Job 21

Listen to Job 21

Job Replies: The Wicked Do Prosper

1 Then Job answered and said:
2 1"Keep listening to my words, and let this be your comfort.
3 Bear with me, and I will speak, and after I have spoken, 2mock on.
4 As for me, is my 3complaint against man? Why should I not be impatient?
5 Look at me and be appalled, and 4lay your hand over your mouth.
6 When I remember, I am dismayed, and shuddering seizes my flesh.
7 5Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?
8 Their 6offspring are established in their presence, and their descendants before their eyes.
9 Their houses are 7safe from fear, and 8no rod of God is upon them.
10 Their bull breeds without fail; their cow calves and 9does not miscarry.
11 They send out their 10little boys like a flock, and their children dance.
12 They sing to 11the tambourine and 12the lyre and rejoice to the sound of 13the pipe.
13 They 14spend their days in prosperity, and in 15peace they go down to 16Sheol.
14 They say to God, 17'Depart from us! We do not desire the knowledge of your ways.
15 18What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what 19profit do we get if we pray to him?'
16 Behold, is not their prosperity in their hand? 20The counsel of the wicked is far from me.
17 "How often is it that 21the lamp of the wicked is put out? That their calamity comes upon them? That God[a] distributes pains in his anger?
18 That they are like 22straw before the wind, and like 23chaff that the storm carries away?
19 You say, 'God 24stores up their iniquity for their 25children.' Let him pay it out to them, that they may 26know it.
20 Let their own eyes see their destruction, and let them 27drink of the wrath of the Almighty.
21 For what do they care for their houses after them, when 28the number of their months is cut off?
22 29Will any teach God knowledge, seeing that he 30judges those who are on high?
23 One dies in his full vigor, being wholly at ease and secure,
24 his pails[b] full of milk and 31the marrow of his bones moist.
25 Another dies in 32bitterness of soul, never having tasted of prosperity.
26 They 33lie down alike in the dust, and 34the worms cover them.
27 "Behold, I know your thoughts and your schemes to wrong me.
28 For you say, 35'Where is the house of the prince? Where is 36the tent in which the wicked lived?'
29 Have you not asked those who travel the roads, and do you not accept their testimony
30 that 37the evil man is spared in the day of calamity, that he is rescued in the day of wrath?
31 Who declares his way 38to his face, and who 39repays him for what he has done?
32 When he is 40carried to the grave, watch is kept over his tomb.
33 41The clods of the valley are sweet to him; 42all mankind follows after him, and those who go before him are innumerable.
34 How then will you comfort me with empty nothings? There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood."

Job 21 Commentary

Chapter 21

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.

Cross References 42

  • 1. Job 13:17
  • 2. [Job 16:10, 20; Job 17:2]
  • 3. Job 10:1; Job 23:2
  • 4. Job 29:9; Job 40:4; Judges 18:19
  • 5. Job 12:6; Psalms 17:14; Psalms 37:1, 35; Psalms 73:3, 5; Psalms 92:7; Ecclesiastes 8:14; Jeremiah 12:1, 2; Habakkuk 1:13, 16; Malachi 3:14, 15
  • 6. [Job 5:25]
  • 7. [Job 5:24]
  • 8. See Job 9:34
  • 9. Exodus 23:26
  • 10. [Psalms 17:14]
  • 11. Exodus 15:20
  • 12. Job 30:31; Genesis 4:21
  • 13. Job 30:31; Genesis 4:21
  • 14. Job 36:11
  • 15. Job 34:20; [Job 24:19]
  • 16. Job 7:9; Job 14:13; Job 17:13; See Psalms 16:10
  • 17. Job 22:17
  • 18. [Exodus 5:2]
  • 19. See Job 34:9
  • 20. Job 22:18; [Psalms 1:1]
  • 21. See Job 18:5, 6
  • 22. Job 13:25; Psalms 83:13
  • 23. Psalms 1:4; Psalms 35:5; Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 29:5
  • 24. Job 15:20
  • 25. Exodus 20:5
  • 26. Isaiah 9:9; Ezekiel 25:14; Hosea 9:7
  • 27. Psalms 60:3; Psalms 75:8; Isaiah 51:17, 22; Jeremiah 25:15; Obadiah 16; Revelation 14:10
  • 28. Job 14:5
  • 29. Isaiah 40:14; Romans 11:34; 1 Corinthians 2:16
  • 30. [Job 4:18; Job 15:15]
  • 31. Proverbs 3:8; [Isaiah 58:11; Isaiah 66:14]
  • 32. See Job 7:11
  • 33. Job 20:11; [Ecclesiastes 9:2]
  • 34. Isaiah 14:11
  • 35. [Job 20:6, 7]
  • 36. [Job 8:22; Job 15:34]
  • 37. [Proverbs 16:4; 2 Peter 2:9]
  • 38. Deuteronomy 7:10; Hosea 5:5; Galatians 2:11
  • 39. Deuteronomy 7:10
  • 40. Job 10:19
  • 41. Job 38:38
  • 42. [Job 30:23; Hebrews 9:27]

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Hebrew he
  • [b]. The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain

Chapter Summary


This chapter contains Job's reply to Zophar's preceding discourse, in which, after a preface exciting attention to what he was about to say, Job 21:1-6; he describes by various instances the prosperity of wicked men, even of the most impious and atheistical, and which continues with them as long as they live, contrary to what Zophar had asserted in Job 20:5, Job 21:7-15; as for himself, he disapproved of such wicked men as much as any, and owns that destruction comes upon them sooner or later, and on their posterity also, Job 21:16-21; but as God is a God of knowledge, and needs no instruction from any, and is a sovereign Being, he deals with men in different ways; some die in great ease, and peace, and prosperity, and others in bitterness and distress, but both are alike brought to the dust, Job 21:22-26; and whereas he was aware of their censures of him, and their objections to what he had said, he allows that the wicked are reserved to the day of destruction, which is future, and in the mean while lie in the grave, where all must follow; yet they are not repaid or rewarded in this life, that remains to be done in another world, Job 21:27-33; and concludes, that their consolation with respect to him was vain, and falsehood was in their answers, Job 21:34.

Job 21 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.