Job 21


1 Then Job replied:
2 “Listen carefully to my words; let this be the consolation you give me.
3 Bear with me while I speak, and after I have spoken, mock on.
4 “Is my complaint directed to a human being? Why should I not be impatient?
5 Look at me and be appalled; clap your hand over your mouth.
6 When I think about this, I am terrified; trembling seizes my body.
7 Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?
8 They see their children established around them, their offspring before their eyes.
9 Their homes are safe and free from fear; the rod of God is not on them.
10 Their bulls never fail to breed; their cows calve and do not miscarry.
11 They send forth their children as a flock; their little ones dance about.
12 They sing to the music of timbrel and lyre; they make merry to the sound of the pipe.
13 They spend their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace.[a]
14 Yet they say to God, ‘Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways.
15 Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?’
16 But their prosperity is not in their own hands, so I stand aloof from the plans of the wicked.
17 “Yet how often is the lamp of the wicked snuffed out? How often does calamity come upon them, the fate God allots in his anger?
18 How often are they like straw before the wind, like chaff swept away by a gale?
19 It is said, ‘God stores up the punishment of the wicked for their children.’ Let him repay the wicked, so that they themselves will experience it!
20 Let their own eyes see their destruction; let them drink the cup of the wrath of the Almighty.
21 For what do they care about the families they leave behind when their allotted months come to an end?
22 “Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since he judges even the highest?
23 One person dies in full vigor, completely secure and at ease,
24 well nourished in body,[b]bones rich with marrow.
25 Another dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good.
26 Side by side they lie in the dust, and worms cover them both.
27 “I know full well what you are thinking, the schemes by which you would wrong me.
28 You say, ‘Where now is the house of the great, the tents where the wicked lived?’
29 Have you never questioned those who travel? Have you paid no regard to their accounts—
30 that the wicked are spared from the day of calamity, that they are delivered from[c] the day of wrath?
31 Who denounces their conduct to their face? Who repays them for what they have done?
32 They are carried to the grave, and watch is kept over their tombs.
33 The soil in the valley is sweet to them; everyone follows after them, and a countless throng goes[d] before them.
34 “So how can you console me with your nonsense? Nothing is 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 59

  • 1. S Job 13:17
  • 2. ver 34
  • 3. S Job 6:14; S Job 11:3; S Job 16:10
  • 4. S Job 7:11
  • 5. S Job 6:3; Job 6:11
  • 6. S Judges 18:19; Job 29:9; Job 40:4
  • 7. S Genesis 45:3
  • 8. S Job 4:14
  • 9. ver 13; S Job 9:24; Job 12:19; Job 12:6; Psalms 37:1; Psalms 73:3; Ecclesiastes 7:15; Ecclesiastes 8:14; Jeremiah 12:1; Habakkuk 1:13; Malachi 3:15
  • 10. Psalms 17:14; Malachi 3:15
  • 11. S Job 5:24; Psalms 73:5
  • 12. S Job 9:34
  • 13. Exodus 23:26
  • 14. Psalms 78:52; Psalms 107:41
  • 15. Psalms 33:2
  • 16. S Genesis 4:21; S 1 Chronicles 15:16; Psalms 71:22; Psalms 81:2; Psalms 108:2; Isaiah 5:12; Matthew 11:17
  • 17. S ver 7; S Job 8:7; Psalms 10:1-12; Psalms 94:3; Job 36:11
  • 18. Job 24:19; Psalms 49:14; Isaiah 14:15
  • 19. S Job 3:13
  • 20. S Job 4:17; Job 22:17; Isaiah 30:11
  • 21. S Deuteronomy 32:15; S 1 Samuel 15:11; Psalms 95:10; Proverbs 1:29; Jeremiah 2:20,31
  • 22. Exodus 5:2; S Job 5:2; Job 34:9; Job 35:3; Psalms 73:13; Psalms 139:20; Isaiah 48:5; Jeremiah 9:6; Jeremiah 44:17; Malachi 3:14
  • 23. Job 22:18; Psalms 1:1; Psalms 26:5; Psalms 36:1
  • 24. S Job 18:5
  • 25. Job 18:12
  • 26. S Job 20:22,28
  • 27. S Job 13:25; Psalms 1:4
  • 28. S Genesis 19:15
  • 29. S Job 7:10; Proverbs 10:25
  • 30. S Genesis 7:23
  • 31. Exodus 20:5; Jeremiah 31:29; Ezekiel 18:2; John 9:2
  • 32. Jeremiah 25:14; Jeremiah 50:29; Jeremiah 51:6,24,56
  • 33. S Exodus 32:33; Numbers 16:22; S 2 Kings 14:6; Jeremiah 42:16
  • 34. Job 6:4; Psalms 75:8; Isaiah 51:17
  • 35. S Job 20:28; Jeremiah 25:15; Revelation 14:10
  • 36. Job 14:22
  • 37. S Job 14:5
  • 38. S Job 14:21; Ecclesiastes 9:5-6
  • 39. Job 35:11; Job 36:22; Job 39:17; Psalms 94:12; Isaiah 40:13-14; Jeremiah 32:33; Romans 11:34
  • 40. S Job 4:18; Psalms 82:1; Psalms 86:8; Psalms 135:5
  • 41. S Genesis 15:15; S Job 13:26
  • 42. S Job 3:13
  • 43. Psalms 73:4
  • 44. Job 20:11
  • 45. Proverbs 3:8
  • 46. S Job 10:1
  • 47. S Job 17:16
  • 48. S Job 7:5
  • 49. Job 24:20; Ecclesiastes 9:2-3; Isaiah 14:11
  • 50. Job 1:3; Job 12:21; Job 29:25; Job 31:37
  • 51. S Job 8:22
  • 52. Job 31:3; Proverbs 16:4
  • 53. S Job 20:22,28; S Isaiah 5:30; Romans 2:5; 2 Peter 2:9
  • 54. Job 34:11; Psalms 62:12; Proverbs 24:11-12; Isaiah 59:18
  • 55. Isaiah 14:18
  • 56. Job 3:22; Job 17:16; Job 24:24
  • 57. S Job 3:19
  • 58. ver 2; Job 16:2
  • 59. S Job 6:15; Job 8:20

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. Or "in an instant"
  • [b]. The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain.
  • [c]. Or "wicked are reserved for the day of calamity," / "that they are brought forth to"
  • [d]. Or "them," / "as a countless throng went"

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

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