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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Job 21

 

 

Verse 1

Job 21:1 But Job answered and said,

Ver. 1. But Job answered and said] Disproving and refuting that proposition of theirs concerning the infelicity of the ungodly by reason, by experience, and by divine authority; all which evince and evidence that neither is prosperity a proof of men’s innocence, nor adversity a mark of their wickedness, as Zophar and his fellows would have it. And that they might not any more interrupt him, nor think him too rough, he useth a gentle preface, craving attention, and pressing them thereunto by many arguments in the first six verses.


Verse 2

Job 21:2 Hear diligently my speech, and let this be your consolations.

Ver. 2. Hear diligently my speech] Heb. In hearing hear. The Greek hath it, Hear, hear; that is, hear me out, have so much patience with me as not to interrupt me any more; yea, hear with understanding; let your ους and νους meet; draw up your inward ears to your outward, that one sound may pierce both. Lay aside passion and prejudice, suffer a word of information, for it is but one word that I have to say, &c, The Hebrew is singular, and promiseth brevity. Only this one word Job would that they should hear double; sc. by an after deliberate meditation, as David did, Psalms 62:11, "God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this," &c. Gravis rationis humanae morbus est, quod plerunque soleat ea damnare quae aut non intelligat, aut non placuerint (Brent.).

And let this be your consolations] Comfort me this way at least, that you will give me the hearing. Hither you came as comforters, but by your galling speeches you have grieved and vexed me above measure. Now make me some amends, and remembering your office as friends, and your design, which was to condole with me and to comfort me, hear me intently, and this I shall take as kindly as if in tenderest compassion you had drunk to me in a bowl of nepenthes, {A drug of Egyptian origin mentioned in the Odyssey as capable of banishing grief or trouble from the mind; hence, any drug or potion having, or conceived as having, the same power; also, occas. the plant or herb supposed to yield the drug.} or had given me a cup of consolation, as Jeremiah 16:7. The Vulgate Latin rendereth it (but not well), Hear, I pray you, my speech, and repent. The Hebrew root signifieth first to repent, and then to comfort, 1 Samuel 15:35, Isaiah 40:1, because the penitent only get sound comfort.


Verse 3

Job 21:3 Suffer me that I may speak; and after that I have spoken, mock on.

Ver. 3. Suffer me that I may speak] Say that it be suffering to you to hear me (for now I see you have, as they write of some creatures, fel in aure), yet put yourselves to the pain of hearing me, and bear me, though I am burdensome to you, though my speeches cross the grain of your spirits. See 2 Corinthians 11:1. I will promise you to speak nothing worthy of a scoff, such as was that of Theophrastus, Let him shun the talkative man who would not be put into a fit of a fever (Theoph. Charact. cap. de garrul.). Or that of Aristotle, before whom when one, having made a long and idle discourse, concluded it thus, I doubt I have been too tedious unto you, sir philosopher, with my many words: In good sooth, said Aristotle, you have not been tedious to me, for I gave no heed to anything you said (Plut. de Garrulit.).

And after I have spoken, mock on] Heb. Mock thou on, thou Zophar (to whom he turned his speech, and very likely his eye also), if thou canst find in thy heart to mock at so much reason as I shall allege in mine own defence; I gainstand thee not. He lacked no wit who said, If a wise man speak evil of thee or to thee, endure him; if a fool, slight him. Sile, et funestam dedisti plagam, trouble not thyself at his taunts, and thou punishest him sufficiently (Chrysost.).


Verse 4

Job 21:4 As for me, [is] my complaint to man? and if [it were so], why should not my spirit be troubled?

Ver. 4. As for me, is my complaint to man?] Vult dicere, saith Lavater, Job’s meaning is, that he complained not to man, but to God himself, who well knew his heart and his innocence, though men misjudged him. And this being so, how could he be otherwise than anxious and solicitous, since if a man be but to speak to an earthly prince, he will be afraid? It is said of Charles V, emperor, that he spake more to God than to men. Job did so, it seemeth; and this he allegeth to the shame of his hard hearted friends, who put him to it in this way.


Verse 5

Job 21:5 Mark me, and be astonished, and lay [your] hand upon [your] mouth.

Ver. 5. Mark me, and be astonied] Heb. Look upon me. He had said before, Hear and hear, now, Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow. Mark it, I say, and stand amazed at it. Did you ever find any on this side hell so sore afflicted as I am? Is it not because you are not duly affected with my miseries, that ye are so regardless of my discourse? Strange that my sorrows should be great enough to work astonishment, and yet not great enough to deserve attention. O mark first what I suffer, and then what I speak.

And (this once done) lay your hand upon your mouth] Be swift to hear, but slow to speak; yea, spare to speak at all in this case. The Greek proverb admonisheth men either to be silent or to speak something that is better than silence. Harpocrates, the heathenish god of silence, was pictured with his finger laid upon his lips.


Verse 6

Job 21:6 Even when I remember I am afraid, and trembling taketh hold on my flesh.

Ver. 6. Even when I remember I am afraid] Surprised I am with a most formidable amazement, when I call to mind and consider how ill (by the divine providence) it fareth with me, how well with many wicked; and how little you pity me, or seek by sound reason to settle my mind; I am ready to cry out, Oh the depth of God’s stupendous dispensations! Confer Psalms 73:1-28, where David delivereth himself to like purpose.

And trembling taketh hold on my flesh] Heb. My flesh hath taken hold on trembling. Totus horreo, horror hath taken hold on me, Psalms 119:53, such as makes my body to shake and shudder. So Habakkuk 3:16; Habakkuk 1:3; Habakkuk 1:13. Job had called upon his friends to mark and be astonished; here he propoundeth himself to them for an example. Quod iussit, et gessit, as Bernard saith of another. See Job 18:20.


Verse 7

Job 21:7 Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?

Ver. 7. Wherefore do the wicked live, become old] Vivunt, veteraseunt, they are lively and longlived, so that they outlast many better than themselves; being as sound as roaches and as vivacious as the snail, the property whereof is to live a long while even after the head is off and the heart out. Of some creatures we use to say, that they have nine lives; of some wicked men it may be thought so, they do evil a hundred times, and yet their days are prolonged, Ecclesiastes 9:12. Manasseh reigned longest of any king in Judah. Pope John XXII. (that monster and mortalist) lived longest of any pope, and died richest. God gives wealth, health, and long life to many wicked, Non aliter ac siquis crumenam ingentem aure plenam latrinae inieciat, saith one; No otherwise than as when a man casts a great purse filled with gold into an outhouse (Gasp. Ens.). Now if any shall ask, with Job, Why all this? the apostle answereth one question by another: Romans 9:22, "What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endure with much long suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?" What hath anyman to say to that? And again, Who knows not that the Lord hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness, even that day of the revelation of the righteous judgment, Acts 17:31, Romans 2:5. The Judge of the earth keepeth his petty sessions now, letting the law pass upon some few, reserving the rest till the great assizes, 1 Timothy 5:24.

Yea, are mighty in power?] Or, prevail in wealth, which maketh them mighty; for money is the monarch of this present world, and carrieth all before it.


Verse 8

Job 21:8 Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes.

Ver. 8. Their seed is established in their sight with them] Some understand it of their seed sown in the fields, nor blasted nor wasted, but timely gathered into their barns and granaries; and so by offspring, Germina, they, taking it literally, conceive to be meant their plants, trees, flowers, fruits, all which come kindly, and grow to their minds. But better interpret it of their children and nephews, whom they have many, healthy, lusty, and lively, Multos, sanos, vegetos, et viraces, and not unfitly compared to seed; as if the parents were but only the husks; and to branches or sprigs, because they may be, and must be, bent betime to the best things, before they be aged and crooked in their evil practices, refusing to be rectified.

And their offspring before their eyes] This is the same with that before, and is repeated, because a singular happiness, to see their children prosper as much as themselves. This is a third time instanced, Job 21:11.


Verse 9

Job 21:9 Their houses [are] safe from fear, neither [is] the rod of God upon them.

Ver. 9. Their houses are safe from fear] Seculi laetitia est impunita nequitia. No domestic discords, no foreign disturbances, but peaceable possession and enjoyment of what they have; as much welfare as David wished to Nabal, 1 Samuel 25:5 : Thus shall ye say to him that lives (that is, that lives prosperously, for that is the only life), Peace be to thee, and to thine house, and to all that thou hast.

Neither is the rod of God upon them] So that they seem to themselves and others to be out of the reach of God’s rod. "They are not in trouble, as other men, neither are they plagued like other men; therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain," &c., Psalms 73:5-6. Vermis divitiarum est superbia, It is hard for the rich not be high minded, 1 Timothy 6:17 (August.).


Verse 10

Job 21:10 Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf.

Ver. 10. Their bull gendereth, and faileth not, &c.] All things hit, and nothing misseth to make them happy and wealthy; they have profit and pleasure at will, the world comes tumbling in upon them, as towns were said to come in to Timotheus’ toils while he slept (Plut. in Sulla), and so they seem to be the only heirs of those promises, Exodus 23:26, "There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren in the land"; so Deuteronomy 7:14; whereunto notwithstanding they are perfect strangers: Laban and Nabal for instance.


Verse 11

Job 21:11 They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance.

Ver. 11. They send forth their little ones like a flock] Sunt qui de eorum vitulis intelligunt recens natis, saith Mercer. Some understand it to be young calves, but better of young children, which have here their name from a root which signifieth wickedness, naughtiness, to show what little ones are, not innocents, as we call them, not pueri quasi puri; νηπιος, is both a fool and a child. The first blanket wherein a child is wrapped, is woven of sin, shame, blood, and filth, Ezekiel 16:4; Ezekiel 16:6. Hence infants were circumcised, and their foreskin cast away, to show that they themselves had deserved to be so served. Parents therefore should strive to mend that by education which they have marred by propagation. Wicked parents think not on this, though they send out their little ones like a flock, but tend them not, keep them not from the wolf of hell, who seeketh to devour them.

And their children dance] Exiliunt, vitulantur, choreas ducunt, they skip and leap up and down, as young cattle, and are taught to dance artificially, which no sober man will do, saith Cicero, Nemo sobrius saltat. And, the better dancer the worse man, said Diogenes.


Verse 12

Job 21:12 They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ.

Ver. 12. They take the timbrel and the harp] They take them, and are taken with them, being melted in sensual delights, which wise men slight. The philosopher told the fiddlers that he could be merry without music. Aristotle said, Jupiter is happy, and yet no musician. One in Plutarch saith of the Scythians, that though they had no music nor vines among them, yet they had God. It is here alleged, as a piece of their lasciviousness and luxury, that they took or touched the timbrel, &c. Not but that music is lawful, for this is the gift of God, and a noble art; but the abuse of it is here noted, as likewise Isaiah 5:12, Amos 6:5. {See Trapp on "Isaiah 5:12"} {See Trapp on "Amos 6:5"} These wicked and their children lived in pleasure upon earth (which is not a place for such a purpose; God did not cast man out of one paradise that he might make himself another), James 5:5, and were like the people of Tombutum, in Africa, who are said to spend their whole time in singing and dancing. It is not good for men to take pleasure in pleasure, to spend too much time in it, as Solomon did, and afterwards Cleopatra. It was not simply a sin in Esau to go a hunting; but yet the more he used it the more profane he waxed, and came at length to contemn his birthright.

They rejoice at the sound of the organ] Their mirth was merely carnal; they did rather revel than rejoice. Their cheerfulness did not end in thankfulness; their music made them not more heavenly minded, as it did that late learned and holy Mr Esty, who when he sat and heard a sweet concert of music, seemed upon this occasion carried up for the time beforehand to the place of his rest, saying very passionately, What music may we think there is in heaven! (Dr Hall, Art of Div. Medit.) The instrument here mentioned hath its name (as Mercer noteth) Ab amore, oblectatione, et lusu, from love, delight, and sport. Amabit sapiens, cupient caeteri, saith Seneca.


Verse 13

Job 21:13 They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.

Ver. 13. They spend their days in wealth] Or, in mirth. Heb. In good. They wallow in wealth, and have the world at their will, even more than heart could wish, as David phraseth it in Psalms 73:2-12, which may well serve for a comment upon this text; and the rich glutton for an instance. He in his lifetime received good things, and in a moment went down to the grave, Luke 16:25. True it is, that this is not every wicked man’s case; for some of them live wretchedly and die lamentably, being held long upon the rack of a torturing disease (as Jehoram), all which is to them none other than a type and foretaste of hell, whither they are hastening.

And in a moment they go down to the grave] Ad inferna, to hell, saith the Vulgate; they spend their days in wealth, and end their days in woe; their merry dance determineth in a miserable downfall. Thus that "rich man died, and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment," &c., Luke 16:22-23. But though the same Hebrew word signifieth hell and the grave (both which have their names from their unsatiableness, Proverbs 30:15-16), yet here, in a suitableness to what went before, the grave is to be understood; and the sense is, Dicto citius moriuntur, they die easily, suddenly, sweetly, without much pain of body or trouble of mind; "there are no bands in their death," saith David, Psalms 73:4. They die without much ado, like a lamb, or like a lamp, that goeth out of itself when the oil faileth; they go quickly and quietly to the grave. Some wicked persons indeed die piecemeal by a complicated disease, and a long lingering death, as did Antiochus, Herod, Philip II of Spain, &c. Dionysius the tyrant is said to have envied a beast, whose throat he saw cut, because he died so soon. Julius Caesar wished he might die speedily, saith Suetonius. Pliny commendeth sudden death as the chief felicity of life. That is a good death to nature which is neither feared nor expected; yet that is the best death which hath been longest expected and prepared for. Mors iucunda cuius nulla praecessit expectatio aut metus. Happy is he that, after due preparation, is passed through the gates of death ere he be aware. Happy is he that, by the holy use of long sickness, is taught to see the gates of death afar off, and addresseth for a resolute passage. The one dieth like Elijah, the other like Elisha, both blessedly.


Verse 14

Job 21:14 Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.

Ver. 14. Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us] Lest any should think, saith Merlin here, that Job speaks of such wicked as used a moderation in sinning, and (as the historian said of the emperor) rather lacked vice than were virtuous. Magis extra vitia, quam cum virtutibus (Tacit.). He describeth their great impiety by a rhetorical imitation, expressing the language of their heart, which is most base and blasphemous. For first they speak of God as if he were some lowly prized scoundrel; Apage, be packing; thus they reject his acquaintance, and would be rid of his company. Porro reieciunt Deum quotquot verbum eius contemnunt, saith Brentius here; now they reject God who slight his word and cast his commands behind them, Psalms 50:17. Hence it follows by way of explanation,

For we desire not the knowledge of thy ways] Lo, they profess themselves to be of the number of those, qui ut liberius peccent, libenter ignorant, who are wilfully ignorant, and like not to retain God in their knowledge, Romans 1:28; or, if they profess to know him, yet "in works they deny him, being abominable, disobedient, and to every good work reprobate," Titus 1:16. Wicked men cannot abide God; such is their evil heart of unbelief, Hebrews 3:12, they get as far from him as they can, with Cain, and not only desire him to depart out of their coasts, with those swinish Gergesites, but churlishly say unto him, as here, Avaunt! room for us. They will neither have God in their heads, Psalms 10:4, nor hearts, Psalms 14:1, nor words, Psalms 12:4, nor works, Titus 1:16. See this exemplified in those perverse Jews, lying children, children that would not hear the law of the Lord; which said to the seers, See not, - Get ye out of the way, turn aside out of the path; i.e. out of this tract of truth in dealing so plainly, and reproving us so roundly. Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease before us, let us henceforth hear no more of him, Isaiah 30:10-11. Now for such miscreants as these, who can say it is otherwise than righteous that God should regest one day upon them, Depart from me, ye wicked? (He loves to retaliate.) And that they who now say unto him, We desire not the knowledge of thy ways, shall hear from him, "I tell you, I know you not," Luke 13:27.


Verse 15

Job 21:15 What [is] the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?

Ver. 15. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him?] Here the rottenness of their hearts blistereth out at the lips of these rich wretches, these fat bulls of Bashan, such as was Pharaoh, that sturdy rebel, who asked this very question in the text, What, or who, is the Almighty? &c., Exodus 5:2; and hath a large reply made him by one plague upon another, till he was compelled to answer himself, The Lord is righteous. (He seemeth to rehearse the very words of Pharaoh. Diod.) Forced he was to speak fair while held upon the rack, if nothing else, yet that he might get off. Such queryings as this carry greatest contempt in them, and would lay the Almighty quite below the required duty; as if Almighty were but an empty title, and that he could do neither good nor evil, Zephaniah 1:12, that it was to no purpose or profit to serve him, that the gains would not pay for the pains, &c.

And what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?] Heb. If we meet him, viz. by our prayers, Jeremiah 7:16, Amos 4:12, Malachi 3:14, {See Trapp on "Malachi 3:14"} Children will not say their prayers unless they may have their breakfast; nor hypocrites pray but for some profit. They pretend sometimes to meet God, but they draw not near with that true heart, mentioned Hebrews 10:20; in seeking God they merely seek themselves, as Spira said he did. In Parabola ovis capras suas quaerunt. No penny, no Pater Noster our Father. And as the wolf in the fable having spelled Pater, and being bid put together, said Agnus; so when these pray, their hearts are upon their half penny, Ezekiel 33:31 They follow Christ for the loaves, and serve him no longer than he serves their turns.

- Rarae fumant faelicibus arae.


Verse 16

Job 21:16 Lo, their good [is] not in their hand: the counsel of the wicked is far from me.

Ver. 16. Lo, their good is not in their hand] That is, they are not enriched by their own industry, prudence, piety, &c., but God hath exalted them thus, that he may bring them down again with the greater poise; so some sense the text. Others thus, Their good is not in their hand; that is, they are no masters of them, but are mastered by them; they are servants to their wealth, as the Persian kings were to their wives or concubines, Captivarum suarum captivi (Plut.). And as those stall fed beasts in the Gospel, the recusant guests, I mean, that had bought farms, oxen, &c., or rather were bought of them. - Difficile est opibus non tradere mores. Others make this the sense, and I concur with them, These wicked rich men, buried in a bog of security, condemn God, as if they had their happiness in their own hands, and were petty gods within themselves. But they are deceived. All is in God’s hand, who can take away their wealth when he pleaseth. These men may fall sooner than they rose, since they subsist merely by God’s manutension, and he may do with his own as he wishes.

The counsel of the wicked is far from me] I am so far from envying their prosperity, that I cannot approve of their course of life, for all their wealth. I am not of their judgment, I like not of their way. O my soul, come not thou into their secret. Let their money perish with them (said that noble Italian convert, Caracciolus, to a Jesuit who tempted him with a great sum), who esteem all the gold in the world worth one day’s society with Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit; and cursed be that religion for ever and ever.


Verse 17

Job 21:17 How oft is the candle of the wicked put out! and [how oft] cometh their destruction upon them! [God] distributeth sorrows in his anger.

Ver. 17. How oft is the candle of the wicked put out!] q.d. I confess that which you say concerning God’s judgments upon the wicked to be sometimes true in this world (Diod.); yet it is not so continually nor ordinarily, but very oft their lamp is extinguished, their comforts damped, and hopes of better dashed; they are all on the sudden left in the dark, cast into straits inextricable, plunged into sorrows inexplicable, and yet all these are but the "beginning of sorrows." For

How oft cometh destruction upon them!] Utmost destruction, irresistible ruin, that comes on in manner of a black cloud or fierce storm, undoing calamity, overflowing scourge, a tempest from which there is no covert. The Vulgate renders it thus, How oft is there an inundation upon the wicked!

God distributeth sorrows in his anger] Gives them their lot of greatest sorrows, as by a line, Luke 12:46, such sorrows as a travailing woman suffereth; or such as were those of Monsieur Mylius, an old minister at Heidelberg, when taken by the Spaniard; first they abused his daughter before his eyes, and then they tied a small cord about his head, which with truncheons they wreathed about till they squeezed out his brains (Spec. bell. fac.). The text implieth that though in this world many sorrows are to the wicked, yet these do not supersede their sufferings in hell, Psalms 32:10; but now they receive only a small portion or part of their punishments, there they shall be paid to the full; here they sip of the top only of God’s cup, there they shall suck up the dregs thereof, though they have eternity to the bottom. This shall be the portion of their cup, and but a portion, Psalms 11:6.


Verse 18

Job 21:18 They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away.

Ver. 18. They are as stubble before the wind] Lest any man should say, How can these things befall those that are so strongly set and firmly built? Well enough, saith Job, since when they are best bottomed or underlaid, they are but as stubble before the wind, &c. Haec consideranda, saith Mercer, these things would be laid to heart, for hereby it appeareth that the wicked shall be destroyed suddenly, and certainly, certo, cito, penitus, Isaiah 17:13. That they can no more stand before a punishing God than thistle down before a whirlwind, or a glass bottle before a cannon shot.


Verse 19

Job 21:19 God layeth up his iniquity for his children: he rewardeth him, and he shall know [it].

Ver. 19. God layeth up his iniquity for his children] That is, the punishment of his iniquity, while he visiteth the sins of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate him, Exodus 20:5. Neither doth this contradict that of the prophet Ezekiel, "The son, shall not die for the iniquity of his father," Ezekiel 18:17; nor that of the apostle, "Every man shall bear his own burden," Galatians 6:5; for the meaning of those words is, that no man be damned for the sin of his father, nor one man for the sin of another, unless by commission, or approbation, or some way or other he make it his own. But for temporal punishments there is none but (by occasion of others’ sin) may have their portion in them; and wicked parents leave Job’s legacy to their children; [2 Samuel 3:29] yea, though they prove to be good children, 1 Kings 14:12-13, for whom God layeth up their parents’ iniquity in the treasures of his justice to be produced in due tine.

He rewardeth him] For every transgression and disobedience; that is, every commission and omission "receiveth a just recompense of reward," Hebrews 2:2. God will abate him nothing.

And he shall know it] Know it to his cost. Vexation shall give understanding; he that, before this judgment came, would know nothing of the bitter effect of sin upon him and his, now hath his eyes forced open (as the blind mole is said to have by the pangs of death), and cry out with the lion in the snare, Si praescivissem, Oh! if I had foreknown the mischief, &c. The wicked are wise too late; the fool passeth on and is punished; he knows not the evil of sin till he feels it.


Verse 20

Job 21:20 His eyes shall see his destruction, and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty.

Ver. 20. His eyes shall see his destruction] His slaughter, saith the Greek; his breaking to pieces, saith the Chaldee; this he shall see with his eyes, the destruction of his person, and ruin of his family. The sight of evil is a grief to see as well as the feeling of it is a pain; and that is complete destruction which is not only felt but seen. Zedekiah first saw all his children slain, and then had his eyes put out. Maurichus had the like woeful sight, and then was stewed in his own broth by the traitor Phocas.

And he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty] Heb. The scalding hot wrath, worse than that cup of boiling lead turned down the throat of a certain drunken man, by the command of the Turkish bashaw. Jerusalem drank wrath to drunkenness, and had none to guide her; as a drunken man had need to have, Isaiah 51:17. The nations were to drink it to madness, Jeremiah 25:10. Babylon’s brats shall drink of the wine of God’s wrath, Revelation 14:10 (poison in wine works more furiously than in water); their irreparable ruin is set forth to the eye, as it were, when, Revelation 18:21, an angel, a mighty angel, taketh a stone, a great stone, even a millstone, which he casteth and with impetuous force thrusteth into the bottom of the sea, whence it cannot be buoyed up. Now what is a mighty angel to the Almighty God, who hath his name, Shaddai, from destroying, as some are of opinion?


Verse 21

Job 21:21 For what pleasure [hath] he in his house after him, when the number of his months is cut off in the midst?

Ver. 21. For what pleasure hath he in his house after him?] Hoc est, Omnia impiorum, etiam post mortem eorum, maledicta erunt, saith Brentius; All that belongs to the wicked shall be accursed, even after death, though some are so desperately set upon wickedness that they will have their swing, whatsoever come of it, either to themselves or their children after them. Sic fere αστοργοι sunt improbi, so unnatural they are, many of them, that, so they may satisfy their own sinful and sensual desires, let their posterity sink or swim, let them shift as they can, they care not, εμου θανοντος γαια μιχθητω πυρι (Sueton. de Tiberio). Dives in hell seemed somewhat careful for his brethren; but self’love moved him to it; for he knew well that if they were damned he should be double damned, because they had sinned by his example and encouragement.

When the number of his months shall be cut off in the midst] Mortis periphrasis; that is, when he shall die, saith one. But that is not all. Impius moritur importune, the wicked dieth in an ill time for himself; then when it were better for him to do anything than to die. Many of them live not out half their days, Psalms 55:23, Ecclesiastes 7:17. God cut off Eli’s two sons in one day; and further threatened their father that there should not be an old man left in his house for ever, 1 Samuel 2:32. Hezekiah, when he thought he should die, complained that he had cut off his life like a weaver, Isaiah 38:12, who cuts off the web from the thrum. But the saints (such as he was) die not till the best time, not till that time when, if they were rightly informed, they would even desire to die.


Verse 22

Job 21:22 Shall [any] teach God knowledge? seeing he judgeth those that are high.

Ver. 22. Shall any teach God knowledge?] None but a presumptuous fool will take upon him to do that. Such as was Alphonso the wise (the fool rather), who feared not to say openly, that if he had been of God’s counsel at the creation, some things should have been better made and marshalled (Roderic, Sanct. Hist. Hispan, p. 4, ch. 5). The wisest men are benighted in many things; and whatever light they have it is from the Father of lights, whose judgments are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out. What a madness were it therefore for any mortal to prescribe to the Almighty, or to define whom, when, by what means, and in what measure he must punish offenders! Herein Job’s friends took too much upon them; and he gives them the telling of it, wishing them to be wise to sobriety, and not to give laws to God, who well knoweth what he hath to do, and how to order his earthly kingdom. To disallow of his dealings is to teach him knowledge; which is greatest sauciness.

Seeing he judgeth those that are high] Excelsos in excelsis, the angels, who are so far above us in all manner of excellencies, and yet are ignorant of the wisdom of God’s ways, which they know but in part; for how little a portion is heard of him? Job 26:14. His judgments therefore are rather to be adored than pryed into: Mirari oportet. Non rimari, it is proper to be amazed, not to explore. Let us rest contented with a learned ignorance.


Verse 23

Job 21:23 One dieth in his full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet.

Ver. 23. One dieth in his full strength] Iste moritur, There is one dieth in his very perfections; or, in the strength of his perfection, when he is in the zenith, in the highest degree, of earthly felicity; and he seemeth to point at some one eminent wicked person, well known to them all. Confer Ecclesiastes 9:2. God is pleased to do wonderful contradictory things in man’s reason; so that we must needs confess an unsearchableness in his ways. In hoc opere, ratio humana talpa magis caeca est, saith Brentius; In this work of his, human reason is blinder than a mole. Averroes turned atheist upon it, and Aristotle was little better, as being accused at Athens and banished into Chalcis, quod de divinitate male sentiret. because he was thinking poorly about the gods.

Being wholly at ease and quiet] At ease in body and quiet in mind. The common sort ask, What should ail such a man? The Irish, What such a one meaneth to die?


Verse 24

Job 21:24 His breasts are full of milk, and his bones are moistened with marrow.

Ver. 24. His breasts are full of milk, and his bones, &c.] He is well lined within, as we say, having abundance of good blood and fresh spirits in his body; fat and plump, and well liking. He is enclosed in his own fat, Psalms 17:10. His back is well larded, and his bones are moistened with marrow; which, Plato saith, is not only the source and seminary of generation, but the very seat of life (Plat. in Timaeo). Now such a state of body as is here described is no defence at all against death, saith Job; nay, it is a presage and a forerunner of it many times. For ultimus sanitaria gradus est morbo proximus, say physicians; the highest degree of health is nearest to sickness; we many times chop into the earth before we are aware; like a man, walking in a field covered with snow, who falleth into a pit suddenly.


Verse 25

Job 21:25 And another dieth in the bitterness of his soul, and never eateth with pleasure.

Ver. 25. And another dieth in the bitterness of his soul] Heb. And this dieth with a bitter soul; in a sad and sorrowful condition; having suffered many a little death all his life long (as godly men especially use to do, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, Hebrews 11:37, seldom without a cross on their backs), and then dieth not only in the sorrows of death, but in the sorrows of life which to him hath been a lifeless life, because a joyless life.

And never eateth with pleasure] Either because he hath but prisoners’ pittance, which will neither keep him alive nor suffer him to die; or, if he sit at a full table, yet his body is so ill affected by sickness, or his mind with sorrow, that he finds no good relish in what he eateth. That it is better with any of us, see a mercy and be thankful.


Verse 26

Job 21:26 They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them.

Ver. 26. They shall lie down alike in the dust, and worms, &c.] Death and afflictions are common to them both, as Ecclesiastes 9:2-3 How then do ye pronounce me wicked, because afflicted, and free among the dead, free of that company? &c.

And the worms shall cover them] Who haply were once covered with costliest clothing. The best are but worm’s meat; why then should we pamper and trick up these carcases?


Verse 27

Job 21:27 Behold, I know your thoughts, and the devices [which] ye wrongfully imagine against me.

Ver. 27. Behold, I know your thoughts] sc. By your words; as it is no hard matter for a wise man to do, Proverbs 20:5; for otherwise, God only knoweth the heart, 1 Peter 1:24, Psalms 139:3, it is his royalty. But when men discover their thoughts by their discourses, looks, gestures, &c., we may say, as Job doth here, "I know your thoughts"; and that by the wicked wretch described by you myself is intended; this I am well aware of, though you hover in generals, and speak in a third person. Bartolus writeth of Dr Gabriel Nele, that by the only motion of the lips, without any utterance, he understood any man’s thoughts. The like some say they can do by looks. The Italians have a proverb, That a man with his words close, and his countenance loose, may travel undiscovered all the world over.

And the devices which you wonderfully imagine against me] viz. To take away, as it were by violence, my credit and comfort; this is the foulest theft; avoid it.


Verse 28

Job 21:28 For ye say, Where [is] the house of the prince? and where [are] the dwelling places of the wicked?

Ver. 28. For ye say, Where is the house of the prince?] Ye say though not in so many words, yet upon the matter, Where is this man’s (Job’s) princely pomp and port, that but even now was so splendid? A prince they called Job in a jeer, and by contraries, Per ironiam et antiphrasin, saith Vatablus, because he had been rich, and should have been liberal and munificent, but had not been so. The apostle calleth the Pharisees and philosophers, in like sort, "princes of this world," 1 Corinthians 2:8.

And where are the dwelling places] The palaces, large and lofty, ut sunt praetoria et principum aedes, as the houses of princes use to be (Junius). Lavater rendereth it, The tabernacle of tabernacles, as gentlemen’s houses among us are called, places, halls, courts, &c., Tahernaculum habitaculorum.

Of the wicked?] viz. Of Job and his children, the eldest son’s especially, which was blown down, Job 1:18. As if it might not befall a good man also to have his house plundered, burnt, his children brained, &c. They had often in their discourses jerked at Job’s children.


Verse 29

Job 21:29 Have ye not asked them that go by the way? and do ye not know their tokens,

Ver. 29. Have ye not asked them that go by the way?] The cause of their rash judgment, Job showeth here to be their ignorance of things known to every ordinary passenger, and such as whereof there are many pregnant proofs and examples everywhere. Some, by them that go by the way, understand men by experience, such as have gone many voyages, &c., made many observations in their travels of things remarkable; their notes are here called their tokens. By those that go by the way, others understand Abraham, the Hebrew (so he is called, Genesis 14:13 that is, that Trans-Euphratean, or, he that passed over the river Euphrates, when he passed by the way from Chaldea to Canaan), and his progeny, Isaac and Jacob, who were passengers and pilgrims, and could tell, by experience, that men greatly afflicted may be yet favoured of God, and in due time delivered. Abraham had ten sore trials, and yet was the friend of God. Isaac, besides many other sharp afflictions all along his pilgrimage, was blind for over twenty years before his death. Few and evil were the days of the years of Jacob, his whole life almost one continuous affliction, and yet it was, Jacob have I loved. Of all this Job likely was not ignorant, and why should his friends?

And do ye not know their tokens?] Or, Their tokens you shall not be estranged from. Broughton thus, So ye would not make their signs strange. There will be so much evidence of truth in what they say, that you will not be able to gainsay it.


Verse 30

Job 21:30 That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath.

Ver. 30. That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction?] Here is the passenger’s verdict; viz. that wicked men escape scot free, and flourish for a season; nevertheless their preservation is but a reservation (as Pharaoh, Sennacherib, and others have found it), and if they flourish for the present, it is that they may be destroyed for ever, Psalms 92:7. Others read this verse more suitably to the next, thus, That at the day of destruction the wicked is kept back, and they are carried out in the day of wrath; that is, they are oft spared when the testimonies of God’s wrath are rife against others.


Verse 31

Job 21:31 Who shall declare his way to his face? and who shall repay him [what] he hath done?

Ver. 31. Who shall declare his way to his face? &c.] Who shall be so bold as to deal plainly with this rich wretch, and tell him his own? Divitibus ideo deest amicus, quia nihil deest. Great men have many flatterers, and not a few mutterers against them, but very few that will faithfully show them their sin, and forewarn them of their danger, lest they meet with the same hard measure that the hares in the fable did, who, taking upon them to reprove the lion, were torn in pieces by him for the same. Truth breedeth hatred; and although she be a good mistress, yet they that follow her too close at the heels may hap to have their teeth struck out. But truth, downright truth, must be spoken, however it be taken. Elias dealt roundly and impartially with wicked Ahab, Jeremiah with Josiah’s sons and successors, the Baptist with Herod, Christ with the elders and Pharisees, that noble General Trajan with Valens, the Arian emperor, telling him, That by his persecuting the orthodox he had lost the day, abandoning the victory, and sending it away to the enemy.

And who shall repay him what he hath done?] q.d. Men dare not, for who will take a lion by the beard or a bear by the tooth? God will not punish him here, therefore he must needs escape unpunished, This is by Gregory fitly referred to Antichrist, who may not be admonished, and will not be punished; but thinks to bear out his most malapert misdemeanour, because it is - facinus maioris abollae, the fact of a great one.


Verse 32

Job 21:32 Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb.

Ver. 32. Yet shall he be brought to the grave] He that was erst so stern and terrible shall shortly be laid low enough, and then leoni mortuo vel mus insultabit. the corpse of a lion or a leaping mouse. Though he were such a son of Belial that none could speak to him (as Nabal was, 1 Samuel 25:17), yet death will speak with him, and confute this proud haughty scorner, that dealeth in proud wrath. When death comes, saith Sir Walter Raleigh, which hates and destroys men, that is believed and obeyed; but God, that loveth and maketh men, he is not regarded. Oh mighty death! Oh eloquent death! whom none could advise, thou art able to prevail with.

And shall remain in the tomb] Heb. He shall watch over the heap, super tumulum cumulo frugum in area constructo similem (Lavat.); as a watchman, there he is fixed and keeps this place. Or, He shall be watched in the tomb.


Verse 33

Job 21:33 The clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him, and every man shall draw after him, as [there are] innumerable before him.

Ver. 33. The clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him] Here he saith the same as before, but more poetically, and is variously rendered. The Vulgate, alluding to an old poetical fable, readeth it thus, He shall be sweet to the sand of Cocytus, which is feigned to be one of the rivers of hell, or an infernal lake, so called from the moan there made by damned ghosts, who should be glad of his arrival there. Hell from beneath is moved for him to meet him at his coming, as it is said of the Assyrian tyrant, Isaiah 14:9. Others better expound it thus, He shall taste so much bitterness while he treads upon the clods of the earth, that the clods under the earth shall be reckoned sweet unto him. And oh, how well pleased would he be if he might for ever lie hidden there, and never rise up again to come to judgment! And as it is with one wicked man departed, so it is with all ether, whether they died before, or shall die after (Caten. Graec.).


Verse 34

Job 21:34 How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood?

Ver. 34. How then comfort ye me in vain] Since ye apply nothing rightly to me, nor affirm nothing rightly of me, but, instead of comforting me, which you came for, ye trouble me. And such are all those consolatiunculae, creaturulae (as Luther finely phraseth it), petty creature comforts, waterish and empty businesses; an unsubstantial substance, as one saith of the bulrush.

Seeing in your answers remaineth falsehood?] Or prevarication, or double dealing; foul mistakes, and little less than malice.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 21:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/job-21.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 1st, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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