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Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Job 21

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-34

Job 21:2 . Consolations. נחם nicham, though mostly translated consolation, comfort &c., as in Isaiah 40:1; is in several places understood of a change of mind, or of repentance. So in Judges 21:0., when the people wept because one tribe was lacking in Israel; and when the Lord repented that he had made Saul king. 1 Samuel 15:35. So it should here be rendered, Job having endeavoured to bring his friends to a change of sentiment concerning his case.

Job 21:12 . Rejoice at the sound of the organ, a species of wind instrument not now exactly known. Job keeps a princely patriarch fully in view, living in affluence like himself and his three friends.

Job 21:16 . Lo, their food is not in their hand. Behold, their happiness is not in their power. SCHULTENS. Let the counsel of the wicked be far from me. God in a moment can extinguish their candle.

Job 21:21 . What pleasure hath he in his house after him? חפצו chephzoo, designates business, or causing his family to do his pleasure after death. Then the sense is, Can he reign in the tomb by testamentary limitations?

Job 21:24 . His breasts are full of milk. To ascribe full breasts to a male requires apology, which is not easy to make. Some critics translate mulctralia, his pails are full of milk; but that idea has no connection with his bones being moistened with marrow. The sense is, that his constitution is full of vigour and blooming health. Still the figure is left without support from any classical author.

Job 21:26 . Worms shall cover them, alluding to hasty burials on a field of battle, where the vermin at once prey upon the slain.

Job 21:28 . The house of the prince. The Dabib, or the Nabob: equivalent to the house of the powerful, the oppressor; for it is not doubted but Job meant the house of the wicked.

Job 21:33 . The clods of the valley. The Goths buried their dead in burrows on the hills; but Virgil, Æneid 11., mentions a preference to vallies. The LXX read, the stones of the brook, while the Hebrew and the Chaldaic have, the glebe of the brook. Flesh in a box full of holes, interred under running water, is converted into spermaceti. It is not impossible that this modern discovery was known to the ancients.


Job rises stronger, while his friends grow weaker in the fight. Though an afflicted man here contends against three in health, yet he is more than competent to put them all to shame. He asks leave to speak, and then if they chose they might deride his words; for his complaint was not to man but to God. So the christian minister, wishing to come to an issue with obstinate sinners, solicits a fair hearing, and then leaves them to mock or revere his words.

Job, confident of his superiority, and perfectly aware that Zophar had but partially stated the truth, defeats him by a single stroke. Zophar, if all thy doctrine be true, wherefore do the wicked live, become old; yea, are mighty upon the earth? Their seed is established in the earth. Hence, not the destruction thou hast painted with the deepest shades, but the full tide of prosperity is their portion.

Job farther asserts, that many who thus prosper are not only very wicked, but wicked in principle, and impious by habit. They say to God, Depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. Deifying themselves, they ask, What is the Almighty that we should serve him; and what profit should we have if we pray unto him? When those monsters condescend on some occasions to enter the temple of God, it is to pay a sort of civil homage to the supreme Majesty; and being destitute of the spirit of devotion, the service seems to them protracted and dull. They are not profited by approaching their Maker, though heaven opens to the prayers of the faithful, and overflows their hearts with every blessing of the new covenant.

Job, anxious to avoid the errors of his friends, in their partial and hasty views of providence, gave a fair statement of the case; that while one wicked man prospered, as above, the lamp of another was extinguished by a blast. Now we view him in the full blaze of prosperity; and scarcely have we removed our eyes before his light is gone out in obscurity, and nothing remains of all his glory but the offensive smoke of his crimes. One dies in his full strength, wholly at ease and quiet, while another expires in the bitterness of his soul, and both lie down together in the common dust. Hence all men are here cautioned against rash and hasty conclusions respecting providence. God alone can clear up the clouds which surround his counsels.

Thus God, in a temporal view, layeth up iniquity for the children of the wicked, when they imbibe the maxims of their father, and make no restitution of his unlawful gains. Hence we must purge ourselves as much from the sins of a father, as from the sins of a stranger.

Job closes his reply by an appropriate application of his doctrine. Behold, I know your thoughts, and the wrongs ye conceive against me. Ye ask where is the house of the prince; and ye tacitly mean my house. Ye see my affairs in ruins, but ye should acknowledge that I receive afflictions now; whereas strangers who pass on the high road would tell you that God has reserved hardened and impenitent men to the day of destruction. In this life they have a full tide of prosperity; it being difficult for justice to strike an offending father, without prematurely affecting his wife and children. Therefore, my friends, you do not comfort, but grieve me, seeing all your replies are founded on misconceptions of providence.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 21". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/job-21.html. 1835.
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