are no way connected with him. Job opposes this to Bildad ( Job 8:8 ) and Zophar ( Job 20:4 ).
tokens--rather, "intimations" (for example, inscriptions, proverbs, signifying the results of their observation), testimony. Literally, "signs" or proofs in confirmation of the word spoken ( Isaiah 7:11 ).
30. Their testimony (referring perhaps to those who had visited the region where Abraham who enjoyed a revelation then lived) is that "the wicked is (now) spared (reserved) against the day of destruction (hereafter)." The Hebrew does not so well agree with [UMBREIT] "in the day of destruction." Job does not deny sinners' future punishment, but their punishment in this life. They have their "good things" now. Hereafter, their lot, and that of the godly, shall be reversed ( Luke 16:25 ). Job, by the Spirit, often utters truths which solve the difficulty under which he labored. His afflictions mostly clouded his faith, else he would have seen the solution furnished by his own words. This answers the objection, that if he knew of the resurrection in Job 19:25 , and future retribution ( Job 21:30 ), why did he not draw his reasonings elsewhere from them, which he did not? God's righteous government, however, needs to be vindicated as to this life also, and therefore the Holy Ghost has caused the argument mainly to turn on it at the same time giving glimpses of a future fuller vindication of God's ways.
brought forth--not "carried away safe" or "escape" (referring to this life), as UMBREIT has it.
wrath--literally, "wraths," that is, multiplied and fierce wrath.
31. That is, who dares to charge him openly with his bad ways? namely, in this present life. He shall, I grant ( Job 21:30 ), be "repaid" hereafter.
32. Yet--rather, "and."
brought--with solemn pomp ( Psalms 45:15 ).
grave--literally, "graves"; that is, the place where the graves are.
remain in--rather, watch on the tomb, or sepulchral mound. Even after death he seems still to live and watch (that is, have his "remembrance" preserved) by means of the monument over the grave. In opposition to Bildad ( Job 18:17 ).
33. As the classis saying has it, "The earth is light upon him." His repose shall be "sweet."
draw--follow. He shall share the common lot of mortals; no worse off than they ( Hebrews 9:27 ). UMBREIT not so well (for it is not true of "every man"). "Most men follow in his bad steps, as countless such preceded him."
34. falsehood--literally, "transgression." Your boasted "consolations" ( Job 15:11 ) are contradicted by facts ("vain"); they therefore only betray your evil intent ("wickedness") against me.