Job affirms, that wickedness often goes unpunished; but that there is a secret judgment remaining for the wicked.
Before Christ 1645.
Job 24:1. Why, seeing times, &c.— Job, having obviated in the foregoing chapter the charge of Eliphaz, as to a denial or disbelief of God's providence, goes on to express his wishes, that God, in his providence, would make a more visible distinction between the wicked and the righteous in this world; that thus good men might not fall into such mistakes by censuring suffering innocence, Job 24:1. And, whereas Eliphaz had compared him to the men of violence and oppression in the antediluvian world, he recites a long list of the crimes of those persons, which had justly drawn down the divine vengeance; placing it, as it were, in contrast with his own character, which he had sketched in the foregoing chapter, Job 24:11-12 thereby shewing the defect of the comparison, and, as it were, defying them to convict him of any of those crimes, Job 24:2-18. He concludes with shewing what, according to their principles, ought to be the general course of Providence with regard to wicked men, which, however, was notoriously not the case; and since it was not, it was plain that he had proved his point: the falsity of their general maxim was apparent; and their censure of him, merely for his sufferings, was a behaviour by no means justifiable; Job 24:19 to the end. Heath.
Times—days— These terms are in the Hebrew judicial: the former expresses seasons set apart for the public administration of justice; the latter seems rather to denote the time of such judgments being put in execution. 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? Houbigant gives it a different interpretation, which, indeed, seems better to agree with the context: What is the reason why, when times have not been hidden by the Almighty from men, they attend not to his day, which they know? i.e. "Whence comes it to pass, that when God has not concealed the times or changes of human affairs, men should still act so blameably; as if God had hidden in perpetual darkness both things present and things future?"
Job 24:2. And feed thereof— And him that feedeth them. So Heath, after the LXX.
Job 24:4. They turn the needy out of the way— They pervert justice in the cause of the poor; the meek of the land hide themselves with one consent. See Amos 2:7; Amos 5:12. Heath.
Job 24:5. Behold, as wild asses, &c.— See, like the wild asses in the desart, they go forth to their labour: they are up with the dawn for bare food: the common must find them meat for the children. This, and the following verses, to the 11th, describe the extreme misery of the poor people under those oppressors. "They go out before day, in droves, like the wild asses in the desart, to their labour, and that for bare food only: for, as for their families, the wilderness must supply them. Obliged to lie in the open air, with neither covering to keep them warm, nor a hut over their heads to keep them dry, they must cling close to the rock to shelter them from storms; their children are torn from the breast to be sold into slavery. Job 24:9. The orphan is torn by violence from the breast; the garments of the poor are taken for a pledge: Job 24:10. They go about naked, because they have no clothing; and those who are starving for hunger carry the sheaves: Job 24:11. They work during the noon-tide heat in their vineyards: they tread their vine-vats, but are athirst: a misery the more exquisite, as it was heightened by the immediate presence of what would relieve them; but they dared not stretch forth their hands to take it;" Heath: with whom Houbigant agrees, except in the 5th and 6th verses, which he renders thus, Behold, like wild asses, which go forth into the desart for their food, ready for their prey, industrious to seek out food for their young; (Job 24:6.) So they reap the corn in the field by night; they gather the vintage by wickedness; (Job 24:7.) so that the naked lodge, &c.
Job 24:6. They reap every one his corn in the field— Mingled corn, or dredge. Margin. Job apparently alludes to the provender, or heap of chopped straw or hay, lying mingled together in the field, after having passed under a threshing instrument; to which he compares the spoils that were taken from passengers, so early as his time, by those who lived somewhat after the present manner of the wild Arabs; which spoils are to them what the harvest and vintage were to others. With this agrees that other passage, chap. Job 6:5 where this word occurs: Will the ox low (in complaint) over his provender? or fodder, as it is translated in our version; i.e. when he has not only straw enough, but mixed with barley. See Observations, p. 210, and Judges 19:19.
Job 24:12. Men groan from out of the city— Now follow the oppressions of the city, where the face of things is still worse; nothing to be heard but the groans of the dying, and the cries of the wounded. In the city the dying groan, and the soul of the wounded crieth aloud; yet God maketh no distinction. Heath.
Job 24:13. They are of those that rebel, &c.— Heath, supposing this to allude to the people who lived before the flood, whose violence and oppression are recorded in several parts of the sacred scriptures, renders this clause, They are of those who were thrown headlong from the light.
Job 24:14. The murderer rising with the light— In broad day-light the murderer would arise, and slay the poor and the defenceless. See Micah 7:6. The two verbs arise and slay signify, by a common Hebraism, arise to slay.
Job 24:15. The eye also of the adulterer— The 16th verse appears to refer to the thief or house-breaker, mentioned Job 24:14, in which case this verse must stand in a parenthesis. See Heath and Schultens. I would just observe, that the Syriac and Arabic render the 16th verse, In the dark he seeketh out houses: a translation which, if admitted, will very well connect the 15th and the 16th verses. The author of the Observations seems to be of this opinion, p. 97, where, speaking of the manner of building in the east, which was principally of bricks made of mud, he observes, that the architecture of the country of Job seems to have been of the same kind; for he speaks of the adulterer's digging through houses; and these walls of sun-burnt brick, when moistened with copious showers, must have been liable to accidents of this kind, at the same time that the thickness of them must have made the term digging peculiarly expressive.
Job 24:17. For the morning, &c.— Surely the morning was to him altogether the shadow of death; because he saw before his eyes the terrors of the shadow of death. In this and the next verse, says Mr. Heath, is a fine description of the terror and perplexity of the inhabitants of the old world, at the approach of the waters of the deluge. They run to and fro; neglect the only apparent means of saving themselves; they cannot find the way to the high grounds till their retreat is absolutely cut off, and they are destroyed, as at all events they must have been.
Job 24:18. He is swift as the waters— He curseth the coming day: his portion shall be cursed upon earth: he shall not enjoy the treading of his vineyards. Houb. But Heath renders it, He was scared at the sight of the waters. Their portion was destroyed from the earth: he could not see the way that led to the high hills. See the foregoing note. And he observes, that the argument from the 13th verse onward is, that, as the great oppressors before the flood were at once made a signal example of the divine vengeance; so (according to the principles of the friends at least) all impious men ought to be, and to receive their punishment in this world in the sight of all men. But as notoriously this was not the case, therefore their inference of Job's being a bad man, from his sufferings, could have no foundation. See Heath and Mudge.
Job 24:20. The worm shall feed sweetly on him— His sweetness or vigour shall be corruption. See Schultens and Heath.
Job 24:22. He draweth also the mighty with his power— He oppresseth the poor: he trusteth in his own power; but he shall have no confidence of his own life. Houb. But Heath renders it, Though he drew together the mighty for his support, yet should he be in perpetual alarms; he should scarcely think his life in safety. Job 24:23. Though he should imagine himself to be in security, and should rely on it, yet should his eyes be on their ways.
Job 24:24. They are exalted for a little while, &c.— His exaltation should be but for a short time, and he should be no more: yea, he shall be brought low; he shall be moved down like the green fodder, or cropped off like the tops of the ears of corn. The comparison is between a man who is struck dead suddenly, and, falling, his mortal convulsions make him throw about his legs and feet; and the grass, which, as it is mowing, the lower part is cast upwards. Heath.
Job 24:25. And if it be not so now— But since this is by no means the case at present, who, &c. See Houb. and Heath.
REFLECTIONS.—1st. The argument in dispute is, whether the wicked were not always pursued with marks of the divine displeasure in this world. Job constantly denies the assertion.
1. He begins with an inference drawn from the close of the former chapter: Why, seeing times are not hidden from the Almighty, whose all-capacious mind comprehends in one view the past, the present, and the future, and according to whose will all events are directed; Why, if, as you assert, the wicked are always miserable, do they that know him, who are acquainted with his will and ways, and favoured with his love, not see his days of executing judgment in this life on the ungodly? which they certainly would, if, as you affirm, they were always punished here, whereas the very contrary is evident. Note; Whatever strange dispensations of Providence appear, we may be assured that God hath not forsaken the earth: he sees and orders all with infinite wisdom, and at last we shall adore, and wonder, and praise him, when we shall see his great designs laid open to our view.
2. He proves, in a variety of instances, the prosperity of the wicked; who, though the most unjust and cruel oppressors, go on with impunity. They rob men of their estates, and plunder them of their cattle. If the poor have but a single beast, they make a prey of it, and regard not the cries of the widow or fatherless: insolent and overbearing, it is dangerous but to stand in their way, and the poor are forced to hide themselves for safety. Intractable and wanton as the wild asses, they make plunder their trade, and, rising early, pursue their prey, living upon the fruits of their robbery. The corn which others sowed they reap, and gather the vintage of the wicked, devouring even one another; or the wicked gather the vintage of the just, oppressed by them. The almost naked are stripped of the few rags which covered them, and, merciless, they leave them in cold and hunger to pine and shiver on the barren mountain, or under the dreary rock. Even the fatherless babe they pluck from the breast, to sell as a slave, and take the pledge of the poor, or the poor for a pledge, seize them for debt, and make them their bondmen: they have no pity on the naked to cover them; and if he has gleaned but one sheaf of corn to satisfy his hunger, even that they violently take from him. Imprisoned within their walls, and doomed to hard servitude, the poor are compelled to make their oil, and tread their wine-presses, yet dare not quench their thirst with the juice of the grape. Under such oppression, even in the cities as well as the country, men groan without redress; and the soul of the wounded, struck and hurt for daring perhaps to complain, crieth out, but in vain; yet God layeth not folly to them, suffers all this sin of grievous rapine and cruelty, and interposes not with any distinguished judgments. Note; (1.) God takes notice of the sinner's wickedness, though he, from his success, promises himself impunity. (2.) It is doubly cruel to injure the fatherless and widow. (3.) They are wicked and hard-hearted masters, whose servants are scarcely suffered to live by their labour; and there is a master in heaven, who will right them shortly.
2nd, Like Ezekiel's chamber of imagery, Job goes on to describe greater abominations which pass in this world often with impunity. They are of those that rebel against the light, resist the remonstrances of conscience, and wilfully and deliberately plunge themselves into the grossest crimes; they know not the ways thereof, they refuse to know, and shun the light of truth, nor abide in the paths thereof, preferring the dark ways of wickedness before it: or, literally, the daylight is odious to them; they choose the darkness, if possible, to hide their guilty deeds. Vain attempt! while God's eye, clearer than the sun, pierces the thickest shades, and the night to him is as bright as the day. We have,
1. Their sins—murder, adultery, and house-breaking. Rising with the light, the murderer seizes the early traveller, and, though poor and needy, and there is little to be got from him, yet killeth him, as if thirsting for blood, and at night is as a thief, robbing whatever he can seize. The adulterer, ashamed to perpetrate his designs publicly, waiteth for the night, and still, in fear of discovery, disguiseth his face; and, tempted by the false hope of secrecy, rushes to the horrid deed. The robber, in the day, prowls in quest of prey, and, having marked the place and house, at night breaks through and steals. Note; (1.) Though blood in many instances be not discovered here, the day will come when it will cry for vengeance. (2.) However secret the adulterer's crime be kept, his shame shall not be covered when, on the day of judgment, the mask is plucked away.
2. Though they succeed in their enterprises, they carry about them continual terror. They know not the light, dare not be seen in it, are afraid of discovery. The morning is to them as the shadow of death, so unwelcome; if one know them, guilt flashes in their faces, and dread of deserved shame and punishment seizes them; they are like men just expiring in the terrors of the shadow of death. Note; A state of wickedness is a state of trembling: however pleasurable or profitable the sin, the continual alarm, through fear of discovery, embitters all.
3rdly. We have,
1. The farther character of the wicked. He afflicts the barren with reproach, oppresses the widow, and not even the mighty are safe; so daring is he, that when he riseth up no man's life is secure.
2. Notwithstanding all his complicated sins, it is given him to be in safety; and, instead of being affected with God's patience, and becoming penitent, he resteth thereon, promising himself continual impunity. Yea, he is exalted; so far from undergoing any distinguished suffering, he rears his head high, and, if not beloved, is feared and obeyed. Note; Prosperity often hardens the sinner, but he is least safe when most secure. For,
3. The time of recompence will come, though not here, yet in death at least. Short lived is his joy, though it endure to the last gasp; for swift as water his days are hurrying by; and, however happy he appears, the curse of God is upon him; and when he is gone, he shall no more behold the possessions in which he gloried. His remembrance shall be blotted from his parent earth. Broken down as a tree, the worms shall feed upon his carcase in the dark: secure as he was, God's eye still marked his winding way; and, as wicked men before him were, he shall be swept away from the earth, when the measure of his iniquities is full, as the ears of ripe corn are cut down. In the grave he shall be consumed, and there all his glory shall perish with him, as the snow is melted before the scorching sun. Note; Though vengeance be slow, it is sure: the longest period of a sinner's reign is a few short days, a fleeting moment of life.
4. He challenges them to confute the truths that he had advanced, to prove him a liar, or invalidate his arguments; else must they quit the field, and own the prosperity of the wicked; and that not here, but hereafter, their recompence from God awaited them; and, consequently, that their judgment, who concluded him a wicked man merely because of his afflictions, was rash and censorious.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 24". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany