Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 15th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Job 23

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

Verses 1-17

B.—Job: Seeing that God withdraws Himself from him, and that moreover His allotment of men’s destinies on earth is in many ways most unequal, the incomprehensibleness of His ways may hence be inferred, as well as the short-sightedness and one-sidedness of the external theory of retribution held by the friends

Job 23-24

1. The wish for a judicial decision of God in his favor is repeated, but is repressed by the thought that God intentionally withdraws from him, in order that He may not be obliged to vindicate him in this life

Job 23:0

1          Then Job answered, and said:

2          Even to-day is my complaint bitter:

my stroke is heavier than my groaning.

3     O that I knew where I might find Him!

that I might come even to His seat!

4     I would order my cause before Him,

and fill my mouth with arguments.

5     I would know the words which He would answer me,

and understand what He would say unto me.

6     Will He plead against me with His great power?

No; but He would put strength in me.

7     There the righteous might dispute with Him;

so should I be delivered forever from my judge.

8     Behold I go forward, but He is not there;

and backward, but I cannot perceive Him;

9     on the left hand where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him;

He hideth Himself on the right hand that I cannot see Him.

10     But He knoweth the way that I take:

when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

11     My foot hath held His steps,

His way have I kept, and not declined.

12     Neither have I gone back from the commandment of His lips;

I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.

13     But He is in one mind, and who can turn Him?

and what His soul desireth, even that He doeth.

14     For He performeth the thing that is appointed for me:

and many such things are with Him.

15     Therefore am I troubled at His presence:

when I consider, I am afraid of Him.

16     For God maketh my heart soft,

and the Almighty troubleth me.

17     Because I was not cut off before the darkness,

neither hath He covered the darkness from my face.

2. The darkness and unsearchableness of God’s ways to be recognized in many other instances of an unequal distribution of earthly prosperity, as well as in Job’s case

Job 24:0

1          Why, seeing times are not hidden from the Almighty,

do they that know Him not see His days?

2     Some remove the landmarks;

they violently take away flocks, and feed thereof.

3     They drive away the ass of the fatherless,

they take the widow’s ox for a pledge.

4     They turn the needy out of the way;

the poor of the earth hide themselves together.

5     Behold, as wild asses in the desert,

go they forth to their work, rising betimes for a prey:
the wilderness yieldeth food for them and for their children.

6     They reap every one his corn in the field:

and they gather the vintage of the wicked.

7     They cause the naked to lodge without clothing,

that they have no covering in the cold.

8     They are wet with the showers of the mountains,

and embrace the rock for want of a shelter.

9     They pluck the fatherless from the breast,

and take a pledge of the poor.

10     They cause him to go naked without clothing,

and they take away the sheaf from the hungry;

11     which make oil within their walls,

and tread their wine-presses, and suffer thirst.

12     Men groan from out of the city,

and the soul of the wounded crieth out:
yet God layeth not folly to them.

13     They are of those that rebel against the light;

they know not the ways thereof,
nor abide in the paths thereof.

14     The murderer rising with the light

killeth the poor and needy,
and in the night is as a thief.

15     The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight,

saying, No eye shall see me:
and disguiseth his face.

16     In the dark they dig through houses,

which they had marked for themselves in the daytime:
they know not the light.

17     For the morning is to them even as the shadow of death:

If one know them, they are in the terrors of the shadow of death

18     He is swift as the waters;

their portion is cursed in the earth:
he beholdeth not the way of the vineyards.

19     Drought and heat consume the snow waters:

so doth the grave those which have sinned.

20     The womb shall forget him; the worm shall feed sweetly on him;

he shall be no more remembered;
and wickedness shall be broken as a tree.

21     He evil entreateth the barren that beareth not:

and doeth not good to the widow.

22     He draweth also the mighty with his power:

he riseth up, and no man is sure of life.

23     Though it be given him to be in safety, whereon he resteth;

yet his eyes are upon their ways.

24     They are exalted for a little while, but are gone

and brought low; they are taken out of the way as all others,
and cut off as the tops of the ears of corn.

25     And if it be not so now, who will make me a liar,

and make my speech nothing worth?


1. Instead of replying directly to the injurious accusations of Eliphaz in Job 22:6 sq.; Job here recurs first of all to the wish which he has already uttered several times (especially in chs. 9 and 13), that God Himself might manifest Himself as Umpire and as Witness of his innocence, and so end authoritatively the controversy which in each successive stage was becoming more and more involved. This wish is, however, immediately repressed by the thought that God purposely keeps Himself removed from him, in order to make him drink the cup of his sufferings to the dregs (Job 23:0). And in connection with the mournful fact that his state is so cheerless and so full of suffering, and furnishes living proof that God withholds the exercise of His retributive justice, he arrays forthwith (in the second and longer division of his discourse, Job 24:0), numerous facts of a similar character, which may be observed in the sphere of human life in general. In particular he sets forth many examples of the prosperity of the wicked, continuing to extreme old age, or even to the end of life. He dwells with evident satisfaction on his description of these examples, in order in this way to establish and illustrate most fully, the incomprehensibleness of the divine ways.—The whole discourse, apart from the two principal divisions, which coincide with the customary division by chapters, is divided into smaller strophes of four verses each (in one case of five) in accordance with the strophe-divisions of Ewald, as well as of Stickel and Delitzsch, which in the present case are entirely in harmony.

2. First Division. Repetition of the wish, heretofore uttered, that God might appear to rescue and to vindicate him, together with a self-suggested objection, and an expression of doubt whether the wish would be realized: Job 23:0.

First Strophe: Job 23:2-5. Even to-day my complaint is still bitter.—Both the authority of the Ancient Versions, such as the Targ., Pesh., Vulg. [E. V.], and also the comparison with former passages, such as Job 7:11; Job 10:1, favor the view that מְרִי signifies “bitterness,” and is thus synonymous with מַר, the possibility of which is shown by the cognate radical relation of the verbs מרה and מרר, which occasionally interchange forms; comp. Delitzsch on the passage. If we take the word however in its ordinary signification of “frowardness, perverseness,” we get a suitable meaning: “my complaint is still ever froward” (ever bids defiance, maintains its opposition), i.e., against such exhortations to penitence as those of Eliphaz (or in opposition to God, as Hahn, Olshausen, etc., explain). On the other hand we can make no use of the reading of the LXX.: ἔκ τῆς χειρὀς μου (מִיָּדִי), nor yet of Ewald’s conjecture derived from it—מִיָּדוֹ, “by reason of His hand is my complaint” [so Copt. and Merx].—My hand lies heavy on my groaning:i. e., I am driven to the continuous outbreak of my groaning, I must all the time force forth groans (not: my hand thrusts down my groaning, forces it back; Hirzel). Since this rendering yields a meaning that is entirely suitable, and suffers from no particular difficulty as to the language, it is unnecessary either with the Targ. [E. V.], to understand יָדִי of “the hand of God which strikes me” (the suffix ־ִיsensu obj.) or (with the LXX. and Pesh.) [Merx] to read יָדוֹ. (According to E. V., Ges., Ber., Noyes, Schlottm., Ren., Rod., עַל is comparative: “the hand upon me is heavier than my groaning,” which gives a suitable meaning, at least if we take מְרִי in the sense of bitterness. The objection to it is, however, as stated by Delitzsch, that “כברה יד על is an established phrase, and commonly used of the burden of the hand upon any one, Psalms 32:4 (comp. Job 33:7; and the connection with אֶל, 1 Samuel 5:6, and שָׁם, 1 Samuel 5:11”).—E.]. It remains to be said that the clause defining the time, גַּם הַיּוֹם, “even today,” belongs to both halves of the verse, and for the same reason it expresses the more general sense, “even now, even always,” (comp. Job 3:24). The supposition that the colloquy had lasted several days, and that in particular the present third course of the same had begun one day later than the one preceding is scarcely admissible on the strength of their expression, which is certainly not to be pressed too far, (against Ewald, 2d Ed., and Dillmann).

Job 23:3. Oh that I but knew how to find Him.—The Perf. יָדַעְתִּי with the following Imperf. consec. (וְאֶמְצָאֵהוּ) expresses the principal notion contained in Job’s wish: utinam scirem (locum ejus), et invenirem eum = utinam possim invenire eum! Comp. the similar construction in Job 32:22; also Gesen., § 142, (§ 139), 3, c. The rendering of Dillmann: “Oh that I, having known (where He is to be found), might find Him,” (in accordance with Ewald, § 357 b) gives essentially the same sense.—תְּכוּנָה in the second member means by itself, a frame, stand, setting up;” here specifically, “seat, throne,” i.e., the judgment seat of God, as the sequel shows.

Job 23:4. In regard to עָרַךְ מִשְׁפָּט, causam instruere, comp. Job 13:18; in regard to תּוֹכָחוֹת (lit. “objections, reproofs”) in the specific sense of “legal arguments, grounds of justification,” see Psalms 38:15 [14]; also above Job 13:3.

Second Strophe: Job 23:6-9. The doubt as to the possibility of such a protective interposition of God, begins again to appear. This (Job 23:6) takes first of all the form of a shrinking reflection on the crushing effect which God’s majesty and infinite fulness of power might easily exert upon him; a thought which has already emerged twice before (Job 9:34; Job 13:21), and which in this place Job, supported by the consciousness of his innocence, repudiates and tramples under foot. Would He in omnipotence then contend with me? Nay! He would only regard me: i. e., only give heed to me (יָשִׂים, scil.לֵב; comp. Job 4:20; here in union with בְּ to express the cleaving of the Divine regard to him, comp. פָּנָה בְּ, Job 6:28): only grant me a hearing, and as the result thereof acquit me. [אַךְ “nothing but;” intensive; the very thing that He would do, hence the thing that He would assuredly do]. To render the Imperfect verbs יָרִיּב and יָשִׂים as expressive of a wish: “shall He contend with me?” i. e., shall I wish, that He would contend with me? (Hirzel, Ew., Dillm., etc.), is altogether too artificial, and not at all required by the connection. [The E. V., Bar., Carey, supply “strength” (כֹּחַ) after ישׂם: God, so far from using His power to crush Job, would strengthen him to plead his cause. But the ellipsis of לֵב is already justified by Job 4:20, and the antithesis thus obtained between a and b is more direct and natural.—E.].

Job 23:7. Then (שָׁם as in Job 35:12; Psalms 14:5; Psalms 66:6, and often in a temporal sense; then, when such a judicial interposition of God should take place) would a righteous man plead (lit., “be pleading,” נוֹכָח, partic.) with Him:—i. e., it would be shown that it is a righteous man who pleads with him; and I should forever escape my Judge; i. e., by virtue of this my uprightness. פַּלֵּט is, like מַלֵּט Job 20:20, intensive of Kal.

Job 23:8-9. The joyful prospect is suddenly swept away by the thought that God is nowhere, in no quarter of the world to be found.—Yet (הֵן, “yet behold,” in an adversative sense, as in Job 21:16) if I go eastward, He is not there, etc.קֶדֶם (“toward the front, = toward the east”) and אָחוֹר (toward the rear, = toward the west,” comp. Job 18:20), refer to the eastern and western quarters of the heavens, even as the following “left” and “right” refer to the northern and southern.—If He works northward, I behold (Him) not; if He turns southward I see it not. שְׂמֹאול, “toward the left” is an adverbial local clause, qualifying בַּעֲשׂתוֹ, as also יָמִין qualifying יַעֲטֹף. The former verb expresses its customary meaning: “to work, to be active, efficient,” which suits here very well (comp. Job 28:26), so that every different rendering, as e. g., taking = עָשָׂה עָשָׂה דֶּרֶךְ, “to take His way” (Blumenfeld), or = “to hide Himself” (Umbreit), or = עָטָה “to incline Himself, to turn Himself” (Ewald), seems uncalled for. On the other hand the common signification of עטף—“to veil Himself,” is less suitable in b [so E. V., Lee, Con., Ber., Rod. Elz,, etc.], than the signification “bending, turning aside” adopted by Saadia, Schultens, Ewald Delitzsch, etc., after the Arabic. If this latter definition deserves here the preference, there is he less probability that the passage contains any reference to the חַדְרֵי תֵמָן, (“the chambers of the South,” Job 9:9), or, generally speaking, to any celestial abode of God as set forth in heathen theologies or cosmogonies. Rather does he poet conceive of God as omnipresent, as much so as the poet of the 139th Psalm, in his similar description (Job 23:8-10). [Gesenius and Carey translate b: “He veileth the South, etc.,” but less appropriately, the construction of יָמִין being evidently the same with שְׂמֹאול, which is unquestionably adverbial.—E.]

Third Strophe: Job 23:10-13. The reason why God withdraws Himself: although He knows Job’s innocence, He nevertheless will not abandon His purpose, once formed, not to allow Himself to be found by Him. [“He conceals Himself from him, lest He should be compelled to acknowledge the right of the sufferer, and to withdraw His chastening hand from him.” Delitz.]

Job 23:10. For He knows well my accustomed, way.—דֶּרֶךְ עִמָּדִי, lit. “the way with me,” i. e., the way which adheres to me, which is steadfastly pursued by me (comp. Psalms 139:24; Ew., § 287 c), or: “the way of which I am conscious” [“which his conscience (συνείδησις) approves (συμμαρτυρεῖ)”], as Delitzsch explains, referring to Job 9:35; Job 15:9.—If He should prove me (בְּחָנַנִי, an elliptical conditional clause; comp. Ewald, § 357, b), I should come forth as gold, i. e., out of His crucible; a very strong and bold declaration of his consciousness of innocence, for which Job must hereafter (Job 42:6) implore pardon.

Job 23:11. My foot hath held firm to His step (אחז, as elsewhere תָּמַךְ, Psalms 17:5; Proverbs 5:5) [“The Oriental foot has a power of grasp and tenacity, because not shackled with shoes from early childhood, of which we can form but little idea.” Carey]: His way I have kept, and turned not aside. אָֽט, Jussive Hiph. from נטה, in the intransitive sense of deflectere, as in Psalms 125:5; Isaiah 30:11.

Job 23:12. The commandment of His lips—I have not departed from it.—הֵמִישׁ, intransitive, like הִטָּה in the verse preceding. In regard to the construction (antecedent placing of a nominative absolute) comp. Job 4:6. More than my (own) law I have observed the saying of His mouth; have accordingly set them for above all that I have, of my own will, desired or prescribed for myself. [Bernard explains the preposition מ here to mean: “by reason of my rule,” i. e., by reason of my having made it a rule. This however obscures the striking contrast between חֻקִּי and אִמְרֵי־פִיו—E.]. With חֻקּי we may compare the “law in the members” warring against the Divine law, Romans 7:23. [E. V. takes חֻקִּי, as in Genesis 47:22; Proverbs 30:8, in the sense of one’s “allowance of food;” Ewald also translates by “Gebühr” (“that which as a distinguished rich man I have the right to require in my relations to other men, and my claims upon them”). The consideration of Job’s greatness and power should be borne in mind with the rendering “law.” The “law” which Job had ever held subordinate to the Divine precepts was the will of a prince.—E.]. צָפַן “to lay up, preserve,” is here substantially equivalent with שָׁמַר, comp. Psalms 119:11; in view of which parallel passage it is not necessary with the LXX. instead of מֵהֻקִּי to read בְּחֵיקִי, ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ μον ἔκρυψα ῥήματα αὐτοῦ.

Job 23:13. Nevertheless He remaineth (ever) the same, and who will turn Him׃ viz., from His purpose; comp. Job 9:12; Job 11:10. וְהוּא בְּאֶחָד, not: “He remaineth by one thing” (Hirzel, Del.) [Lee, Noyes, Carey], for this would have been expressed by the neuter form בְּאַחַת (comp. Job 9:22); but the בְּ is בessentiæ (Gesen. § 154 [§ 151] 3, a), and the thought expressed is that of the unchangeableness, the constancy of God (not the oneness, or the absolute superiority of God, as the Vulg., Targ., Starke, who refers to Galatians 3:20, Schultens, Ewald, Schlottmann, [Ges., Ber., Rod., Elz.] explain, but against the context. With b compare the well-known expression: “He spake, and it was done, etc.,” Psalms 33:9. [The unchangeable purpose of God of which Job here speaks is evidently the purpose to inflict suffering on him, a purpose to which He inflexibly adheres, notwithstanding He knows Job’s integrity, and finds through His crucible that the sufferer is pure gold.—E.].

Fourth Strophe: Job 23:14-17. Truly (כִּי as in Job 22:26), He will accomplish my destiny. חֻקִּי with suffix of the object, means here that which has been decreed, ordained concerning me. And much of a like kind is with Himi. e., “has been determined by Him, lies in His purpose,” (comp. Job 9:35; Job 10:13; Job 15:9). The “much of that kind” spoken of refers not specifically to Job’s sufferings (Umbreit, Delitzsch, etc.), as rather to all that is analogous thereto, to all decrees of a like character regarding men in general.

Job 23:15. Therefore do I tremble (lit. “I am terrified, troubled”) before His face; if I consider it, I am afraid before Him. אֶתְבּוֹנֵן is an elliptical hypothetical antecedent, as is the case in Job 23:10 b. We are to supply as the object to be considered the unfathomable decree of God, by virtue of which he must suffer.

Job 23:16. And God hath made my heart faint [lit. “soft”] (הֵרַךְ Hiph. from רַךְ, Deuteronomy 20:3, etc.), and the Almighty has confounded me. The emphasis rests in the subjects אֵל and שַׁדַּי which are purposely placed first in both members. It is God Himself, who by His incomprehensibly harsh and stern treatment has plunged him in anguish and terror; his suffering considered in itself by no means exerts such a crushing influence upon him (see the vers. following).

Job 23:17. For I am not dumb before the darkness, nor yet before myself whom thick darkness has coveredi. e., the darkness of my calamity (comp. Job 22:11), and my own face and form darkened and disfigured by my sufferings (comp. Job 19:13 seq.) are not able to strike me dumb (with horror); only the thought of God can do this, who with His incomprehensible decree stands behind this my suffering! Observe the significant contrast between the מִפְּנֵי־חשֶׁךְ of this ver. and the מִפָּנָיו of Job 23:15 a; as well as moreover the antithetic relation, which obtains between this passage and the statement of Eliphaz in Job 22:11 that Job seemed not to mark at all the terrible darkness of his misery. Either of these retrospective references of the passage is lost sight of if, with most of the ancients (LXX., Vulg., Luth.] [E. V. Ges., Scott, Noyes, Ber., Ren., Rod., Elz.] we render: “because I was not cut off (נִצְמַתdeleri, perire, as in Job 6:17) before the darkness came, and He has not covered the darkness from my face” [i. e., has not covered me in the grave, so that I might never have faced this suffering]. The signification: “to become dumb, to be brought to silence,” is the only one that is suitable here; we should then have to think (with Delitzsch, etc.) of an inward destruction by terror and confusion.

 3. Second Division: Job 24:0. An extended description of the many incomprehensible things in what God does as ruler of the universe, beginning with the many instances in which He permits the innocent and defenceless to be oppressed and persecuted by their powerful enemies: Job 24:1-12.

Fifth Strophe: Job 24:1-4. Why are times not reserved by the Almighty?i. e. times of reckoning with good and evil; judicial terms, at which He displays His retributive justice. In. regard to the use of צפן, “reserving” [storing up] in the sense of “appointing, fixing, comp. Job 15:20; Job 21:19. The question is of course so intended as to require no answer, or a negative one. So also in the second member: and do His friends (lit. “His knowers” [acquaintances], they who are His, who know Him, and He them, comp. Job 18:21; Psalms 36:11 [10]) not see His days?—The “days” of God here are His judgment days, the days in which He reveals Himself in judicial rigor against his enemies, and in beneficent mercy toward His holy ones (comp. Ezekiel 30:3, also the expression, the “days of the Son of Man” in Luke 17:22). This verse also seems to contain a retrospective reference to the last discourse of Eliphaz, especially to Job 22:19; by the ancients, moreover, who were troubled more; particularly about the עִתִּים, “terms, judicial periods,” it was variously misunderstood, and erroneously translated. [The construction adopted by E. V., Con., etc.: “Why, seeing times are not hidden from the Almighty, do they that know Him not. see His days?” is a less natural and simple rendering of the original than, that given above. Conant objects that “this, question is not pertinent here. The point of inquiry is not, why are such times of retribution not appointed by God; but why, if they are appointed by Him, as alleged, do not good men witness them?” Job however does deny, by implication, that there is any retribution, or time reserved for it, with the Almighty. The phenomena of human life, he argues, indicate that God cares not how men sin, or suffer. The second member of the verse puts the thought of the first in a still more striking light. The indications of retributive justice in the administration of the world, are such that not even God’s familiars, who are in His secret, can discern the days whereon they occur.—E.].

Job 24:2. Landmarks they remove [or, are removed; vb. impersonal] flocks, they plunder, and feed. From this point on begins the specific description of the many deeds of violence, oppression and persecution permitted by God. The vers. immediately following (3, 4) describe the wicked agents who commit such deeds, Job 24:5-8 the wretched ones who suffer from them, and thence on interchangeably, now the persecutors and now the persecuted, the verbs used being put in the 3d person plural Perfect. In respect to the wickedness of removing landmarks, (יַסִּיגוּ = יַשִּׂגוּ, from סוּג) comp. Deuteronomy 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:17; Proverbs 22:28; Proverbs 23:10. In regard to the plundering and carrying off of herds, comp. Job 20:19. [“They steal flocks, וַיִּרְעוּi. e., they are so bare-faced, that after they have stolen them, they pasture them openly.” Delitzsch].

Job 24:3. נָהַג, “to drive away,” as in Isaiah 20:4; חָבַל, “to distrain, to take as a pledge” as in Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 24:6; comp. below Job 24:9 (whereas on the other hand in Job 22:6 the word is used in a somewhat different sense). [The ass of the orphan, and the yoke-ox of the widow are here referred to as the most valuable possession, and principal dependence of those unfortunate ones.—E.].

Job 24:4. The poor they thrust oat of the wayi. e., out of the way, in which they have the right to walk, into roadless regions (comp. הִטָּה in a similar sense in Amos 5:12). All together (יַחַד as in Job 3:18) the wretched of the land must hide themselves.—So according to the K’ri: עֲנִיֶּי־אֶרֶץ;, while the K’thibh עַנְויֵ־א׳ would, according to Psalms 76:10; Zephaniah 2:3 designate the “afflicted,” the “sufferers” of the land, which seems less suitable here. The Pass. חֻבְּאוּ denotes what these unfortunate ones are compelled to do; comp. Job 30:7.

Sixth Strophe; Job 24:5-8. Description of the miserable condition into which the oppressed and persecuted are brought by those wicked ones (not of another class of evil-doers apart from those previously spoken of, as ancient exegesis for the most part assumed, and as latterly Rosenm., Umbr., Vaih. [Lee, Barnes, Carey, Scott, etc.] explain). As is evident from the more extended description in Job 30:1-8 of the unsettled, vagabond life of such unfortunates, the poet has here before his eyes the aborigines of the lands east of the Jordan, who were driven from their homes into the desert, possibly the remnant of the ancient Horites [cave-dwellers]; comp. what is said more in detail below on Job 30:0. Behold, wild asses in the wilderness (i. e. as wild asses; comp. Job 6:5; Job 11:12; Job 39:5 seq.), they go forth in their daily work (lit. “work;” comp. Psalms 104:23), seeking after prey (טֶרֶף, booty, prey, a living, as in Proverbs 31:15) [“from טָרַף in the primary signification decerpere describes that which in general forms their daily occupation as they roam about. …The idea of waylaying is not to be connected with the expression.” Del.]; the steppe [עֲרָנָה, the wide, open, desert plain] is to them (lit. “to him,” viz., to each one of them), [or “to him as father of the company,” Del., or possibly the sing. לוֹ is used to avoid the concurrence of לָהֶם with לֶחֶם immediately following: Hirzel] bread for their children—(נְעָרִים as in Job 1:19; Job 29:5) [“the steppe, with its scant supply of roots and herbs, is to him food for the children; ho snatches it from it, it must furnish it to him” (Del.) thus accounting for the use of טֶרֶף]. A striking description of the beggar, vagabond life of these troglodytes, the precursors of the gipsies, or South-African Bushmen of to-day. [Of the פְּרָאִים, onagri (Kulans), with which these are compared, Delitzsch says: “Those beautiful animals, which, while young, are difficult to be caught; which in their love of freedom are an image of the Beduin, Genesis 16:12; in their untractableness an image of that which cannot be bound, Job 11:12; and from their roaming about in herds in waste regions, are here an image of a gregarious vagrant, and freebooter kind of life.” Del.]

Job 24:6. In the field they reap (so according to the K’ri יִקְצוֹרוּ the K’thibh יַקְצִירוּ would be rendered by some such expression as “they make for a harvest”) the cattle-fodder [בְּלִילֹו, as in Job 6:5, mixed fodder for the cattle, farrago]; lit. “his cattle-fodder, i. e. that of the רָשָׁע mentioned in b. [Most explain this to mean that these miserable hirelings seek to satisfy their hunger with the fodder grown the cattle. Delitzsch on the ground that “קָצַר does not signify to sweep together, but to reap in an orderly manner; and if they meant to steal why did they not seize the better portion of the produce?” supposes that the “rich evildoer hires them to cut the fodder for his cattle, but does not like to entrust the reaping of the better kinds of corn to them.” This view, however, seems less natural than the former, and less in harmony with the parallelism. See below on b.—E.]. And they glean the vineyard of the wicked. לקשׁserotinos fructus colligere (Rosenm.), to glean the late-ripe fruit, i. e. stealing it. The meaning can scarcely be that this was done in the service of the rich evil-doer, in which case the verb עוֹלֵלracemari would rather have been used (against Delitzsch).

Job 24:7. Naked (ערום, adverbial accusative, as in Job 24:10; comp. שׂוֹלָל, Job 12:17; Job 12:19) they pass the night without clothing, מִבְּלִי lit. “from the lack of,” comp. Job 24:8 b. and Job 24:10.

Job 24:8. …And shelterless (from lack of shelter) they clasp the rock.—חִבְּקוּ, they “embrace” the rock, in that shivering they crouch beneath it as their shelter. Comp. the phrase, “embracing the dunghill” (mezabil), Lamentations 4:5.

Seventh Strophe: Job 24:9-12. Resuming the description of the tyrannical conduct of those men of power described in Job 24:2-4. They tear the orphan from the breast.—שֹׁד here the same as שַׂד, as also in Isaiah 60:16; Isaiah 66:11. Correctly therefore the LXX.: ἀπὸ μαστοῦ—whereas to render שֹׁד in its customary signification of “destruction, ruin” (as e. g. by Ramban, etc.) [=“from the shattered patrimony”], yields no satisfactory meaning. The act of tearing away from the breast is conceived of as the violent deed of harsh creditors, who would satisfy their claims by bringing up the orphan children as slaves. And what the miserable one has on they take away as a pledge.—A tenable meaning, and one that will agree well with Job 24:10 is obtained only by regarding וְעַל as an elliptical expression for וַאֲשֶׂר עַל “and what is on the miserable one,” i. e. What he wears, his clothing (Ralbag, Gesen., Arnh., Vaih., Dillmann) [Rod., Bernard, Noyes]. With the thought may then be compared Micah 2:9; in respect to חבל see above on Job 24:3. The other explanations which have been given are less suited to the connection, if not absolutely impossible, such as: “they take a pledge above [beyond the ability of] the sufferer” (Hirzel); “they take for a pledge the suckling (וְעֻל of the poor”) (Kamphausen) [Elzas]; “with the poor they deal basely,” or “knavishly” (Umbr., Del.), which latter rendering however would make it seem strange that the verb חבל has only a short while before been used twice (Job 24:3, and Job 22:6) in the sense of distraining. [To which add Dillmann’s objection that this interpretation seems “colorless,” out of place in the series of graphic, concrete touches of which the description is composed. It may also be said of the explanation of E. V. Ewald, Schlott., Renan, Conant, etc., “they impose a pledge on the sufferers,” that it is less vivid than that adopted above. It must be admitted on the other hand that the assumption that =על אשׁר על is somewhat doubtful.—E.].

Job 24:10-12 again bring into the foreground as subject those who are maltreated by the proud oppressors. These are however no longer represented as the wretched inhabitants of steppes or caves, but as poor serfs on the estates of the rich, and are thus represented as being in inhabited cities and their vicinity. Naked they (the poor) slink about, without clothing.—Comp. Job 24:7, and in respect to הִלֵּךְ, “to slink,” see Job 30:28. And hungry they bear the sheavesi. e. for the rich, whose hired service they perform, who however allow them to go hungry in their service, and thus become guilty of the crying sin of the merces retenta laborum (Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Timothy 5:18, etc.). [The English translators, misled probably by the Piel, הִלֵּכוּ, which they took to be transitive, have made the “oppressors” of the vers. preceding the subject of Job 24:10. הִלֵּךְ however is always “to walk about, to go to and fro” (so also in Proverbs 8:20). Taking it in this sense here, the subject is naturally “the poor;” and נשׂא in the second member is simply “to bear, not “to take away from.”—E.]

Job 24:11. Between their walls (hence under their strict supervision) they must press out the oil (יַצְהִירוּ, Hiph. denom., only here); they tread the wine-vats, and suffer thirst (while so engaged—Imperf. consec. comp. Ewald, § 342, a). A further violation of the law that the mouth of the ox must not be muzzled.

Job 24:12. Out of the cities the dying groan.—So according to the reading מֵתִים (Pesh., 1 Ms. of de Rossi’s, and some of the older editions), which word indeed elsewhere means “the dead,” but which here, as the parallel of the following חֲלָלִים (“wounded, pierced to death,” comp. Ezekiel 26:15; Jeremiah 51:22) may very well be taken to mean the dying, those who utter the groaning and rattling of the death struggle [see Green, § 266, 2, a]. So correctly Umbreit, Ew., Hirz., Vaih., Stick., Heiligst., Dillmann [Schlott., Renan, Noyes. Others (Carey, Elzas, etc.) in the weaker sense: “mortals.”] The usual reading מְתִים, “men,” yields a suitable rendering only by disregarding the masoretic accentuation, and connecting this מְתִים as subj. with יִנְאָקוּ (so Jer., Symmachus, Theod.). In that case, however, it should be translated not by the colorless and indefinite term “people” [Leute] (Hahn, etc.) but by “men [Männen, viri], warriors,” and understood (with Del.) of the male population of a city, “whom a conqueror would put to the sword.” This however would remove the discourse too far out of the circle of thought in which it has hitherto removed. [According to the Masor. punctuations מֵעִ֣יר מְתִים would be “out of an inhabited, thickly populated city,” a thought which has no place in the connection. Gesenius, followed by Conant, takes עיר (II Lex.) in the sense of “anguish:” “for anguish do the dying groan.” But the second member: “and the soul of the wounded cries out,” brings up before us a scene of blood, involving the slaying of a multitude, for which we should have been unprepared without the mention of the “city” in the first member.—E.]. Yet God regards not the folly!—תִּפְלָה, lit. [“insipidity], absurdity, insulsitas (Job 1:22), a contemptuous expression which seems very suitable here, serving as it does to describe tersely the violence of the wicked, mocking at the moral order of the universe, and still remaining unpunished. The punctuation תְּפִלָּה, “prayer, supplication” (Pesh., some MSS.) [Con., Noyes, Good, Elzas], may also be properly passed by without consideration. In regard to the absolute use of לֹא־יָשִׂים (supply בְּלִכּוֹ, comp. Job 22:22), “he regards not,” see Job 4:20; Isaiah 41:20; and especially Psalms 50:23, where, precisely as here, the expression is construed with the accus. of the object. [The rendering of E. V.: “yet God layeth (=imputeth) not folly to them,” is not essentially different, but is less expressive. Oppression ravages the earth; in the wilderness, among rocks and caves, in fields and vineyards, in villages and cities, men suffer, groan, die—and all this chaotic folly, this dark anomaly, this mockery of the Divine order—God heeds it not!—E.]

4. Second Division: Second Half: Job 24:13-25. Continuation of the preceding description, in which special prominence is given to those evildoers who commit their crimes in secret, and escape for a long time the divine punishment, which surely awaits them.

Eighth Strophe: Job 24:13-17. Those (הֵמָּה, emphatically contrasting the present objects of the description, as a new class of evil-doers, with those previously mentioned) are rebels against the light, or: “are become rebels,” etc.; for so may the clause הָיוּ בְּ with בessential, comp. Job 23:13) be taken, unless we prefer to explain: “are become among apostates from the light,” i. e. have acquired the nature of such (Del., Dillm.) [in either case היה is not the mere copula, but expresses a process of becoming]. מרְֹדֵי־אוֹר, “apostates, revolters from the light, enemies of the light,” are essentially the same, as “children of the night” (Romans 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:5; Ephesians 5:8, etc.Will not know its ways; i. e. the ways of the light, for it is more natural to refer the suffix in דְרָכָיו, as well as in נְתִיבוֹתָיו to אוֹר than to “God.”

Job 24:14. At the dawn (לָאוֹר, sub lucem, cum diluculo, toward the break of day, before it is yet broad daylight) the murderer riseth up. רוֹצֵחַ, one who makes a trade of murder, who kills to steal, like the English garotter; for the wealthy oppressor is no longer (down to Job 24:18) the subject of the discourse.—[He slays the poor and needy: because of their defenceless condition; not of course for plunder, but to gratify his bloodthirsty disposition.]—And in the night he acts like a thief, or: “he becomes as the thief,” i. e. in the depths of night, when there is no one to cross his path, he plies the trade of a petty, common thief, committing burglary, etc. for the Jussive יְהִי instead of יִהְיֶה, comp. above Job 18:12; Job 20:23, etc. [poetic form]; and for אָחַז, instead of אֶחֱזֶה, Job 23:9.

Job 24:15. And the adulterer’s eye watches (שָׁמַר, observare, to be on the watch for, to lurk for) the twilight, i. e. the evening twilight, before the approach of which he does not ply his craft; comp. Proverbs 7:9. נֶשֶׁף here crepusculum; see above on Job 3:9And puts a veil over the face: lit. “and lays on a covering of the face,” i. e., some kind of a veil;—hardly a mask, of which oriental antiquity had no knowledge; comp. Delitzsch on the passage.

Job 24:16. They break in the dark into houses; lit. “he,” or “one breaks in;” the indefinite subj. of חתר, is, as the plurals in the following members show, an entire band of thieves.—They, who by day keep themselves shut up, know not the light, i. e. they have no fellowship with it, as children of night and of darkness. The rendering of the Targ. and of some of the Rabbis (approximately also of the Vulg.) [also of E. V.]: “which houses) they had marked for themselves in the daytime,” is opposed by the fact that חתם signifies always obsignare, never designare; comp. Job 14:17; Job 37:7.

Job 24:17. For to them all deep darkness is morning; i. e. when the deepest darkness of the night (צלמות, comp. Job 3:5) begins, then they enter upon their day’s work [the drawing on of the night is to them what day-break is to others]—a striking characteristic of the ἔργα τοῦ σκότους, in which these evil-doers engage. Umbreit and Hirzel [and so E. V. Ber., Con.] unsuitably take not צלמות, but בקר as subject: “the morning is to them at once deep darkness.” Against this explanation it may be urged that יַחְדָּו means not “at once,” but as in Job 2:11; Job 9:32, etc., “all together, all in a body.”—Because they know the terrors of deep darkness; i. e. are familiar with them, as other men are with the open day; comp. Job 24:16 e; Job 38:16. The sing, again makes its appearance here [כִּי יַכִּיר, lit. “for he (or one) knows,” etc.], because stress is laid on the fact that every member of this wicked band has this familiarity with the darkness of night. [According to the rendering of E. V., Hirzel, etc., here rejected, the meaning would be that morning or daylight would bring terror to these evil-doers, the fear i. e. of being detected and condemned. In the second member כִּי יַכִּיר would then be antecedent, either general: “when one can discern” (Con.), or particular: “if one know them” (E. V.) and בַּלְחוֹת צַלְמָוֶת, the consequent—“terrors of death-shade!” The other rendering, however, has on the whole the advantage of greater simplicity, and agreement with usage and the context.—E.]

Ninth Strophe: Job 24:18-21. The judgment which will overtake the wicked who have been thus far described. This judgment Job describes here proleptically, for in Job 24:22-24 a he returns once again to their haughty, insolent conduct before the judgment comes, in order to bring out the thought that a long time usually elapses before it overtakes them. This strophe sets forth, in the first place, and this intentionally in strong language, which in the mouth of Job is quite surprising, that a grievous punishment and certain destruction infallibly awaits them; but that such destruction, for the most part, is long delayed, is maintained in the following strophe, which, however, in Job 24:24 again resumes the description of the destruction. The language does not permit us with the LXX., Vulg., Pesh., Eichh., Dathe, Umbr., Vaih, etc., to take these verses in an optative sense, as a description of the punishment, which ought to befal evil-doers: thus at the outset in Job 24:18 we have קַל הוּא, not יְהִי קַל הוּא; and so throughout every sign of the optative form of speech is wanting. It is possible, but the same is not indicated with sufficient clearness by the author, and for that reason is altogether too artificial, to take vers 18–21 (with Ewald, Hirzel, Schlottm., v. Gerlach, Heiligstedt, Dillmann) as a description of the well-merited judgment inflicted on the wicked, ironically attributed by Job to his opponents, Job’s own opinion on the opposite side being in that case annexed to it in Job 24:22 seq. See against this opinion, as well as against the related opinion of Stickel, Böttcher, Hahn, etc., the remarks of Delitzsch [Job 2:33: “(1) There is not the slightest trace observable in Job 24:18-21 that Job does not express his own view. (2) There is no such decided contrast between Job 24:18-21 and Job 24:22-25, for Job 24:19 and Job 24:24 both affirm substantially the same thing concerning the end of the evil-doer. In like manner it is not to be supposed with Stickel, Löw., Böttch., Welte and Hahn, that Job, outstripping the friends, as far as Job 24:21, describes how the evil-doer certainly often comes to a terrible end, and in Job 24:22 seq., how the very opposite of this, however, is often witnessed; so that this consequently furnishes no evidence in support of the exclusive assertion of the friends. Moreover, Job 24:24 compared with Job 24:19, where there is nothing to indicate a direct contrast, is opposed to it; and Job 24:22, which has no appearance of referring to a direct contrast with what has been previously said, is opposed to such an antithetical rendering of the two final strophes.”]

Job 24:18. His course is swift on the face of the waters: i. e. lightly and swiftly is he born hence, as one who is swept away irresistibly by the flood; comp. Job 9:26; Hosea 10:7. [Carey curiously conjectures that this ver. speaks of pirates!]—Accursed is their portion in the land; or: “a curse befals,” etc. (Dillm.). [In German: Im Fluge ist er dahin auf Wassers Fläche; verflucht wird ihr Grundstück im Lande; or according to Dillmann: Flucht trifft, etc., whereby, continues Zöckler, the paronomasia between תְּקֻלַּל and קַל is still more clearly expressed. This paronomasia it is impossible to reproduce in English without slightly paraphrasing the one term or the other. The above attempts to combine the verbal play with fidelity to the German original: “his course is swift” for “im Fluge dahin,” and “accursed” for “verflucht.”] Whether a divine curse, or a curse on the part of men, is intended, seems doubtful: still parallel passages, such as Job 5:3; Job 18:20, favor the latter view. The interchange of plur. and sing. occurs here as in Job 24:16.—He enters no more on the way of the Vineyard; lit. “he turns no more into the way to the vineyard” (comp. 1 Samuel 13:18); i. e. there is an end of his frequent resorting to his favorite possession, and in general of his enjoyment of the same. Observe that from here on wealthy evil-doers again form the prominent subject of the description; in this differing from Job 24:13-17.

Job 24:19. Drought and heat carry off [יִגְזְלוּ lit. “bear away as plunder”] the snow-water (comp. Job 6:16 seq.): so the underworld those who have sinned.—חָטָאִוּ, a relative clause, which is at the same time the object of the verb in the first member, which extends its influence also to the second member. As to the sentiment, comp. Psalms 49:13 [12] 21 [20]; also Job 24:18 a; not however Job 21:23, where rather the euthanasia [of the subject] is described, not his sudden end without deliverance.

Job 24:20. The womb forgets him, (whereas) the worms feed sweetly on him.—The two short sentences which constitute this member stand in blunt contrast to each other. מתק here sensu activo: to taste anything with pleasure, delectari aliquare (lit. “to suck”—hence the meaning “sweet”). So then is iniquity broken like the tree—(i. e. like a shattered, or felled tree; comp. Ecclesiastes 11:3; Daniel 4:7 seq.; also above Job 19:10). Instead of the wicked man his injurious conduct (עַוְלָה, comp. on Job 5:16) is here mentioned as having come to an end, while Job 24:21 again speaks in the concrete concerning the evil-doer himself, in order to point to his heinous bloodguiltiness as the cause of his punishment. [“The fundamental thought of the strophe is this, that neither in life nor in death had he suffered the punishment of his evil-doing. The figure of the broken tree (broken in its full vigor) also corresponds to this thought; comp. on the other hand what Bildad says, Job 18:16 : “his roots dry up beneath, and above his branch is lopped off” (or: withered). The severity of his oppression is not manifest till after his death.” Delitzsch].

Job 24:21. He who hath plundered (lit. “fed upon, devoured,” comp. Job 20:26) the barren, that beareth not (who has therefore no children to protect her), and hath done no good to the widow—but on the contrary has shown himself hard of heart towards her. On the form יְיֵטִיב comp. Gesen. § 70 [§ 69], 2, Rem. [Green, § 150, 2] [The Participial form רֹעֶה introducing the characteristics of the class, and followed by finite verb according to Gesen. § 131, Rem. 2].

Tenth Strophe: Job 24:22-25. And yet He preserveth long the men of might by His strengthi. e., but truly (וְ before משך is at once adversative and restrictive). He (God, comp. Job 24:23) often greatly prolongs the life of such mighty evil-doers (אַבִּירִים, comp. Isaiah 46:12) [“the strong, who bid defiance not only to every danger, (Psalms 76:6) but also to all divine influences and noble impulses.” Delitzsch]. On משךְ as applied to the agency of God in prolonging life comp. Isaiah 13:22; Psalms 36:11; Psalms 85:6 [5]. Such an one rises up again, although despairing of life—when he had already despaired of continuing in life. [So far from using his power to crush the mighty villains of earth, God uses it to bring them triumphantly through those crises in which they themselves had given up all hope—E.] וְלא ־יַאֲמִין subordinate circumstantial clause, comp. Ewald, § 341, a.—חַיִּין, Aramaizing plur. like מִלִּין, Job 4:2. [According to E. V. and most commentators the subject of Job 24:22 is still the wicked man, משׁךְ being taken to mean: “to draw, drag” as a captive; or “to hold, bind;” or “to destroy. ‘He subjugates the mighty, and puts all in terror for their very life.’ The interpretation given above however is more in accord with the proper meaning of משׁךְ, with Job 24:23 understood as having God for its subject; and is specially favored by the consideration that it gives more distinct expression to the thought, so important to Job’s argument here of the lengthening out of the life and prosperity of the evil-doer, and of the long delay of his punishment. The omission of the Divine Name is so characteristic of our book as to present no difficulty.—E.].

Job 24:23. He grants him safety (lit. “He (God) grants to him to be in safety; permits him to be at his ease [לבטח, adverbial, of the state or condition He grants him to be in]; so that he is sustained (וַיִּשָּׁעֵן, expressing the consequence of that divine grant of security), and His (God’s) eyes are upon their ways—in order, namely, to keep them therein, and to bless and protect them; comp. הֹופִיעַ עַל, Job 10:3. [God’s eyes, says Job, follow the prosperous evil-doer with watchful interest, to see that he does not step out of the path of security and success! According to the other interpretation, which continues the evil-doer as the subject, the meaning is that the oppressor allows to those who are in his power only a transient respite, watching for every pretence or opportunity to injure them. See Scott. The full-toned suffix ־ֵיהוּ—seems chosen for emphasis.—E.].

Job 24:24. They rise high—a little while only, and they are gone. רֹמּוּ, 3 Plur. Perf. from רוּם=רמם, to raise oneself, to mount upward” (Ew. § 114 a; comp. Gesen. § 67 [§ 66] Rem. 1 [Green, § 139, 1], מְעַט with following וְ for the consequent, forms a short sentence by itself, as in Psalms 37:10. As to וְֵאיֶננּוּ “then he is no more,” comp. Genesis 5:24. The interchange of numbers as in Job 24:16 and Job 24:18. And they are bowed down (concerning הֻמְּכוּ [Aramaizing] Hoph. from מכךְ, comp. Gesen. § 67 [§ 66], Rem. 1); like all they perish (i. e. like all others), and as the top of the ears [of grain: i. e. the grain-bearing head of the wheat-stalk] they wither.—יָקּֽפְצוּן, lit. “they shrivel together” (Niph. Reflex. from Kal; comp. Job 5:16) i. e., they perish. There is no reference to the componere artus of the dead [Ges. “to gather oneself up, composing the body and limbs as in death,” which here would mean to die in the course of nature, not by violence, or suddenly], nor to the “housing,” i. e. the burial of the dead (comp. Ezekiel 29:5). The expression is rather a figure taken from vegetable life, like the following יִמָּלוּ, “they wither like the heads of grain;” see on Job 42:2. [It may be claimed with reason that the connection here favors the definition, “to be cut off,” the oriental custom of reaping being to cut off the tops, leaving long stalks standing in the field.] It is not altogether in the sense of euthanasia, therefore, of an easy, painless death, as described in Job 21:23, that the present passage is to be understood (against Ewald, Dillmann, etc., also Del.). It rather resumes the description in Job 24:18 seq., although in less forcible language, and in such a way as to set forth a natural death, such as all die, rather than that caused by a divine judgment, such as often falls upon the wicked.

Job 24:25. And should it not be so (וְאִס־לֹא אֵפוֹ as in Job 9:24) who will convict me of falsehood, and make my speech of no effect?—The phrase שִׂים לְאַל (instead of which Symm., Vulg., Pesh. read שׂ׳ לְאֵל) is precisely the same with εἰς μηδεν τιθέναι, or our: “bring to nought,” comp. Ewald, § 286, g; 321, b. The whole question is a triumphant expression of the superiority which Job vividly felt himself to possess over his opponents, especially in the views derived from experience which he had just urged respecting the incomprehensible dealings of God with the destinies of men.


1. The significance of the present discourse of Job lies essentially in its descriptive treatment of ethical and anthropological themes, some passages even describing matters of interest in the history of civilization (Job 24:5 seq.), whereas the speculative and theological element becomes subordinate. The latter is restricted almost exclusively to the first and shorter Division, which is occupied with the mystery of Job’s own destiny of suffering, just as the second Division is occupied with the obverse side of this mystery, the prosperity and impunity of the wicked. That which the first Division says touching the inexplicableness of his sufferings is substantially only a repetition of the wish, already several times uttered, that God by His personal intervention might decide the controversy, and confirm his innocence, combined with a statement of the reasons why this wish could not be realized. On the first of these reasons, to wit: that on account of the overwhelming majesty pertaining to the appearance of God, the Unapproachable and Almighty One, it would be impossible for him to put in his answer before Him (Job 23:6) he does not dwell this time as on two former occasions (Job 9:34; Job 13:21); he merely touches it with suggestive brevity. His consciousness of innocence is too strong to allow him to give way long to this thought; thanks to the incessant assaults and accusations of the friends, it has become consolidated and strengthened to such a degree that in Job 19:0. (as indeed had been the case before here and there, especially in Job 16:17; Job 17:9) it even found utterance in decided exaggeration, and drove him to extreme assertions touching his absolute blamelessness and immaculateness, for which he must hereafter implore pardon. Among these assertions we find the following: that he would come forth out of God’s trial of him like gold, that he would never swerve from His ways, that he had always observed the words of His mouth more than his own law (Job 23:10-12). All the more emphatic however is the stress which he lays on the other reasons why that wish seems to him incapable of realization. God, he thinks, purposely withdraws Himself from him. It is deliberately and with good reason that He keeps Himself at a distance and hidden from him, it being now His settled purpose to make him drain his cup of suffering to the dregs (Job 23:13 seq.). [“Job’s suspicion against God is as dreadful as it is childish. This is a profoundly tragic stroke. It is not to be understood as the sarcasm of defiance; on the contrary, as one of the childish thoughts into which melancholy bordering on madness falls. From the bright height of faith to which Job soars in Job 19:25 seq., he is here again drawn down into the most terrible depth of conflict, in which, like a blind man, he gropes after God, and because he cannot find Him thinks that He flees before him lest He should be overcome by him. The God of the present Job accounts his enemy; and the God of the future to whom his faith clings, who will and must vindicate him so soon as He only allows Himself to be found and seen—this God is not to be found.” Delitzsch.]. It is not the invisible essence of God in general, not that He cannot be discovered by those who seek Him on earth east or west, north or south (Job 19:8-9)—it is not the pure spirituality and the divine omnipresence, which extinguishes his hope in God’s interposition to vindicate and to redeem him. The thought of that divine unsearchableness, which he beautifully describes in a way that reminds us of Psalms 139:7-9, as well as of Zophar’s first discourse (Job 11:8-9), could have had nothing terrible or cheerless for him. Just as little (as he expressly declares in the closing verse of the First Part, Job 23:17) would the contemplation of his woful physical condition, and the tragical calamities of his outward life have sufficed to plunge him into the fear of death and dumb despair. That which fills him with dismay and terror, that which makes his heart faint, and removes the prospect of his deliverance to the indefinite future, is that same predestinatianism, that same dread of a mysterious, inexorable, and as regards himself malign decree of God, which had already extorted repeatedly from him a cry of lamentation, and which had formed the dark back-ground which so often emerges behind his meditations thus far (comp. Job 6:9 seq.; Job 7:12 seq.; Job 9:22 sqq.; Job 10:13 seq.; Job 13:15 seq.; Job 16:12 sq.; Job 19:6 seq.). No comforting, brightening, alleviating thought, no joyous soaring of hope in God’s compassion, bringing help however late, is to be seen anywhere in this discourse, as was the case e. g. in Job 17:0. and 19. On the contrary the Second Division of the discourse lays out before us a much wider circle of phenomena and sentiments at variance with a righteous and merciful activity on the part of God. The experience which he had, or believed that he had, of God’s treatment of him as unsympathetic and harsh, as being a mere exhibition of divine power, without the slightest trace of justice or fatherly kindness—this experience he utters in the general proposition: “that God had appointed no times of judgment, would let His friends see no days on this earth in which He would exercise righteous retribution” (Job 24:1). This proposition he expands into an eloquent description of the manifold injustice, which men of the most diverse classes inflict on one another, while the wrongs of the outraged and oppressed weaker party are never redressed or avenged (Job 24:2 seq). Toward the end of this picture, which is true in a sense, although one-sided in its tendency, he changes his tone somewhat to be sure, and by strongly emphasizing the certainty that a rigid judgment of God will at the last terminate the course of the wicked (Job 24:18-21; Job 24:24), qualifies the preceding accusation against the divine justice. Even this however is by no means a surrender to the doctrine of a retribution in this life, as taught by the friends. The chief emphasis even in this passage rests rather on the long delay (משך Job 24:22 a) in interposing for such punishment, on the long duration of their impunity from punishment, or even on the not uncommon prolongation of this state down to their natural death, to which they are subject in common with all men (Job 24:24; see on the ver.). Job here certainly concedes something to his opponents, essentially however not much more than he had conceded already in Job 21:0. where ( Job 21:17 seq.; Job 21:23 seq.) without denying the fact of the final punishment of the ungodly, he had represented it as much more commonly the case that they were spared any judicial inflictions down to the end of their life. The triumphant exclamation with which he ends his speech: “who will convict me of falsehood?” is intended simply to confirm this fact of experience, in accordance with which this impunitas hominum sceleratorum is the general rule, whereas their justa punitio is the exception, at least in this world.

2. Job however does concede somewhat more here than there; he at least dwells longer on the punishment of the ungodly, as a fact which is not altogether unheard of in the course of human destiny—whether the passage in which he describes it be only a free quotation of the language of his opponents, as the later commentators in part exclaim (see on Job 24:18 seq.), of the expression of his own conviction. And this indicates clearly enough progress for the better in his temper of mind and mode of thought, a progress which is still further indicated by the fact that in the preceding description of God as restraining Himself in the infliction of punishment a calm tone of objective description has a decided predominance, and nothing more is to be discerned of his former passionate, at times even blasphemous complaints touching the tyrannical harshness and cruel vindictiveness of the Almighty in persecuting him with poisoned arrows, sword-thrusts, and merciless scourgings. The terrible fatalistic phantom of a God exercising only His power, and not also His justice and love, which had formerly tortured him, has unmistakably assumed a milder form, of a less threatening aspect than heretofore. In consequence of this, as well as by virtue of the calm dignity which enables him to meet with complete serenity the violent assaults and detractions of Eliphaz, and to avoid all controversy of a bttter personal character, his superiority over his opponents becomes ever more apparent, his statements and arguments drive with ever greater directness at the only possible solution of the controversy, and even where he is one-sided, as particularly in his description, in many respects impressive, of the course of the wicked, and of the needy ones whom they persecute (Job 24:2-17), his discussion has great value, and a fascinating power which is all the stronger by virtue of the comparatively calm objective tone of the treatment. It is in these indications of the growing purity and clearness of the sufferer’s spiritual frame, that the practical and homiletic lessons of the present section can be most advantageously studied.


Job 23:3 seq.—Oecolampadius (on Job 23:7): This word “disputing” or “reproving” expresses confidence rather than impatience or an unfavorable estimate of God. But if we blame this in Job, we must also blame what John and others say; “if our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” And wherefore does Christ command us to lift up our heads at His coming? Zeyss: Faith and a good conscience are the two chief jewels of a Christian (1 Timothy 1:5). Happy he who has kept these. When oppressed he can appear with confidence before God.

Job 23:8 seq. Brentius: Although God fills all things, and is all in all, we cannot approach Him, nor find Him without a Mediator; whether we seek Him before or behind, to the right hand or to the left, He is always afar off, we never lay hold upon Him. For even if we should attempt to approach Him without a mediator, we are deterred from having access to Him in part by the darkness in which He dwells, in part by His power and majesty, in part by His justice.

Job 23:13 seq. Zeyss: As God is one in His nature, so also is He unchangeable in His will (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29). Let us therefore submit ourselves in humility and obedience to His good and holy will! The cross which He lays upon us is always less than our sins deserve; His chastisements are tempered with mercy; Psalms 103:10.—v. Gerlach (on Job 23:17): In the consciousness of the treatment which he receives from the incomprehensible God, who has irrevocably determined every man’s destiny, Job is penetrated by the profoundest terror before this God. It is not his calamity in itself, not even his own experience of the extremity to which this calamity has brought him from which he shrinks. What a deep glance is here given us into the heart of a sorely tried servant of God, who in his complaints and struggles, spite of all suffering, thinks only of God, and fears nothing so much as that the fellowship of his God having been withdrawn from him, his God should become a terror to him.

Job 24:2 seq. Wohlfarth: How should the contemplation of the unnumbered sins, with which God’s fair earth is stained, affect us? Job was led thereby into temptation to doubt God’s justice. Let it not be so with us, who, enlightened by Christ, should see therein rather: (a) a melancholy proof of the continual inclination of our nature to evil, and of the slothfulness of our spirit to strive against the same; (b) a touching evidence of the long-suffering and patience of God; (c) an earnest warning to be on our guard against every temptation; (d) an emphatic reminder of the day of judgment, which will recompense every man according to his works.

Job 24:17. Starke: As works of the light are accompanied by a joyful conscience and good courage, so on the other hand with works of darkness there is nothing but fear, anguish and terror. For even the abandoned are not without an inward punishment in the conscience.—V. Gerlach: For sinners, who shun the light, the light of day itself is darkness, since through their departure from the eternal light of God, they bear about with them night in their souls (comp. Matthew 6:23; John 11:10), and thus they feel its terrors even in the midst of the brightness of the day.

Job 24:23 seq. Starke: Be not secure, if a sin passes unpunished; it is not on that account forgotten by God. The happier the ungodly are for a time, the more dangerous is their condition, and the more severely will they be punished at last.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Job 23". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/job-23.html. 1857-84.
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