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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Job 20

 

 


Verses 1-29

Job 20:2. I make haste to answer, for thou reproachest both God and us. Zophar had felt the point of Job’s sword, in the preseding discourse; but the present chapter may well be considered as a most interesting specimen of patriarchal eloquence. It is admired among the Hebrews, many of the phrases being cited in the book of Psalms. The greater part is allegory, or a continuation of figures, illustrative of crime and punishment, of destruction to the wicked, and the most abject poverty to his house.

Job 20:7. He shall perish—like his own dung. A figure of speech denoting contempt and infamy.

Job 20:10. His children shall seek to please the poor, a profligate father having left them without either a fortune or trade.

Job 20:11. His bones are full of the sins of his youth. עלומו elomav, secret sins. This is true of our prodigals, who frequent the haunts of infamy; but surely in no sense but that of passion, and passion devoid of reason, could Zophar apply this to Job.

Job 20:17. The brooks of honey; a fine allusion to the affluence of rural life.

Job 20:18. That which he laboured for shall he restore. Nearly all crimes, in the laws of our Saxon king Ina, were punished by a scale of fines.

Job 20:19. He hath violently taken away a house, from the poor man under some plea of debt, till in the issue he hath no house for himself to live in.

Job 20:26. A fire not blown, of war, as in Job 20:25; or perhaps in allusion to that which consumed Sodom. The Chaldaic reads, the fire of Gehenna, as in Mark 9:45; consequently those rabbins understood it of hell fire, which cannot be quenched: the portion of men who forget God.

Job 20:27. The heavens shall reveal his iniquity. Bishop Reynolds has left us a small folio, chiefly recording Italian cases of God’s revenge against murder and adultery. But his book is small compared with the volume which providence unfolds, in bringing secret crimes to light, and culprits to judgment. Yea, the earth responding to the voice of God, rises up against the wicked. Happy is the offender who exonerates his conscience from the burden of crimes, by timely and unfeigned repentance, and repairing to the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness.

REFLECTIONS.

Having seen in the preseding chapter the sublime appeal which Job made from the painful judgment of his friends, to the bar of heaven; and having heard him seriously impeach his friends, and menace them with divine visitation, Zophar caught fire at his words, and became impetuous in reply. His strokes of eloquence are the effusions of a soul penetrated and filled with the subject. He viewed Job as wicked, though he had the name of a saint; he viewed his excellence as ascending to heaven; and then with amplitude and tints of deepest shade, discovers a master’s hand in the portrait of his destruction. By addressing Job in the third person, he combines politeness with terror; and he so manages passion as to give the harder blows by allowing extent to his arm. The whole of this terrific scenery, though short, is yet so complete, that Homer, Virgil, and Milton, at the head of poets; and Herodotus, the father of history, with all his sons, might study eloquence in the school of those patriarchs; for making nature their sole preceptor, they gave finished copies of the human heart. The sentiments here are more to be admired than the words. Never was stricture more pointed against avarice, hypocrisy, and oppression, than Zophar’s speech. Wealth gained by wickedness is utterly abhorrent both with God and man: yet where is the successful tradesman who is pure? Where the hoary opulence of mercantile life; and where the mushroom splendour of the Indian adventurer, which can purge itself from illicit gain? Where are the favourites of commercial fortune who can say, my hands are clean from the blood, and my treasuries are pure from the bowels of the poor? Will not God then reject their devotion, and bid them wash their hands in innocency, before they compass his altar?

The grand object however on which this speech turns, is the punishments which await the oppressor. He is shrouded with corruption, his splendid history vanishes as a dream, his place is empty, his children are pitied by the poor, his food becomes poison, he vomits his riches on the earth, he is menaced by death in a thousand forms, the heavens reveal his iniquity, and the earth, stained with his crimes, rises up against him. This is the portion, and this the heritage appointed of God to the wicked.

But if this be the situation of a wicked man, is there no remedy before the final evils come? Must he still proceed from crime to crime; and shall no one teach him better, and make him ashamed? Is he fated to proceed in the high career of crimes, and in full route to perdition? Let him relieve his conscience by restitution, let him try repentance and fasting. Who can tell if the Lord will repent of the evil, and turn away from his fierce indignation?

If he be unable to make restitution to the injured, through distance of place, or lapse of time, let him estimate the wrongs and give it to the poor, to whom God is the permanent guardian and trustee. Let him also add thereto, not merely as a gift, but as a trespass-offering to the Lord, for the aid of religion and virtue. Let his hands, in this way, restore the goods of the poor: otherwise, though he have swallowed down riches, God will force him to vomit them up again. It is by this repentance, and repentance accompanied by those fruits, that the wicked man may hope for a reverse of his sentence, and be enabled to face with confidence the spotless tribunal of eternal justice.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 20:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/job-20.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, December 1st, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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