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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Job 21

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

But Job answered and said,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 2

Hear diligently my speech, and let this be your consolations.

Consolations. If you will listen calmly to me, this will be regarded by me as "consolations;" alluding to Eliphaz' boasted "consolations" (Job 15:11), which Job felt more as aggravations ('mockings,' Job 21:3; Job 21:34) than consolations (Job 16:2.).

Verse 3

Suffer me that I may speak; and after that I have spoken, mock on.

'Then you may go on with your mockings' (Job 17:2).

Verse 4

As for me, is my complaint to man? and if it were so, why should not my spirit be troubled?

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.

Troubled - literally 'short:' rendered impatient.

Verse 5

Mark me, and be astonished, and lay your hand upon your mouth.

Lay ... hand upon ... mouth - (Proverbs 30:32; Judges 18:19). So the pagan 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). Cease to try to explain these anomalies of God's moral government, which you cannot explain.

Verse 6

Even when I remember I am afraid, and trembling taketh hold on my flesh.

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.)

Verse 7

Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?

Wherefore do the wicked live. 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). Old - in opposition to the friends who asserted that sinners are "cut off" early (Job 8:12; Job 8:14).

Verse 8

Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes.

In opposition to Job 18:19; Job 5:4; Jeremiah 12:1; Psalms 73:3, etc.

Verse 9

Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.

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; Job 20:26-28), and, conversely, the good (Job 5:23-24).

Verse 10

Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf.

Their cattle (i:e., cows) conceive. The first clause of the verse describes an easy conception, the second a happy birch (Umbreit). I prefer the English version.

Verse 11

They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance.

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.

Verse 12

They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ.

Take - rather, lift up the voice (sing) to the note of [ naasaa' (H5375)] (Isaiah 42:11). (Umbreit.)

Timbrel - rather, tambourine.

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.

Verse 13

They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.

Wealth - old English for prosperity.

In a moment - not by a lingering disease. Great blessings! Lengthened life, with prosperity, and a sudden painless death (Psalms 73:4; "There are no bands in their death;" cf. Job 24:24).

Verse 14

Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.

Therefore - rather, And yet they are such as say, etc. - i:e., say, not in so many words, but virtually, by their conduct (so the Gergesenes expressly, 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.

Verse 15

What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?

(Cf. Jeremiah 2:20, "I will not serve" (God), margin; Proverbs 30:9; Exodus 5:2, Pharaoh, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice? I know not the Lord.")

What profit - (Job 35:3; Malachi 3:14, "It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance?" 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.'

Pray unto him - literally, 'apply to Him with prayer.'

Verse 16

Lo, their good is not in their hand: the counsel of the wicked is far from me.

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. Maurer translates, 'Lo, is not their good in their hand!' Does not good fortune attend them everywhere? Dathius takes the words as ironical, as much as to say, Surely you cannot say that 'their good is not in their hand' - i:e., is not solid and lasting. is-rather, 'may the counsel of the wicked be far from me! (Umbreit.) This naturally follows the sentiment of the first clause. Yet let me not hereby be thought to regard with aught but horror the ways of the wicked, however prosperous.

Verse 17

How oft is the candle of the wicked put out! and how oft cometh their destruction upon them! God distributeth sorrows in his anger.

Job in this whole passage, down to verse 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), etc., quoting Bildad's sentiment (Job 18:5-6; Job 18:12), in order to question its truth (cf. Matthew 25:8).

How oft - "God distributeth," etc., alluding to Job 20:23; Job 20:29. How oft - "God distributeth," etc., alluding to Job 20:23; Job 20:29.

Sorrows - [ chªbaaliym (H2256) is derived by Gesenius from cheebel (H2256), pain: but by Maurer from chebel (H2256), a cord to measure with; hence, a portion, as inheritances, were measured out by cords (Psalms 16:6, "The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places;" Amos 7:17, "Thy land shall be divided by lane")]. Umbreit translates 'snares'-literally, cords, which lightning in its twining motion resembles (Psalms 11:6).

Verse 18

They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away.

Job alludes to a like sentiment of Bildad (Job 18:18), using his own previous words (Job 13:25).

Chaff - (Psalms 1:4; Psalms 35:5).

Verse 19

God layeth up his iniquity for his children: he rewardeth him, and he shall know it.

Equally questionable is the friends' assertion, that if the godless himself is not punished, the children are (Job 18:19; Job 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).

Verse 20

His eyes shall see his destruction, and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty.

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).

Verse 21

For what pleasure hath he in his house after him, when the number of his months is cut off in the midst?

The argument of the friends, in proof of Job 21:20. What pleasure can he have from his house (children) when he is dead? (Ecclesiastes 3:22, "after him.")

When the number, etc. - (Job 14:21). Or, rather, What hath he to do with his children, etc.? (so the Hebrew [ cheepets (H2656)] in Ecclesiastes 3:1; Ecclesiastes 8:6.) It is therefore necessary 'his eyes should see his and their destruction.'

Cut off - rather, when the number of his allotted months is fulfilled (Job 14:5): [from cheets, an arrow, which was used to draw lots with. Hence, arrow is the figure for inevitable destiny] (Umbreit). I prefer the English version, and explain the whole verse thus: You, when you cannot deny that the ungodly are often prosperous to their end, assert that if they are not themselves punished, their children are: but you cannot so prove God to be just; because justice requires that they should be punished themselves; for when they are dead 'what have they to do with their children after them, when the number of their months is cut off?' They cannot feel their children's lot whether it be happy or miserable.

Verse 22

Shall any teach God knowledge? seeing he judgeth those that are high.

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).

Verse 23

One dieth in his full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet.

Literally, in the bone [ `etsem (H6106)] of his perfection - i:e., the full strength of unimpaired prosperity (Umbreit).

Verse 24

His breasts are full of milk, and his bones are moistened with marrow.

Breasts - rather, skins or vessels for fluids (Lee). But Umbreit has 'stations or resting-places of his herds near water:' in opposition to Zophar (Job 20:17), the fist clause refers to his abundant substance, the second to his vigorous health. I prefer, with margin, 'milk pails.'

Moistened - comparing man's body to a well-watered field (Proverbs 3:8; Isaiah 58:11; Isaiah 66:14, "Your bones shall flourish like an herb").

Translate. 'The marrow of his bones is well moistened,' so as not to dry up. In opposition to Zophar's statement (Job 20:11, "His bones are full of the sin of his youth").

Verse 25

And another dieth in the bitterness of his soul, and never eateth with pleasure.

(Cf. Job 3:20; Job 9:23.) (Ecclesiastes 9:2.)

Verse 26

They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them. his guilt, as if proved by his sufferings.

Verse 27

Behold, I know your thoughts, and the devices which ye wrongfully imagine against me.

Their wrongful thoughts against Job are stated by him in Job 21:28. They do not honestly name Job, but insinuate

Verse 28

For ye say, Where is the house of the prince? and where are the dwelling places of the wicked?

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; literally, a tent containing many dwellings, such so a great emir, like Job, with many dependents, would have.

Verse 29

Have ye not asked them that go by the way? and do ye not know their tokens,

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 travelers (Lamentations 1:12), who have the experience drawn from observation, and who are no way connested with him. Job opposes this to Bildad (Job 8:8) and Zophar (Job 20:4).

Tokens - rather, intimations (e.g., inscriptions, proverbs, signifying the results of their observation), testimony. Literally, signs or proofs in confirmation of the words which I have spoken (Isaiah 7:11).

Verse 30

That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath.

Their testimony (referring perhaps to those who had visited the region where Abraham, who enjoyed a revelation, then lived) is, "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.' [ lªyowm (H3117) yeechaasek (H2820) plainly agrees with the English version, "Is reserved to (or for, or against) the day, etc.] 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 laboured. 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 (Job 19:25), and future retribution (Job 21:30), why did he not draw his reasonings elsewhere from them, which he does not? God's righteous government, however, needs to be vindicated as to this life also, and therefore the Holy Spirit 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;' i:e., multiplied and fierce wrath.

Verse 31

Who shall declare his way to his face? and who shall repay him what he hath done?

i.e., Who dares to chirp him openly with his bad ways? namely, in this present life. So powerful is the wicked man now. He shall, I grant (Job 21:30), be 'repaid' hereafter.

Verse 32

Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb.

Yet - rather, And, brought-with solemn pomp (Ps. 14:15 ). Not only when alive, but even when dead, he is treated with honour.

Grave - literally, graves; i:e., the place where the graves are.

Remain in - rather, watch on [ yishqowd (H8245)] the tomb, or sepulchral mound. Even after death he seems still to live and watch (i:e., have his "remembrance" preserved) by means of the monument over the grave. In opposition to Bildad (Job 18:17).

Verse 33

The clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him, and every man shall draw after him, as there are innumerable before him.

As the classic has it: 'The earth is light upon him.' His repose shall be "sweet."

Draw - follow. As in Judges 4:6. 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"): others translate, 'most men follow in his bad steps, as countless such preceded him.'

Verse 34

How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood?

Falsehood - literally, wickedness. Your boasted "consolations" (Job 15:11) are contradicted by facts ("vain"); they therefore only betray your evil intent ("wickedness") against me.


(1) It has often been a subject of distressing perplexity to the godly to observe the seemingly continuous prosperity of many of the ungodly. Striking judgments ere sometimes inflicted on grievous sinners, as samples of God being still the righteous Governor of the world. The difficulty is, Why is it not always so? The answer is, This is a world of probation, in which God, in wonderful long-suffering and patience, gives a season for repentance to the vilest; and at the same time the prosperity of wicked fools, while serving God's counsels, ripens them, when they have continued to harden their heart against His goodness, for their own destruction (Proverbs 1:32).

(2) The language of the natural heart to God is, "Depart from us" (Job 21:14): as, on the contrary, the earnest prayer of every believer is, "Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it" (Psalms 69:18). The unconverted cannot see any "profit" to be gained by praying to and serving the Almighty, while they are most keen-sighted as to worldly profits and gains, from whatsoever source derived. Self-destroyers, and blind to their true interest, they forget, "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Or, "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26.)

(3) It is presumption and vanity for us to think we can give an account of, or fathom, all the mysteries of God's dealings. Why one dies in tranquility, another in bitterness of soul-the former, perhaps, the worst man of the two-we cannot say, but simply believe that the Judge of all the earth does right, and exclaim, "Oh the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33.) To charge great sufferers with great and extraordinary sins is contrary alike to experience and charity.

(4) The truth, which should dispel every perplexing thought about the seeming anomalies of the present disordered state of things, is, there is a judgment (Job 21:30) soon coming, in which all things shall be put to rights-the ungodly shall be eternally punished, their very prosperity previously increasing the weight of their condemnation; and the righteous shall be everlastingly rewarded, their previous sufferings enhancing their inconceivable blessedness. Though now the death of the godly and of the ungodly, in a physical point of view, is alike (Job 21:32-33), there shall then be an eternal difference between their relative stated. In religious point of view, as death left them, so shall the judgment find them.

`Hope humbly then, with trembling pinions soar; Wait the great teacher Death, and God adore.'

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/job-21.html. 1871-8.
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