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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Job 24

 

 

Verse 1

Second division — REVERSE SIDE OF THE MYSTERY OF EVIL — GOD WINKS AT, AND SEEMINGLY PROSPERS, THE WICKED, chap. 24.

First half — AN ARRAY OF FACTS TO SHOW THAT THE WORLD IS A SCENE OF WRONG IN WHICH THE WICKED OPPRESS, TRAMPLE UPON, AND SLAY, THE INNOCENT AND DEFENCELESS, Job 24:1-12.

First strophe — If there be days of retribution, how is it that “God’s familiars” — those who know so much about God — never see his judgments? Job 24:1-4.

1. Times are not hidden, etc. — Rather, Why are times not appointed by the Almighty? and (why) do they that know him not see his days? Why, if it be as you say, that the wicked are punished in this world, (chap. Job 22:19-20,) is it that the servants of God do not see such infliction of justice?

Hidden Tsaphan, reserved, appointed. God’s judgments, like his ways, are hidden from sight until he pleases to bring them to the light; hence the phrase is common to express that which is divinely determined.

Know him — Literally, his knowers. Compare Psalms 36:10. His days — Answers to times, which may be regarded as periods with specific days. The prophets frequently speak of days of judgment, but more particularly of a future great day of God. Joel 1:15; Isaiah 2:12. Of such a day Enoch prophesied, (Judges 1:14,) and at no time probably has its lurid light died away from the sky.


Verse 2

2. Some remove the landmarks — The violence of Job’s emotion is marked by his omission of the subject — the wicked. In times when landmarks were the sole evidence of the limits of land, their removal was deemed an outrage so gross that under Numa it was punished with death. See also Deuteronomy 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:17. On a land boundary stone of the time of Merodach-Baladan I., about B.C. 1300, is the following inscription: “If a ruler, or eunuch, or a citizen, the memorial stone of this ground takes and destroys, in a place where it cannot be seen to anywhere shall place it in, and this stone tablet if a naka, or a brother, or a katu, or an evil one, or an enemy, or any other person, or the son of the owner of this land, shall act falsely, and shall destroy it, into the water or into the fire shall throw it, with a stone shall break it, from the hand of Maraduk-zakirizkur, (the grantee,) and his seed shall take it away, and above or below shall send it; the gods, Ann, Bel, and Hea, Ninip and Gula, these lords and all the gods on this stone tablet whose emblems are seen, violently may they destroy his name. A curse unmitigated may they curse over him. Calamity may they bring upon him. May his seed be swept away in evil, and not in good; and in the day of departing of life may he expire, and Shamas and Merodach tear him asunder, and may none mourn for him!” — GEORGE SMITH, Assyrian Discov., 24:236-241.

And feed thereof — The same strong arm of violence that seized upon the flocks of the helpless, shamelessly feeds them in public view. It is supposed by some that Job, in this sad description of the poor and defenceless, (2-8,) had in mind the aboriginal people of his native land, the Horites, dwellers of Mount Seir, who had been dispossessed of their all, reduced to the grossest vassalage, and finally exterminated by the Edomites. Every land has had a like history of outrage and wrong.


Verse 4

4. Out of the way — To which all had equal rights. “Perhaps equivalent to our phrase, ‘kick out of the way.’” — Dillmann. The sense is, that the poor are forced to betake themselves to bypaths that they may escape overt acts of violence.

Hide themselves — Are made to hide themselves. They huddle together in cave or den, like wild beasts, from the fury of the storm.


Verse 5

Second strophe — Dispossessed of their homes, the poor are driven forth like wild animals into the desert, destitute, Job 24:5-8.

5. Behold… wild asses… desert — Job thus personifies these wretched exiles, driven away into the wilderness. The wild ass was proverbial for being untamable. It lived in great herds far from the haunts of men, and was, according to Ker Porter, of “prodigious swiftness.” See note, Job 11:12. That Job cannot, as Canon Cook thinks, mean robber hordes, is evident from the want of resemblance between them and the wild ass, which is not at all a beast of prey, but a timorous animal, whose only defence is swiftness of foot.

Their work — That of seeking a precarious support; a meaning determined by the last clause of the verse.

For a prey Tareph; meat, food. The same word as in Proverbs 31:15. The wilderness, etc. — Literally, The desert to him is food for the children. The desert yields its herbs and roots, the scantiest fare, to him the father, who, as provider, represents the family.

Their children — A stroke of tenderness; for children are the first to feel the pangs of hunger.


Verse 6

6. Corn — Various kinds of grain mixed together in the sowing, and which served as fodder for cattle.

Gather — They glean the few grapes left in the vineyards of the wicked. These are they whom hunger drives back into the fields of the rich by night; so Merx thinks.


Verse 7

7. They cause the naked — The verb, here, is not causative. Naked, they pass the night without clothing. Travellers in Arabia Petrea uniformly speak of the days as intensely hot and the nights as correspondingly cold.


Verse 8

8. Showers — Better, Storms.

Embrace the rock — In order to cover at least some part of the body. This closely agrees with what Niebuhr says of the modern wandering Arabs near Mount Sinai: “Those who cannot afford a tent spread out a cloth upon four or six stakes; and others spread their cloth near a tree, or endeavour to shelter themselves from the heat and the rain in the cavities of the rocks.”


Verse 9

Third strophe — The wretched poor are treated worse than the brute, and in the cities even, the blood of the innocent cries to God in vain, Job 24:9-12.

9. They — The high-handed oppressors of whom he had spoken in Job 24:4. “Inhuman creditors take the fatherless and still tender orphan away from its mother, in order to bring it up as a slave, and so to obtain payment.” — Delitzsch.

Take a pledge What the poor has on they take as a pledge.— GESENIUS. Mosaical legislation protected the outer garment of the poor, as it served for a covering by night. Exodus 22:26.


Verse 10

10. They cause הלכו is used, not in a causative but frequentative sense. (Which) go naked without clothing, and hungry they bear the sheaf. God’s care for oxen forbade that they should be muzzled while they trod the corn, Deuteronomy 25:4. Man’s cruelty degrades man to a beast of burden, and forbids him to eat of the sheaves he bears.


Verse 11

11. Within their walls — Compare Proverbs 24:31.

Tread… presses — See note, Job 1:13. Wilkinson (Domestic Life, etc., 24:63-65) says of the ancient Egyptians: “Their winepress was frequently in or near the vineyard; the grapes were trodden by the feet, but they were subjected to another process of twisting in a bag,” etc.

And suffer thirst — Mr Addison, in one of his letters from Italy, presents a similar picture of its “poor inhabitant,” who: —

Starves, in the midst of nature’s bounty curst,

And in the loaden vineyard dies for thirst.


Verse 12

12. Men groan — By changing the pointing of מתים (men) to מתים(the dead,) Ewald, Zockler, etc., read, “Out of the cities the dying groan;” but, against this, is the past participal form mathim, (the dead.)

From out of the city — Like scenes of enormity to those that darken desert and town are enacted within the crowded city, where, on the contrary, might be expected some outflow of sympathy, and not only the power, but the disposition, to redress wrong.

The wounded The slain, (Furst.) Even cold prose does not disdain to speak of “the cry of the slayers and the slain.” — Thucydides, 7:70, 71.

Crieth out — To heaven for vengeance, (Hitzig.)

Layeth not Regardeth not. The שׂים is the same as in Job 23:6, which see.

Folly — In the sense of abomination or anomaly, subversive of all moral order in the world. Note on chap. Job 1:22. Omit to them.


Verse 13

Second half — GROSSEST MALEFACTORS AGAINST THE LIGHT AND AGAINST GOD, — WHOM ON ACCOUNT OF THE SECRECY OF THEIR CRIMES HEAVEN ALONE CAN PUNISH — EVEN THESE ESCAPE FROM ALL EARTHLY RETRIBUTION, BY AN OPPORTUNE DEATH, Job 24:13-25.

First strophe — Blackest miscreants rebel against the light and burrow in the night, defying the God who professedly sees in secret, while they say, “No eye shall see me,” 13-17.

13. Those that rebel against the light — Job now introduces another class of evildoers, the workers in the dark — murderers, thieves, adulterers. He has thus far spoken of the lawless who practice evil in the broad daylight, and those, too, whom law, “as yet unmitigated by the Mosaic code,” may have seemed to shield, such as usurers, tyrants, and rich, heartless employers. He will now speak of greater monsters, those who “have become rebels against the light,” and who undermine all institutions, human and divine. The light of the day is a fit emblem of a higher and purer essence shining within the soul of man. All sin begins in rebellion against the light. Its very essence is hatred of the light. John 3:20. The ways of light it eschews, and its paths it abhors, until the soul, perverted and stunted, becomes one with the darkness. Man makes for himself the moral world wherein he shall dwell. And this, a sky of light or of darkness, has its reflex influences upon the soul. Under these it becomes a child of light, (1 Thessalonians 5:5,) and eventually light itself, (Ephesians 5:8,) or it becomes a “child of the night.” and is in like manner transformed into darkness. Ephesians 5:8.


Verse 14

14. With the light — Literally, At the light. Toward daybreak, the time when travellers in the East, on account of the extreme heat of the day, pursue their journey.

In the night — The murderer of the dawn is the thief of the night. Dr. Robinson was aroused at night by a sudden alarm. “Our Arabs,” he says, (i, 270,) “were evidently alarmed. They said, if thieves, they would steal upon us at midnight; if robbers, they would come down upon us toward morning.”


Verse 15

15. Disguiseth his face Puts a veil over the face: Wetzstein thinks a woman’s veil. “In Syrian towns,” he says, “women’s clothing is always chosen for such nocturnal sin. The man disguises himself in an izar, which covers him from head to foot, takes the mendil, veil, and goes with a lantern (without which at night every person is seized by the street watchman as a suspicious person) unhindered into a strange house.” Juvenal speaks of the rank adulterer with his head muffled in a Gallic hood, 8:144.


Verse 16

16. They — Literally, he, used collectively for house-breakers.

Dig through houses — In the East, the houses of the poorer classes are, according to Kitto, of three kinds: either of wicker hurdles daubed over with mud; or of mud, each layer being left to dry before another is laid on; or of sun-dried bricks with which straw has been mixed in order to strengthen them. — See KITTO, Daily Bib. Illus., in loc. The Greek called a burglar τοιχωρυχος, “one who digs through the wall.” Which they had marked, etc. — Rather, They who by day shut themselves up. Hesiod calls thieves “men who sleep by day.” Apostasy from spiritual light manifests itself in aversion to natural light.


Verse 17

17. Shadow of death — Delitzsch, Dillmann, and others, make this phrase equivalent to depth of night — the subject of the verb. The passage reads, For to them all, the depth of night is morning: because they know the terrors of thick darkness (shadow of death.)

Know — To be familiar with. Mercerus had early and fortunately hit upon the sense, “Nocturnal terrors are familiar to him; he neither fears nor cares for them… as if he had entered into a compact with them that they should not hurt him.” Midnight is his morning. The shadow of death is his daybreak when he rises to his work. He is as much at home in the horrors of darkness as the good are in the light of day.


Verse 18

Second strophe — Wealthy and respectable evildoers, (18-21,) widely differing from the miscreants he has just described, (13-17,) sink into sheol like a bubble on the stream, or snow waters in the desert sands, and escape long-protracted suffering and slow-footed justice, Job 24:18-21.

18. He is swift as the waters — Better, Light is he on the face of the waters. A figure similar to that of the text appears in Hosea 10:7, “He is like foam (a twig, Sept.) on the face of the water.” Borne onward by the current, he is swift to disappear; while justice, with limping foot, (pede poena claudo. — HORACE, Carm., Job 3:2,) is too slow-paced to overtake him. Men may curse his “portion” when he is gone, but what cares he in the grave for public opinion? An exquisite stroke is that of the poet, He beholdeth not the way of the vineyards: scene of delights to him — of many a cool and shady walk — though of stern oppression for the poor, (Job 24:6-11.) The picture may remind the reader of a similar, but no more touching, one in “The Elegy,” that of the warm precincts of a cheerful day, on which the soul, departing, casts “one longing, lingering look behind.” The view of Carey and Hengstenberg, that Job speaks of pirates in this verse, is untenable.


Verses 18-21

18-21. Clericus regards this passage as one of the most difficult in Holy Scripture. Job seems to argue against himself, (Job 21:7,) and to have surrendered the citadel to his foes. Some moderns (Dathe, Umbreit, etc.) follow the Septuagint and Vulgate in regarding these verses as an imprecation, thus: “May he be light (swift) on the face of the waters,” and thus swiftly hasten to his doom. Others (Ewald, Hirtzel, and Dillmann) suppose that Job is ironical, and that he parodies the sentiments of his friends; others still (Stickel, Welte, and Hahn) that he repeats their views only the more emphatically to controvert and refute them. But none of these opinions meet the demands of the passage. Rosenmuller, Delitzsch, and Canon Cook are right in looking upon it in general as simply a description of the unperturbed fate of such sinners as those he has just described. Like the Psalmist (Psalms 73:3-5) under dark temptation, he sees in their death no marks of divine displeasure. Like a bubble on the flood, (Job 24:18,) or an evanishing stream of the desert, (Job 24:19,) the grave (sheol) silently swallows them up.


Verse 19

19. Consume the snow waters — The thought of the first clause of the preceding verse Job now proceeds to illustrate by an emblematic proverb. Travellers speak of mountain streams which have their rise in beds of snow, and which, as they descend into the plains, glide gently through the sands, each day becoming smaller, until at last the rivulet yields to the hot sky above and the parched sands beneath, and disappears in the arid wastes. See Job 6:17. Thus the grave (sheol) swallows up those that have sinned. “Job concedes to his friends that the wicked perish in their turn. But he cannot see in this a divine chastisement, for this is the common lot of men.” — Renan.


Verse 20

20. No more remembered — Nothing he recks, though a mother forget, and his name be blotted out from among men. Sweet to him shall be the worm, that is, the grave. Like a tree has the wicked man (wickedness) been broken suddenly from life, from its responsibilities and its tribunals. See note on Job 21:13.


Verse 21

21. He evil entreateth — Better, He who evil entreated. The sterile woman, having no son to defend her, is taken for a type of feebleness. (Renan.)

Doeth not good — An inscription in a tomb at Benihassan says of a ruler, “He injured no little child, he oppressed no widow… he treated the widow as a woman with a husband to protect her.” — BUNSEN, Egypt, 5:726-729.


Verse 22

Third strophe — Tyrants, too, God upholds in life, delivering them from dangerous sickness; until at last, ripe in years, they sink into the grave, bearing no marks of divine displeasure, Job 24:22-25.

22. He draweth — Literally, He (God) preserveth the mighty by his power. For a similar use of משׁךְ in the sense of “preserve,” “prolong,” see Psalms 36:10; Psalms 85:5; Isaiah 13:22. As frequently before, Job now shrinks from mentioning the name of Deity in such painful connexion.

No man is sure of life — Hebrew, He (the wicked) riseth up and (though) he trusted not in life — that is, despaired of life. Canon Cook calls attention to hhayin, life, with its plural termination in, instead of im, which has been held to denote a late age for the book, and cites the Moabitic stone to show that the termination an is very ancient.


Verse 23

23. Given… in safety, etc. — Rather, He (God) giveth him to be in safety, and he is sustained.

His eyes — God’s eyes are upon their ways, in order to keep and preserve them.


Verse 24

24. But are gone — Better, And are no more. And they are brought low; like all, are they gathered, and cut off as the tops of the ears of corn.

Taken out of the way Kaphats, gathered; “snatched away,” (Delitzsch,) “crumpled together,” (Dillmann.) Underneath the word, as Job uses it, lies the idea, Delitzsch thinks, “of housing, gathering into a barn.” This, together with the following figure, bears the look of a reply to Eliphaz, with his rural picture of the death of the just. Job 5:26. Mature in wickedness, malefactors are cut off with no more evidence of divine judgment upon them than belongs to all mankind. Thus Job has turned the finely built fortress of the friends, and left them without an argument. His view of the orb of truth, however, has been of the side where the shadow was deepest. In the heat of debate he has magnified single instances into generals, and left a painful impression as to the providence of God in this world. The reader cannot, however, but feel, even here, that Job has confidence that God can and will solve the mystery.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 24:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/job-24.html. 1874-1909.

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