JOB CHAPTER 21
Job’s Reply to Zophar’s Speech.
JOB APPEALS FOR CONSIDERATION. — V. 1. But Job answered and said, in setting aside the insinuations of Zophar, v. 2. Hear diligently my speech and let this be your consolations. What Job was about to state was to take the place of the bungling attempts of his friends to set matters right. At the same time attentive silence would provide more real comfort than all their empty talk. V. 3. Suffer me that I may speak, they should consent to his speaking, enduring it once more; and after that I have spoken, mock on, this last being addressed to Zophar on account of his cutting statements. V. 4. As for me, is my complaint to man, that is, was it in regard to man, did it concern men, being directed against them? And if it were so, why should not my spirit be troubled? It was an extraordinary, superhuman burden under which Job was groaning, bearing which he might well have become impatient. V. 5. Mark me and be astonished and lay your hand upon your mouth, being awed into silence by the intensity of Job’s suffering. V. 6. Even when I remember, I am afraid, his own thinking of it made him stand confused and aghast with astonishment, and trembling taketh hold on my flesh, his body shaking with terror. “It is to be noted how by these strong expressions the friends are prepared to hear something grave, fearful, astounding, to wit, a proposition, founded on experience which seems to call in question the divine justice, and to the affirmation of which Job accordingly proceeds hesitatingly and with visible reluctance.” (Lange.)
JOB POINTS OUT THE DIFFERENCE IN CALAMITIES BEFALLING MEN. — V. 7. Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power? Whereas Zophar had maintained that they die early, chap. 20, 5, Job here states that they live on, that they reach a ripe old age, that they are mighty in possessions. V. 8. Their seed is established in their sight with them; their posterity, their children, endure, they remain, they surround the wicked, so that the latter have the benefit and the enjoyment of their companionship, and their offspring before their eyes, all this in contrast with Job’s having been bereaved of all his children. V. 9. Their houses are safe from fear, literally, “peace from fear,” peace lives in them, and they are far removed from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them, namely, for the purpose of punishing them. They suffer neither such terrors nor such scourges as had brought ruin upon Job. V. 10. Their bull gendereth and faileth not; their cow calveth and casteth not her calf, neither miscarriage nor any other accident hinders the increase of their herds. V. 11. They send forth their little ones like a flock, their large number in itself being a sign of blessing, and their children dance, skipping in joyous and healthful play, the possession of a flourishing troop of children being regarded as apiece of good fortune throughout the Bible. V. 12. They take the timbrel and harp, singing aloud in their festivities, and rejoice at the sound of the organ, a pipe or a set of pipes, the three instruments mentioned being the simplest and the most ancient species, the first representatives of instruments of percussion (tambourines), of string instruments (a small lute or lyre), and wind instruments. V. 13. They spend their days in wealth, in the full enjoyment of prosperity, and in a moment go down to the grave; having had a care-free life, they enjoy also a quick death, without prolonged suffering. V. 14. Therefore, or “yet,” they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways. Their prosperity, which should have constrained them to turn to God in appreciation and gratitude, rather makes them proud and conceited. V. 15. What is the Almighty that we should serve Him? And what profit should we have if we pray unto Him? Filled with haughty self-assurance, they account the service of God and prayer to Him as useless. V. 16. Lo, their god is not in their hand! Their prosperity, as Job contends, surely cannot be a matter of their own power; God must in some way be connected with it, a fact which makes the solution of the problem so difficult. The counsel of the wicked is far from me. Job refuses in any manner to take the part of the ungodly or to renounce God, even if he cannot understand this part of the Lord’s government. V. 17. How oft is the candle of the wicked put out! that is, How rarely is their lamp, the light of their prosperity, extinguished! And how oft cometh their destruction upon them? The answer implied is: Seldom enough. God distributed sorrows in His anger, rather, “How often does He distribute sorrows in His anger?” The answer is again implied: It happens only rarely that they suffer calamities; usually they are perfectly happy all their lives. V. 18. They are as stubble before the wind and as chaff that the storm carried away. Here again a question is intended: How often does this well-deserved punishment strike them? Cp. Ps. 73, 3-8. V. 19. God layeth up his iniquity for his children, that is, for the children of the wicked, this exclamation showing what hopes Job still held. He rewardeth him, and he shall know it, or, Let God recompense, repay it to the ungodly, that he may feel it. That is what Job expects from the justice of God. V. 20. His eyes, those of the wicked person, shall see his destruction, feeling the blow of the divine punishment, and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty, quaffing it like a bitter draught. V. 21. For what pleasure hath he in his house after him, what does the wicked care about those whom he leaves behind, what interest has he in their welfare, when the number of his months is cut off in the midst? As long as he can enjoy the full term of his life and have the full benefit of its pleasures, the selfish evildoer is satisfied. What comes after him does not bother him. Job implies, of course, that the wicked should therefore be punished during his life, for this very reason, but that events seldom take this just turn. Not only is it impossible, however, to judge God correctly in this respect; His present dealings with men are, in general, beyond the knowledge and teaching of men. V. 22. Shall any teach God knowledge? seeing He judgeth those that are high, the heavenly dignitaries, the angels themselves. How, then, can a mere mortal presume to be the teacher of God? V. 23. One dieth in his full strength, in the full possession of the highest prosperity, being wholly at ease and quiet, lacking nothing in human happiness. V. 24. His breasts, rather, his troughs, milk-pails, skins for carrying liquids, are full of milk, and his bones are moistened with marrow, literally, “the marrow of his bones is well watered,” like rich, irrigated meadow-land. V. 25. And another, in contrast with this person, dieth in the bitterness of his soul and never eateth with pleasure, not even having tasted of prosperity. V. 26. They, the fortunate with the unfortunate, shall lie down alike in the dust, in the grave, and the worms shall cover them. In death all men are equal, becoming a prey to the worms. No mere man, then, has the right to draw conclusions or to judge the righteousness of God from the evidence of his eyes alone.
JOB REBUKES HIS FRIENDS FOR THEIR ONE-SIDEDNESS. — V. 27. Behold, I know your thoughts, Job knows the plans of their hearts, and the devices, the careful reasonings, the schemes, which ye wrongfully imagine against me, doing violence to him by trying to force him into a confession of guilt. V. 28. For ye say, Where is the house of the prince, of the mighty and influential nobleman? And where are the dwelling-places of the wicked, literally, “the tent of the dwellings of the wicked”? The text emphasizes the splendor and the spaciousness of the wicked person’s dwelling. Such taunts as this were directed at Job in fastening the blame of wickedness upon him. Upon this sneering question Job answers. V. 29. Have ye not asked them that go by the way, inquiring of travelers well acquainted with history and human destinies! And do ye not know their tokens, they should not fail to note and to know what such experienced people would be able to tell them of the different fate of men, v. 30. that the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction, held back, spared in the day of ruin? They shall be brought forth to the day of wrath, led away from the overflowing wrath, taken beyond its reach. Job’s argument is that the wicked must indeed die like every other person, but that he is spared all the misfortune of life, that he is happy to the day of his death. V. 31. Who shall declare his way to His face? namely, that of God, in questioning His judgments. And who shall repay Him what He hath done? No man will successfully challenge the divine conduct, for God renders to no man an account of His actions. V. 32. Yet shall he be brought to the grave, Job here brings out the opinion and experience of travelers, and shall remain in the tomb, even after the burial of the wicked his monument or burial mound keeps watch at his tomb and keeps his memory alive. V. 33. The clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him, the very earth under which he rests being like a soft couch to him, and every man shall draw after him, imitating his example of a happy life and an easy death, as there are innumerable before him. V. 34. How, then, comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood, and nothing else! Since they cast unfounded suspicions upon the character of Job, they were guilty of a perfidious transgression against God, namely, on account of the lack of charity and by reason of the injustice which they exhibited. Note the warning contained in this verse, which bids all men desist from judging and condemning.