JOB CHAPTER 24
The practice and prosperity of the wicked, Job 24:1-16. Their punishment and curse in the end, Job 24:17-25.
The sense of the words according to this translation is this,
Why, ( how comes it to pass,)
seeing times (i.e. the several times of every man’s life, how long he shall live, or the fittest seasons and opportunities (which are oft called times, as Genesis 24:11 Psalms 31:15 119:126 Acts 1:6,7) for every action, and particularly for the punishment of wicked men, about which the present controversy was)
are not hidden from or unknown to the almighty God, ( i.e. seeing all times, and men that live, and things that are done, or to be done, in their tines and seasons, are exactly known to God,)
do they that know him (i.e. who love and obey him, as that word is oft used, as, Psalms 9:10 36:10 91:14, or they who observe and regard his ways and works done in the world)
not see (whence is it that they cannot discern)
his (i.e. God’s)
days, i.e. his times and seasons which he takes for the punishment of ungodly men? which if they were constant and fixed in this life, as you pretend they are, they would not be unknown to good men, to whom God useth to reveal his secrets, and they could not be unobserved by so many good men, who make it their business to mind and study the works of God, and especially the course and methods of his providence towards good and bad men. The times or days of God’s executing judgments upon sinners are frequently called the days of the Lord, as Isaiah 2:12 13:6 Jeremiah 46:10; compare Job 20:28 Proverbs 6:34 Acts 2:20; as the time of man’s judging is called man’s day, 1 Corinthians 4:3. But this verse is in part, and may very agreeably to the Hebrew text be rendered and interpreted thus, Why or how are not times (i.e. the times and seasons appointed for the punishment of evil-doers, about which the dispute was) hidden or reserved by or with God, (i.e. kept as a secret in his own breast, and concealed from the knowledge of mankind. How can you say or think with any colour that these times are fixed and manifest to all men, and that sinners are constantly punished in this life, and that so notoriously that all good men see it, as was said, Job 22:15-19) seeing (as the particle you is rendered, Job 19:28; or for, as it is frequently used) they that know him (that give themselves to understand and consider his doings in the world, who of all men are most likely to know this, if it were true and certain) do not see his days, to wit, of punishing the wicked in this life? as was said before. And this he mentions as a fit preface to usher in the following discourse concerning the manifold wickedness of men, and withal their present impunity.
Some remove the landmarks; or, they (i.e. the wicked, of whom he here treats) touch (to wit, in an unlawful manner, and with evil design, as this word is oft used, as Genesis 26:11,29 Rth 2:9, so as to invade, or possess, or remove)
the landmarks, by which men’s lands are discerned, and their properties secured; that so they may enlarge their own border by diminishing their neighbour; which is so horrid an act of injustice, that it hath not only been severely forbidden by God, Deuteronomy 19:14 27:17 Proverbs 22:28 23:10, but also declared execrable by the heathens, among whom it was permitted to any man to kill him that did it.
Feed thereof; or, feed them. They do not hide or kill them, but openly feed them, either in their oppressed neighbour’s ground, which, by taking away the landmarks, they have made their own, or in their own pastures, without any remorse, or shame, or fear of punishment, either from God or men.
The ass, either the asses, the singular number being used collectively. Or he saith the ass, to aggravate their sin, that they robbed him who had but one ass. Compare 1 Samuel 12:2-4.
The fatherless; whose helpless condition required their pity and mercy.
The widow’s ox; thereby depriving her not only of the ox itself, but of all the benefit of its labours, by which she sustained her life.
For a pledge; contrary to God’s law, first written in men’s hearts, and afterwards in Holy Scripture, Exodus 22:26,27 Deu 24:6,10, &c.
Out of the way; either,
1. Out of the way of piety and justice. They engage them to take evil courses by their examples, or promises, or threatenings. Or,
2. Out of their right. Or,
3. Out of their course and way of living. Or rather, (as the word properly signifies, and as the next clause explains it,) out of the high-way; out of the path or place in which these wicked oppressors walk and range. They labour to keep out of their way and sight for fear of their further injuries and oppressions.
Hide themselves, for fear of these wicked tyrants and persecutors.
Together, for their mutual comfort and defence against those who should invade or disturb them there. Or, alike. Though some of the poor are more nearly related, or have been more serviceable to these oppressors, yet none of them can escape their rage and violence.
As wild asses; which are wild, and lawless, and unteachable, and fierce, and greedy of prey, or food, which they snatch out of the goods or labours of the husbandman; in all which they are fit emblems of these men. Or, these wild men; for so this word signifies, Genesis 16:12, as elsewhere wild asses. The particle as is not in the Hebrew. In the desert, which is the proper habitation of wild asses, Jeremiah 2:24. If this be understood of the wild men, he placeth them in the desert and wilderness, either because they by their spoils and violences have destroyed or driven away the people, as is intimated, Job 24:4, and thereby turned populous places into deserts; or because such places as have but few houses and inhabitants (which are oft so called, as Genesis 21:20,21 Jos 15:61,62 1 Kings 2:34 9:15 Isaiah 42:11 Matthew 3:1) are most fit for their robberies.
Go they; either,
1. The poor, whom they spoiled and drove away from their own former habitations into deserts, where they hid themselves, and wrought hard for a subsistence. Or rather,
2. The oppressors, who are more fitly compared to wild asses, and more truly said to seek for prey, than those poor oppressed persons mentioned Job 24:4, and of whom he speaks both in the foregoing and following verses.
To their work, i.e. to spoil and rob, which is their constant work and trade.
The wilderness yieldeth food for them; they are so diligent and industrious in that work, that they will fetch food for them and theirs even out of desert places, in which the owners can very hardly subsist.
For their children, or servants; for the word signifies both children and servants, even the whole family.
1. The poor, who are forced to gather in the corn and grapes of their wicked oppressors; or rather,
2. The oppressors, of whom he speaks Job 4:4,5,7.
His corn, i.e. the corn of the wicked, as it is in the next clause. Or, that which
is not their own; as the LXX., and Chaldee, and Vulgar Latin translate it, reading the Hebrew as two distinct words: they reap other men’s labours.
In the field, i.e. in the field of the right owner, from whom they take it. He notes their great power and boldness, that they did not come suddenly, and carry away their corn when it was laid up in the barns, or in heaps; but they proceeded leisurely, and staid to reap the corn, and by degrees carried it away, as it were in triumph, not fearing any interruption or hinderance either from God or man.
The vintage of the wicked; of such as themselves: so they promiscuously robbed all, even their own brethren in iniquity; whereby also he may intimate the righteous judgment of God in punishing one wicked man by another, and in depriving men of those goods which they had wickedly gotten. Or, the wicked (the singular number being used collectively for the plural, as is frequent; the oppressors)
gather the vintage, to wit, belonging to other men.
The naked, i.e. those whom they have made naked, whom they stripped of their garments and coverings; so far were they from exercising justice or charity towards them.
To lodge; to sleep in the night, which is the coldest season.
Without clothing; without bed-clothes to cover them: compare Deuteronomy 24:13.
In the cold of the night of the winter season. This verse is and may fitly be rendered thus, They cause men to lodge naked, because they have no clothing, (i.e. because they leave them nothing wherewith they can clothe themselves,) and
no covering in the cold; they leave them neither raiment to wear in the day, nor a covering for the night.
They, i.e. the poor, being stripped of their raiment, and forced away from their houses.
With the showers of the mountains; with the rain water, which in great showers run down from the rocks or mountains into the caves or holes in the sides of them, to which they fled for shelter.
Embrace the rock, i.e. are glad when they can find a cavern or cleft of a rock in which they may have some protection against the injuries of the weather, and a hiding-place from the fury of their oppressors. Compare Lamentations 4:5.
They; the wicked oppressors, as is manifest from the following words.
From the breast; either out of cruelty, not sparing poor infants, but killing them; or out of covetousness, and with design either to sell the mother, or to employ her in their work, to which they so strictly confine her, that they will not allow any of her time or strength for the suckling of her infant.
Take a pledge of the poor; of which See Poole "Job 22:6".
They cause him, the poor oppressed person, to go naked without clothing; leaving him nothing, or next to nothing, to cover him in the day-time, when he should go abroad to his labour to get his living, but cannot for want of clothes to cover his nakedness.
The sheaf from the hungry; that single sheaf which the poor man had got with the sweat of his brows to satisfy his hunger, they inhumanly take away, and add it to their own stores and full barns. Or, they are hungry; or they sent them away hungry; those words being repeated out of the former clause of the verse (as is most usual); which took or carried the sheaf, or their sheaves, i.e. which reaped and gathered in the rich man’s corn, for which they received injuries instead of a just recompence for their labour; and that when God’s liberality, and the bounty of the earth to them, invited and obliged them to kind and generous actions to others.
To wit, the poor man last mentioned.
Within their walls; either,
1. Within their own walls, i.e. in private and secret places, for fear of the oppressors. Or rather,
2. Within the walls of the rich oppressors, for their use and benefit; for the poor, alas! had no walls, nor houses, nor oliveyards, nor vineyards left to them, but they were violently spoiled of and driven away from all those things, as was said in the foregoing verses.
Their wine-presses, i.e. the grapes in their wine-presses, by a metonymy of the thing containing for the thing contained.
Suffer thirst; because they are not permitted to quench their thirst out of the wine which they make, though their labor’s both need and deserve refreshment.
Men groan under the burden of injuries and grievous oppressions.
From out of the city; not only in deserts or less inhabited places, where these tyrants have the greater opportunity and advantage to practise their villanies; but even in cities, where there is a face of order and government, and courts of justice, and a multitude of people to observe and restrain such actions; whereby they plainly declare that they neither fear God nor reverence man.
The soul of the wounded; either,
1. Properly, their soul sympathizing with the body, and being grieved for its insupportable miseries, crieth to God and men for help. Or rather,
2. The life or blood (which oft cometh under that name) of those who are there
wounded unto death, as this word properly signifies, Ezekiel 30:24, crieth aloud unto God for vengeance, Genesis 4:10 Revelation 6:9,10, whereby God might seem in some sort obliged to punish them; and yet he did not, as the next words declare.
Yet God layeth not folly to them: so the sense is, yet God doth not impute or lay to their charge this folly or wickedness, which in Scripture is commonly called folly; i.e. he takes no notice of these horrid oppressions, nor hears the cries of the oppressed, nor punishes the oppressors. Or, yet God (who seeth and permitteth all this) disposeth, or ordereth, or doth, (for all these things this Hebrew verb signifies,) nothing which is absurd, or foolish, or unsavoury, i.e. doth nothing in this permission and connivance unworthy of himself, or which a wise and considerate man cannot relish or approve, or which is not in itself righteous and reasonable, though we do not always discern the reasonableness of it.
This is added as the general character of the persons before mentioned, and as a great aggravation of their wickedness, that they were not modest sinners, which were ashamed of their evil ways, and therefore sinned in the dark, and in secret, as some who here follow; but sinned impudently in the face of the sun, and in spite of all their light, as well the light of reason and conscience, which abhors and condemns their wicked actions, as the light of Divine revelation, which was then in good measure imparted to the church and people of God in this time, and shortly after was committed to writing; all which they set at defiance, sinning with manifest contempt of God, and of men, and of their own consciences.
They know not; either,
1. They do not desire or care to know them; they are willingly ignorant of them. Or,
2. They do not approve, nor love, nor choose them; as knowing frequently signifies in the Scripture use.
The ways thereof, i.e. of the light, or in such ways and courses as are agreeable to the light. Or, in his ways, i.e. in the ways of God, who is oft understood in this book where he is not expressed.
Nor abide in the paths thereof; if they do some good actions, yet they do not persevere in well-doing, they are not constant and fixed in a good course of life.
With the light; as soon as the light appears, using no less diligence in his wicked practices, than labourers do in their honest and daily employments.
Killeth the poor and needy; where he finds nothing to satisfy his covetousness, he exerciseth his cruelty.
Is as a thief, i.e. he is really a thief; the particle as being oft used to express, not the resemblance but the truth of the thing, as Numbers 11:1 Deuteronomy 9:10 Hosea 4:4 Hosea 5:10 John 1:14. In the night they rob men secretly and cunningly, as in the day-time they do it more openly and avowedly.
The eye of the adulterer, i.e. the adulterer; but he mentions his eye, because the eye discerns the difference between light and darkness.
The twilight, to wit, for the evening twilight, which is his opportunity.
Saying in his heart, comforting himself with the thoughts of secretness and impunity.
Disguiseth his face, Heb. putteth his face in secret; covers it with a vizard or cloak, that he may be undiscovered.
They dig; either,
1. The adulterer last mentioned; although such persons do not use nor need these violent courses to get into the house of the adulteress, but are commonly admitted upon milder and easier terms. Or,
2. The thief or robber, whose common practice this is, of whom he spoke Job 24:14; and having on that occasion inserted the mention of the adulterer as one who acted his sin in the same manner as the night-thief did, he now returns to him again.
Which they had marked for themselves; the thief and his accomplices, designing by some secret mark the house of some rich man which they intended to rob, and the part of the house where they resolved to enter into it.
They know not the light, i.e. do not love nor like it, as Job 24:13; but abhor it, as it follows.
As the shadow of death, i.e. terrible and hateful, because it both discovers them and hinders their practices. If they are brought to light or discovered, they are overwhelmed with deadly horrors and terrors. Or, as the words are, and may very agreeably to the Hebrew be rendered thus: but (as the Hebrew particle commonly signifies)
they know (Heb. he knoweth, every one of them knoweth, i.e. approveth and loveth)
the terrors of the shadow of death, i.e. the grossest darkness of the night, which to other men is as terrible as the shadow of death, but to these men is most acceptable: so this clause is fitly opposed to the former; he hates the light, and he likes darkness.
In these words he describes either,
1. The wicked man’s disposition and deportment, that such persons are light and frothy in their spirits, or swift or hasty to do evil, or unstable in their ways as the waters, or upon the face of the waters, i.e. like the foam, or froth, or any other light thing which swims upon the top of the waters. Or rather,
2. His miserable condition, of which he manifestly speaks in the next words, and in the two next verses. For though Job constantly affirms and maintains it against his friends, that many ungodly men do prosper and escape punishment in this life; yet withal he observes and asserts that God will certainly sooner or later punish them, and that he sometimes doth it here, cutting them off by cruel and untimely deaths, or otherwise inflicting some notable judgment upon them; of which he also speaks Job 21:17, &c. So the sense is,
He is swift, i.e. he quickly putteth away with all his glory,
as the waters, which never stay in one place, but are always hasting and running away; or like a ship, or any other thing which swimmeth upon the face of the waters: though he seems to stand as firm and unmovable as a rock, and to have taken deep rooting in the earth, yet he is suddenly and unexpectedly removed and pulled up by the roots. Their; or, his; for he still speaks of the same person, though with a change of the number, which is most familiar in this book, and elsewhere in Scripture.
Portion, or part, i.e. his habitation and estate which he left behind him.
Is cursed in the earth; is really accursed by God, and is by all men who live near it, or observe it, pronounced accursed, because of the remarkable judgments of God upon it, and upon his posterity or family to which he left it, and from whom it is strangely and suddenly alienated.
He beholdeth not the way of the vineyard, i.e. he shall never more see or enjoy his vineyards, or other pleasant places and things, which seem to be comprehended under this particular.
As the snow, though it doth for a time lie upon the ground, yet at last is dissolved into water by the heat of the season, and that water quickly swallowed up by the earth when it is dry and thirsty; so ungodly sinners, though they live and prosper for a season, yet at last they shall go into the grave, which will consume them, together with all their hopes and comforts; their jolly life is attended with a sad, and ofttimes sudden and violent, death; not with such a death as the godly die, which perfects them and brings them to happiness, but with a consuming and never-dying death.
His mother that bare him in her womb, and much more the rest of his friends, shall seldom or never remember or mention him, to wit, with honour and comfort, but shall rather be afraid and ashamed to own their relation to one that lived such a vile and wretched life, and died such an accursed death. This he shall have instead of all that honour and renown which he thirsted and laboured for, and expected should perfume his name and memory. This proud and insolent tyrant that preyed upon all his neighbours, Job 24:2,3, &c., shall himself become a prey and a sweet morsel to the contemptible worms.
He shall be no more remembered, to wit, with honour, or so as he desired and hoped; but his name shall rot, and scarce ever be mentioned but with infamy and execration.
Wickedness, i.e. the wicked man, of whom he is here treating; the abstract being put for the concrete, of which many instances have been formerly given;
shall be broken to pieces, or violently broken down, as the word signifies. He shall be utterly and irrecoverably destroyed. And this expression plainly showeth first the former clauses are not to be understood of the sinner’s happiness in an easy and comfortable death, but of his cursed and miserable end.
As a tree; which being once broken, either by its own weight, or by some violent wind, or by the hand of man, never groweth again.
1. God, who is oft understood, who having cut off his person, and brought him to his grave, continues his judgments upon his wife or widow, and family. Or rather,
2. The oppressor, who is the principal subject of almost all that is said in this chapter; whose great and manifold wickedness Job described from Job 24:2-18, where he proceeds to relate the judgments of God upon him for his sins; which having done, Job 24:18-20, he here returns to the declaration of his further wickednesses, the cause of these judgments.
Evil entreateth; or feedeth upon, or devoureth, or breaketh in pieces; for all these the word signifieth, and all come to one and the same thing.
The barren that beareth not: barrenness was esteemed a curse and reproach; and so he added affliction to the afflicted, whom he should have pitied and helped; but because such had no children, and the widows no husbands, to defend or avenge their cause, he exercised cruelty upon them.
Doeth not good: either,
1. He did her much wrong and harm, it being usual in Scripture under such negative expressions to contain the affirmation of the contrary; as Exodus 20:7 Proverbs 17:21 28:21. And so this branch answers to the former, of evil entreating. Or,
2. He afforded her no help, or advice, or comfort in her distresses; and so he intimateth the greatness of omission sins, and that the common neglect or contempt of plain and positive duties, whether of piety to God, or of charity to men, is to be reckoned among high and heinous crimes.
He draweth, either into his net, as Psalms 10:9, or to his party, to assist and serve him in his enterprises.
The mighty; who are mighty in place, or wealth, or power; he practiseth upon these as well as upon the poor.
With his power; which being greater than theirs, he soon forceth them to comply with his desires and demands.
He riseth up, to wit, against any man, as this phrase is used, Psalms 18:38 44:5; when he sets himself against a man, and resolves to destroy him.
No man is sure of life, i.e. none of them whom he so opposeth can be secure or confident of holding his life, but all such give up themselves for lost men, as knowing they cannot resist his greater might: compare Deuteronomy 28:26.
Heb. He giveth to him to be in safety, or all things necessary for his safety, &c. This verse is understood either,
1. Of the oppressor; if the oppressor give a man his hand or promise that he shall live in safety by him, or if the oppressed give gifts to the oppressor to purchase his quiet and safety, and, as it follows, he resteth upon that assurance given him;
yet his, i.e. the oppressor’s,
eyes are upon their ways; he watcheth for their halting, and seeks for all occasions to quarrel with them, and to destroy them. Or rather,
2. Of God; and so the words are fitly rendered thus, He, i.e. God, giveth or granteth to him, i.e. to the oppressor, to be in safety, i.e. to live a quiet and comfortable life, and he resteth secure, or he resteth or leaneth upon him, i.e. upon God; his former experience of God’s favour makes him confident of the continuance of it: so he is not only happy in his present enjoyments, but also in his freedom from distracting fears of future miseries; and his, i.e. God’s, eyes
are upon their ways, i.e. God blesseth and prospereth him in all his undertakings, as this phrase most commonly signifies, as Deuteronomy 11:12 Ezra 5:5 Psalms 33:18. Or,
yet his eyes are upon their ways, i.e. although God giveth them such strange successes, this doth not proceed from his ignorance or regardlessness of their wicked actions; for he sees and observes them all, and will in due time punish them, though not always in this life, nor as soon as their sins are committed, but in such time and way as he in deep wisdom seeth most fit.
They live in honour and happiness, but not for ever, but only at best during this short and mortal life, which lasteth but for a very little time, and therefore their present happiness is not to be envied; nor is it any reproach to God’s providence, which hath time enough to reckon with them hereafter.
Are gone, Heb. are not, to wit, in this world; they die.
Brought low; as low as their graves. Or, after (as the particle vau is elsewhere used, as hath been observed before) they have been brought low, to wit, by pining sickness, or other grievous judgments.
Out of the way, i.e. out of this world and way of living, by death. Or, are restrained, or shut up, to wit in the grave, the place of silence and impotency.
As all other; they can no more prevent or delay their death than the meanest men in the world. Cut off by death’s sickle, or by a violent hand.
As the tops of the ears of corn, to wit, in his greatest height and maturity, when he is arrived at his perfect stature of worldly power and glory, then God cuts him off, and that suddenly and violently.
If it be not so now, to wit, as I have discoursed; if God doth not suffer wicked men to live long and prosperously in the world before he punisheth them; and if good men be not sometimes sorely afflicted there, if all things do not fall alike to all men in these matters.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Job 24". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany