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

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-34


The ungodly, instead of experiencing the miseries indicated by Zophar, often, perhaps generally, enjoy continued ease and prosperity in this life.

I. Introduction (Job 21:2-6).

1. Bespeaks earnest attention (Job 21:2). “Hear diligently my speech.” Men of wisdom and experience, especially pious sufferers, worthy to be seriously listened to. Solemn and weighty truths to be heard with corresponding attention. Heb., “Hear, hear.” Serious matters call for double or diligent hearing. Deep attention to be given to truths concerning God’s mysterious providence, still more to those regarding a provided Saviour and the great salvation (Hebrews 2:1). An aggravated sin when God stretches out His hand and no man regards it (Proverbs 1:24).

A reason given for such attention: “And let this be (or, ‘and this shall be’) your consolations.” Allusion to Zophar’s boasted consolations (ch. Job 15:11). Sometimes mourners more relieved by our listening to their sentiments than by uttering our own. Better to be silent in the presence of the afflicted than to dispute or censure. Consolation due to sufferers from their friends. A brother born for adversity. Professed comforters may become real tormentors.

2. Solicits patience (Job 21:3). “Suffer me that I may speak.” Patience especially due to sufferers. Persons who speak much themselves generally most impatient of others. The Scripture rule—“Swift to hear, slow to speak.”—“And after that I have spoken, mock on.” A troubled spirit often cased by utterance. Sad when those who ought to be comforters in our affliction become mockers (ch. Job 17:2). One of Job’s greatest trials to be mocked by his friends (ch. Job 12:4). As much patience required to endure mockings as scourgings (Hebrews 11:36).

3. Justifies his displeasure (Job 21:4). “As for me, is my complaint to man? And if it were so, why should not my spirit be troubled?” (margin, “shortened;” same word rendered “discouraged,” Numbers 21:5; “grieved,” Judges 10:16; “vexed,” Judges 16:16; “straitened,” Micah 2:7; “hasty,” Proverbs 14:29; “anguish,”Exodus 6:9; Exodus 6:9). Sorrow contracts the heart as joy enlarges it (Psalms 119:32). The flesh is soon angry, while grace is long suffering. Job complains not to man, but to God, as the author of his troubles. His complaint both of God and to God; the former the complaint of the flesh, the latter that of the spirit. Grace teaches to look away from instruments and second causes to God Himself. So David (2 Samuel 16:10).

Job justifies his displeasure on the ground that God dealt so hardly with him. His language too much that of the prophet at Nineveh and Elijah under the juniper-tree. The flesh always and in all alike. Thinks that under severe trouble we “do well to be angry.” Grace enables us to kiss the rod that smites us, and to say, “Abba, Father; not my will, but Thine be done.” Jesus rather than Job our pattern in affliction. Our privilege in Christ to be strengthened with all might, according to God’s glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness (Colossians 1:11).

4. Invites solemn attention to the astounding fact of suffering saints and prosperous sinners (Job 21:5). “Mark me and be astonished, and lay your hand upon your mouth” [in silent awe and wonder]. God’s dealings in Providence to be regarded with reverence and awe. Habakkuk’s experience (Habakkuk 3:16); David’s (Psalms 119:120). The sufferings of saints and prosperity of sinners a subject mysterious and inscrutable till read in the light of inspired Scripture (Psalms 13:3). Anomalies in God’s government awaiting the explanations of eternity.

Expresses his own feelings in reference to this mysterious fact and its influence upon himself (Job 21:6). “Even when I remember I am afraid, and trembling taketh hold on my flesh.” Our own experience, as well as that of others, often to be remembered with trembling (Lamentations 3:19-20). The part of grace not only to tremble at God’s word, but God’s works (Isaiah 66:2). The speaker to be duly affected himself by the truths he addresses to others. Must weep himself if be would have his hearers weep.

II. Problem proposed. Commences with a question implying an undoubted fact (Job 21:7).

“Wherefore do the wicked live (or, enjoy life), become old, yea mighty in power” (or wealth). Three facts implied regarding the ungodly in this life:—

1. They “live;” are permitted to continue in life and to enjoy it.
2. In many instances “become old;” ordinarily viewed as an element of prosperity and a mark of Divine favour. The hoary head not always found in the way of righteousness.

3. “Become mighty in power” and substance; enjoy great worldly prosperity (Psalms 78:12). Such facts hardly to be expected under the government of a righteous God. The perplexity and almost despair of Asaph (Psalms 73:2-13). The 73rd Psalm a commentary on this chapter of Job. Such facts suggest inquiry as to the cause. Scripture furnishes the reply. (See Romans 2:4; 1 Timothy 1:16; Psalms 73:18; Ecclesiastes 8:11-13; Luke 2:35, &c.; Psalms 16:4; Romans 9:22). The present not the only state of man’s existence. This life a state of probation and discipline, not of retribution. The present a time of forbearance and mercy; God waiting for the sinner’s repentance in order to be gracious to him. God’s goodness intended to lead to repentance. The ungodly spared in order to have time for repentance; “the long-suffering of God is salvation;” not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9-15). Their prosperity an exercise for the faith of the godly. A standing evidence of a time of future retribution. A monument to the glory of the Divine patience and long suffering. Renders the impenitence of men inexcusable and justifies all their future punishment. Demonstrates the inferiority of earthly to heavenly blessings.

III. Description of the prosperity of the ungodly (Job 21:8-13).

1. In relation to their children (Job 21:8). “Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes.” Their children obtain a firm and prosperous position in the world, and that while they themselves still live to see and enjoy it. Important elements in a man’s earthly felicity:—

(1) To have a numerous offspring;
(2) To see his children prosperous and established in the world;
(3) To have them continuing to live with or near him;

(4) To live to see and rejoice in their earthly prosperity and happiness. Some of these elements formerly enjoyed by Job, though no longer so. The happiness of the ungodly, in relation to their children, again touched upon under another aspect in Job 21:11. “They send forth their little ones (out of doors, under a guardian or guide), and their children dance” (frisk sportively as lambs in the pasture). Pleasing picture of domestic happiness and prosperity. The children viewed as still young and under their parents’ guardianship. Healthy, happy, frolicking children a pleasant spectacle, especially to parents’ eyes. A large ingredient in the cup of earthly bliss. Homes lighted up with children’s innocent hilarities the gift of a gracious God.

2. Domestic security and freedom from affliction and trouble (Job 21:9). “Their houses are safe from fear (of any hostile attack or elemental violence), neither is the rod of God upon them.” The contrast to the case of Job and his children. Sons experience chastisement from which slaves are exempt. Freedom from afflictions and trials no mark of a child of God. The ungodly “have no changes, therefore they fear not God” (Psalms 55:19). Ill sign for a man when God will not spend a rod upon him [Brookes].

3. Success in business and freedom from worldly losses (Job 21:10). “Their bull gen-dereth and faileth not; their cow calveth and casteth not her calf” (by an untimely birth). Matters in which human skill and industry seem to have but little to do. As if a blessing rested on all the work of their hands, and on all their belongings. Their very cattle prosperous and fruitful. People in everything fortunate, and, as the world say, lucky.

4. Enjoyment of music and festivity (Job 21:12). “They take (or ‘lift up’ [their voice] to) the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at (or, trip merrily to) the sound of the organ” (or pipe—musical instruments of greatest antiquity [Genesis 4:21; Genesis 31:27]; the “organ” with us a comparatively modern invention). The life of the persons in question one, to a large extent, of festivity and enjoyment. Their dwellings abundantly enlivened with the sound of music, vocal and instrumental. The ungodly no strangers to the hilarity of music and dancing. “The harp and viol, the tabret and pipe, are in their feasts, while they regard not the work of the Lord” (Isaiah 5:12). “They chant to the sound of the viol and invent to themselves instruments of music like David, but are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph” (Amos 6:5-6). Musical instruments an invention of the descendants of Cain (Genesis 4:21). Yet


one of God’s choicest earthly blessings. Its influence beneficial on the individual and the household. Its effects on man’s nature manifold and important. Rests fatigue. Relieves pain. Subdues passion. Soothes suffering. Mitigates sorrow. Allays nervous irritation. Resists melancholy. Saul’s evil spirit yielded to the sweet sounds of David’s harp (1 Samuel 16:23). Inspires courage and inspirits the brave. The rousing strains of Highland bagpipes helped to win the day at Waterloo. Music powerful in the conflict of life. A means of moral culture. Assists devotion. Calms and elevates the mind for the communication and reception of Divine truth. The prophet calls first for the aid of a minstrel (2 Kings 3:15). Music a Divine art and heavenly employment. Heaven filled with music. Something of divinity in music more than the ear discovers [Sir T. Browne]. The beneficial effect of soft and sweet sounds, especially of sacred music, upon the sick, an acknowledged fact. Music “whispered to the weary spirit” sometimes the only sound to be endured by the sick and sorrowful. Music to be consecrated to the glory of its Divine Author. “A table without music little better than a manger” [Epictetus]. Especially true of the song of praise and thanksgiving. Music, like other Divine gifts, often desecrated to the service of the god of this world. The Enemy’s object to make a sinful and worldly life as agreeable as possible. Helps men to forget death and a judgment to come in the sweet sounds of earthly music. Nero played on his harp while gazing on Rome in flames, the probable effect of his own wickedness.

5. A joyous life and an easy and painless death. Job 21:13.—“They spend their days in wealth (prosperity or pleasure), and in a moment go down to the grave” (without any painful, lingering disease, or without inward terrors of conscience). A case probably at least as frequent as that described in such tragic terms by Zophar (chap. Job 20:16-28). Exemplified in the rich fool (Luke 12:16-20), and in Dives (Luke 16:19-22). Observe—

(1). The main concern of a godless man is about his wealth or worldly happiness. In regard to wealth, his care is—

(1) To get it;
(2) To keep it;
(3) To enjoy it.
(2). An easy death after a prosperous life one of the desires of the ungodly, and frequently experienced by them. Such a death a blessing to the godly; to the ungodly a curse. An uneasy death-bed a thousand times better than an undone eternity.

(3). A godless life often finished with a sudden and unprepared for death. The sinner’s greatest misery only to discover his misery when too late to escape it. To a believer sudden death is sudden glory.

IV. The hardening effect of this prosperity on the wicked themselves

Job 21:14.—“Therefore they say (in works if not. in words): Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways. What is the Almighty that we should serve Him? And what profit should we have if we pray to Him?” (Heb.: “If we meet Him?”—i.e., in a way of prayer). God’s goodness often perverted by the ungodly to an end the opposite of that intended. That goodness improved leads men to repentance; abused, drives them farther from it. Un-sanctified wealth a blessing perverted into a curse. Riches, with the heart in them, separate men still farther from God. One effect of Divine grace is that men “fear the Lord and His goodness.” The tendency of fallen human nature is to grow proud and independent of God in prosperity. “Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked” (Deuteronomy 32:15). The terrible enmity of the carnal mind against God perhaps most conspicuous in prosperity. Ordinarily, gifts and kindness attract and attach to the giver.—The text an awful exhibition of man’s

Natural Depravity

That depravity displayed—

1. In ingratitude and enmity towards God. “Depart from us.”
2. In dislike to God’s ways. “We desire not,” &c.
3. In pride and independence in regard to God. “What is the Almighty?” &c.
4. In infidelity and unbelief. “What profit should we have?” &c.

These verses a comment on David’s testimony concerning the ungodly in every age “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalms 14:1). An illustration of the Apostle’s language in reference to the unrenewed: “Alienated from the life of God;” “Without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12; Ephesians 4:18). The history of mankind, the literature of every land, and the observation of every day, a humbling confirmation of the patriarch’s description of—

“An impious world,

Who deem religion frenzy, and the God
Who made them an intruder on their joys.”

From the whole passage observe—

1. The misery of the ungodly that they are far from God, and desire to be still farther. “They say unto God: Depart from us.” To be weary and impatient of God’s presence the strongest evidence of a wicked heart. What constitutes the joy and desire of a saint is the torment and aversion of an impenitent sinner. Awful result to the ungodly man when God grants him the wish of his unrenewed heart.

2. Impenitent men do not desire to know God’s wags, much less to walk in them. “We desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.” God’s ways are—

(1) His own doings and procedure;
(2) The conduct He prescribes to His intelligent creatures. The mark of a gracious heart to desire to know God’s ways; still more to walk in them. Men’s sin and misery not to know God’s ways; still more not to have the desire to know them.

3. God’s service founded on a just consideration of the Almighty. “What is the Almighty that we should serve Him?” Ir-religion the result of spiritual blindness and ignorance of God. The Almighty infinitely worthy to be served—

(1) For what He is in Himself—good, holy, just, wise, faithful, and powerful;
(2) For what He is to us—our Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, and in Christ our Redeemer.
4. The part of infidelity and ungodliness to question the utility of prayer. “What profit should we have if we pray to Him?” God’s purpose and plan to give to the humble and believing asker (Ezekiel 36:37; Matthew 7:7; Philippians 4:6-7; James 1:5-6; James 4:2-3). For answer to the question: “What profit should we have?” &c, ask—

(1) Those who live a life of prayer;
(2) A dying bed;
(3) The day of judgment. If religion costs something, the want of it one day found to cost much more. The mark of a depraved nature to ask, not “What is right?” but “What profit should we have?” The profitable only found in the right. Duty first; utility next.

5. The whole Bible and the history of the Church of God on earth an answer to the question of infidelity in the text.

Abraham’s servant prayed to God, and God directed him to the person who should be a wife to his master’s son and heir (Genesis 24:10-20).

Jacob prayed to God, and God inclined the heart of his irritated brother, so that they met in friendship and peace (Genesis 32:24-30; Genesis 33:1-4).

Samson prayed to God, and God showed him a well of water, where he quenched his burning thirst, and so lived to judge Israel (Judges 15:18-20).

David prayed, and God defeated the counsel of Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:31; 2 Samuel 16:20-23; 2 Samuel 17:14-23).

Daniel prayed, and God enabled him both to tell Nebuchadnezzar his dream and the interpretation of it (Daniel 2:16-23).

Nehemiah prayed, and God inclined the heart of the King of Persia to grant him leave of absence to visit and rebuild Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:11; Nehemiah 2:1-6).

Esther and Mordecai prayed, and God defeated the purpose of Haman, and saved the Jews from destruction (Esther 4:15-17; Esther 6:7-8).

The believers in Jerusalem prayed, and God opened the prison-doors and set Peter at liberty, when Herod had resolved upon his death (Acts 12:1-12).

The profit from prayer, however, not confined to direct answers.

Paul prayed that the thorn in the flesh might be removed, and his prayer brought a large increase of spiritual strength, while the thorn, perhaps, remained (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Prayer like the dove that Noah sent forth, and which blessed him not only when it returned with an olive leaf in its mouth, but when it never returned at all.

The question which the Patriarch puts into the mouth of the ungodly and infidel in his day boldly repeated in our own; as indicated in the famous prayer-test lately proposed by a Professor in one of the Scotch Universities, and a leading member of the British Association for the Promotion of Scientific Knowledge.

Observe in regard to—


(1.) The profit from prayer taught by the natural instinct of the human race. Natural to men, even the most ungodly and unenlightened, to think of calling upon some superior Being in the time of danger or of trouble. The erection of the altar to the unknown God at Athens due to this feeling on the part of the Athenians. The conduct of the heathen sailors in the ship which was to convey Jonah to Tarshish, an indication of the feelings and views of humanity (Jonah 1:5).

(2.) Profit from prayer a natural and necessary conclusion from the acknowledged fatherhood of God. An instinct of nature for a child to apply to a father in difficulty or distress.

(3.) Answers to prayer only desirable when our prayers are according to the will of God. If otherwise, answers to prayer rather a bane than a blessing. “He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their souls” (Psalms 106:15).

(4.) One part of the Holy Spirit’s office to leach those who are under His guidance what to ask for (Romans 8:26-27).

(5.) Profit from prayer on the part of those who are living in rebellion against God, a matter of the merest mercy. The practice of sin a sufficient reason why prayer may not be answered. Righteous with God to say as He did to the Jews: “Yea, when ye make many prayers I will not hear; your hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1:15). Iniquity only regarded in the heart sufficient to hinder answers to prayer (Psalms 66:18).

(6.) Access to God and assurance of answers to prayer the precious fruit of the incarnation, death, and intercession of the Son of God (Hebrews 4:16). Christ, or the Son of God in our nature, the only and divinely-constituted medium of communication between fallen men and a righteous and holy God. The ladder which Jacob saw in his dream at Bethel, with the angels of God ascending and descending upon it (Genesis 28:12; John 1:51).

(7.) True prayer ameetingwith God. (Heb.) “What profit if we meet with Him?” Prayer vain if not a meeting with God. Christ the meeting-place between a Holy God and sinful man (Hebrews 4:14-16.) Figured by the mercy-seat (Ezekiel 22:26). Christ the only way to the Father, and only Mediator between God and men (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5). God’s love to man manifested in His providing Christ as a meeting-place between Himself and sinners. In and through Christ, men able now to meet with God on a throne of grace; apart from Christ, God only to be met with on a throne of judgment. Men must either meet with God in prayer now, or meet with Him in judgment hereafter. A meeting with God on the part of men certain and inevitable, sooner or later. The question is, of what nature shall the meeting be? May be one to our unspeakable joy, or to our everlasting sorrow. To meet with God in prayer through Christ now, is life; to meet with Him in judgment without Christ hereafter, is death. Madness to put away a meeting with God till we can only meet with Him as an angry Judge. God, in Christ, a Father waiting with open arms to receive His penitent and praying children; God, apart from Christ, a consuming fire to devour His impenitent and prayerless adversaries. A sinner’s blessedness to meet with God as, in Christ, reconciled and reconciling the World to Himself.

V. Job’s protest against a life of prosperous ungodliness (Job 21:16). “Lo, their good is not in their hand: the counsel of the wicked, is far from me.” Observe—

1. Worldly prosperity and earthly blessings not less a good because abused—a good, though not the chief good. The part of sin—

(1) to pervert what is good in itself into an evil;
(2) To make a temporal good the chief good instead of an eternal one.

2. The good enjoyed by the ungodly neither a satisfying nor a lasting one; “their good is not in their hand,”—a thing neither to be grasped nor retained. Mighty difference between the good of the believer and the worldling. The one substance, the other shadow; the one lasting and eternal, the other momentary and perishing. The ungodly unable to retain their prosperity and happiness a moment beyond God’s pleasure. A thousand accidents able to rob them of it at any moment. No real good in their hand, and still less in their hope.

3. Care to be taken not to be influenced by the prosperity of the godless and worldly.

(1) By consideration of the truth and reality of their case; their prosperity only temporary, and their happiness unreal; “their good not in their hand;”
(2) By steadfast repudiation of their principles and life. “The counsel of the wicked is far from me.” Consider, in regard to—

The counsel of the wicked

First: what it is. The principles upon which they act and by which their life is governed. These are—

(1) To make the enjoyment of the present life their chief good,—their first if not their only aim—take care for this life, and let the next take care of itself.
(2) To gain that enjoyment in any way they can with safety:—if honestly, well; if not, in any way you can.
(3) To depend on their own endeavours for what they desire, instead of God:—“Mine own hand hath gotten me this wealth.”
(4) To ignore God and eternity, heaven and hell, either as having no existence or no relation to themselves. The worldling’s creed—no reality but what is visible or cognizable by themselves. The seen and sensible only substance, all else shadow and moonshine.
(5) To despise the provision of a Saviour. Not this man, but Barabbas;
(6) To care for one’s self and immediate connections, and leave others to do the same. Attend to number one.

Second: Job’s conduct in regard to this counsel. “The counsel of the wicked is far from me.” The principles and practice of the ungodly, not only to be put away, but far away from us. Safest to stand at the greatest distance from sin. Joseph kept far from it, and had God’s blessing in the dungeon. David went near it and got broken bones. Sin an infectious plague; therefore not to be approached. The surest way not to walk in the counsel of the wicked is to keep far from it. “Enter not into the path of the wicked; avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it and pass away.” Occasions of sin to be avoided as well as sin itself. The harlot’s door to be avoided. He who carries gunpowder must keep far away from sparks. God only keeps from acts of sin those who keep from occasions of it. Look not intently on what you may not love entirely. (Brookes.) The counsel of the wicked to be put far from us—

(1) In out judgment. To be viewed in its real character. Condemned and repudiated as what it really is—wicked, abominable, destructive.

(2) In our will and purpose. Our language to be, what have I to do with idols? (Hosea 14:8). To choose with Mary the good part. To say with David: “Depart from me, ye evil-doers; for I will keep the commandments of my God.” “I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments” (Psalms 119:106; Psalms 119:115). So Daniel “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s meat” (Daniel 1:8).

(3) In our practice. Purpose to become practice. The man only blessed who “walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly” (Psalms 1:1). Our life to be governed by opposite principles.

Third: why is the counsel of the ungodly to be put far from us? From its character and issues. The principles of the ungodly and worldly are—

(1) Foolish and unreasonable. Only the fool says in his heart, no God. Absurd only to believe what we see. Madness to prefer the enjoyment, of a day to that of a life-time; the enjoyment of a short life-time to that of an endless eternity. The part of a fool to make careful provision for the body and neglect the soul which shall eternally survive it.

(2) Wicked. Intensely wicked to ignore and repudiate the God that made, preserves, and every moment sustains us; a God possessed of every excellence—the Author of our Being and our Well-being.

(3) Destructive. Certain and endless ruin the result of a sinful and worldly life,—of despising God and rejecting His Son, Jesus Christ, “All they that hate me love death.” What is sown here is reaped hereafter (Galatians 6:7-8; Psalms 16:4; Is Job 1:11; Romans 3:16; Romans 6:21; Romans 6:23; John 8:21; John 8:24).

Fourth: How is the counsel of the wicked to be put far away from us? Not easily. The counsel of the wicked is—

(1) Natural to a depraved heart. The carnal mind enmity against God. To follow the counsel of the wicked is to swim with the stream.

(2) Popular. The way of the multitude. To put it far away is to be singular. Not always easy to come out and be separate.

(3) Pleasing to the flesh. Sin wears a serpent’s skin. The forbidden fruit pleasing to the eye, and sweet to the taste. The principles and practice of the wicked and worldly only to be put far away from us—

(1) By a change of heart. A corrupt tree only brings forth evil fruit. “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,” &c. “Ye must be born again.” Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

(2) By acceptance of the offered Saviour and reliance on His grace. In looking to Him who died for our sin we are delivered from its power, and receive strength to overcome it. The cross of Christ our only deliverance from the counsel of the ungodly (Galatians 6:14).

(3) By the due use of means. (i.) Prayer. Spiritual strength given to waiting upon God and in answer to prayer (Isaiah 40:22-31; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Ezekiel 36:37). (ii.) Reading and meditation in the Scriptures (Psalms 17:4; Psalms 119:11; John 15:3; John 18:17). (iii.) Contemplation of the Saviour’s character and cross (2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 6:14). (iv.) Consideration of the character and consequences of sin.

Job’s practical renunciation of the counsel of the ungodly already a fact. Resolution is to become reality. The future to be translated into the present,—“Let it be” to become “it is.”

VI. The final misery of the ungodly, notwithstanding present prosperity (Job 21:17). “How oft is the candle of the wicked put out.” May be read either as a question implying the rarity of the case, or as an exclamation implying its frequency. The “candle,” or prosperity, of the wicked, extinguished by death, though frequently before it. Job’s main assertion, that the wicked often live, become old, and die in prosperity and ease. Yet their end destruction not the less. Asaph stumbled at the prosperity of the wicked till he went into the sanctuary and understood their end (Psalms 73:17).—“How oft cometh their destruction upon them.” Not always, nor even usually, visited with signal judgment and a miscrable death. Occasional cases as warnings, and as indications of a future judgment. Examples: the Deluge; destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha; Haman; Saul, Herod.—“God distributeth sorrows in His anger. Observe—

1. Continuance of outward prosperity consistent with secret wrath. The abuse of Divine gifts the greatest provocation of Divine anger. God’s wrath certain against ungodliness, however long its manifestation may be withheld. God angry with the wicked every day. Wrath treasured up against the day of wrath.

(2) The sorrows of the ungodly often sent in anger; those of the godly always in love. Those the most terrible sorrows that are distributed in God’s anger.

(3) Sorrows distributed by God as well as mercies. All sorrows distributed by a Divine hand; only, some distributed in anger, others in love. Trouble not from the dust. Wisely meted out, whether in mercy or in judgment. The cup mingled and measured, and sooner or later put into the hand of each. The cup of sorrow held out to a believer by a Father’s hand, to be exchanged ere long for the cup of joy. To he put at last into the hand of the ungodly (Isaiah 51:22-23; Luke 16:25).

(4) Terrible end of the wicked after a life of prosperity and pleasure (Job 21:18). “They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away, (margin, “stealeth away,” rapidly and unexpectedly as a thief in the night, Matthew 24:43; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 16:15). Frequent comparison of the ungodly to the fragments of straw and the chaff separated from the wheat on the open threshing-floor, exposed to the wind on a lofty situation, and thus carried violently, suddenly, and rapidly away by it, while the wheat is left for the garner (Psalms 1:4; Isaiah 29:5; Hosea 13:3). Indicates—

(1) God’s long-continued but exhausted patience;
(2) The worthlessness of the ungodly;
(3) Their final separation from the godly;
(4) Their utter and irremediable destruction.

VII. A sinful life often punished in its consequences on the sinner’s children (Job 21:19). “God layeth up his iniquity (or the punishment of it) for his children; he rewardeth him and he shall know (or feel) it. His eyes shall see his destruction (implying more than mere destruction itself; he shall have full and bitter experience of it; or shall see it approaching and yet be unable to escape from it), and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty [as before he drank iniquity, which is the cause of it]. For what pleasure hath he in his house after him, when the number of his months is cut off in the midst?” Perhaps an objection to his statement here anticipated and answered. If God does not punish the ungodly man in this life, yet, say the three friends, He punishes him in his children after him. But, replies Job, the punishment ought to be inflicted on himself; and he, not his children, ought, according to your principles, to feel it. His eyes ought to see his own destruction. For what has he to do with his family after him when he his dead? Observe—

(1) An undeniable truth that a man’s sins often entail their consequences on his children. Embodied in the second commandment (Exodus 20:5). Temporal consequences often entailed apart from sins in the children. The parents’ sins frequently inherited by the children, and their consequences along with them. A man in some degree punished in the person of his children. His children closely bound up with him as part of himself. A natural desire that it should be well with them after his death. His children’s suffering after his death an aggravation of his own.

(2) Sin, however, mainly punished in the person himself who commits it. Hence, that punishment not always inflicted in this life, as Zophar and his friends maintained. No less certainly however in the next, as maintained by Job.

VIII. Assertion of God’s infinite wisdom and knowledge (Job 21:22). “Shall any teach God knowledge? Seeing he judgeth those that are high.” God, unable to receive any accession to His wisdom or knowledge from the most intelligent of His creatures. The highest intelligences under His government and control. God universally acknowledged as the Judge and Ruler of heaven and earth (Genesis 18:25). Angels, devils, and men of every rank, under His sway and jurisdiction. Hell and destruction naked and open before Him. The hearts and counsels of men and angels exposed to His view. The expulsion of fallen angels an example of His judging “those that are high.” The judge of angels not to be directed by puny men (Romans 11:34; 1 Corinthians 2:16). He who judges angels needs no instruction how to deal with men. Hence—

(1) The case of each safe in his hands;
(2) No room for questioning or cavilling on the part of any of His creatures in reference to His providential dealings with them.

IX. Sovereignty and inscrutableness of Divine Providence. Men variously dealt with both in life and death without apparent reference to character and desert (Job 21:23). “One dieth in his full strength [with unimpaired health and vigour], being wholly at ease and quiet [in the hey-day of prosperity]. His breasts (margin, ‘milk pails’) are full of milk (or, his vessels, intestines, or sides are full of fat), and his bones are moistened with marrow. And another dieth in the bitterness of his soul (with an experience the opposite of the former, grief and pain pursuing him to the end), and never eateth with pleasure” (or, “never enjoys pleasure,”—a sufferer during his whole life) Varieties everywhere in men’s experience, both in life and in death. These varieties often and generally due rather to the sovereignty of the Divine Disposer than to the character and merits of individuals. Love and hatred not to be discovered by the external events in our lot. One event to all (Ecclesiastes 9:2).—Death equally the end of all (Job 21:25). “They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them,” Lessons from this unversality of death:—

(1) Contentment with one’s lot. External differences only for a short period of this present life. These assigned now in infinite wisdom, and all forgotten in the grave.

(2) Humility. The dust our final resting-place. Worms by-and-by our principal covering;

(3) Necessity of immediate preparation and constant readiness for death. Nothing more certain than death, and more uncertain than the time and circumstances. The grave a resting-place for the body; the soul, immortal and immaterial, has its dwelling elsewhere. Its place in the spirit-world according to its character and deeds in this. After death the judgment (Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 2:6-10). In the eternal world the rich and poor often change places. Lazarus comforted, Dives tormented (Luke 16:25).

X. Job’s remonstrance with his friends on their erroneous and uncharitable views (Job 21:27-30).

1. Exposes their secret cogitations regarding him (Job 21:27). “Behold I know your thoughts, and the devises which ye wrongfully imagine against me. For ye say [within yourselves], where is the house of the prince (the rich or munificent chief—alluding to Job himself, whose house was now desolate, and that of his eldest son in ruins)? and where are the dwelling-places of the wicked?” [margin, “the tent of the tabernacles;” Heb., the tent of the dwelling-places; either that of the rich chief in the midst of those of his household and clan, [chap. Job 38:19] or his house as divided into various apartments). The secret surmise of Job’s friends that the desolation of his own house, and that of his son, was a Divine retribution. From this desolation they injuriously conclude they had been wicked men. The errors of the Jews in Christ’s day, in reference to the slaughtered Galilæans and the disaster in Siloam (Luke 13:1-5.) That of the Miletians, in regard to Paul and the viper which fastened on his hand (Acts 28:4).

2. Refers them to the testimony of men of travel and observation (Job 21:29). “Have ye not asked them that go by the way? and do ye not know their tokens?” (or, “acknowledge their testimonies,”—the examples met with in their travels, and related by them to others, or their written communications, which are proofs of what I now advance). In the early ages of the world, and still to a great extent in the East, most of the information as to events in other lands obtained by travellers. That information, however, probably to some extent committed early to letters, here called “tokens,”—signs or marks (Genesis 4:15). Moses directed by God to write the song he delivered before his death, as well as the law of commandments (Deuteronomy 31:19-24). Letters among the earliest inventions. Probably at first hieroglyphics, or figures of animate or inanimate objects. (See ch. Job 19:23-24).

3. Testimony of travellers in relation to the wicked (Job 21:30). “That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction (spared often and long in this world, even in the midst of calamities that overtake others, though sure to be punished in the next, if not ultimately in this, as in the case of Pharaoh)? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath” (or, “they are led [as in a pompous procession] to the day of wrath,” which sooner or later overtakes them; or, “they are led [in safety] in the day of wrath” which comes upon the community; margin, the day of wraths—great or accumulated wrath, as Revelation 6:17). Job’s first position—God destroys, by external calamities, the righteous and the wicked indiscriminately (ch. Job 9:22-23). His second—The wicked are often spared in the midst of such calamities,—spared in ease and prosperity,—and spared long. Rests his assertions on facts. These facts not invalidated by occasional examples of the contrary. These in perfect harmony with, and even when rightly viewed, a confirmation of, a future retribution. Every day of wrath in this world points its finger to a still greater one in the next.

XI. Returns to the prosperity and power of the wicked as following them even to the grave

The ungodly often so powerful as to escape all reproof and punishment for their crimes in this world (Job 21:31). “Who shall declare his way to his face? and who shall repay him what he hath done?” None bold enough for the one, or powerful enough for the other. The case of John the Baptist in relation to Herod the Tetrarch, a rare one, especially in those early times. Job 21:32.—“Yet shall he (or ‘even this man’) be brought (conveyed in pomp and honour) to the grave. (Margin, ‘graves,’ the place of graves; or the sepulchral grot, with its various apartnents and numerous niches for the dead; or an eminent and magnificent grave—a large and splendid mausoleum, perhaps a pyramid); and shall remain in the tomb,” (Margin, “shall watch in the heap;” shall appear still to live at his tomb, as embalmed and preserved from corruption, or as represented by his statue or other memorial; or “watch shall be kept [by others] at his tomb,” to preserve it and do him honour). Honour not only attends him in life, but follows him to the tomb both in and after his death. So “the rich man died and was buried,” i.e. had a large and splendid funeral; nothing said of the burial of Lazarus (Luke 16:22). The pompous funeral of the wicked also a noticeable object in the days of the royal preacher (Ecclesiastes 8:10). Job 21:33.—“The clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him.” Buried, like great men, at the foot of a mountain where the winter stream keeps moist the sods that cover him. He has a pleasant restingplace for his remains, and the sod lies softly upon him. Apparently as enviable in his death as he had been in his life. Himself still supposed to enjoy in the spirit-world the honour done to his earthly remains, and the agreeable circumstances which attend them. Pleasing delusion of the imagination! The experience of the rich man in hell (Hades or the spirit-world) the opposite of that suggested by his costly funeral and beautifully adorned grave.—“And every man shall draw after him as there are innumerable before him.” His death no solitary case. Death the common lot of fallen humanity, without respect to character or conduct. The wicked abundantly accompanied in the spirit-world. Company however no alleviation. The second desire of the rich man in Hades, that his five brethren might not come also to that place of torment (Luke 16:28). The presence of others rather an aggravation than a relief.

XII. Conclusion (Job 21:34). The friend’s consolation vain because grounded on false principles. “How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing that in your answers there remaineth falsehood” (Margin, “transgressions,” opposition to the truth, or, malice and evil intent). Consolation, to be of any value, to be grounded on right principles. Must be—

(1) True, in the matter; according to the Word of God, the only infallible standard.

(2) Suitable in its application; adapted to the circumstances of the case, and of the individual addressed. Truth misapplied becomes error.

(3) Loving, in its manner—truth spoken in love. Truth, spoken harshly and uncharitably, irritates rather than heals the wounded spirit. “Falsehood” n the answers and arguments of Job’s friends, inasmuch as they maintained—

(1) That God acts, in His government of the world, in a way which He does not; uniformly visiting the sins of the ungodly upon them in the present life, and rewarding the godly with worldly prosperity and ease.
(2) That, according to these principles, those who are great sufferers must be great sinners.
(3) That the only way to be delivered from such suffering, and to enjoy such prosperity, is by acknowledgment of sin and a turning from it to God,—to be with that view immediately made by the sufferer, and therefore by Job himself. Malice or evil intent in their answers; their aim being to make Job a grievous transgressor in the sight of God, and one who was suffering justly the punishment of his sins—the “devices the wrongfully imagined against him” (ch. 21). Their offence not only against truth but charity.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 21". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/job-21.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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