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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Job 21



Verse 2


‘Hear diligently my speech,’ etc.

Job 21:2

I. Job asks his friends to suffer him again to speak, because his complaint is not for them only, but for all.—And he goes on to say that they are not justified by the facts in affirming that wickedness always brings about adversity. On the contrary, he urges that wicked men spend their days in prosperity. In the farm, and the fold, and the home, there are the sounds of joy. Their death is not prolonged torture, but sudden. Their lamp is not often put out in darkness, nor are they driven as stubble before the wind.

II. Continuing his answer, Job declares their philosophy to be wholly at fault, by asking how often it is true that ‘the lamp of the wicked is put out.’—He surmises that they may reply that the judgment falls upon their children, and repudiates such suggestion by declaring that the man who sins is the man who should be punished, and that God has no pleasure in the punishment of posterity. Thus they have been attempting to teach God knowledge, for it is perfectly evident that the rule they had enunciated does not always apply. He ends his answer by addressing himself to them more personally. He declares that he knows their meaning when they say, ‘Where is the house of the prince?’ and ‘Where is the tent wherein the wicked dwelt?’ He is perfectly aware that they are referring to himself. Then follows a touch of satire as he suggests that they have learned their philosophy from travellers and declares their conclusions to be wrong. Therefore their attempted comfort is vain, seeing that their answers contain falsehood. Thus ends the second cycle, in which the three friends of Job have declared that it is the wicked who are afflicted. By this narrower statement they have left him less room for escape. He has replied by declaring that the righteous also are afflicted, and that the wicked are not always afflicted, and by rebuking them for stating one side only in order to bring about his discomfiture.


‘Job challenges the contention of his friends that the children of the wicked suffer, and denies that it would establish their fathers’ wickedness, and alleges that they have attempted to instruct God in the dealings of His providence. He turns from his own assertions and appeals to the verdict of passers-by. Surely, says he, it is a matter of common observation that wicked men do prosper and die in peace. The clods of the valley are sweet to him. Even after death they have their memory preserved by monuments over their grave. From all this he infers that adversity is no proof of special sin. And it is just at this point that we can build the argument for immortality. Job was undoubtedly right in his contention, and there must be, therefore, a future when the inequalities of time are adjusted.’


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Job 21:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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