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Bible Commentaries
Job 21

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-34

B.—JOB: That which experience teaches concerning the prosperity of the ungodly during their life on earth argues not against but for his innocence:

Job 21:0

1. Introductory appeal to the friends:

Job 21:1-6

1          But Job answered and said:

2     Hear diligently my speech,

and let this be your consolations.

3     Suffer me that I may speak;

and after that I have spoken, mock on.

4     As for me, is my complaint to man?

and if it were so, why should not my spirit be troubled?

5     Mark me, and be astonished,

and lay your hand upon your mouth.

6     Even when I remember I am afraid,

and trembling taketh hold on my flesh.

2. Along with the fact of the prosperity of the wicked, taught by experience (Job 21:7-16), stands the other fact of earthly calamity befalling the pious and the righteous:

Job 21:7-26

7     Wherefore do the wicked live,

become old, yea, are mighty in power?

8     Their seed is established in their sight with them,

and their offspring before their eyes.

9     Their houses are safe from fear,

neither is the rod of God upon them.

10     Their bull gendereth and faileth not;

their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf.

11     They send forth their little ones like a flock,

and their children dance.

12     They take the timbrel and harp,

and rejoice at the sound of the organ.

13     They spend their days in wealth,

and in a moment go down to the grave.

14     Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us,

for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.

15     What is the Almighty that we should serve Him?

and what profit should we have, if we pray unto Him?

16     Lo, their good is not in their hand!

the counsel of the wicked is far from me.

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.

18     They are as stubble before the wind,

and as chaff that the storm carrieth away.

19     God layeth up His iniquity for His children:

He rewardeth him, and he shall know it.

20     His eyes shall see his destruction,

and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty.

21     For what pleasure hath he in his house after him,

when the number of his months is cut off in the midst?

22     Shall any teach God knowledge?

seeing He judgeth those that are high.

23     One dieth in his full strength,

being wholly at ease, and quiet.

24     His breasts are full of milk,

and his bones are moistened with marrow.

25     And another dieth in the bitterness of his soul,

and never eateth with pleasure.

26     They shall lie down alike in the dust.

and the worms shall cover them.

3. Rebuke of the friends because they set forth only one side of that experience, and use it to his prejudice

Job 21:27-34

27     Behold, I know your thoughts,

and the devices which ye wrongfully imagine against me.

28     For ye say, Where is the house of the prince?

and where are the dwelling-places of the wicked?

29     Have ye not asked them that go by the way?

and do ye not know their tokens?—

30     that the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction?

they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath.

31     Who shall declare his way to his face?

and who shall repay him what he hath done?

32     Yet shall he be brought to the grave,

and shall remain in the tomb.

33     The clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him,

and every man shall draw after him,
as there are innumerable before him.

34     How then comfort ye me in vain,

seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood?


1. The obstinacy of the friends, who show neither the desire nor the inclination to solve the mystery of Job’s sufferings in a friendly spirit, and in such a way as would not wound his feelings, drives Job to come out in theoretic opposition to the narrow and external interpretation of the doctrine of retribution advocated by them, and to change his reply from the essentially personal character which it had previously borne into a strict criticism of their doctrine. Having first calmly but bitterly challenged their attention to that which he had to communicate to them (Job 21:2-6), he urges against them the mysterious fact that often the ungodly revel in superfluity of prosperity to the end of their life, while on the contrary the pious are often throughout their earthly life pursued by misfortune (Job 21:7-26). In view of a distribution of prosperity and adversity so unequal, and so much at variance with the moral desert of men, it was decidedly unjust, nay malicious and false on the part of the friends to undertake to brand him as a wicked man on account of his misfortune (Job 21:27-34). The whole discussion which brilliantly demonstrates Job’s superiority over the friends in respect to the stand-point of ethical perception and experience, and which serves to introduce the last turn which the colloquy takes, and which is decisive of his complete victory, is divided into five strophes, of five verses each, the first strophe covering the exordium (Job 21:2-6), the remaining four constituting the Second Division [the former two of these strophes again being occupied with the fact, the latter two with the argument showing the fact to be irreconcilable with their theory of retribution; Dillm.]; followed by two strophes of four verses each [rebuking the one-sidedness of the friends] constituting the Third Division (Job 21:27-34.)

2. First Division (and strophe): Exordium: Job 21:2-6. Job announces that he is about to speak of a mysterious and indeed an astounding phenomenon, which demands the entire attention of the friends.

Job 21:2. Hear, I pray, hear my speech! and let this be instead of your consolations—or: “in order that this may supply the place of your consolations, may prove to me a comfort instead of them, seeing that they so poorly accomplish their purpose” (comp. Job 15:11; Job 16:2). [A fine touch of irony: attentive silence would be a much more real comfort than all their ineffectual talk!]

Job 21:3. Suffer me (שָׂאוּנִי, with Kamets before the tone, comp. Jonah 1:12; 1 Kings 20:33; Gesenius § 60 [§ 59] Rem. 1)—and then will I speak (I, אָֹֽגֹכִי, in contrast with the “you” of the Imper., although without a particularly strong accent); and after that I have spoken, thou mayest mock (תלעיג, concessive, Ewald § 136, e). The demand for a patient hearing of his rebuke, which reminds us somewhat of the saying of Themistocles—“Strike, but hear me!” (Plutarch, Themist. c. 11), is specifically addressed in the second half to Zophar, whose last discourse must have grieved him particularly, and who in fact after the rejoinder which Job now makes had nothing more to say, and could only leave the mocking assaults on Job to be resumed by his older companions. [So in Job 16:3 Job had singled out Eliphaz in his reply, and again in Job 26:2-4, he singles out Bildad].

Job 21:4. Does my complaint go forth from me in regard to man?i.e. as for me (אָנֹכִי emphatically prefixed, and then resumed again in שׂיחי, Gesen. § 145 [§ 142], 2), is my complaint directed against men? is my complaint (שִׂיחִי as in Job 7:13; Job 9:27; Job 10:1), concerning men, or is it not rather concerning something that has a superhuman cause, something that is decreed by God? That in this last thought lies the tacit antithesis to לְאָדָם is evident from the second member: or why should I not be impatient? lit. “why should my spirit not become short,” comp. Job 6:11; Micah 2:7; Zechariah 11:8; Proverbs 14:29. That which follows gives us to understand more distinctly that it was something quite extraordinary, superhuman, under the burden of which Job groans, and concerning which he has to complain. [The rendering of the last clause found in E. V. Lee, Wemyss, etc.: “And if it were so, why should not my spirit be troubled?” is both less natural, in view of the antecedent probability that וְאִם is cor-related to the ה interrogative, less simple, and less satisfactory in the meaning which it yields. E.].

Job 21:5. Turn ye to me and be astonished, and lay the hand on the mouth,viz.: as being dumb with astonishment, comp. Job 29:9; Job 40:4—וְהָשַׁמּוּ Imper. cons. Hiph. from שָׁמַם (comp. Job 17:8; Job 18:20) [with Pattach for Tsere in pause], obstupescite. According to the reading הֳשַׁמּוּ (Imper. Hoph. of the same verb) [as some regard it even with the punctuation הָשַׁמּוּ = hoshammu] the meaning is not essentially different.

Job 21:6. Verily if I think on it I am confounded (וְנִבְהָלְתִּי apodosis; comp. Job 7:14) and my flesh seizes on horror. In Heb. בְּשָׁרִי is subject; comp. the similar phraseology in Job 18:20. פָּלַּצוּת, from פָּלַץ Job 9:6, means convulsive quaking, terror, as in the New Testament ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι καὶ� (Mark 14:33). It is to be noted how by these strong expressions the friends are prepared to hear something grave, fearful, astounding, to wit a proposition, founded on experience, which seems to call in question the divine justice, and to the affirmation of which Job accordingly proceeds hesitatingly, and with visible reluctance.

3. Second Division: First Half: The testimony of experience to the fact that the wicked are often, and indeed ordinarily prosperous: Job 21:7-16.

Second Strophe: Job 21:7-11. Why do the wicked live on—instead of dying early, as Zophar had maintained, Job 20:5. The same question is propounded by Jeremiah, Job 12:1 seq.; comp. Psalms 73:0.Malachi 3:13; Malachi 3:13 seq. Become old, yea, strong in power, or: “are become old (lit. advanced in years, comp. עַתִּיק) and mighty in possessions.” In regard to גָּבַר הַיִל (with accus. of specification) comp. the equivalent phrase הִשְׂגָּה הַיִל, Psalms 73:12; and in regard to חַיִל see above Job 15:29; Job 20:15; Job 20:18.

Job 21:8. Their posterity is establishedנָכוֹן here not—“standing in readiness,” as in Job 12:5; Job 15:23, but “enduring, firmly established, as in (Psalms 93:2) before them round about them, surrounding them in the closest proximity; this is the meaning of עִמָּם, not: “like themselves” (Rosenm., Umbreit, Sohlottm., Vaih., [Fürst, Noyes] etc.), in behalf of which latter signification to be sure Job 9:26 might be cited; but the parallel expression—“before their eyes”—in the second member, favors rather the former sense. [And their offspring before their eyes. צֶאֱצָאִים, as in Job 5:25—“is exactly expressed by our issue, though perhaps the reduplication rather implies issue’s issue.” Carey]. Job, having been himself so ruthlessly stripped of his children, makes prominent above all else this aspect of the external prosperity of the wicked, that namely which is exhibited in a flourishing posterity, a fine trait of profound psychological truth! [To be noted moreover is the pathetic repetition of the thought in both members of the verse, and its no less pathetic resumption in Job 21:11. This picture of a complete and peaceful household, with its circle of joyous youth fascinates the bereaved father’s heart exceedingly, and he dwells on it with yearning fondness!]

Job 21:9. Their houses [are] peace (שָׁלֹום, the same as בְּשָׁלוֹם; comp. Job 5:24 [where see rem. in favor of the more literal and forcible rendering obtained by not assuming the preposition at all; E.] Isaiah 41:3) without fear. מִפַּחַד, like מִבְּשָדִו Job 19:26; (comp. Job 11:15; Isaiah 22:3) and the rod of Eloah cometh not upon them, i. e. to punish them; comp. שֵׁבֶט in Job 9:34; Job 37:13 [How different from the fate of his own “house!” No such “Terror,” no such “Scourge” as that which had made his a ruin!—E.].

Job 21:10. From the state of the household the description turns to that of the cattle, with the peculiarity that here exceptionally the sing takes the place of the plur., which is used almost throughout to designate the wicked (so again below Job 21:19, and in like manner Job 24:5; Job 24:16 seq.). His bull gendereth and faileth not (Zöckler lit.—“his bull covereth and impregnates”]. שׁוֹר, in itself of common gender, is here indicated as a masc. both by the contrast with פָּרָה in b, and by its predic. עִבַּר, “to cover, to gender” (comp. עָבוּר “produce fruit,” Joshua 5:11-12). The additional strengthening clause וְלֹא יַגְעִל, neque efficit ut ejiciat (semen) indicates that the impregnation is successful. The second member is entirely parallel.—His cow calveth easily (פִּלֵֹט, synon. withהִמְלִיט ,מִלֵּט, Isaiah 34:15; Isaiah 66:7) and miscarries not, neque abortum patitur, comp. Genesis 31:38; Exodus 23:26.

Job 21:11. Once more Job recurs to the fairest instance of earthly prosperity, the possession of a flourishing troop of children. On עֲוִילִים comp. above on Job 19:18 [where however the word suggests, as it does not necessarily here, a bad quality in the children themselves; Bernard’s rendering “they send forth their wicked little children,” introduces an incongruous element into the picture, which Job contemplates here as a pleasing and attractive one.—E.] As to שִׁלֵּחַ, “to send forth, to let loose,” see Isaiah 32:20.

Third Strophe: Job 21:12-16. They (the wicked) sing loud with the playing of timbrel and harp; hence with joyous festivity, as in Isaiah 5:12—יִשְׂאוּ (scil. קוֹל) lit. “they raise their voice,” i. e., in loud jubilations or songs of joy; comp. Isaiah 42:11—בְּתוֹף וְכִנּוֹר, used as in Psalms 49:5 [4] of the musical accompaniment; hence, “with, to the timbrel and harp.” On the contrary the reading preferred by the Masora and several Rabbis, כְּתֹף ו׳ would signify “at, during the playing of the timbrel, etc.” (כְּ of the proximate specification of time, as in כָּעֵת [“about the time”], כִּמְעָט, etc.). Concerning עוּגָב, instead of which several MSS. and Ed’s have in Job 30:31עֻגָב, and in Psalms 150:0:4עֻגָּב, comp. Delitzsch on Genesis 4:21; Winer, Realwörterb. II., 123 seq. [“The three musical instruments here mentioned are certainly the most ancient, and are naturally the most simple, and indeed may be regarded as the originals of every species of musical instrument that has since been invented, all which may be reduced to three kinds—string instruments, wind instruments, and instruments of percussion; and the כִּנּוֹרharp, the עוּגָב, pipe, and the תֹּף, tabor, may be considered as the first representatives of each of these species respectively.” Carey, see illustrations in Carey, p. 453 seq., and Smith Bib. Dict. under “Harp, Timbrel, and Organ”].

Job 21:13. They spend in prosperity their days.—So according to the K’ri יְכַלּוּ (lit. “they complete, finish,” comp. Job 36:11; Psalms 90:9), while the K’thibh יְבַלּוּ would be, according to Isaiah 65:22 = “they use up, wear out” (usu conterunt) [which is more expressive than the K’ri, signifying not only that they bring their life to an end, but that they use it up, get out of it all the enjoyment that is in it.—E.]. In either case the affirmation is made in direct contradiction to the opposite descriptions of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, as e. g., Job 15:32; Job 18:14; Job 20:11.—And in a moment (בְּרֶגַע like our “in a trice” [Germ.: “im Nu”], hence quickly, easily, without a struggle) they sink down to Sheol,—they thus enjoy a quick death, free from suffering, having fully enjoyed their life even to the end. The connection does not allow us to understand it of an “evil sudden death,” but rather requires the idea of a euthanasy.—יֵחַתּוּ might in itself be the Imperf. Niph. of חתת: “they are frightened down” [others, e. g., Bernard; “they are crushed, or hurled down”], to which however the Accus. lociשְׁאוֹל is ill suited. More correctly the form is derived from נחת, the Imperf. of which is written either יִנְחַת, or יֵחַת. It may be read here either יֵחָתוּ (for יֵחֲתוּ—so Ewald, Hirzel), or with reduplication of the ת in pause [Dageshforte emphatic, Green, § 24, c] after the Masora; comp. Gesen. Lehrgeb., p. 45; Ewald, § 93, d.

Job 21:14 seq. And yet they say unto God, “Depart from us,”etc., etc., i. e., notwithstanding their prosperity [“the fut. consec.וַיּאֹמְרוּ does not here denote temporally that which follows upon and from something else, but generally that which is inwardly connected with something else, and even with that which is contradictory, and still occurring at the same time;” Del.], which should constrain them to gratitude towards God, they will know nothing about Him, yea, they account the service of God and prayer to Him as useless. פָּגַע בְּ, precibus adire; comp. Ruth 1:16; Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 27:18.

Job 21:16. After the frivolous words of the ungodly Job here resumes his own description, and concludes the section in which he states his proposition.—Behold, not in their hand stands their prosperity.—This is not an objection assumed by Job to be made by his opponents, as below in Job 21:19 (Schnurrer, Schlottm., Kamph.) [Noyes, Elzas], but an expression of Job’s own conviction, who intends herewith to set forth that not they, but God Himself is in some mysterious way the cause of their prosperity, by which he would indicate the difficulty of the problem, with which he is here occupied in general. The sentence is not an expression of Job’s disapprobation of the view of life prevalent among the wicked (Ewald) [Carey, Wordsworth], for such an expression of disapprobation first appears in b, and the position of the words in a shows clearly that the main emphasis lies on בְּיָדָם. The interrogative rendering of the clause, “Behold! is not their prosperity in their hand?” (Rashi, Hirzel, Heiligst., Welte, Hahn [Renan]) is contradicted by the use of הֵן לֹא, not הֲלֹא at the beginning. [Moreover the connection with b according to such a rendering is strained.—E.]—The counsel of the wicked be far from me!—The same formula of detestation recurs in the following discourse of Eliphaz, Job 22:18—רָֽחֲקָח מֶנּי is used in a precative or optative sense (Ewald, § 223, b); it is thus essentially equivalent to the formula elsewhere in use—חֲלִילָה לִי. [“It is the perf. of certainty, which expresses that which is wished as a fact, but with an emotional exclamative accent.” Del.]. In respect to עֵצָח, here in the sense of fundamental maxim, disposition, view of life, comp. Job 5:13; Job 10:3; Job 18:7. Job thus persists decidedly here again in his refusal in any way to renounce God; comp. Job 1:11; Job 2:5. [This strong repudiation by Job of the practical atheism of the wicked is of especial importance to the moral problem of the book.—E.].

4. Second Division: Second Half. Antithetic demonstration of the preceding proposition derived from experience, with reference to the opposite affirmations of the friends, and their possible reproaches.

Fourth Strophe: Job 21:17-21. [The views of the friends in regard to retribution denied both as to the fact and the principle].

Job 21:17 involves a reference to certain expressions which Bildad had used in Job 18:0 in justification of his doctrine, particularly to his description of the “extinguishing of the light of the wicked” (Job 18:5), and of the sudden destruction (אֵיד—“prop pressure of suffering” Del.) of the same (Job 18:12), but only to call in question the correct application of these figures.—How oft does the lamp of the wicked go out, and their destruction break upon them?—In Job’s mind this “how oft” (כַּמָּה, comp. Psalms 78:40) is naturally equivalent to “how rarely;” for he decidedly doubts the general correctness of those affirmations of Bildad Moreover the influence of this interrogative “how oft” extends to the third member of the verse [which accordingly is not to be rendered affirmatively, as in E. V., “God distributed sorrows in His anger”—a rendering which changes the meaning of the entire context, making it an assertion by Job that God does punish the wicked as the friends had taught—whereas on the contrary Job is asking how often was this the case?—E.]: (how often) does He distribute sorrows in His anger? The subject is God (comp. Job 20:23). The particular affirmation of his opponents, to which Job here alludes, is the close of Zophar’s last speech (Job 20:29), the חֵלֶק of which is distinctly enough echoed here in the יְחַלֵּק. The retrospective reference to this passage would be still more definite if we were to derive חֲבָלִים from חֶבֶל, measuring-line (so the Targ., Ewald, Hirz., Dillmann [Schlott., Renan, Fürst]), and explain it to mean “lots, heritages” (comp.Psalms 16:6; Psalms 16:6). It is more natural, nevertheless, (with the LXX. Vulg., Gesenius, Rosenm. [E. V., Good, Lee, Noyes, Ber., Rod., Elz.], etc., to take the word in its ordinary sense = “sorrows, calamities” (plur. of חֵבֶל). [“The plur. does not occur in that tropical sense (of “lots”), and if it were so intended here, חַבְלֵיהֶם, or חֲבָלִים לָהֶם might at least be expected.” Del.]. Also the translation “snares, gins,” (Stickel, Hahn, Delitzsch) yields a meaning good in itself, and would have, moreover, the special recommendation of furnishing a retrospective reference to Job 8:10-12, the same passage of Bildad’s discourse to which a and b look. The expression—“to distribute snares”—is however altogether too harsh, and the assumption that such an unusual expression is occasioned by the collateral reference to Job 18:10 seq., and to Job 20:29, is altogether too artificial.

Job 21:18 (over which the influence of כַּמָּה continues to extend): How often are they as Straw (chopped straw) [a figure occurring only here: the figure of chaff is more frequent. Del.] before the wind, and as chaff (Psalms 1:4; Isaiah 17:13) which the whirlwind snatches away? An allusion to Zophar’s description, Job 20:8-9, if not as regards the expressions, still as regards the sense.

Job 21:19. “God lays up his calamity for his (the wicked man’s) children!” (אוֹנוֹ from אָוֶן in the signification “calamity;” comp. Job 11:11; Job 15:35.) [There is possibly a play on the word אונו, which may be rendered either “his wealth,” or “his calamity.”—His treasure is the coming wrath! און also means “iniquity,” and some (E. V., Del., etc.) render it so here. Here, however, the “evil” which is the punishment of “evil” best suits the context.—E.] This is an objection of the opponents, which links itself to similar affirmations by Eliphaz (Job 5:4) and Zophar (Job 20:10), and which Job himself here formulates, in order forthwith to refute it: (Rather) let Him recompense it to him (or, in view of the emphasis belonging to the word bearing the principal tone: “to him let Him repay it”) that he may feel it (יָדַע here sentire, to feel, to be sensible of, as in Isaiah 9:8; Hosea 9:7; Ezekiel 25:14). In a manner quite similar the prophets Jeremiah (Job 31:29 seq) and Ezekiel (Job 18:0) controvert the similar doctrine of the vicarious expiation of the guilt of parents by their posterity. [Job’s view is that retribution can be such only when it falls on the offender himself. It may affect others—although Job does not say that himself—it must reach him. E.]

Job 21:20 continues the refutation of that false theory of substitution or satisfaction, and illustrates at the same time how the evil doer is to ידע or “feel” the divine punishment.—כִּיד “destruction,” (lit. “a thrust, blow,” plaga), only here in the Old Testament; synonymous with the Arabic caid. The figure of drinking the divine wrath has immediate reference to Zophar’s description, Job 20:23. [“The emphasis lies on the signs of the person in עֵינָו and יִשְׁתֶּה May his own eyes see his ruin; may he himself have to drink of the divine wrath.” Del.]

Job 21:21 gives a reason for that which he has just said against that perverted theory by calling attention to the stolid insensibility of the evil-doer, as a consummate egoist, in respect to the interests of his posterity. For what careth he for his house after him: lit. “for what is his concern, his interest (חֵפֶץ here, as in Job 22:3; comp. Isaiah 58:3) in his house after him” (i.e., after his death)? אַחֲרָיו is in close union with בְּבֵיתוֹ (comp. e. g.Genesis 17:19) not with חֶפְּצוֹ. If the number of his months is apportioned to him; or “while [or when] the number, etc.” The whole of this circumstantial clause, which is a partial echo of Job 15:20 (comp. Job 14:5), expresses the thought, that the selfish pleasure-seeking evil-doer is satisfied if only his appointed term of life remains to him unabridged. This general meaning may be maintained whether, in accordance with Proverbs 30:27, we explain חָצַץ to mean: “to allot, to appoint,” thus rendering it as a synonym of חָצָה (Job 40:30 [Job 41:6]; so Targ., Gesen., Ewald, Dillm.); or, which is less probable, we take it as a denominative from חֵץ, “arrow,” in the sense of “casting lots, disposing of by lot” [from the custom of shaking up arrows for lots—a doubtful sense for the Hebrew] (so Cocceius, Rosenm., Umbreit, Hirzel, etc.); or whether, finally, we assign to the word the meaning of “cutting off, completing” (Gesenius in Thes., Stickel, Delitzsch [E. V. Good, Ber., Noy., Schlott., Con., Rod., Ren., Fürst] etc.)—to which latter interpretation, however, the expression—“the number of his months”—is not so well suited, for a number is not properly cut off. [In any case the addition of E. V., “when the number of his months is cut off in the midst,” is erroneous; for even if we assign to the verb the signification—“cut off”—the meaning of the clause is cutting off at the end, not in the midst. What is the evil-doer’s concern in his house, when he himself is no more? The other meaning given above however—“to apportion”—gives a more vivid representation of his brutal selfishness, his unconcern even for his own flesh and blood, provided he himself have his full share of life and its enjoyments. What careth he for his house after him, if the full number of his own months be meted out to him? E.] The number of חֻצָּצוּ is determined by the subordinate [but nearest] term of the subject, by virtue of an attraction similar to that in Job 15:20 (Gesen. § 148 [§ 145], 1) [Green, § 277].

Fifth Strophe: Job 21:22-26 : [The theory of the friends involves a presumptuous dictation to God of what He should do, seeing that His present dealings with men, and their participation of the common destiny of the grave, furnish no indication of moral character].

Job 21:22. Shall one teach God knowledge. לְאֵל as containing the principal notion is put emphatically first. In respect to the dative construction of verbs of teaching (as in Greek διδάσκειν τινί τι) comp. Ewald, § 283, c.: Seeing He judgeth those that are in heaven: lit: “and He nevertheless judges (וְהוּא, circumstantial clause) the high” [Carey: “dignities.” The LXX read דמים, φόνους]. The “high” are simply the heavenly spirits, the angels as inhabiting the heights of heaven (מְרוֹמִים, comp. Job 16:19; Job 25:2; Job 31:2), not the celestial heights themselves, as Gesenius explains, with a reference to Psalms 78:69, a reference, however, which is probably unsuitable. Still less does it mean “the proud” (Hahn, Olshausen), a signification which רָם by itself, and without qualification never has. This proposition, that God exercises judicial power over the exalted spirits of heaven, Job advances here all the more readily, that the friends had already appealed twice in similar words to the same fact of the absolute holiness and justice of God (Job 4:18; Job 15:15). They had indeed done this with the intent of supporting their narrow-minded doctrine of retribution, while on the contrary Job, by the same proposition would put their short-sighted theory to the rout, and direct attention to the unfathomable depth and secresy of God’s counsels, and of the principles of His government.

Job 21:23-26 demonstrate this unfathomableness and incomprehensibleness of the divine judgments (Romans 11:33) by two examples, which are contrasted each with the other (Job 21:23, Job 21:25 : זֶה־זֶה, “the one—the other”), of one man dying in the fulness of his prosperity, of another who is continually unfortunate, but whom the like death unites with the former, notwithstanding that their moral desert during their life was altogether different, or directly opposite in character. The assumption of many ancient and some modern commentators, as e. g. Hahn, that by the prosperous man described in Job 21:23 seq. a wicked man, and by the unfortunate man described in Job 21:25 a pious man is intended, without qualification, is arbitrary, and hardly corresponds with exactness to the poet’s idea. The tendency of the parallel presented is rather in accordance with Job 21:22, to show, in proof of the mysteriousness of the divine dealings and judgment, that what happens outwardly to men in this life is not necessarily determined by their moral conduct, but that this latter might be, and often enough is directly at variance with the external prosperity.

Job 21:23. The one dies in the fulness of his prosperity; lit. “in bodily prosperity,” in ipsa sua integritate. In respect to עֶצֶם “self” [essence, the very thing] comp. Gesen. § 124 [§ 122], 2, Rem. 3; and in respect to תֹּם, “integrity in the physical sense, bodily, in general external well being,” comp. the word מְתֹם generally used elsewhere in this sense, Psalms 38:4 [3], 8 [7], and also תְּמִימִיםPro 1:12—שַׁלְאֲנָן in the second member, which is not found elsewhere is an alternate form of שַׁאַנָן, “unconcerned,” enlarged by the introduction of a liquid [comp. זלעף from זעף, æstuare, and בלסם, βάλσαμον, from בשׂם; Del.]. According to Rödiger, Olsh., it is possibly just an error in writing for שַׁאֲנָן, the form given above in Job 12:5. שָׁלֵיו stands here for the more frequent defective form שָׁלֵו, Job 20:20; comp. Jeremiah 49:31.

Job 21:24. His troughs are full of milk. Most moderns, following the lead of the Talmudic מַעֲטָן “olive-trough,” as well as the authority of the Targ. and many Rabbis, take עֲטִינִים correctly in the sense of “vessels, troughs” [“milk-pails,” Luther, Wolfsohn, Elzas; “bottles,” Lee; “skins,” Carey (i. e. undressed skins, the abundance of milk making it necessary to use these)], to the rejection of interpretations which are in part singularly at variance, such as “cattle-pastures” (Aben-Ezra, Schult. [Renan, Weymss] etc., “veins” (Fürst), “jugular veins” (Saad.), “sides” (Pesh.) [Noyes, Con.], “bowels” (LXX., Vulg. [“breasts,” Targ., E. V.; “loins,” Rodwell; “sleek skin,” Good. “The assumption that עטיניו must be a part of the body is without satisfactory ground (comp. against it e. g. Job 20:17, and for it Job 20:11); and Schlottm. very correctly observes that in the contrast in connection with the representation of the well-watered marrow one expects a reference to a rich, nutritious drink.” Delitzsch]. The meaning of this member of the verse accordingly reminds us in general of Job 20:17, which description of Zophar’s Job here purposely recalls, in like manner as in “the marrow of the bones,” in b he recalls Job 21:11 of the same discourse. [And the marrow of his bones is well-watered]. In respect to “well-watered,” an agricultural or horticultural metaphor, comp. Isaiah 58:11.

Job 21:25. The other dies with a bitter soul (comp. Job 3:20; Job 7:11; Job 10:1), and has not enjoyed good; lit. “and has not eaten of the good” (or “prosperity,” טוֹבָה as in Job 9:25) with בְּ partitive, as in Psalms 141:4; comp. above Job 7:13 [אָכַל בְּ perhaps like רָאָה ב conveying the idea of enjoyment, as Schlottmann suggests. Not, however, of full enjoyment, but rather tasting of it.—Not as in E. V. “and never eateth with pleasure;” against which lies (1) The customary usage of בְּ partitive after verbs of eating and drinking; (2) The objective meaning of טוֹבָה, which cannot be taken of subjective pleasure.—E].

Job 21:26. Together [or: beside one another] they lie down in the dust (of the grave), and worms cover them.—רִמָּה, decay, worms, as above in Job 17:14. Comp. our proverbial expressions in regard to the equality of the grave, the impartiality of death, etc.

5. Third Division: A rebuke of the friends on account of their one-sided judgment touching the external prosperity of men, a judgment which was only unfavorable as regards Job: Job 21:27-34.

Sixth Strophe: Job 21:27-30.—Behold I know your thoughts [מהשבות, counsels, plans], and the plots (מְזִמּוֹת, sensu malo, as in Proverbs 12:2; Proverbs 14:17; Proverbs 24:8) [“is the name he gives to the delicately developed reasoning with which they attack him”: Delitzsch; the schemes which they invent to wound him, the painful dilemmas into which they would entrap him: E.] with which ye do violence to me: with the intent namely of presenting me at any cost as a sinner. [“By the construction of חמם with על the notion of falling upon and over-powering is indicated.” Schlottm.].

Job 21:28, hypothetical antecedent with כִּי, is related to Job 21:29 as its consequent, precisely like Job 19:28 to Job 21:29. [So Ewald. Del., Dillm. But such a construction seems neither natural nor forcible. The causal rendering: “For ye say, etc.,” is simpler and stronger. It was from just such taunts as the following that Job knew their spirit, and detected their insidious plots against his reputation and his peace. The causal rendering is adopted by E. V. Good, Wem., Noy., Words., Schlott., Con., Rod., Carey, Elzas, etc. E. ]. If, [or, when] ye say:Where is the house of the tyrant? (נָדִיב, sensu malo, as in Isaiah 13:2, not in the neutral sense, as above in Job 12:21) [a title of honor, similar in use to our nobleman, generosus, for which, in its personal application to Job here, “tyrant” seems too strong a rendering. Neither here, nor in Is. l.c., is such a rendering called for. In this member the prominent idea is station, rank: the moral character of the נדיב is indicated in the following member. E.], and where the tent inhabited by the wicked? lit., “the tent of the habitations of the wicked,’ by which possibly a spacious palatial tent is intended, with several large compartments within it (such as the tents of the Bedouin sheikhs are to this day), which can be recognized from afar by their size. [משׁכנות “is not an externally, but internally multiplying plur.; perhaps the poet by בית intends a palace in the city, and by אהל משׁכנוה a tent among the wandering tribes, rendered prominent by its spaciousness, and the splendor of the establishment” Del.]. It is to be noted moreover how distinct an allusion there is in the question to the repeated descriptions of the destruction of the tent of the wicked by Eliphaz and Bildad (Job 15:34; Job 18:15; Job 18:21).

Job 21:29. Have ye not inquired then [שְׁאֶלְתֶּם for שְׁאַלתֶּם; see Green, § 119, 2] of those who travel: lit. “the wanderers, passers by, of the way;” comp. Lamentations 1:12;. Psalms 80:13, etc. [“People who have travelled much, and therefore are well acquainted with the stories of human destinies.” Del.]. Andtheir tokens ye will at least not fail to know;i. e. that which they nave to tell of examples of prosperous evil-doers and righteous ones in adversity (they, who have travelled much, who know about other lands and nations!) that you surely will not disregard, controvert, or reject? תְּנַכֵּרוּ, Piel of נכר, expresses here, as in Deu 32:27 : 1 Samuel 23:7; Jeremiah 19:4, the negative sense of “ignoring, denying,” while occasionally, e. g. in Elihu’s use of it, Job 34:19, it signifies also to “acknowledge” (a meaning elsewhere found in the Hiphil). [So here E. V. Lee, Conant, Ewald, Schlott.—according to which rendering the second member is a continuation of the question begun in the first]. אוֹהוֹת, “tokens,” means here “things worthy of note, remarkable incidents, memorabilia, anecdotes of travel.”

Job 21:30 gives in brief compass the substance and contents of these lessons of travel: That in the day of destruction (אֵיד, as in Job 21:17) the wicked is spared (i. e. is held back from ruin; חשׂךְ as in Job 16:6; Job 33:18), in the day of overflowing wrath they are led away:i. e. beyond the reach of the devastating effect of these outbursts of divine wrath (עֲבָרוֹת as in Job 40:11), so that these can do them no harm. The Hoph. הוּבַל, which is used below in Job 21:32 of being escorted in honor to the grave, expresses here accordingly, in like manner as in Isaiah 55:12, being led away with a protecting escort (as, for example, Lot was conducted out of Sodom). [Noyes gives to the verb here the same application as in Job 21:32, and explains: He is borne to his grave in the day of wrath; i. e. he dies a natural, peaceful death]. The only unusual feature of this construction, which in any case is much to be preferred as a whole to that of Ewald [Rodwell] “on the day when the overflowings of wrath come on” is the לְיוֹם, instead of which we might rather look for בְּיוֹם, “in the day.” It is nevertheless unadvisable, in view of the context, to translate the second member—as e. g. with Dillman [E. V., Con., Carey]—“they are brought on to the day of wrath;” for such a proposition could not possibly, be attributed to the travellers, but at most to the friends; it would thus of necessity follow a very abruptly [and unnaturally]; neither would any essential relief be obtained from a transposition of Job 21:30 and Job 21:29 as suggested by Delitzsch. [Zöckler overlooks, however, the explanation of those (such as Scott, Carey, Conant, Wordsworth, Barnes, etc.) who regard the whole of this verse as expressing, through the travellers of Job 21:29, Job’s own conviction that the wicked are reserved for future retribution, that they are led forth to a day of wrath hereafter; that accordingly present exemption from the penalty of sin proves nothing as to a man’s real character. Such an explanation, however, is to be rejected for the following reasons: (1) It is at variance with the drift of the book’s argument. (2) It is inconceivable, if Job held so clearly and firmly to the doctrine of future retribution, as this view of the passage before us would imply, that he did not make more use of it in his discussions. (3) It is inconsistent with the connection (a) Why should he produce this view here as a foreign importation? Why should he rest it on experience? Observe that the proposition—the wicked are spared in times of calamity is a deduction from experience, for the truth of which Job might well appeal to the testimony of those who by much observation and experience could testify to the fact. But surely the doctrine of a future retribution must rest on other authority—the witness of conscience, the testimony of a divine revelation, the consensus of the wise and holy (not merely of the עוֹבְרֵי דֶרֶךְ) in all ages and lands. (b) It is inconceivable that Job having carried his hearers forward to the retribution of the Hereafter as the solution of the mystery of the present should proceed to speak (as he does in the verses immediately following) of the present prosperity and pomp of the wicked, and of the continuance of the same to and upon the grave, in the same strain as before. Especially does the conclusion reached in Job 21:33 seem strange and unsuitable, if we suppose the sublime truth of a full retribution to be declared in Job 21:30—E.]

Seventh Strophe: Job 21:31-34. Who to His face will declare His way? and hath He done aught—who will requite it to Him? This inquiry evidently proceeds not from the travellers, whose utterance has already come to an end in Job 21:30, but from Job himself. Moreover it concerns not the sinner, but God, the unsearchably wise and mighty disposer of men’s destinies, whose name is not mentioned from reverential awe. So correctly Aben-Ezra, Ewald, Hirzel, Heiligst., Dillm. Regarded as the continuation of the discourse of the travellers (as it is taken by the majority of commentators) [so Del., Schlott., Renan, Scott, Good, Lee, Bernard, Rod., Words., Elzas, Merx], the verse must naturally be referred to the wicked man, characterizing his unscrupulous arbitrary conduct, which no one ventures to hinder or punish. But for this view the expression מִי יְשַׁלֶּס־לוֹ, “who will requite it to him?” would be much too strong. Moreover a sentiment of such a reflective cast would be strange in the mouth of the travellers from whom we should expect directly only a statement of fact (אוֹתוֹת Job 21:29). [Referred to God the meaning would be: Who will challenge the divine conduct? He renders no account of His actions. His reasons are inscrutable; and however much His dealings with men seem to contradict our notions of justice, our only recourse is silence and submission. But against this interpretation it may be urged: (1) It requires too many abrupt changes of subject. Thus we should have for subject in Job 21:30 the wicked man, in Job 21:31 God, in Job 21:32 the wicked again, and this while in Job 21:31 and Job 21:32 the subject is indicated only by personal pronouns. It is highly improbable that וְהוּא in Job 21:31 b, and וְהוּא in Job 21:32 a are used of different subjects. (2) The expressions are unsuitable to the thought attributed to them, especially the clause מִי יְשַלֶּס־לוֹ, which, as Delitzsch argues, used of man in relation to God, has no suitable meaning. On the other hand the application to the wicked gives a smooth connection, at the same time that the expressions are entirely appropriate to describe his career of lawless impunity. The והוא of Job 21:32 moreover acquires by this application its proper emphasis (see on the verse). To the objection made above—that a moral reflection of the sort would be inappropriate in the mouth of travellers, it may be replied that it is not properly a reflection, but a statement of fact, the fact, namely, of the evildoer’s exemption from responsibility and punishment. On the contrary, so far from being called to account, or properly punished, he escapes in the day of calamity (Job 21:30), he defies the world (Job 21:31), and is buried with honor (Job 21:32). Carey thinks that Job here “makes evident allusion to a custom that prevailed among the ancient Egyptians, whose law allowed any one to bring an accusation against a deceased person previously to his interment (and even kings themselves were not exempted from this death judgment); if the accusation was fully proved, and the deceased was convicted of having led a bad life, he was obliged to be placed in his own house, and was debarred the customary rites of interment, even though the tomb had been prepared for him.” Less simple and probable than the explanation given above. E.]

Job 21:32 seq. continue the report of those who had travelled much, not however (any more than in Job 21:30) in their ipsissimis verbis strictly quoted, but in such a way that Job fully appropriates to himself that which they say (to wit, their vivid representation of the brilliant career of the wicked), so that accordingly even Job 21:31 need not be regarded as properly an interruption of that report. And he (וְהוּא pointing back to the רַע Job 21:30 [emphatic, according to the view which regards the רַע as also the subject of Job 21:31. Hethe same who lives that lawless, defiant, outwardly successful life, is the favorite of fortune to the very last. Feared in his life, he is again honored in his death. E.] is borne away to burial, in full honor, and with a great procession; comp. on Job 21:30; also Job 10:19; Job 17:1. [“Like משׁכנות above, קברות is also an amplificative plural.” Del. It would thus mean “a splendid tomb”]. And on a monument he (still) keeps watch: as one immortalized by a statue, or a stone monument. This is not to be specially understood in accordance with the Egyptian custom (in that case the reference here being to pyramids; comp. on Job 3:14), but in accordance with a custom, still prevalent in the East, specially among the Bedouin Arabs, of building large grave-mounds, or a domed structure towering above the grave (קֻבָּה) in memory of the honored dead. In such a lofty monument the dead man keeps watch, as it were, over his own resting-place, without its being necessary to suppose that he was particularly represented by a statue, or a picture on the wall (like those in Egyptian vaults, to which Schlottm. refers here by way of comparison). [“Possibly there is also here some allusion to inscriptions warning off those who would desecrate the tomb, similar to those found on the sarcophagus of Eschmunazar, king of Sidon.” Renan]. This explanation is in striking harmony not only with well-known customs of the east, but also with the etymologically established signification of גַּדִּישׁ = heap, tumulus, monumentum (comp. גַּל, Genesis 31:46 seq.). It agrees not less with that which was previously spoken by Bildad to precisely the opposite effect in respect to the memory of the evil-doer after his death in Job 18:17, where the latter presupposes the complete extinction of the name of the ungodly, whereas Job on the contrary makes the same not only not to sleep the sleep of death, but rather to watch, as though he continued to live. [And Noyes accordingly renders: “Yea, he still survives upon his tomb. He enjoys as it were a second life upon his tomb, in the honors paid to his memory, his splendid monument, and the fame he leaves behind him.”]. The more striking the above points of agreement, the less necessary is it to fatigue ourselves in company with the ancient versions and Böttcher (Proben, etc., p. 22) in finding how גַּדִּישׁ could be taken in the sense of “heaps of sheaves,” and still obtain a sentiment suited to the context.1 Equally unnecessary is it (with Böttcher de infer, p. 40, [Conant], Hahn, Rödiger, etc.) to take ישקר impersonally; “watch is held over his grave-mound, etc.” a rendering with which the suffix-less גַּדִּישׁ (not גְּדִישׁוֹ) would agree but indifferently. [“Moreover,” says Delitzsch, “the placing of guards of honor by graves is an assumed, but not proved, custom of antiquity.” The rendering of E. V. “and shall remain in the tomb,” is feeble as well as incorrect.].

Job 21:33. Soft lie upon him the clods [or sods] of the valley (Job 38:38). Lit., “sweet are to him the clods of the valley,” those, namely, beneath which he rests. Valleys are particularly desired in the East as places of burial; witness the valleys around Jerusalem, abounding as they do in graves. The favorite custom of the Arabs of burying their distinguished dead on eminences, is accordingly not referred to here (comp. Del. on Job 21:32). [“These words also seem to suppose that the person who is buried may partake, in some respects, of the prosperous state of the tomb which contains him. Such an idea seems to have been indulged by Sultan Amurath the Great, who died in 1450, [and who in the suburbs of Prusa] ‘now lieth in a chappell without any roofe, his grave nothing differing from the manner of the common Turks; which, they say, he commanded to be done, in his last will, that the mercie and blessing of God (as he termed it) might come unto him by the shining of the sunne and moone, and falling of the raine and dew of heaven upon his grave.’ Knolles’Hist. of the Turks, p. 332.” Noyes]. And after him draws (יִמְשֹׁךְ intransitive as in Judges 4:6) all the world:viz. by imitating his example, by entering on the same path of a life spent in earthly enjoyment and luxury, which he, and an unnumbered multitude of others before him (as the third member says) had already trod. Thus rendered the sentence undoubtedly expresses an exaggeration; in the כָל־אָדָם there lies an unjust accusation of misanthropic bitterness against the great mass of men. [For a somewhat similar misanthropic, or at least cynical bitterness, comp. what Bildad says in Job 8:19.] This same characteristic however corresponds perfectly to the exasperated and embittered temper of Job; whereas on the contrary to interpret “all the world draws after him” of a large funeral procession (Vaih., [Wemyss, Carey] etc.), yields when compared with 32a an inappropriate tautology, and to refer it to those who follow after him through sharing the same fate of death and burial (Delitzsch [Noyes]) seems altogether too vapid in the present connection.

Job 21:34. Conclusion: with a reference to Job 21:27. How then (וְאֵיךְ, quomodo ergo, stronger than the simple אֵיךְ) can you comfort me so vainly (comp Job 9:29)? Of your replies there remains (over nothing but) falsehood! Lit. “and as for your replies (absolute case, Ewald, § 309, b)—there remaineth over falsehood.”—מָעַֹל, scil. בָּאֱלֹהִים, “a perfidious disposition towards God” (comp. Joshua 22:22), and for that same reason also towards one’s neighbor. By this is intended the same intriguing, malicious, deceitful eagerness to suspect and to slander, with which in Job 21:27 he had reproached his opponents.


1. The significance of this discourse of Job’s in respect to the progress of the colloquy lies in the fact that it marks the transition from the predominantly personal treatment of the problem, which has thus far obtained on the part both of the friends and of Job to a discussion dealing more immediately with the subject-matter, and for that reason more calm, less passionate in its tone, and more directly preparing the way for the solution. The venomous accusations of the friends, (which in the immediately preceding discourse of Zophar had reached the climax of bluntness and odiousness), do not indeed cease from this point on. Just as little does the tone of bitterness disappear from Job’s replies, which on the contrary at the beginning and close of the present discourse exhibits itself in a manner decidedly marked (in Job 21:2-3; which contain sarcastic allusions to the empty “consolations of the friends”; in Job 21:34, with its reproach of falsehood and unfaithfulness). From this point on however we find, along with these personalities, a tendency, characterized by an ever increasing objectivity, to consider calmly the question of fact involved in the matter in controversy; the result indeed being that Job’s superiority over his opponents as regards their respective points of view becomes more and more obvious. In his former discourse he had discussed only occasionally and incidentally their favorite doctrine concerning the horrible end of the wicked; and in what he had said he had exhibited so little prudence that he had appeared as one who presumptuously challenged the divine righteousness, and had thus only confirmed the friends’ evil opinion of his moral character (see Job 9:22-24; Job 10:3; Job 12:6). Now, however, he proceeds to discuss the question in controversy calmly and thoroughly, opposing to their proposition, that the life of the ungodly must infallibly end in misery, the fact, which experience establishes that it is quite commonly the case that the prosperity of the wicked lasts until their death, while on the contrary the pious are pursued with all sorts of calamities to the grave. In respect to the reflection of an apparent injustice which this experience seems to cast on God, the author of so unequal a distribution of human destinies, Job this time expresses himself with discreet awe and reserve. Instead of assuming the tone of a presumptuous blasphemer, and accusing God of injustice, or tyrannical severity, he treats the contradiction between prosperity and virtue, as it so often exhibits itself in this earthly life, as a dark enigma, not to be solved by human wisdom. And instead of holding up this antagonism before his opponents with frivolous satisfaction or exulting arrogance, he exhibits whenever he approaches the subject deep perplexity and painful agitation (Job 21:5-6), and in the latter part of the description he even points out the mystery which surrounds the phenomenon under consideration as a disciplinary trial for human knowledge, constraining to reverential submission beneath the inscrutable ways of God (Job 21:22; Job 21:31, according to the more correct explanation: see above on the passages). In short, he discourses concerning this mystery as an earnest thinker, resolutely maintaining his religious integrity, and putting the counsel of the ungodly far from him (Job 21:16); and this calm, earnest, dignified treatment accounts for his victory over his opponents, who as may be seen from the following, which is the last stage of the colloquy, are constrained to acknowledge his affirmations in respect to the disproportion between prosperity and moral worthiness in this life as being in great part true, and thus to make a beginning toward a complete surrender.

2. Notwithstanding this undeniable superiority over his opponents, which Job here already exhibits, his argument presents certain vulnerable points, which expose him to further attacks from them. For in so far as, with manifest one-sidedness, it completely ignores the instances, which occur frequently enough, of a righteous apportionment of men’s destinies, and exhibits the instances of the opposite fact, by a process of abstract generalization, as alone of actual occurrence, it does injustice on the one side to the friends, who are thereby indirectly classified with the wicked who are unworthy of their prosperity; while on the other side it becomes an arraignment of God, who is described as though he gave no proof of a really righteous retribution, but rather decreed continually examples of the contrary. Indeed in one instance, (Job 21:19-21) the speaker seems to be guilty even of formally teaching God, in that he here maintains (in opposition to a familiar application of the theory of retribution set forth in the Law, Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 24:16, an application controverted also by Jeremiah and Ezekiel), that God punishes with justice only where He exacts expiation of the evil-doer himself, and not of his children after him. The consequence that God does not punish where He ought to punish, is but a short remove from this proposition, which is accordingly easily liable to the reproach of speaking unbecomingly of God. The judgment of Job accordingly in the present discourse concerning God and His dealings with men’s destinies is the less pure and correct in so far as it in no wise distinguishes between the God of the present, and the God of the future, as we find him doing in Job 19:25 seq. For this reason, and because the sufferer begins anew to yield to the pressure of his outward and inward sufferings, the hope of a blessed future in the life beyond, which had previously irradiated his misery, is completely obscured.

3. Notwithstanding this partial obscuration of his spiritual horizon, Job in the discourse before us utters much that is beautiful, profoundly true, and heart-stirring. The first discourse pronounced by Job after the inspired pæan of hope in Job 19:25 seq., there may be discerned in it a certain hallowing influence thence proceeding, which justifies in a measure the remark of Sanctius on that passage: “From this point on to the end of the book Job is not the same is he has been heretofore.” His description of the success and abounding prosperity of the ungodly, by its many points of contact with similar moral pictures, such as Psalms 37:0; Psalms 73:0; Jeremiah 12:1 seq.; Habakkuk 1:13 seq.; Ecclesiastes 7:0, etc., commends itself as being perfectly true, and derived from life. Especially does the circumstance that in his observation of the prosperity of the wicked he shows himself continually inclined to restrain himself within the bounds of modesty, and the limitations prescribed by the contemplation of the unsearchable operations of God, give him an indisputable advantage over the description of his opponents (and especially of his immediate predecessor Zophar), which is one-sided in the opposite direction, and for that very reason less true. “The speeches of Zophar and of Job are both true and false,—both one-sided, and therefore mutually supplementary. If, however, we consider further, that Job is not able to deny the occurrence of such examples of punishment, such revelations of the retributive justice of God, as those which Zophar represents as occurring regularly and without exception; that, however, on the other hand, exceptional instances undeniably do exist, and the friends are obliged to be blind to them, because otherwise the whole structure of their opposition would fall in,—it is manifest that Job is nearer to the truth than Zophar” (Delitzsch i. p. 425).


Job 21:6. Zeyss: Because reason cannot comprehend the mystery of affliction, and why God often deals so severely with His children, it comes to pass that even in pious hearts mournful thoughts frequently spring up, and they tremble in their great sorrow; Psalms 37:1; Psalms 73:12; Jeremiah 12:1, etc.—v. Gerlach: Doubts touching the rectitude of God’s government of the world, have in them that which makes our inmost feelings quiver; the thought makes all the foundations of human existence quake.

Job 21:7 seq. Seb. Schmidt: The happiness of the ungodly is described; and it is shown that they are happy (1) in themselves

Job 21:7; (2) in their children

Job 21:8; (3) in their houses

Job 21:9; (4) in their cattle

Job 21:10; (5) in their flocks

Job 21:11; (6) in a life which is joyous and merry

Job 21:12; (7) in a death which at the last is not sad

Job 21:13. Wohlfarth: What must we bear in mind, in order that we may not err as to God and virtue, when we see the ungodly prosperous, the godly afflicted? If Job recoiled from such a sight, who can blame him, a sufferer sorely tried, and with but imperfect knowledge of God? But a Christian can and will guard himself against such doubts; for he knows that according to God’s sovereign decree outward prosperity has often no relation to a man’s moral worth; that the good things of this world will not long make man happy, and that without a peaceful conscience happiness in this earth is impossible; that frequently the earthly prosperity which the wicked enjoy is the means of their punishment; that the place of retribution is not yet in this world; and that God, whose counsels we cannot penetrate, will notwithstanding assuredly compensate pious sufferers for their earthly losses.

Job 21:22 seq. Starke: In holy fear we should wonder at God’s judgments; but we should by no means sit in judgment upon them, nor inquire after the reason of His conduct; Isaiah 45:9. v. Gerlach: The righteous and the ungodly have both their various destinies, but these have nothing to do with their position before God; there lies another mystery behind which our short-sighted speeches and thoughts cannot unveil.

Job 21:27 seq. Starke (after Osiander and the Tübingen Bible): The ungodly are often highly exalted in order that afterwards their fall may be so much the greater. Although in this world, occupying high places, they do evil without terror, and are punished by nobody, there will come nevertheless a day of judgment, when their wickedness will be brought to view, and before all the world they will be put to shame.


[1]Witness the following curious effort of Bernard: “[Honored] as when he watched over his corn-shocks. Just as in his life-time people were obliged (through their fear of him) to salute him humbly, when they passed before him as he stood watching over his shocks of corn, that no poor man might glean an ear, so must they testify their respect to his body when carried to the grave.”

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Job 21". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/job-21.html. 1857-84.
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