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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
Job 21



Verses 1-6

1 Then began Job, and said:

2 Hear, oh hear, my speech,

And let this be instead of your consolations.

3 Suffer me, and I will speak,

And after I have spoken thou mayest mock.

4 As for me, then, doth my complaint concern man,

Or wherefore should I not become impatient?

5 Turn ye to me and be astonished,

And lay your hand upon your mouth.

6 Even if I think of it I am bewildered,

And my flesh taketh hold on trembling - :

The friends, far from being able to solve the enigma of Job's affliction, do not once recognise the mystery as such. They cut the knot by wounding Job most deeply by ever more and more frivolous accusations. Therefore he entreats them to be at least willing to listen ( שׁמעוּ with the gerund) to his utterance ( מלּה ) respecting the unsolved enigma; then ( Waw apodosis imper. ) shall this attention supply the place of their consolations, i.e., be comforting to him, which their previous supposed consolations could not be. They are to bear with him, i.e., without interruption allow him to answer for himself ( שׂאוּני with Kametz before the tone, as Jonah 1:12, comp. קחהוּ , 1 Kings 20:33, not as Hirz. thinks under the influence of the distinctive accent, but according to the established rule, Ges. §60, rem. 1); then he will speak ( אנכי contrast to the “ye” in שׂאוני without further force), and after he has expressed himself they may mock. It is, however, not תלעיגוּ (as Olshausen corrects), but תלעיג (in a voluntative signific. = תלעג ), since Job here addresses himself specially to Zophar, the whole of whose last speech must have left the impression on him of a bitter sarcasm ( sarkasmo's from sarka'zein in the sense of Job 19:22 ), and has dealt him the freshest deep blow. In Job 21:4 שׂיחת is not to be understood otherwise than as in Job 7:13; Job 9:27; Job 10:1; Job 23:2, and is to be translated “my complaint.” Then the prominently placed אנכי is to be taken, after Ezekiel 33:17, Ges. §121, 3, as an emphatic strengthening of the “my”: he places his complaint in contrast with another. This emphasizing is not easily understood, if one, with Hupf., explains: nonne hominis est querela mea , so that ה is equivalent to הלא (which here in the double question is doubly doubtful), and ל is the sign of the cause. Schultens and Berg, who translate לאדם more humano , explain similarly, by again bringing their suspicious ל comparativum

(Note: In the passage from Ibn-Kissaï quoted above, p. 421, Schultens, as Fleischer assures me, has erroneously read Arab. lmchâlı̂b instead of kmchâlı̂b , having been misled by the frequent failing of the upper stroke of the Arab. k , and in general Arab. l is never = k , and also ל never = כ , as has been imagined since Schultens.)

here to bear upon it. The ל by שׂיחי (if it may not also be compared with Job 12:8) may certainly be expected to denote those to whom the complaint is addressed. We translate: As for me, then, does my complaint concern men? The אנכי which is placed at the beginning of the sentence comes no less under the rule, Ges. §145, 2, than §121, 3. In general, sufferers seek to obtain alleviation of their sufferings by imploring by words and groans the pity of sympathizing men; the complaint, however, which the three hear from him is of a different kind, for he has long since given up the hope of human sympathy, - his complaint concerns not men, but God (comp. Job 16:20).

(Note: An Arabian proverb says: “The perfect patience is that which allows no complaint to be uttered ila el - chalq against creatures (men).”)

He reminds them of this by asking further: or ( ואם , as Job 8:3; Job 34:17; Job 40:9, not: and if it were so, as it is explained by Nolde contrary to the usage of the language) why (interrogative upon interrogative: an quare , as Psalms 94:9, אם הלא , an nonne) should not my spirit (disposition of mind, θυμός ) be short, i.e., why should I not be short-tempered (comp. Judges 10:16; Zechariah 11:8, with Prov. 13:29) = impatient? Dürr, in his commentatio super voce רוּח , 1776, 4, explains the expression habito simul halitus, qui iratis brevis esse solet, respectu , but the signification breath is far from the nature of the language here; רוח signifies emotional excitement (comp. Job 15:13), either long restrained (with ארך ), or not allowing itself to be restrained and breaking out after a short time ( קצר ). That which causes his vexation to burst forth is such that the three also, if they would attentively turn to him who thus openly expresses himself, will be astonished and lay their hand on their mouth (comp. Job 29:9; Job 40:4), i.e., they must become dumb in recognition of the puzzle, - a puzzle insoluble to them, but which is nevertheless not to be denied. השׁמו is found in Codd. and among grammarians both as Hiph . השׁמּוּ hashammu (Kimchi) and as Hoph. השּׁמּוּ , or what is the same, השּׁמּוּ hoshshammu (Abulwalid) with the sharpening of the first radical, which also occurs elsewhere in the Hoph. of this verb (Leviticus 26:34.) and of others (Olsh. §259, b, 260). The pointing as Hiph . ( השׁמּוּ for השׁמּוּ ) in the signification obstupescite is the better attested. Job himself has only to think of this mystery, and he is perplexed, and his flesh lays hold on terror. The expression is like Job 18:20. The emotion is conceived of as a want arising from the subject of it, which that which produces it must as of necessity satisfy.

In the following strophe the representation of that which thus excites terror begins. The divine government does not harmonize with, but contradicts, the law maintained by the friends.

Verses 7-11

7 Wherefore do the wicked live,

Become old, yea, become mighty in power?

8 Their posterity is established before them about them,

And their offspring before their eyes.

9 Their houses have peace without fear,

And the rod of Eloah cometh not upon them.

10 His (the evil-doer's) bull gendereth and faileth not;

His cow calveth easily, and casteth not her calf.

11 They let their little ones run about as a flock,

And their children jump about.

The question in Job 21:7 is the same as that which Jeremiah also puts forth, Job 12:1-3. It is the antithesis of Zophar's thesis, Job 20:5, and seeks the reason of the fact established by experience which had also well-nigh proved the ruin of Asaph (Ps 73: comp. Malachi 3:13-15), viz., that the ungodly, far from being overtaken by the punishment of their godlessness, continued in the enjoyment of life, that they attain to old age, and also a proportionately increasing power and wealth. The verb עתק , which in Job 14:18; Job 18:4 (comp. the Hiph . Job 9:5; Job 32:15), we read in the signification promoveri, has here, like the Arabic ‛ataqa , ‛atuqa , the signification to become old, aetate provehi; and גּבר חיל , to become strong in property, is a synonym of השׂגּה חיל , to acquire constantly increasing possessions, used in a similar connection in Psalms 73:12. The first feature in the picture of the prosperity of the wicked, which the pang of being bereft of his own children brings home to Job, is that they are spared the same kind of loss: their posterity is established ( נכון , constitutus , elsewhere standing in readiness, Job 12:5; Job 15:23; Job 18:12, here standing firm, as e.g., Psalms 93:2) in their sight about them (so that they have to mourn neither their loss by death nor by separation from their home), and their offspring ( צאצאים , a word common only to the undisputed as well as to the disputed prophecies of Isaiah and the book of Job) before their eyes; נכון must be carried over to Job 21:8 as predicate: they are, without any loss, before their eyes. The description passes over from the children, the corner-stones of the house (vid., Ges. Thes., s.v. בנה ), to the houses themselves. It is just as questionable here as in Job 5:24; Isaiah 41:3, and elsewhere, whether שׁלום is a subst. (= בשׁלום ) or an adj.; the substantival rendering is at least equally admissible in such an elevated poetic speech, and the plur. subject בּתּיהם , which, if the predicate were intended to be taken as an adj., leads one to expect שׁלומים , decides in its favour. On מפּחד , without (far from) terrifying misfortune, as Isaiah 22:3, מקשׁת , without a bow, vid., on Job 19:26. That which is expressed in Job 21:9 , according to external appearance, is in Job 21:9 referred to the final cause; Eloah's שׁבט , rod, with which He smites in punishment (Job 9:34; Job 37:13, comp. Isaiah 10:24-26, where שׁוט , scourge, interchanges with it), is not over them, i.e., threatens and smites them not.

Job 21:10 comes specially to the state of the cattle, after the state of the household in general has been treated of. Since שׁורו and פּרתו are interchangeable, and are construed according to their genus, the former undoubtedly is intended of the male, not also epikoi'noos of the female (lxx ἡ βοῦς , Jerome, Saadia), as Rosenm., after Bochart, believes it must be taken, because `br is never said de mare feminam ineunte , but always de femina quae concipit . In reality, however, it is with עבר otherwise than with עדה , whose Pael and Aphel certainly signify concipere (prop. transmittere sc. semen in a passive sense). On the other hand, עבר , even in Kal , signifies to be impregnated (whence עובר , the embryo, and the biblical אבוּר , like the extra-biblical עבּוּר , the produce of the land), the Pael consequently to impregnate, whence מעבּרא (from the part. pass. מעבּר ) impregnated (pregnant), the Ithpa . to be impregnated, as Rabb. Pual מעבּרת , impregnated (by which עברת also signifies pregnant, which would be hardly possible if עבר in this sexual sense were not radically distinct from עבר , περ - ᾶν ). Accordingly the Targ. translates עבּר by מבטין ( impraegnans ), and Gecatilia translates שׁורו by Arab. fḥlhm ( admissarius eorum ), after which nearly all Jewish expositors explain. This explanation also suits לא יגעל , which lxx translates οὐκ οὀμοτόκησε (Jer. non abortivit ), Symm. in a like sense οὐκ ἐξέτρωσε , Aq. οὐκ εξέβαλε , Saad. la julziq. The reference of שׁורו to the female animal everywhere assumed is incorrect; on the contrary, the bullock kept for breeding is the subject; but proceeding from this, that which is affirmed is certainly referred to the female animal. For גּעל signifies to cast out, cast away; the Hiph . therefore: to cause to cast out; Rabb. in the specified signification: so to heat what has sucked in that which is unclean, that it gives it back or lets it go ( לפלוט הבלוע ). Accordingly Raschi explains: “he injects not useless seed into her, which might come back and be again separated ( נפלט ) from her inward part, without impregnation taking place.” What therefore עבּר says positively, ולא יגעיל says negatively: neque efficit ut ejiciat.

(Note: The Aruch under גּעל , quotes a passage of the Tosefta: מוזרות נפשׁ היפה תאכלם גיעולי ביצים מותרים באכילה , the cast away ( Würflinge ) eggs (i.e., such as have fallen away from the hen from a stroke on the tail of some other cause, and which are not completely formed) are allowed as food; he may eat them who does not loathe them.)

It is then further, in Job 21:9 , said of the female animal which has been impregnated that she does not allow it to glide away, i.e., the fruit, therefore that she brings forth ( פּלּט as מלּט , המליט ), and that she does not cause or suffer any untimely birth.

At the end of the strophe, Job 21:11, the poet with delicate tact makes the sufferer, who is become childless, return to the joy of the wicked in the abundance of children. שׁלּח signifies here, as Isaiah 32:20, to allow freedom for motion and exercise. On עויל , vid., on Job 16:11; Job 19:18. It has a similar root (Arab. ‛âl , alere ) to the Arab. ‛ajjil (collect. ‛ijâl ), servants, but not a similar meaning. The subj. to Job 21:12 are not the children, but the “wicked” themselves, the happy fathers of the flocks of children that are let loose.

Verses 12-16

12 They raise their voice with the playing of timbrel aud harp,

And rejoice at the sound of the pipe

13 They enjoy their days in prosperity,

And in a moment they go down to Sehol.

14 And yet they said to God: “Depart from us!

We desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.

15 What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? -

And what doth it profit us that we should importune Him?” -

16 Lo! they have not their prosperity by their own hand,

The thought of the wicked be far from me!

קולם is to be supplied to ישׂאוּ in Isaiah 42:11, and instead of בּתף with בּ of the musical accompaniment (as Psalms 4:1, Psalms 49:5), it is to be read כּתף after the Masora with Kimchi, Ramban, Ralbag, and Farisol,

(Note: The Masora observes לית כותיה (not occuring thus elsewhere), and accordingly this כתף is distinguished in the Masoretic אב מן חד חד נסבין כף ברישׁיה (alphabetic list of words which take at one time the prefix כ and at another the prefix ) ב , from בתף , which occurs elsewhere. The Targ. has read בטף ; the reading of Raschi and Aben-Ezra is questionable.)

but not with Rosenm. to be explained: personaut velut tympano et cythera , but: they raise their voice as the timbrel and harp sound forth simultaneously; כּ , as Isaiah 18:4 (which is to be transl.: during the clear warmth of the sunshine, during the dew-clouds in the heat of harvest). תּף (Arabic duff , Spanish adufe ) is τύμπανον ( τύπανον ), כּנּור , (Arab. canare ) κινύρα or κιθάρα ) Daniel 3:5), עוּגב or עגב , Job 30:31 (from עגב , flare; vid., on Genesis 4:21), the Pan-pipe (Targ. from a similar root אבּוּבא , whence the name of the ambubajae ). In Job 21:13 and Keri gives the more usual יכלּוּ (Job 36:11) in place of the Chethib יבלּוּ , though יבלּוּ occurs in Isaiah 65:22 without this Keri; יכלו signifies consument , and יבלו usu deterent: they use up their life, enjoy it to the last drop. In connection with this one thinks of a coat which is not laid aside until it is entirely worn out. It is therefore not, as the friends say, that the ungodly is swept away before his time (Job 15:32), also a lingering sickness does not hand him over to death (Job 18:13), but בּרגע , in a moment (comp Job 34:20, not: in rest, i.e., freedom from pain, which רגע never signifies), they sink down to Hades ( acc . loci ). The matter does not admit of one's deriving the fut . יהתּוּ here, as Job 39:22, Job 31:34, from the Niph . of the verb חתת , terrore percelli ; it is to be referred to נחת or נחת (Aram. for ירד ), which is the only certain example of a Hebrew verb Pe Nun ending with ת , whose fut . ינחת , Psalms 38:3, also יחת (Proverbs 17:10, Jeremiah 21:13), instead of יחת , and in the inflexion its ת sti (after the analogy of יצּתּוּ , Isaiah 33:12) is doubled; as an exception (vid., Psalter , ii. 468), the lengthening of the short vowel ( יחתוּ , Olsh. §83 b ) by Silluk does not take place, as e.g., by Athnach, Job 34:5.

The fut. consec . ויּאמרוּ , in which Job 21:14 is continued, does not here denote temporally that which follows upon and from something else, but generally that which is inwardly connected with something else, and even with that which is contradictory, and still occurring at the same time, exactly as Genesis 19:9, 2 Samuel 3:8, comp Ew. §231, b : they sink down after a life that is completely consumed away, without a death-struggle, into Hades, and yet they denied God, would not concern themselves about His sways (comp. the similar passage, Isaiah 58:2), and accounted the service of God and prayer ( פּגע בּ , precibus adire ) as useless. The words of the ungodly extend to Job 21:15 ; according to Hirz., Hlgst., Welte, and Hahn, Job 21:16 resumes the description: behold, is not their prosperity in their hand? i.e., is it not at their free disposal? or do they not everywhere carry it away with them? But Job 21:16 is not favourable to this interrogative rendering of לא (= הלא ). Schlottm. explains more correctly: behold, their prosperity is not in their power; but by taking not only Job 21:16 (like Schnurrer), but the whole of Job 21:16, as an utterance of an opponent, which is indeed impossible, because the declining of all fellowship with the godless would be entirely without aim in the mouth of the opponent. For it is not the fnends who draw the picture of the lot of the punishment of the godless with the most terrible lines possible, who suggest the appearance of looking wishfully towards the godless, but Job, who paints the prosperity of the godless in such brilliant colours. On the other hand, both sides are agreed in referring prosperity and misfortune to God as final cause. And for this very reason Job thinks that בּרך את־האלהים , which he makes the godless, in Job 21:14, Job 21:15, express in their own words, so horrible.

Job 21:16 is therefore to be taken as Job's judgment, and Job 21:16 as the moral effect which it produces upon him. הן introduces the true relation of things, טוּבם signifies, as Job 20:21, their prosperity, and לא בידם (the emphatic position of בידם is to be observed) that this is not in their hand, i.e., arbitrary power, or perhaps better: that it is not by their own hand, i.e.,that it is not their own work but a gift from above, the gift even of the God whom they so shamelessly deny. That God grants them such great and lasting prosperity, is just the mystery which Job is not able to bring forth to view, without, however, his abhorrence of this denying of God being in the slightest degree lessened thereby. Not by their own hand, says he, do they possess such prosperity - the counsel ( עצת similar to Job 5:13, Job 10:3, Job 18:7 : design, principle, and general disposition, or way of thinking) of the wicked be far from me, i.e., be it far from me that so I should speak according to their way of thinking, with which, on the contrary, I disavow all fellowship. The relation of the clauses is exactly like Job 22:18, where this formula of detesation is repeated. רחקה is, according to the meaning, optative or precative (Ew. §223, b , and Ges. §126, 4*), which Hahn and Schlottm. think impossible, without assigning any reason. It is the perf . of certainty, which expresses that which is wished as a fact, but with an emotional exclamative accent. In ancient Arabic it is a rule to use the perf. as optative; and also still in modem Arabic (which often makes use of the fut. matead of the perf.), they say e.g., la cân , i.e., he must never have been! The more detestable the conduct of the prosperous towards Him to whom they owe their prosperity is, the sooner, one would think, the justice of God would be called forth to recompense them according to their deeds, but -

Verses 17-21

17 How rarely is the light of the wicked put out,

And their calamity breaketh in upon them,

That He distributeth snares in his wrath,

18 That they become as straw before the wind,

And as chaff which the storm sweepeth away!?

19 “Eloah layeth up his iniquity for his children!”

May He recompense it to him that he may feel it.

20 May his own eyes see his ruin,

And let him drink of the glowing wrath of the Almighty.

21 For what careth he for his house after him,

When the number of his months is cut off?

The interrogative כּמּה has here the same signification as in Psalms 78:40 : how often (comp. Job 7:19, how long? Job 13:23, how many?), but in the sense of “how seldom?!” How seldom does what the friends preach to him come to pass, that the lamp of the wicked is put out (thus Bildad, Job 13:5), and their misfortune breaks in upon them ( יבא , ingruit; thus Bildad, Job 18:12 : misfortune, איד , prop. pressure of suffering, stands ready for his fall), that He distributes (comp. Zophar's ”this is the portion of the wicked man,” i.e., what is allotted to him, Job 20:29) snares in His wrath. Hirz., Ew., Schlottm., and others, translate הבלים , after the precedent of the Targ. ( עדבין , sortes ), "lots,” since they understand it, after Psalms 16:6, of visitations of punishment allotted, and as it were measured out with a measuring-line; but that passage is to be translated, “the measuring-lines have fallen to me in pleasant places,” and indeed חבל can signify the land that is allotted to one (Joshua 17:14, comp. Joshua 17:5); but the plural does not occur in that tropical sense, and if it were so intended here, חבליהם or חבלים להם might at least be expected. Rosenm., Ges., Vaih., and Carey transl. with lxx and Jer. ( ὠδῖνες , dolores ) “pains,” but הבלים is the peculiar word for the writhings of those in travail (Job 39:3), which is not suited here. Schnurr. and Umbr. are nearer to the correct interpretation when they understand חבלים like פחים , Psalms 11:6, of lightning, as it were fiery strings cast down from above. If we call to mind in how many ways Bildad, Job 18:8-10, has represented the end of the godless as a divinely decreed seizure, it is certainly the most natural, with Stick. and Hahn, to translate (as if it were Arabic ḥabâ'ilin ) “snares,” to be understood after the idea, however, not of lightning, but generally of ensnaring destinies (e.g., חבלי עני , Job 36:8).

Both Job 21:17 with its three members and Job 21:18 with two, are under the control of כמה . The figure of straw, or rather chopped straw (Arab. tibn , tabn ), occurs only here. The figure of chaff is more frequent, e.g., Psalms 1:4. Job here puts in the form of a question what Psalms 1:1-6 maintains, being urged on by Zophar's false application and superficial comprehension of the truth expressed in the opening of the Psalter. What next follows in Job 21:19 is an objection of the friends in vindication of their thesis, which he anticipates and answers; perhaps the clause is to be spoken with an interrogative accent: Eloah will - so ye object - reserve his evil for his children? אונו , not from און , strength, wealth, as Job 18:7, Job 18:12; Job 20:10; Job 40:16, but from און , wickedness (Job 11:11) and evil (Job 15:35), here (without making it clear which) of wickedness punishing itself by calamity, or of calamity which must come forth from the wickedness as a moral necessity comp. on Job 15:31. That this is really the opinion of the friends: God punishes the guilt of the godless, if not in himself, at least in his children, is seen from Job 20:10; Job 5:4. Job as little as Ezekiel, ch. 18, disputes the doctrine of retribution in itself, but that imperfect apprehension, which, in order that the necessary satisfaction may be rendered to divine justice, maintains a transfer of the punishment which is opposed to the very nature of personality and freedom: may He recompense him himself, וידע , that he may feel it, i.e., repent (which would be in Arab. in a similar sense, faja'lamu; ידע as Isaiah 9:8; Hosea 9:7; Ezekiel 25:14).

Job 21:20 continues in the same jussive forms; the ἅπ. γεγρ. כּיד signifies destruction (prop. a thrust, blow), in which sense the Arab. caid (commonly: cunning) is also sometimes used. The primary signification of the root כד , Arab. kd , is to strike, push; from this, in the stems Arab. kâd , med. Wau and med. Je , Arab. kdd , kdkd , the most diversified turns and applications are developed; from it the signif. of כּידוד , Job 41:11, כּידון , Job 39:23, and according to Fleischer (vid., supra , pp. 388) also of כּידור , are explained. Job 21:20 , as Psalms 60:5; Obadiah 1:16, refers to the figure of the cup of the wrath of God which is worked out by Asaph, Psalms 75:9, and then by the prophets, and by the apocalyptic seer in the New Testament. The emphasis lies on the signs of the person in עינו ( עיניו ) and ישׁתּה . The rather may his own eyes see his ruin, may he himself have to drink of the divine wrath; for what is his interest (what interest has he) in his house after him? מה puts a question with a negative meaning (hence Arab. mâ is directly used as non ); חפץ , prop. inclination, corresponds exactly to the word “interest” ( quid ejus interest ), as Job 22:3, comp. Isaiah 58:3, Isaiah 58:13 (following his own interest), without being weakened to the signification, affair, πραγμα , a meaning which does not occur in our poet or in Isaiah. Job 21:21 is added as a circumstantial clause to the question in Job 21:21 : while the number of his own months ... , and the predicate, as in Job 15:20 (which see), is in the plur. per attractionem. Schnurr., Hirz., Umbr., and others explain: if the number of his months is drawn by lot, i.e., is run out; but חצץ as v. denom. from חץ morf , in the signification to shake up arrows as sticks for drawing lots (Arab. sahm , an arrow and a lot, just so Persian tı̂r ) in the helmet or elsewhere (comp. Ezekiel 21:26), is foreign to the usage of the Hebrew language (for מחצצים , Judges 5:11, signifies not those drawing lots, but the archers); besides, חצּץ ( pass . חצּץ ) would signify “to draw lots,” not “to dispose of by lot,” and “disposed of by lot” is an awkward metaphor for “run out.” Cocceius also gives the choice of returning to חצץ , ψῆφος , in connection with this derivation: calculati sive ad calculum , i.e., pleno numero egressi , which has still less ground. Better Ges., Ew., and others: if the number of his months is distributed, i.e., to him, so that he (this is the meaning according to Ew.) can at least enjoy his prosperity undisturbed within the limit of life appointed to him. By this interpretation one misses the לו which is wanting, and an interpretation which does not require it to be supplied is therefore to be preferred. All the divers significations of the verbs חצץ (to divide, whence Proverbs 30:27, חצץ , forming divisions, i.e., in rank and file, denom . to shoot with the arrow, Talm. to distribute, to halve, to form a partition), חצה (to divide, Job 40:20; to divide in two equal parts), Arab. hṣṣ (to divide, whence Arab. hṣṣah , portio ), and Arab. chṣṣ (to separate, particularize) - to which, however, Arab. chṭṭ (to draw, write), which Ew. compares here, does not belong - are referable to the primary signification scindere, to cut through, split (whence חץ , an arrow, lxx 1 Samuel 20:20, σχίζα ); accordingly the present passage is to be explained: when the number of his months is cut off (Hlgst., Hahn), or cut through, i.e., when a bound is set to the course of his life at which it ends (comp. בּצּע , of the cutting off of the thread of life, Job 6:9; Job 27:8, Arab. ṣrm ). Job 14:21., Ecclesiastes 3:22, are parallels to Job 21:21. Death is the end of all clear thought and perception. If therefore the godless receives the reward of his deeds, he should receive it not in his children, but in his own body during life. But this is the very thing that is too frequently found to be wanting.

Verses 22-26

22 Shall one teach God knowledge,

Who judgeth those who are in heaven?

23 One dieth in his full strength,

Being still cheerful and free from care.

24 His troughs are full of milk,

And the marrow of his bones is well watered.

25 And another dieth with a sorrowing spirit,

And hath not enjoyed wealth.

26 They lie beside one another in the dust,

And worms cover them both.

The question, Job 21:22, concerns the friends. Since they maintain that necessarily and constantly virtue is rewarded by prosperity, and sin by misfortune, but without this law of the divine order of the world which is maintained by them being supported by experience: if they set themselves up as teachers of God, they will teach Him the right understanding of the conduct which is to be followed by Him as a ruler and judge of men, while nevertheless He is the Absolute One, beneath whose judicial rule not merely man, but also the heavenly spirits, are placed, and to which they must conform and bow. The verb למּד , instead of being construed with two acc., as in the dependent passage Isaiah 40:14, is here construed with the dat . of the person (which is not to be judged according to Job 5:2; Job 19:3, but according to διδάσκειν τινί τι , to teach one anything, beside the other prevailing construction). With והוא a circumstantial clause begins regularly: while He, however, etc. Arnh. and Löwenth. translate: while, however, He exaltedly judges, i.e., according to a law that infinitely transcends man; but that must have been מרום (and even thus it would still be liable to be misunderstood). Hahn (whom Olsh. is inclined to support): but He will judge the proud, to which first the circumstantial clause, and secondly the parallels, Job 35:2; Job 15:15; Job 4:18 (comp. Isaiah 24:21), from which it is evident that רמים signifies the heavenly beings (as Psalms 78:69, the heights of heaven), are opposed: it is a fundamental thought of this book, which abounds in allusions to the angels, that the angels, although exalted above men, are nevertheless in contrast with God imperfect, and therefore are removed neither from the possibility of sin nor the necessity of a government which holds them together in unity, and exercises a judicial authority over them. The rule of the all-exalted Judge is different from that which the three presumptuously prescribe to Him.

The one (viz., the evil-doer) dies בּעצם תּמּו , in ipsa sua integritate , like בעצם היום , ipso illo die ; the Arabic would be fı̂ ‛yn , since there the eye, here the bone (comp. Uhlemann, Syr. Gramm. §58), denote corporeality, duration, existence, and therefore identity. תּם is intended of perfect external health, as elsewhere מתם ; comp. תּמימים , Proverbs 1:12. In Job 21:23 the pointing שׁלאנן ( adj. ) and שׁלאנן (3 praet. ) are interchanged in the Codd.; the following verbal adjective favours the form of writing with Kametz . As to the form, however (which Röd. and Olsh. consider to be an error in writing), it is either a mixed form from שׁאנן and שׁלו with the blended meaning of both (Ew. §106, c ), to which the comparison with שׁליו (= שׁלו ) is not altogether suitable, or it is formed from שׁאנן by means of an epenthesis (as זלעף from זעף , aestuare , and בלסם , βάλσαμον , from בשׂם ), and of similar but intensified signification; we prefer the latter, without however denying the real existence of such mixed forms (vid., on Job 26:9; Job 33:25). This fulness of health and prosperity is depicted in Job 21:24. The ancient translators think, because the bones are mentioned in the parallel line, עטיניו must also be understood of a part of the body: lxx ἔγκατα , Jer. viscera ; Targ. בּיזוי , his breasts, βυζία

(Note: Vid., Handschriftliche Funde, 2. S. V.)

(for Hebr. שׁדים , שׁד ); Syr. version gabauh (= ganbauh ), his sides in regard to עטמא , Syr. ‛attmo = אטמא , side, hip; Saad. audâguhu , his jugular veins, in connection with which (not, however, by this last rendering) חלב is read instead of חלב : his bowels, etc., are full of fat.

(Note: Gesenius in his Thes . corrects the אודאגה which was found in Saadia's manuscript translation to אודאעה , Arab. awdâ‛uhu , which is intended to mean repositoria ejus , but is really not Arabic; whereas אודאגה is the correct plur . of Arab. wadaj : his jugular veins, which occurs not merely of horses, but also of animals and men. Saadia, with reference to the following מלאוּ חלב , has thought of the metaphorical phrase Arab. ḥalaba awdâjahu : “he has milked his jugular vein,” i.e., he has, as it were, drawn the blood from his jugular veins = eum jugulavit , vid., Bibliotheca Arabo-Sicula, p. 563: “and with the freshly milked juice of the jugular veins, viz., of the enemy (Arab. w - mn ḥlb 'l - 'wdâj ), our infant ready to be weaned is nourished in the midst of the tumult of battle, as soon as he is weaned.” The meaning of Saadia's translation is then: his jugular veins are filled with fresh blood swollen with fulness of blood. - Fl.)

But the assumption that עטיניו must be a part of the body is without satisfactory ground (comp. against it e.g., Job 20:17, and for it Job 20:11); and Schlottm. very correctly observes, that in the contrast in connection with the representation of the well-watered marrow one expects a reference to a rich nutritious drink. To this expectation corresponds the translation: “his resting-places (i.e., of his flocks) are full of milk,” after the Arab. ‛aṭan or ma‛ṭin . which was not first compared by Schultens and Reiske ( epaulia ), but even by Abul-walid, Aben-Ezra, and others.

But since the reference of what was intended to be said of the cattle at the watering-places to the places where the water is, possesses no poetic beauty, and the Hebrew language furnished the poet with an abundance of other words for pastures and meadows, it is from the first more probable that עטיניו are large troughs, - like Talm. מעטן , a trough, in which the unripe olives were laid in order that they might become tender and give forth oil, that they may then be ready for the oil-press ( בּד ), and עטן denotes this laying in itself, - and indeed either milk-tubs or milk-pails ( שׁחולבין לתוכן ), or with Kimchi (who rightly characterizes this as more in accordance with the prosperous condition which is intended to be described), the troughs for the store of milk, which also accords better with the meaning of the verb עטן , Arab. ‛aṭana , to lay in, confire .

(Note: The Arab. verb 'tn , compared by the Orientals themselves with Arab. wtn , cognate in sound and meaning, has the primary signification to lie secure and to lay secure, as Arab. 'atan , a resting-place of camels, sheep, and goats about the watering-places, is only specifically distinct from Arab. watan, a cow-shed, cow-stall. The common generic notion is always a resting-place, wherefore the Kamus interprets 'attan by wattan wa-mebrek, viz., round about the drinking-places. Arab. ma'tin as n. loci , written m'atén by Barth in his Wanderungen durch die Küstenländer des Mittelmeeres, Bd. i. (vid., Deutsch. Morgenländ. Zeitschrift, iv. S. 275) S. 500, 517, is similar in meaning. The Arab. verb 'atana, impf. j'attunu, also j'attina, n. act. 'uttûn, a v. instrans., signifies, viz., of camels, etc., to lay themselves down around the drinking-troughs, after or even before drinking from them. On the other hand, Arab. 'atana, impf. j'attinu, also j'attunu, n. act. 'attn, a v. trans. used by the dresser of skins: to lay the skins in the tan or ooze (French, confire; low Latin, tanare, tannare, whence French, tanner, to tan, tan, the bark) until they are ready for dressing, and the hairs will easily scrape off. Hence Arab. 'atina, impf. j'attanu, n. act. 'attan, a v. intrans. used of skins: to become tender by lying in the ooze, and to smell musty, to stink, which is then transferred to men and animals: to stink like a skin in the ooze, comp. situs, mould, mildew, rest. - Fl. Starting from the latter signification, macerare pellem, Lee explains: his bottles (viz., made of leather); and Carey: his half-dressed skins (because the store of milk is so great that he cannot wait for the preparation of the leather for the bottles); but the former is impossible, the latter out of taste, and both are far-fetched.)

From the abundance of nutriment in Job 21:24 , the description passes over in Job 21:24 to the well-nourished condition of the rich man himself in consequence of this abundance. מח (Arab. muchch , or even nuchch , as נף = מף , naurag = מורג ) is the marrow in the bones, e.g., the spinal marrow, but also the brain as the marrow of the head ( Psychol . S. 233). The bones (Proverbs 3:8), or as it is here more exactly expressed, their marrow, is watered, when the body is inwardly filled with vigour, strength, and health; Isaiah, Isaiah 58:11, fills up the picture more (as a well-watered garden), and carries it still further in Isaiah 66:14 (thy bones shall blossom like a tender herb). The counterpart now follows with וזה (and the other, like Job 1:16). The other (viz., the righteous) dies with a sorrowful soul (comp. Job's lament, Job 7:11; Job 10:1), i.e., one which is called to experience the bitterness of a suffering life; he dies and has not enjoyed בּטּובה , any of the wealth (with partitive Beth , as Psalms 141:4, comp. supra , Job 7:13), has had no portion in the enjoyment of it (comp. Job's lament, Job 9:25). In death they are then both, unrighteous and righteous, alike, as the Preacher said: מקרה אחד comes upon the wise as upon the fool, Ecclesiastes 2:15, comp. Job 9:2. They lie together in the dust, i.e., the dust of the grave (vid., on Job 19:25), and worms cover them. What then is become of the law of retribution in the present world, which the friends maintained with such rigid pertinacity, and so regardless of the deep wound they were inflicting on Job?

Verses 27-31

27 Behold I know your thoughts

And the stratagems, with which ye overpower me!

28 When ye say: Where is the house of the tyrant,

And where the pavilions of the wicked - :

29 Have ye not asked those who travel,

Their memorable things ye could surely not disown:

30 That the wicked was spared in the day of calamity,

In the day of the outburst of wrath they were led away.

31 Who liketh to declare to him his way to his face?

And hath he done aught, who will recompense it to him?

Their thoughts which he sees through, are their secret thoughts that he is such an evil-doer reaping the reward of his deeds. מזמּות (which occurs both of right measures, good wise designs, Proverbs 5:2; Proverbs 8:12, and of artful devices, malicious intrigues, Proverbs 12:2; Proverbs 14:17, comp. the definition of בּעל מזמּות , Proverbs 24:8) is the name he gives to the delicately developed reasoning with which they attack him; חמס (comp. Arab. taḥammasa , to act harshly, violently, and overbearingly) is construed with על in the sense of forcing, apart from the idea of overcoming. In Job 21:28, which is the antecedent to Job 21:29, beginning with כּי האמרוּ (as Job 19:28), he refers to words of the friends like Job 8:22; Job 15:34; Job 18:15, Job 18:21. נדיב is prop. the noble man, whose heart impels ( נדב , Arab. nadaba ) him to what is good, or who is ready and willing, and does spontaneously that which is good (Arab. naduba ), vid., Psychol. S. 165; then, however, since the notion takes the reverse way of generosus, the noble man (princely) by birth and station, with which the secondary notion of pride and abuse of power, therefore of a despot or tyrant, is easily as here (parall. רשׁעים , comp. עשׁיר , Isaiah 53:9, with the same word in the parallel) combined (just so in Isaiah 13:2, and similarly at least above, Job 12:21, - an anomaly of name and conduct, which will be for the future put aside, according to Isaiah 32:5). It is not admissible to understand the double question as antithetical, with Wolfson, after Proverbs 14:11; for the interrogative איּה is not appropriate to the house of the נדיב , in the proper sense of the word. Job 21:28, משׁכנות is not an externally but internally multiplying plur.; perhaps the poet by byt intends a palace in the city, and by אהל משׁכנות a tent among the wandering tribes, rendered prominent by its spaciousness and the splendour of the establishment.

(Note: Although the tents regularly consist of two divisions, one for the men and another for the women, the translation “magnificent pavilion” ( Prachtgezelt ), disputed by Hirz., is perfectly correct; for even in the present day a Beduin, as he approaches an encampment, knows the tent of the sheikh immediately: it is denoted by its size, often also by the lances planted at the door, and also, as is easily imagined, by the rich arrangement of cushions and carpets. Vid., Layard's New Discoveries , pp. 261 and 171.)

Job thinks the friends reason a priori since they inquire thus; the permanent fact of experience is quite different, as they can learn from ערי דרך , travellers, i.e., here: people who have travelled much, and therefore are well acquainted with the stories of human destinies. The Piel נכּר , proceeding from the radical meaning to gaze fixedly, is an enantio'seemon, since it signifies both to have regard to, Job 34:19, and to disown, Deuteronomy 32:27; here it is to be translated: their אתת ye cannot nevertheless deny, ignore (as Arab. nakira and ankara ). אתת are tokens, here: remarkable things, and indeed the remarkable histories related by them; Arab. âyatun (collective plur. âyun ), signs, is also similarly used in the signification of Arab. ‛ibrat , example, historical teaching.

That the כּי , Job 21:30, as in Job 21:28, introduces the view of the friends, and is the antecedent clause to Job 21:31 : quod ( si ) vos dicitis, in tempora cladis per iram divinam immissae servari et nescium futuri velut pecudem eo deduci improbum (Böttcher, de fin. §76), has in the double ל an apparent support, which is not to be denied, especially in regard to Job 38:23; it is, however, on account of the omission of the indispensable תאמרו in this instance, an explanation which does violence to the words. The כּי , on the contrary, introduces that which the accounts of the travellers affirm. Further, the ל in ליום indicates here not the terminus ad quem , but as in לערב , in the evening, the terminus quo. And the verb חשׂך , cohibere , signifies here to hold back from danger, as Job 33:18, therefore to preserve uninjured. Ew. translates Job 21:30 erroneously: “in the day when the floods of wrath come on.” How tame would this הוּבל , “to be led near,” be! This Hoph . signifies elsewhere to be brought and conducted, and occurs in Job 21:32, as in Isaiah 55:12 and elsewhere, of an honourable escort; here, in accordance with the connection: to be led away out of the danger (somewhat as Lot and his family by the escort of angels). At the time, when streams of wrath ( עברה , the overflowing of vexation = outburst of wrath, like the Arab. ‛abrt , the overflowing of the eye = tears) go forth, they remain untouched: they escape them, as being under a special, higher protection.

(Note: This interpretation, however, is unsatisfactory, because it does not do justice to the twofold ל , which seems, according to Job 38:23, to be intended to indicate the terminus ad quem ; perhaps Job 21:29 and Job 21:30 are to be transposed. If Job 21:30 followed Job 21:28, it would retain its natural sense as belonging to the view of the friends: “For the wicked is reserved for the day of calamity, and to a day of wrath they are led” ( יובלו as Isaiah 53:7; Jeremiah 11:19). Then והוא לקברות יובל also adds a suitable echo of the contradiction in Job's mouth. Böttch. rightly calls attention to the consonance of יובל with יובלו , and of עברות with קברות .)

Job 21:31 is commonly taken as a reflection on the exemption of the evil-doer: God's mode of action is exalted above all human scrutiny, although it is not reconcilable with the idea of justice, Job 9:12; Job 23:13. But the מי ישׁלּם־לו , who will recompense it to him, which, used of man in relation to God, has no suitable meaning, and must therefore mean: who, after God has left the evil-doer unpunished - for which, however, הוּא עשׂה would be an unsuitable expression - shall recompense him, the evil-doer? is opposed to it. Therefore, against Ew., Hirz., and Hlgst., it must with most expositors be supposed that Job 21:31 is a reflection referable not to God, but to the evil-doer: so powerful is the wicked generally, that no one can oppose his pernicious doings and call him to account for them, much less that any one would venture to repay him according to his desert when he has brought anything to a completion ( הוּא עשׂה , intentionally thus seriously expressed, as elsewhere of God, e.g., Isaiah 38:15). In the next strophe, that which is gathered from the accounts of travellers is continued, and is then followed by a declamatory summing up.

Verses 32-34

32 And he is brought to the grave,

And over the tomb he still keepeth watch.

33 The clods of the valley are sweet to him,

And all men draw after him,

As they preceded him without number.

. . . . . .

34 And how will ye comfort me so vainly!

Your replies are and remain perfidy.

During life removed at the time of dire calamity, this unapproachable evil-doer is after his death carried to the grave with all honour ( יוּבל , comp. Job 10:19), and indeed to a splendid tomb; for, like משׁכנות above, קברות is also an amplificative plural. It is certainly the most natural to refer ישׁקד , like יוּבל , to the deceased. The explanation: and over the tomb one keeps watch (Böttch., Hahn, Röd., Olsh.), is indeed in itself admissible, since that which serves as the efficient subject is often left unexpressed (Genesis 48:2; 2 Kings 9:21; Isaiah 53:9; comp. supra , on Job 18:18); but that, according to the prevalent usage of the language, ישׁקד would denote only a guard of honour at night, not also in the day, and that for clearness it would have required גּדישׁו instead of גּדישׁ , are considerations which do not favour this explanation, for שׁקד signifies to watch, to be active, instead of sleeping or resting; and moreover, the placing of guards of honour by graves is an assumed, but not proved, custom of antiquity. Nevertheless, ישׁקד might also in general denote the watchful, careful tending of the grave, and the maqâm (the tomb) of one who is highly honoured has, according to Moslem custom, servants ( châdimı̂n ) who are appointed for this duty. But though the translation “one watches” should not be objected to on this ground, the preference is to be given to a commendable rendering which makes the deceased the subject of ישׁקד . Raschi's explanation does not, however, commend itself: “buried in his own land, he also in death still keeps watch over the heaps of sheaves.” The lxx translates similarly, ἐπὶ σωρῶν , which Jerome improperly, but according to a right sentiment, translates, in congerie mortuorum. For after the preceding mention of the pomp of burial, גּדישׁ , which certainly signifies a heap of sheaves in Job 5:26, is favoured by the assumption of its signifying a sepulchral heap, with reference to which also in that passage (where interment is likewise the subject of discourse) the expression is chosen. Haji Gaon observes that the dome ( קבּה , Arab. qbbt , the dome and the sepulchral monument vaulted over by it)

(Note: Vid., Lane's Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (translated by Zenker).)

erected over graves according to Arab custom is intended; and Aben-Ezra says, that not exactly this, but in general the grave-mound formed of earth, etc., is to be understood. In reality, גדישׁ (from the verb גדשׁ , cumulare , commonly used in the Talmud and Aramaic) signifies cumulus , in the most diversified connections, which in Arabic are distributed among the verbs jds , kds , and jdš , especially tumulus , Arab. jadatun (broader pronunciation jadafun ). If by grave-mound a mound with the grave upon it can be understood, a beautiful explanation is presented which accords with the preference of the Beduin for being buried on an eminence, in order that even in death he may be surrounded by his relations, and as it were be able still to overlook their encampment: the one who should have had a better lot is buried in the best place of the plain, in an insignificant grave; the rich man, however, is brought up to an eminence and keeps watch on his elevated tomb, since from this eminence as from a watch-tower he even in death, as it were, enjoys the wide prospect which delighted him so while living.

(Note: “Take my bones,” says an Arabian poem, “and carry them with you, wherever you go; and if ye bury them, bury them opposite your encampment! And bury me not under a vine, which would shade me, but upon a hill, so that my eye can see you!” Vid., Ausland , 1863, Nr. 15 ( Ein Ritt nach Transjordanien ).)

But the signification collis cannot be supported; גדישׁ signifies the hill which is formed by the grave itself, and Job 21:33 indeed directs us to the wady as the place of burial, not to the hill. But if גדישׁ is the grave-mound, it is also not possible with Schlottm. to think of the pictures on the wall and images of the deceased, as they are found in the Egyptian vaults (although in Job 3:14 we recognised an allusion to the pyramids), for it cannot then be a גדישׁ in the strict sense that is spoken of; the word ought, like the Arabic jdṯ (which the Arab. translation of the New Testament in the London Polyglott uses of the μνημεῖον of Jesus), with a mingling of its original signification, to have been used in the general signification sepulcrum . This would be possible, but it need not be supposed. Job's words are the pictorial antithesis to Bildad's assertion, Job 18:17, that the godless man dies away without trace or memorial; it is not so, but as may be heard from the mouth of people who have experience in the world: he keeps watch over his tomb, he continues to watch although asleep, since he is continually brought to remembrance by the monument built over his tomb. A keeping watch that no one approaches the tomb disrespectfully (Ew.), is not to be thought of. שׁקד is a relative negation of the sleep of death: he is dead, but in a certain manner he continues to live, viz., in the monument planting forward his memory, which it remains for the imagination to conceive of as a mausoleum, or weapons, or other votive offerings hung upon the walls, etc. In connection with such honour, which follows him even to and beyond death, the clods of the valley ( est ei terra levis ) are sweet ( מתקוּ is accentuated with Mercha , and לו without Makkeph with little- Rebia ) to him; and if death in itself ought to be accounted an evil, he has shared the common fate which all men after him will meet, and which all before him have met; it is the common end of all made sweet to him by the pageantry of his burial and his after-fame. Most modern expositors (Ew., Hirz., Umbr., Hlgst., Welte) understand the ימשׁך , which is used, certainly, not in the transitive signification: to draw after one's self, but in the intransitive: to draw towards (lxx απελεύσεται ), as Judges 4:6 (vid., Ges. Thes .), of an imitative treading of the same way; but כּל־אדם would then be an untrue hyperbole, by which Job would expose himself to the attack of his adversaries.

In Job 21:34 Job concludes his speech; the Waw of ואיך , according to the idea (as e.g., the Waw in ואני , Isaiah 43:12), is an inferential ergo . Their consolation, which is only available on condition of penitence, is useless; and their replies, which are intended to make him an evil-doer against the testimony of his conscience, remain מעל . It is not necessary to construe: and as to your answers, only מעל remains. The predicate stands per attractionem in the sing.: their answers, reduced to their true value, leave nothing behind but מעל , end in מעל , viz., באלהים , Joshua 22:22, perfidious sinning against God, i.e., on account of the sanctimonious injustice and uncharitableness with which they look suspiciously on him.

Job has hitherto answered the accusations of the friends, which they express in ever-increasingly terrible representations of the end of the godless, presenting only the terrible side of their dogma of the justice of God, with a stedfast attestation of his innocence, and with the ever-increasing hope of divine vindication against human accusation. In him was manifest that faith which, being thrust back by men, clings to God, and, thrust back by God, even soars aloft from the present wrath of God to His faithfulness and mercy. The friends, however, instead of learning in Job's spiritual condition to distinguish between the appearance and the reality in this confidence, which comes back to itself, see in it only a constant wilful hardening of himself against their exhortations to penitence. It does not confound them, that he over whom, according to their firm opinion, the sword of God's vengeance hangs, warns them of that same sword, but only confirms them still more in their conviction, that they have to do with one who is grievously self-deluded.

Zophar has painted anew the end of the evil-doer in the most hideous colours, in order that Job might behold himself in this mirror, and be astonished at himself. We see also, from the answer of Job to Zophar's speech, that the passionate excitement which Job displayed at first in opposition to the friends has given place to a calmer tone; he has already got over the first impression of disappointed expectation, and the more confidently certain of the infallibility of divine justice he becomes, the more does he feel raised above his accusers. He now expects no further comfort; careful attention to what he has to say shall henceforth be his consolation. He will also complain against and of men no more, for he has long since ceased to hope for anything for himself from men; his vexation concerns the objective indefensibility of that which his opponents maintain as a primeval law of the divine government in the world. The maxim that godlessness always works its own punishment by a calamitous issue, is by no means supported by experience. One sees godless persons who are determined to know nothing of God, and are at the same time prosperous. It is not to be said that God treasures up the punishment they have deserved for their children. The godless ought rather to bear the punishment themselves, since the destiny of their children no longer concerns them after they have enjoyed their fill of life. That law is therefore a precept which human short-sightedness has laid down for God, but one by which, however, He is not guided. The godless who have lived prosperously all their days, and the righteous who have experienced only sorrow, share the common lot of death. One has only to ask persons who have had experience of the world: they can relate instances of notorious sinners who maintained their high position until death, and who, without being overtaken by divine judgments, and without human opposition and contradiction, were carried in honour to the grave, and their memory is immortalized by the monuments erected over their tomb. From this Job infers that the connection into which the friends bring his suffering with supposed guilt, is a false one, and that all their answers are, after all, reducible to an unjust and uncharitable judgment, by which they attack ( מעל ) God.

Job has more than once given expression to the thought, that a just distribution of prosperity and misfortune is not to be found in the world, Job 9:22-24; Job 12:6. But now for the first time he designedly brings it forward in reply to the friends, after he has found every form of assertion of his innocence unavailing, and their behaviour towards him with their dogma is become still more and more inconsiderate and rash. Job sins in this speech; but in order to form a correct judgment of this sinning, two things must be attended to. Job does not revel in the contradiction in which this lasting fact of experience stands to the justice of divine retribution, he had rather be ignorant of it; for he has no need of it in order, in spite of his affliction, to be able to hold fast the consciousness of his innocence. No indeed! if he thinks of this mystery he is perplexed, and shuddering comes over him, Job 21:6. And when he depicts the prosperity of sinners, he expresses his horror of the sins of such prosperous men in the words: The counsel of the ungodly be far from me! (Job 21:16), in order that it may not be erroneously imagined that he lusts after such prosperity.

If we compare Zophar's and Job's speeches one with another, we are obliged to say, that relatively the greater right is on the side of Job. True, the Scriptures confirm what Zophar says of the destruction of the evil-doer in innumerable passages; and this calamitous end of one who has long been prosperous and defiant, is the solution by which the Old Testament Scriptures (Ps. 37, 73; Jeremiah 12:1-3; Hab. 1:13-2:1) remove the stumbling-block of the mysterious phenomenon of the prosperity of the evil-doer. But if we bear in mind that this solution is insufficient, so long as that calamitous end is regarded only outwardly, and with reference to the present world, - that the solution only becomes satisfactory when, as in the book of Ecclesiastes, in reply to a similar doubt to that which Job expresses (Ecclesiastes 7:15; Ecclesiastes 8:14), the end is regarded as the end of all, and as the decision of a final judgment which sets all contradictions right, - that, however, neither Zophar nor Job know anything of a decision beyond death, but regard death as the end whither human destiny and divine retribution tend, without being capable of any further distinction: we cannot deny that Job is most in the right in placing the prosperous life and death of the godless as based upon the incontrovertible facts of experience, in opposition to Zophar's primeval exceptionless law of the terrible end of the godless. The speeches of Zophar and of Job are both true and false, - both one-sided, and therefore mutually supplementary. The real final end of the evil-doer is indeed none other than Zophar describes; and the temporal prosperity of the evil-doer, lasting often until death, is really a frequent phenomenon. If, however, we consider further, that Job is not able to deny the occurrence of such examples of punishment, such revelations of the retributive justice of God, as those which Zophar represents as occurring regularly and without exception; that, however, on the other hand, exceptional instances undeniably do exist, and the friends are obliged to be blind to them, because otherwise the whole structure of their opposition would fall in, - it is manifest that Job is nearer to the truth than Zophar. For it is truer that the retributive justice of God is often, but by far not always, revealed in the present world and outwardly, than that it never becomes manifest.

Wherein, then, does Job's sin in this speech consist? Herein, that he altogether ignores the palpably just distribution of human destinies, which does occur frequently enough. In this he becomes unjust towards his opponent, and incapable of convincing him. From it, it appears as though in the divine government there is not merely a preponderance of what is mysterious, of what is irreconcilable with divine justice, but as though justice were altogether contradicted. The reproach with which he reproaches his opponents: Shall one teach God understanding? is one which also applies to himself; for when he says that God, if He punishes, must visit punishment upon the evil-doer himself, and not on his children, it is an unbecoming dictation with regard to God's doing. We should be mistaken in supposing that the poet, in Job 21:19-21, brings forward a concealed contradiction to the Mosaic doctrine of retribution; nowhere in the Old Testament, not even in the Mosaic law, is it taught, that God visits the sins of the fathers on the children, while He allows them themselves to go free, Exodus 20:5, comp. Deuteronomy 24:16; Ezekiel 18:1; Jeremiah 31:29. What Job asserts, that the sinner himself must endure the punishment of his sins, not his children instead of him, is true; but the thought lying in the background, that God does not punish where He ought to punish, is sinful. Thus here Job again falls into error, which he must by and by penitently acknowledge and confess, by speaking unbecomingly of God: the God of the future is again vanished from him behind the clouds of temptation, and he is unable to understand and love the God of the present; He is a mystery to him, the incomprehensibility of which causes him pain. “The joyous thought of the future, which a little before struggled forth, again vanishes, because the present, into the abyss of which he is again drawn down, has remained perfectly dark the whole time, and as yet no bridge has been revealed crossing from this side to that.”


Copyright Statement
The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Bibliography Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Job 21:4". 1854-1889.

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