CONTINUATION OF JOB'S REPLY TO ELIPHAZ
Prosecutes his own view of the Divine government. Enlarges on the crimes of one part of men and the sufferings of another as the consequences of them, to shew that judgment is not executed on the ungodly in this world, and that men often suffer without anything in their own conduct to deserve it. The ungodly, however, not left unpunished; and their prosperity and power only for a time.
I. Proposes a question for solution in reference to the Divine government (Job ). "Why, seeing times are not hidden from the Almighty, do they that know him not sec his days?" Or, "Why are not [stated] times [of judgment] laid up (or kept) by the Almighty, and [why do] they that know Him not see His days" [of inflicting punishment on the ungodly?] The question takes the fact for granted and asks the reason of it. The fact supposed—
1. That stated times of judgment, or Divine court-days, for trying men's actions are manifestly not held. Men not brought before a Divine tribunal in this life. The great assizes yet to come. Such a day appointed (Act ; Act 10:42; Rom 2:16; Rom 14:10; Rev 20:12). Men only registered now for judgment and public trial on that day. Sins in this life apparently winked at by God (Psa 50:21). Sentence against an evil work not speedily executed. The fact sometimes staggering to the godly, especially in earlier times. Remains as a trial for faith and patience. Abused by the ungodly to impenitence and licentiousness.
2. Times for the visible infliction of punishment on the wicked not seen by the godly in this life. For the most part sin suffered by God to pass with impunity as to this world. The fact noted by Job (ch. Job ); by Asaph (Psa 73:5); by David (Psa 50:21); by Solomon (Ecc 8:11); by Jeremiah (Jer 12:1); by Habakkuk, (Hab 1:15-16). Visible judgments rare. Such examples—the deluge; destruction of Sodom, &c.; Herod's death (Act 12:23). According to the views of Eliphaz and his two friends, such cases should have been of frequent occurrence.
From the text observe—
1. Times, in the sense of events, not hidden from the Almighty. All actions, bad and good, naked and open before Him. Sin, though not punished, not the less perceived. "Thou God seest me," a truth both for the godly and the ungodly.
2. Times for the accomplishment of future events not hidden from God. The future as truly as the present under His perfect inspection. The times and seasons reserved in His own power (Act ). Though unknown to us, not the less certain to Him (Act 15:18.)
3. Sufficient to describe the godly as "those that know God." Such knowledge one of—
(1) Certainty (1Jn );
(2) Divine communication (Joh ); (Mat 11:27);
(3) Experience (1Pe );
(4) Regard and love, as Psa ;
(5) Acquaintance and fellowship (Job ; Gen 5:24; Gen 6:9). As the result of such knowledge the righteous trust in God as a Father (Psa 9:10). Not to know God the characteristic of the ungodly (1Th 4:5; 2Th 1:8). Godly men the friends of God. Abraham's title of nobility shared by each of them. (Compare Jas 2:3; Isa 41:8, with Luk 12:4; Joh 15:14-15).
4. God's friends made acquainted with His purposes and procedure in the world (Gen ; Psa 25:4; Amo 3:7; Joh 15:15). The characteristic of the ungodly, that they "regard not the works of the Lord nor consider the operation of His hands" (Psa 28:5; Isa 5:12). Wisdom given to the children of God to discern and know the times (Luk 12:56; 1Th 5:1-4; Rom 13:11). Times and seasons, however, while still future, reserved in the Lord's own knowledge, except in so far as He is pleased to communicate them (Act 1:7; Mat 24:36; Rev 1:1).
II. Describes the conduct of various classes of men in relation to their fellows, with its consequences (Job ).
First: Their conduct (Job ).
1. Fraud, theft, and violence (Job ). Exhibited in—
(1.) Removing "landmarks." Placing farther back the stones erected to distinguish their own fields from their neighbour's,—common in Eastern and other countries where hedges are not frequent; and doing this for the purposes of fraudulently enlarging their own estate at the expense of their neighbour's. Expressly forbidden in the law of Moses (Deu ). Persons guilty of it pronounced accursed (Deu 27:14). Found in the days of Hosea (Hos 5:10).
(2.) Stealing sheep and feeding them as if their own (Job ). "They violently take away (or steal) flocks and feed thereof (margin, ‘feed them')." Job's own experience in reference to his oxen, asses, and camels (ch. Job 1:14-15; Job 1:17). Pasturing the stolen sheep an aggravation of the crime. Indicated boldness and perseverance in sin. The practice common among the Bedouins. Marks an uncivilized state of society. Practised even in Scotland in the last century in regard to larger cattle. Observe—(i.) The character of sin to sear and deaden the conscience; (ii.) The ungodly often apparently permitted to enjoy the fruit of their sin.
2. Cruelty and hardheartedness (Job ).
(1.) In reference to the fatherless. "They drive away the ass of the fatherless" (in order to appropriate it to themselves, probably on some pretended claim, perhaps, as in the next clause, as a pledge or pawn for some loan or debt). The one ass of the fatherless his means of subsistence. The fatherless not only poor, but without any to defend them from such oppression. An ass still the means of subsistence to fatherless and poor children in the East, being used both for riding and carrying burdens.
(2) In reference to the widow. "Take the widow's ox for a pledge,"—taking it in pawn for the loan of a trifling sum, and keeping it in their possession. An aggravated cruelty, the ox being the only means of her subsistence by ploughing her little plot of ground and yielding her milk. The widow herself an object of sympathy, her poverty having necessitated her to ask a loan or incur a debt with her hard-hearted neighbour. The sin expressly forbidden by the law (Exo ; Deu 24:6; Deu 24:10. "No flesh in man's obdurate heart."
3. Insolence and oppression of the poor (Job ). "They turn the needy out of the way,"—acting towards them with overbearing violence; compelling them by their cruelty and oppression to abandon the highways and frequented parts of the country, and thus preventing them from following their ordinary pursuits; perhaps removing them in order to take possession of their little fields; or forbidding them the highway for their ox or their ass. The "clearances" of modern times. A sin not to aid the poor; still more to expel them from the neighbourhood as burdens and nuisances. The poor never to cease out of the land (Deu 15:11). Left as objects for the exercise of kindness and benevolence (Mat 26:11. To oppress the poor is to reproach their Maker.
Second: The consequence of this oppression (Job ). "The poor of the earth (or land) hide themselves together;" disappearing as unable to endure the oppression or resist their oppressors. "When the wicked rise [in power], men hide themselves" (Pro 28:20). Forced by oppression into solitudes where they congregate and enjoy comparative safety. The godly under persecution thus often made to wander in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth (Heb 11:38). The case of Elijah and other servants of God in the days of Ahab and Jezebel (1Ki 17:3; 1Ki 18:13). The pilgrim fathers of England and the Huguenots of France. Bedouins and others in the East often obliged to seek refuge in the desert from the oppressions of tyrannical governors. Their life in such circumstances made one of privation and suffering (Job 24:5). "Behold, as wild asses in the desert [instead of their own fields as formerly], go they forth to their work, rising betimes [before the excessive heat] for a prey (or to obtain food); the wilderness yieldeth food [a scanty and miserable subsistence] for them and for their children" (whole families being thus driven forth from their homes and from society). The wild ass a "solitary, timorous animal, whose only defence is its heels." The reference here rather to their solitude and fear than to savage wildness. A barbarous and uncivilized state, however, the likely consequence of the treatment they receive (Gen 16:12; Gen 21:20).—(Job 24:6). They reap every one [by himself] his corn (margin, "mingled corn or dredge," a mixture of grain ordinarily used as fodder for cattle, and so generally translated, as in Isa 30:24, in the field (or perhaps, ‘they reap [as hired or forced labourers] every one in a field which is not his own'); and they gather the vintage of the wicked (to obtain as hirelings a subsistence for their families; the proprietors of the vineyards characterized as wicked from their cruelty and oppression of the poor, but in time of vintage, glad to obtain their aid in gathering the grapes; or possibly obliged to render forced labour so common in the east). They cause the naked (the poor and poorly clad) to lodge (or ‘pass the night') without clothing [having taken to pledge their upper garment, usually serving also as a covering by night] (Deu 24:13), that they have no covering in the cold (the nights in eastern countries being often as cold as the days are hot) (Gen 31:40). They are wet (or drenched) with the showers (or heavy driving rains) of the mountains (where, as travellers often experience, such storms of wind and rain are common), and embrace the rock (clinging to some cave or hollow in its side) for want of a shelter."
The picture presented in the eighth verse suggests—
The True Rock and its Shelter
1. As sinners men are by nature in the condition of the persons here referred to,—exposed to a storm. That storm God's righteous anger on account of sin. The wrath of God revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom ; Col 3:6). "Wrath to come" awaiting the unsaved sinner. The day of judgment the great day of Divine wrath—the wrath of the Lamb (Rev 6:16-17). That wrath compared to a storm. "On the wicked God shall rain snares (Margin, ‘burning coals'), fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest" (Psa 11:6). No storm on earth ever equal to it. (i.) Other storms affect only the body, this the soul; (ii.) Others endure but for a short time, this for ever; (iii.) Others may have peace within; this fills with anguish and despair. Felt at times in the sinner's conscience even in this life. Even then intolerable. Escape from it in this life possible. Hereafter rocks and mountains invoked in vain for shelter. Exposure to the storm wherever sin is still unpardoned. Though now unfelt, yet even ready to burst upon the Christless soul. The case of men universally. Men by nature children of wrath, even as others (Eph 2:3.).
2. Men in themselves are without a shelter. Have no means of averting or screening themselves from deserved wrath. Wealth unable to purchase a shelter from it. Power unable to command one. Science unable to contrive one. Good works unable to merit one. Our own works like Adam and Eve's fig-leaved aprons. Monarch and mendicant equally powerless to screen themselves from this storm. No shelter without satisfaction to the demands of a righteous law. The required shelter to be strong enough to resist the brunt of the storm. Able to stand between the sinner and the storm that must otherwise beat on his defenceless head.
3. Such a shelter provided in Christ. Christ, given by God the Father for that purpose, came into the world to save sinners from the storm. Promised as an hiding-place from the wind and a covert from the tempest (Isa ). Fitted to be such a shelter. God and man in one person. God manifest in the flesh. As man, Christ has done and suffered in our stead what the law of God demands in the way of obedience and penalty. As God in our nature, He is able to stand as a substitute for us, and to give infinite value to His obedience and suffering in our stead. Provided for us in pure love on the part of God (Joh 3:16). God's will that all should flee to and find shelter in this rock. Christ as a rock—
(1.) Affords perfect safety to the soul that trusts in Him. A rock is strong, firm, impenetrable. None ever trusted in Him and perished;
(2) Never changes. A rock the most abiding and unchanging object in nature. Christ the Rock of Ages—the everlasting Rock. The same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.
(3) Is sufficient to, receive and shelter all who betake themselves to Him. Rocky caverns in Juda, as the cave of Adullam, large enough to contain thousands of men. Room in Christ for millions at once. Millions sheltered in this Rock already, and yet there is room.
(4) Is comfortable and well replenished. Caverns sometimes found already furnished with necessary articles left there by previous occupants; the contrary, however, being generally the case. In Christ, all things provided needful for comfort and well-being, both here and hereafter. Christ made of God to those who are in Him, both wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption (1Co ). The world, life, death, all things, ours when we are Christ's. All fulness in Him, out of which we may receive even grace upon grace. All our needs supplied. In the world tribulation, but in Him peace. Grace found in Him sufficient for daily duty, daily temptation, daily trial.
(5) Is accessible to all. Stands open and free. Its entrance obstructed by no formidable barrier. No steep and rugged height to climb in order to reach it. Accessible even to a child. Entered not by toil or merit, but by faith,—believing God's testimony true concerning it, and so trusting in it. Over its portal stand the words: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.
(6) All are welcome to its shelter. Entrance without money and without price. No qualification required but sense of need, desire for shelter, and belief in its sufficiency. "A guilty, helpless sinner desiring shelter," a sufficient passport. All classes without distinction invited to enter and be safe.
4. This Rock is to be "embraced." A rock of no use for shelter but as it is fled to, entered, and clung to. Christ is for personal acceptance, appropriation, and trust. The ark, when made, to be entered by Noah and his family. Not enough to hear of the rock, look at it, understand about it, or be near it. Must be entered and "embraced." "Found in Christ" gives safety, not found near Him. No time to be lost in entering this Rock. Too late when the storm descends. "Behold, now is the accepted time! behold now is the day of salvation!"
Important question. Where am I? In the Rock? or still exposed to the storm? If the former, then "let the inhabitant of the Rock sing," and praise aloud the God of his salvation (Isa ). If the latter is still the case, the call is, Come in now. The door still open. Still room. Delay not. Why remain outside exposed to the storm? Death hastens. The door will soon be shut. Entrance may within another hour be impossible. Then no shelter from the storm for evermore. "To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart."
III. Proceeds further to describe the cruelty and oppression of the ungodly rich, and their apparent impunity (Job ). "They pluck the fatherless from the breast (infants whose fathers are already dead, and whom these men snatch from the widowed mother's breast to make their own, as pledges or in payment of some real or pretended debt), and take a pledge of the poor (either the poor man himself to be their bondslave till the debt is paid, as Lev 25:39; Mat 18:25; or his garment, as ch. Job 22:6). They cause him (the poor whose garment they have taken in pawn) to go naked, without clothing, and they take away the sheaf from the hungry (the handful of corn they have plucked to satisfy their hunger, or the gleanings of the harvest field, which were usually regarded, and were afterwards by the law of Moses expressly appointed, as the perquisite of the poor, Lev 19:9); which make oil within their walls (for the benefit of these rich oppressors; or ‘who toil at noontide in their vineyards' as hired, or rather as forced, labourers), and tread their wine-presses and suffer thirst" (not being permitted to allay their thirst with the juice of the grapes they were laboriously expressing.)
"Slaves in the midst of nature's bounty curst,
And in the loaden vineyard suffer thirst."
Addison's Letters from Italy.
Cruelty and oppression not confined to the country (Job ). "Men (or ‘the dying') groan [under injuries and oppressions] from the city [where justice is wont to be exercised, and where fear might be supposed to restrain evil-doers), and the soul of the wounded—[not only having their spirits but their very life crushed out of them by oppression] crieth out [to God and men for help, or to God for vengeance]: yet God layeth not folly to them"—(apparently lays it not to their charge, or appears to give no heed to it; or, "does nothing absurd" or unbecoming His Divine character in permitting such things; or, according to another way of reading the word here rendered "folly," "pays no attention to their prayer," viz, that of these suffering and oppressed ones). The frequent complaint in the Psalms that the wicked oppress the godly poor with impunity, while God appears to take no notice either of the crimes of the one party or the sufferings of the other (Psa 10:1-14; Psa 35:17; Psa 42:9; Psa 44:23-24). Observe—
1. Crimes committed and cruelty perpetrated while God keeps silence (Psa ). Sentence against an evil work not often speedily executed (Ecc 8:11). Yet forbearance no acquitance.
2. The effect of sin to harden the heart and deaden the feelings of humanity.
3. Love of power or gain stops at no crime or cruelty to attain its object.
4. Sin assimilates men to Satan, the "murderer from the beginning."
5. Great sufferings often superinduced by other men's sins (Job ).
6. The cry of oppressed ones terrible for the oppressor (Jas ).
7. City as well as country the theatre of the oppressions of some and the sufferings of others (Job ). Solemn warning in this verse for such cities as London. Eternity alone will reveal how many lives have been crushed out of men and women by oppressive labour and scanty remuneration.
IV. Describes other classes of wicked men,—those who practise sin in secrecy and under the cover of darkness (Job ). "They (or ‘these,' as distinguished from the former) are of those that rebel against the light (hating and shunning it as unfavourable to their wicked deeds, Joh 3:19-20); they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof" (prefer darkness to light, and night to day, for the perpetration of their crimes). The first of these classes, the Murderer (Job 24:14). "The murderer rising with the light (at earliest dawn) killeth the poor and needy [as unable to resist him and his demands], and in the night is as a thief" (or, "acts the thief"). In the East, murders are committed at early dawn, the most favourable part of the day both for travelling and work, while thieves or housebreakers practise their crimes during the night.—The second class, the Adulterer (Job 24:15). "The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight (the evening or night, as more favourable for his purpose, Pro 7:9, saying, No eye shall see me, and disguiseth (muffles up or puts a mask on) his face. In the dark they (the two classes already mentioned, or perhaps a third, Burglars or Housebreakers) dig through houses (insinuating themselves, like the adulterer, or literally, digging an entrance for themselves, like the housebreaker, through the mud walls of the houses) which they had marked for themselves (or ‘having shut themselves up') in the daytime; they know not the light (—hate and shun it). For the morning is to them even as the shadow of death (as hateful and as feared, as discovering and detecting their evil deeds (Eph 5:13); or, the shadow of death is to them as morning,—darkness is as desirable and delightful to them as morning is to others); if one know them (or discover them, or ‘when one can recognize, people,' i.e., in the light of the morning), they are in the terrors of the shadows of death" (or, "it is the terrors of, &c., to them"; or, "the terrors, &c., are upon them.") Observe—
1. The character of sin, that loves the darkness for its commission. A reptile that loves the darkness of caves and dungeons. A work of darkness, to be practised only out of observation, and in the ignorance of God and truth. A testimony to the value and excellence of godliness, that it does not fear the light (Joh ).
2. Sin opposed to the light of truth as well as to the light of day. Hence hatred to the truth, which both exposes and opposes sin. The great condemnation, to have the light and yet hate and avoid it (Joh ). The sin of Christless persons in a Christian land, neighbourhood, or family.
3. A sovereign authority in light to keep men from evil deeds.
4. The present in many places a time of light; hence corresponding responsibility.
5. Murder a common crime where not restrained by fear (Job ). "Feet swift to shed blood," part of the inspired description of fallen humanity (Rom 3:15).
6. Sin aggravated when committed with purpose and deliberation (Job ).
7. The ungodly, when not committing iniquity, often plotting it.
8. Sin committed in forgetfulness of God. "No eye seeth me."
9. The wicked often tortured between lust and fear. Raging lust before commission; deadly fear of detection in and after it.
10. Pleasures of sin dearly bought. The terrors of the shadow of death sooner or later the consequence of it. The ways of transgressors hard.
V. Describes the experience of the wicked (Job ). "He is swift as the waters (or, ‘light on the face of the waters;' carried away by Divine vengeance as the foam or other light substance on the surface of the stream; or, gradually and quietly, though swiftly, borne along to the grave where he finally disappears); their portion (or estate) is cursed (—ultimately abandoned to desolation) in the earth (or land): he beholdeth not the way of the vineyards (—is cut off ultimately from his former haunts, pleasures, and pursuits, ‘from the cheerful ways of men'). Drought and heat [in summer] consume the snow waters (—gradually dry up the torrents and mountain streams formed by the melted snow (ch. Job 6:15; Job 6:18); so doth the grave (—death and the invisible world, which sooner or later swallow up and cause to disappear from the earth) those that have sinned [in the gross and open way already, and yet to be, described]. The womb (even the mother that bare him) shall forget him (so worthless his character, and utterly abandoned by, and cut off from, friends and relatives): the worm shall feed sweetly upon him (or ‘shall be sweet to him,' his only companion now, ch. Job 21:33); he shall be no more remembered [having done nothing to cause his memory to be cherished, but the contrary (Pro 10:7)]: and wickedness (or the wicked man) shall be broken as a tree" [useless and already decayed]. Observe—
1. The character of the selfish and ungodly, however rich, a worthless one. The sinner in his best and most prosperous state light as foam on the surface of the stream.
2. All the sinner's earthly enjoyments speedily brought to an end. Slowly or suddenly, the grave terminates his pleasures and pursuits (Job ). The pleasures of sin but for a season.
3. The grave only formidable to those who have led a sinful life, and die without renewal of heart and removal of guilt.
4. Humbling contrast between the grace and its wormy inhabitants, and the sinful indulgences and worldly pomp of a godless and prosperous life. The rich man in the Gospel lifts up his eyes in hell, and craves, not for deliverance, but a drop of water to cool his burning tongue.
5. Sin soon covers men's names with oblivion, and makes even their nearest relations to forget them (Job ). "The righteous is held in everlasting remembrance, but the memory of the wicked shall rot" (Pro 10:7).
VI. Returns to the character and ways of the ungodly as meriting the punishment already mentioned (Job ). "He evil entreateth the barren that beareth not (thus adding affliction to the afflicted, barrenness being held a reproach and at the same time leaving the widow without natural defenders), and doeth not good to the widow (not only withholding the sympathy and succour which her circumstances claim, but acting towards her in a way the very reverse). He draweth also the mighty with his power (attaching him to his interests for the purpose of oppressing others); he riseth up (for the purpose of completing his wicked designs; or, he rises to power), and no man is sure of life (so formidable his power and so regardless of right). Though it be given him to be in safety (by God himself, who bears long with him instead of punishing him at once in the midst of his wickedness), whereon he resteth (living at case and in security in consequence of this forbearance); yet his (viz., God's) eyes are upon their ways (though now keeping silence and apparently winking at his evil deeds). They are exalted for a little while but are gone (Heb. and Marg. ‘and are not,' are no more, but disappear from the stage), and (are) brought low (by death which terminates at once their power and their pride); they are taken out of the way as all others (even the meanest whom they have oppressed), and cut off as the tops of the ears of corn." Observe—
1. Injury done to a fellow creature a sin marked by God; that Sin aggravated when the injury is done to one already in any way afflicted (Job ). The afflicted, destitute and reproached, have already claims on our sympathy and succour.
2. A sin in the sight of God, not only to injure the afflicted and destitute, but even to withhold our sympathy and aid. Not to do the good in our power, a sin as well as to do evil (Pro ; Pro 24:11-12). Neglect of the fifth commandment a sin as truly as the transgression of the sixth. Sins of omission discover the character and bring condemnation as truly as those of commission. The sins produced at last day for judgment, especially the latter (Mat 25:42-45.) Pure and undefiled religion before God, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction (Jas 1:27).
3. A high aggraration of sin when we not only do wrong ourselves, but endeacour by our influence to draw others into the same practice (Job ). Ahab specially branded in the Bible as not only having sinned himself, but also "made Israel to sin." The character of the ungodly not only to sin themselves but to draw others into participation in their sin (Pro 1:10-14).
4. An aggravated sin to abuse God's goodness and forbearance to the practice of coil (Job ). God's goodness intended, on the contrary, to lead to repentance (Rom 2:4). Sin persevered in on the calculation that "to-morrow shall be as this day and much more abundant" (Isa 56:12).
5. Sin, though passed over for the present, yet marked for future visitation, if not prevented by timely repentance (Job ). Sentence against an evil work not speedily executed. The sinner allowed to do evil a hundred times (Exo 8:11-12). Yet God's eyes are upon men's ways.
6. The power and pride of the ungodly but of short continuance (Job ).
7. Sinners often cut off when their prosperity has reached its highest pitch, like the "tops of the cars of corn."
8. Men spared to ripen either for mercy or judgment.
VII. Challenges contradiction or refutation (Job ). "If it be not so now [that the case is as I represented it], who will make me a liar (or prove me in error), and make my speech nothing worth?" Job's position that of Asaph (Psalms 73), that the ungodly often live long and prosper in this world, and are without any "bands in their death," though ultimately brought to judgment. His position assailed by his friends as derogatory to God's righteousness as the Governor of the world, and as savouring of infidelity. In Job's view, his position unaffected by their speeches and arguments. Observe:—
1. Our duty to see that the views we hold in regard to God and His moral government rest on solid grounds.
2. Our duty in regard to subjects upon which there is room for doubt, to be open to conviction and argument on the opposite side.
3. Our views on all religious subjects to be brought to the touchstone of reason and Scripture. Truth able to bear testing.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 24". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany