Job 24:1. Why, &c. — Job, having by his complaints, in the foregoing chapter, given vent to his passion, and thereby gained some ease, breaks them off abruptly, and now applies himself to a further discussion of the doctrinal controversy between him and his friends, concerning the prosperity of wicked people. That many live at ease, who yet are ungodly and profane, and despise all the exercises of devotion, he had showed, chap. 21. Now he goes further, and shows that many who are mischievous to mankind, and live in open defiance of all the laws of justice and common honesty, yet thrive and succeed in their unrighteous practices; and we do not see them reckoned with in this world. He first lays down his general proposition, That the punishment of wicked people is not so visible and apparent as his friends supposed, and then proves it by an induction of particulars. Why — How comes it to pass; seeing times are not hidden from the Almighty — Seeing the fittest seasons for every action, and particularly for the punishment of wicked men, are not unknown to God: do they that know him — That love and obey him; not see his days? — The times and seasons which he takes for the punishment of ungodly men; which times are frequently called the days of the Lord, as Isaiah 2:12; Isaiah 13:6; Jeremiah 46:10; Acts 2:20. Surely, if they were constant and fixed in this life, they would not be unknown to good men, to whom God is wont to reveal his secrets. His words may be paraphrased a little more at large, thus: To answer a little what you have so often asserted: If punishments from God upon the wicked, in this world, are so certain as you say, why do not they who are truly pious see them openly inflicted? Surely it is most strange, that there are not some certain fixed times when God arises publicly, and in the face of the whole world inflicts these deserved punishments upon the wicked. Whereas, experience shows, that these visible judgments are very rarely inflicted, and many true worshippers of God pass through the world without ever seeing any thing of this kind. Heath renders the verse, Why are not stated seasons set apart by the Almighty? And why do not those who know him see his days? namely, of vengeance on the wicked.
Job 24:2. Some, &c. — In proof that wicked persons prosper, he instances in two sorts of unrighteous people, whom all the world saw thriving in their iniquity: 1st, Tyrants, and those that did wrong under pretence of law and authority; and, 2d, Robbers and plunderers, that did wrong by downright force, as the bands of the Sabeans and Chaldeans, who had lately plundered him. Remove the landmark — By which men’s lands are distinguished, and their properties secured, that so they may enlarge their own border by diminishing the estate of their neighbour — which is so great an act of injustice that it was not only very strictly forbidden by God in his law, but also declared execrable by the heathen, among some of whom it was permitted to any man to kill him that did it. Forging or destroying deeds is now a crime equivalent to this. They violently take away flocks, and feed thereof — They take away cattle by force, and use them as if they were their own. Or, they feed them; they do not hide, or kill them, but openly feed them in their pastures, without any remorse, or shame, or fear of punishment, either from God or man.
Job 24:3-4. They drive away the ass of the fatherless — Whose helpless condition required their pity and mercy. He says, the ass, to aggravate their sin, in that they robbed him who had but one ass. They take the widow’s ox — Thereby depriving her, not only of the ox itself, but of all the benefit of its labours, by which her life was sustained; for a pledge — Contrary to God’s law, first written in men’s hearts, and afterward in the Holy Scriptures, Exodus 22:26. They turn the needy out of the way — Out of the way of piety and virtue. They engage them to take evil courses by their examples, or promises, or threatenings. Or, out of their right, of which they deprive them, by subtlety or power. Or, rather, as the word מדרךְ, middarech, more properly signifies, and as the next clause explains it, out of the highway, out of the path or place in which these oppressors walk and range. These needy persons labour to keep out of their way for fear of their further injuries and oppressions. The poor of the earth hide themselves, &c. — For fear of these wicked tyrants and persecutors.
Job 24:5. Behold, as wild asses — Which are lawless and fierce, and greedy of prey; in the desert — Which is the proper habitation of wild asses, Jeremiah 2:24 : they go forth to their work — These oppressors go forth to spoil and rob, which is their constant work and trade: rising betimes for the prey — Beginning their work of plunder before the poor go to their daily labour. The wilderness yieldeth food for them — They are so diligent and industrious in their wicked work, that they fetch food for themselves and families even out of desert places, in which the owners can with difficulty subsist.
Job 24:6. They reap every one his corn in the field — The words, every one, are not in the original, and ought not to have been inserted here, as they alter the sense. The clause would be better translated without them. They reap his corn in the field; that is, these plunderers make incursions, reap and take away the corn of the honest, industrious husbandman, which he had sown for the support of his family. They gather the vintage of the wicked — Or, rather, the vintage of wickedness; that is, they plunder the vineyards of the honest, just man, as well as his corn-fields.
Job 24:7. They cause the naked — That is, those whom they have made naked, whom they have stripped of their garments and coverings; so far were they from exercising charity or even justice toward them; to lodge without clothing — To sleep in the night without bed-clothes to cover them; that they have no covering in the cold — Of the night, in the winter season. This verse perhaps would be better rendered thus, They cause men to lodge naked, because they have no clothing, (that is, 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 in the night.
Job 24:8. They are wet — That is, 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, runs down from the rocks or mountains into the caves or holes in the sides of them, to which they have fled for shelter. And embrace the rock — That is, 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.
Job 24:9-10. They — The wicked oppressors; pluck the fatherless from the breast — Either out of cruelty, not sparing poor infants, or out of covetousness, not allowing the mother time for the suckling of her infant. They take away the sheaf from the hungry — That single sheaf, which the poor man had got with the sweat of his brow, to satisfy his hunger.
Job 24:11-12. Which make oil within their walls — The walls of the rich oppressors, for their use and benefit. And tread their wine-presses — That is, the grapes in their wine-presses; and suffer thirst — Because they are not permitted to quench their thirst out of the wine which they make. 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 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 crieth out — The life or blood of those who are wounded to death (as the word חללים, chalalim, properly signifies) crieth aloud to God for vengeance; yet God layeth not folly to them — Does not appear to impute, or lay to their charge, this folly, or wickedness; does not punish them for it as it deserves.
Job 24:13. Those that rebel against the light — Who sin impudently, in the face of the sun, and obstinately, 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 people of God, and shortly after 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 the ways thereof —
That is, of the light, or such ways and courses as are agreeable to the light; they do not approve, love, or choose them. Nor abide in the paths thereof — If they begin to walk in those paths: and do some good actions, yet they do not persevere in well-doing: they are not constant and fixed in a good course of life.
Job 24:14-15. The murderer rising 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. And in the night is as a thief — He is really a thief; the particle as being often used to express, not the resemblance, but the truth, of the thing. In the night they rob men secretly and cunningly, as in the day-time they do it more openly and avowedly. The adulterer waiteth for the twilight — Namely, for the evening twilight, which is his opportunity; saying — In his heart; No eye shall see me — Comforting himself with the thoughts of secrecy and impunity; and disguiseth his face — Hebrew, putteth his face in secret; covers it with a mask that he may not be discovered.
Job 24:16-17. In the dark they dig through houses — Either the adulterer last mentioned, or rather the thief or robber, whose common practice this is, of whom he spake, 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 the latter again: which they had marked for themselves — Distinguishing, 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 it. They know not the light — Do not love nor make use of it, but abhor and shun it. For the morning is as the shadow of death — Terrible and hateful, because it both discovers them and hinders their practices. If one know them, &c. — If they are brought to light, or discovered, they are overwhelmed with deadly horrors and terrors.
Job 24:18. He is swift as the waters — That is, the wicked man quickly passeth away, with all his glory, as the waters, which never stay in one place, but are always hasting away. Their portion — Or, his portion (for he still speaks of the same person, though with a change of the number) is cursed in the earth — His habitation and estate, which he leaves behind him, is accursed of God; and, by all men who live near it, or observe it, is 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 unexpectedly alienated. He beholdeth not the way of the vineyards — He shall never more see or enjoy his vineyards, or other pleasant places and things, which seem to be comprehended under this particular. Thus, though Job constantly maintains against his friends, that many ungodly men do prosper, and escape punishment, in this life, yet, withal, he 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.
Job 24:19. Drought and heat consume the snow-waters — 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 is 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 shall go into the grave, which will consume them, together with all their hopes and comforts; their merry life is followed by a sad and ofttimes sudden 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.
Job 24:20. The womb shall forget him — His mother that bare him, and much more the rest of his friends, shall seldom or never mention or remember him, but shall rather be ashamed to own their relation to one that lived such a vile and wretched life, and died such an accursed death. This portion he shall have, instead of that honour and renown which he thirsted and laboured for, and expected should perfume his name and memory. The worm shall feed sweetly on him — This proud and insolent tyrant, that preyed upon all his neighbours, shall himself become a prey to the contemptible worms; he shall be no more remembered — Namely, with honour, or so as to be desired; but his name shall rot, and scarcely ever be mentioned but with infamy. And wickedness shall be broken — The wicked man shall be broken to pieces, or violently broken down, as the word תשׁבר, tishaber, signifies; shall be utterly and irrecoverably destroyed; as a tree — Which being once broken never groweth again.
Job 24:21. He evil-entreateth the barren — Job here returns to the declaration of his further acts of wickedness, the causes of these judgments; that heareth not — Barrenness was esteemed a curse and reproach; and so it is mentioned as an instance of this man’s wickedness, that he added affliction to the afflicted, whom he should have pitied and helped; but because the barren had no children, and the widows no husbands to defend or avenge their cause, he exercised cruelty upon them.
Job 24:22. He draweth also the mighty with his power — He draweth into his net, as Psalms 10:9, or to his party, to assist and serve him in his enterprises, those who are mighty in place, or wealth, or power; he practiseth upon these as well as upon the poor: he riseth up — Namely, against any man, as the same word קום, kum, is rendered, Psalms 18:39; Psalms 44:5. When he sets himself against a man and resolves to destroy him, no man is sure of life — None of them, whom he so opposes, can be secure of holding his life, but all such give themselves up as lost men, as knowing they cannot resist his greater power.
Job 24:23. Though it be given him — Namely, of God; to be in safety — That is, Though God granteth to the oppressor to be for a time in apparent safety, and to live a comfortable life; whereon he resteth — His former experience of God’s long-suffering makes him confident of the continuance of it, so that he is not only happy in his present enjoyments, but also in his freedom from distracting fears of future miseries; yet his eyes are upon their ways — That is, the eyes of God, who, although he gives wicked men such strange successes and great prosperity, yet he sees and observes them all, and marks their whole conduct, and will in due time punish them severely.
Job 24:24. They are exalted for a little while — They live in honour and prosperity, but not for ever; it is only, at the most, during this short and mortal life, which lasts 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 has time enough to reckon with them hereafter; but are gone — Hebrew, איננו, einennu, are not; namely, in this world, they die. And are brought low — As low as their graves. They are taken out of the way — Out of this world; as all other — They can no more prevent, or delay their death, than the meanest men in the world: and cut off — By the sickle of death, perhaps by the hand of violence; as the tops of the ears of corn — When in its greatest height and maturity; when they are arrived at their perfect stature of worldly power and glory, then God cuts them off, and that suddenly and unexpectedly.
Job 24:25. And if it be not so now — Namely, as I have discoursed; if God does not often suffer wicked men to live long and prosperously in the world, before he punishes them; and if good men be not sometimes sorely afflicted here; if all things do not fall alike to all men in these matters; and if it do not from hence follow, that I am unjustly injured and condemned: who will make me a liar? Or, as Sol. Jarchi interprets the words, Let one of you come and make me a liar, and make my speech nothing worth — Let them that can undertake to prove that my discourse is either false in itself, and then they prove me a liar; or foreign, and nothing to the purpose, and then they prove it frivolous and nothing worth. That, indeed, which is false is nothing worth: where there is not truth, how can there be goodness? But they that speak the words of truth and soberness, need not fear having what they say brought to the test, but can cheerfully submit it to a fair examination, as Job here submits what he had spoken.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 24". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany