Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Job 24

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-25

God Pays No Attention (24:1-17; 18-25)

In the interpretation suggested above, Job 23:17 prepares the way for the outburst of chapter 24, which turns from the horror of a God who remains completely hidden to the multiplied horror of a God who is apathetic to all moral distinctions and indifferent to all injustices in life. In a speech of deeply tragic dimensions Job pictures the fate of those who have gotten the short end of life, the "have nots," his description betraying the deep solicitude and concern he feels over such distresses.

The section opens with a difficult verse. The Revised Standard Version represents it as a protest by Job against the fact that God is immune to judgment. The "times" and "days" would refer to seasons of judgment, such as a court session, when accumulated wrongs could be righted or at least given a satisfactory explanation.

The speaker then (vss. 2-12) gives a list of the kinds of injustice which might well be dealt with in such a court session. Most prominent among them is the injustice done to those whose inheritance has been appropriated, the poor who are driven out into the wilderness, who must suffer physical hardship, and whose difficult labor increases the wealth of the wicked. Verse 9 is a parenthetical expression amplifying the thought of verses 2-4. The whole description reaches a powerful climax in verse 12, which sums up the desperation of the poor and the wounded and at the same time stresses the indifference of God.

This illustration of rampant injustice is now paralleled by others: a whole group of rebels against the light, who love darkness as a cover for their misdeeds — murderers, adulterers, thieves (vss. 14-16). These denizens of the night constitute for Job one more sickening evidence that no moral principle operates in the world, a conclusion he has voiced before (ch. 9) but never expanded as here. The impression grows that, as a careful lawyer, he is accumulating evidence in the case he would present, although as yet he lacks courtroom and judge.

At verse 18 it is evident that a strong break comes in the thought. Verses 18-20 can hardly be the words of Job, at least not in such close connection with what he has just said. The Revised Standard Version recognizes the difficulty and interprets these verses as a quotation by Job of the position of the friends (adding the words "You say" for which there is no equivalent in the original text). It is certainly true that sections like Job 8:18; Job 15:30-31; Job 18:16-20; Job 20:4-29 represent the friends as holding the position set forth here, although these exact words do not appear in their speeches. If this interpretation be adopted, then Job quotes the ideas of the friends for the purpose of refuting them, and verses 21-25 form his rebuttal. Thus he seems to declare that the security of the wicked is not at all ephemeral, but quite solid, and that it is itself the gift of God (vss. 22-23). Verse 24, then, would be not a picture of the uncertainty of the life of the wicked but the opposite: the fact is that they are exalted ("a little while" means only in common with all human life), but, unlike the rest of humanity, the wicked slip away quietly, with a peaceful death. They do not die prematurely (as Job) but are cut off like a full head of grain, that is, after they have come to maturity. This, Job says, can be disputed by no one, and the context implies that this "no one" includes God.

Some interpreters offer an alternate solution which seems simpler and more in harmony with the thought of the book. This is that verses 18-24, in part or as a whole, are the words of one of the friends, either Bildad or, more probably, Zophar. They are misplaced here, perhaps by intent. It is possible that some timid editor, feeling that Job’s words have gone too far in the direction of blasphemy, consequently modified them by inserting this opposite view, using words which in the original form of the book belonged to one of the friends. In so doing he attributed to Job a view which actually negates what Job has just said, and to which Job would never subscribe (see comment on ch. 27). If this is true, then "You say" in verse 18 should be omitted from the English translation. Verses 22 and 23, moreover, would then be understood as an admission that while God seems to give security to the wicked, it is in reality only ephemeral and before long the wicked are carried off like a dry weed or like the head of grain cut from the stalk.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Job 24". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/job-24.html.
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