Job 24

 

 

In ch. 24 Job goes over ground already trodden, maintaining the

general prosperity of the wicked, and their exemption from any special

earthly punishment (vs. 2-24). A single note of perplexity (v. 1) forms

a sufficient introduction; and a single note of challenge a sufficient

epilogue (v. 25).

 

1 “Why, seeing times are not hidden from the Almighty, do they that

know Him not see his days?”  Why, seeing times are not hidden from the

 Almighty. By“times seem to be meant God’s special periods of exhibiting

Himself in action as the moral Governor of the world, vindicating the righteous,

and taking vengeance upon sinners. Such “times” are frequently spoken of in

the prophetical Scriptures as “days of the Lord” (see Isaiah 2:12; 3:18;

13:6, 9; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11; Obadiah 1:15; Zephaniah 1:7, 14-18).

They are, of course, “not hidden” from Him, seeing that it is He

who determines on them beforehand, and, when their fixed date is come,

makes them special “days,” or “times,” different from all others. Do they

who know Him not see His days? i.e. why are even they, who know and

serve God, kept in the dark as to these “times,” so that they do not foresee

them or know when they are coming? This is to Job a great perplexity.

 

 

 

 

                                    God’s Special Days (v. 1)

 

Job thinks that if it may not be always possible to see God, there may at

least be certain times when He can be found. If He cannot be always giving

an audience to His people, can He not be like a judge on circuit, allowing a

day for those who would seek His aid at each part of His dominions?

 

·         THERE ARE TIMES OF SPECIAL DIVINE MANIFESTATION. God

does give, in some manner, what Job is asking for. There is the “day of the

Lord,” when He breaks through the settled order of the world, and sets His

court as the Judge of all men. Such a day was often spoken of by. the

Hebrew prophets. It came in Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem,

and again in the later overthrow of the city by Titus and the Roman

legions.  It is predicted in the great final judgment of the world. So also

there is a “day of the Lord” for individual men, when God breaks up the

normal condition of life, and in the upheaval and confusion a Divine

coming to judgment may be recognized. But God also has gracious seasons

of visitation, “times of refreshing from the Lord.”  (Acts 30)  Then the soul

perceives His nearness, and enters into the joy and light of His presence.

 

·         GOD IS PRESENT WHEN HE DOES NOT MANIFEST HIMSELF.

Although when thus simply stated this is a truism, it is certainly not

commonly recognized in the world. Nobody denies it; yet many ignore it.

God’s presence being invisible, and not generally evidenced by startling

signs, men come to pass it by IN THEIR FULL ABSORPTION OF

SECULAR  PURSUITS.  The practical question then arises — How may

the constant unseen presence of God come to be more fully recognized?

It is absolutely necessary that we should learn to withdraw ourselves more

from the things that are seen and temporal. If the pressure of worldly pursuits

is allowed to crowd the thought of God out of the soul, the result must be a

PERFECT DEADNESS in regard to HIS PRESENCE — a practical atheism,

a living as though there were no God. When the desolation and dreariness

of this life is perceived, we may well start back in horror from such a condition

of spiritual decay.

 

·         IT IS FOOLISH TO WAIT FOR A NEW MANIFESTATION OF

GOD. Job seemed to need this because his position was peculiar, and he

was set to work out new problems of providence. But we have, what he

had not, the fuller revelation of God in Christ. What we now need is not a

fresh revelation, but eyes to read and hearts to perceive the Christian

revelation. External, visible manifestations of God are not to be looked for

now. Miracles were useful in the childhood of the race and in the infancy of

the Church, but we have no right to expect miracles to make God better

known to us. With us the need is of AN INTERIOR ILLUMINATION! .

So long as our spiritual sympathies are blind to God, no external manifestation

will satisfy our needs. At the same time, we may well pray for God’s hand to

be stretched forth in action. There are huge wrongs in the world and

sorrowful miseries. The Church cries out for the fuller coming of Christ in

His kingdom.

 

2 “Some remove the landmarks; they violently take away flocks, and

feed thereof.” Some remove the landmarks. (On this form of wickedness

see Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:17; Proverbs 22:28; 23:10; Hosea 5:10),

Where neighboring properties are not divided by fences of any

kind, as in the East generally, the only way of distinguishing between one

man’s land and another’s is by termini, or “landmarks,” which are generally

low stone metes or bourns, placed at intervals on the boundary-line. An

easy form of robbery was to displace these bourns, putting them further

back on one’s neighbor’s land. They violently take away flocks. Others

openly drive off their neighbors’ flocks from their pastures, mix them with

their own flocks, and say that they are theirs (compare ch. 1:17). And

feed thereof; rather, and feed them (as in the margin); i.e. pasture them.

 

 

 

                                    Removing the Landmarks (v. 2)

 

This was an old offense under the Jewish Law (Deuteronomy 19:14).

Here it appears first in a list of unjust actions. It introduces us to questions

concerning the ethics of property.

 

·         PRIVATE PROPERTY IS RECOGNIZED BY SCRIPTURE. We

cannot say that this indubitable fact is a complete answer to the proposals

of the socialist, because it is not the function of revelation to determine

social systems. It comes in to regulate our conduct under existing

arrangements. Still, the recognition of private property shows that it is not

in itself an evil thing. It may be urged that similar arguments would apply

to polygamy and slavery, both of which are recognized and regulated in the

Bible. There is this difference, however, that an enlightened Christian

conscience perceives that the last-named practices are evil, and could only

have been tolerated for a time to prevent greater evils; but the Christian

conscience does not repudiate the idea of private property. Socialism may

be fairly presented and argued about on grounds of expediency; but it

cannot claim Christian teaching as favoring it rather than a wise and

brotherly exercise of the rights of property. The short, temporary

experiment at Jerusalem, when the disciples held all things in common,

whatever this was (and it was far short of socialism), soon broke down. It

was never urged on apostolic authority; it cannot be quoted as the model

for all Church life.

 

·         PRIVATE PROPERTY NEEDS CLEAR DEFINITION. There must

be landmarks, or there will be trespassing, springing from

misunderstanding, leading to quarrelling. Wars between nations arise often

out of disputes about boundaries, and private differences most frequently

originate in a want of common agreement in the definition of rights. This is

true of abstract as well as concrete rights. Nothing is more necessary for

the maintenance of social order than that each individual in the state should

know the limits that the just claims of others put upon his liberty. Absolute

freedom is only possible on the prairie, or for a Robinson Crusoe on his

solitary island. Directly we come to live in society we have to study mutual

harmony, and to adjust the claims of neighbors. The perfect state becomes

a sort of mosaic in which each individual has his place without overlapping

that of his neighbor.

 

·         ONLY CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLE WILL PREVENT THE ABUSE

OF PRIVATE PROPERTY. Each man is tempted to enlarge upon his

rights. Without considering himself a thief, he is urged to remove the

landmarks to his own advantage. State justice and the strong arm of the

law prevent this wrong as far as possible. But real justice between man and

man can never be perfectly established by government. There are

innumerable ways in which the strong can oppress the weak, and the

cunning impose upon the unwary, without any interference by the law. We

must have a spirit of justice in the people to prevent these evils. Now, it is

the glory of the Old Testament that it constantly impresses on us the duty

of justice and the sin of injustice. This grand lesson is not the less

imperative because we live in New Testament times. The grace of Christ is

the inspiration of all goodness. No one can be a true Christian who is not

upright in business, and straightforward in his dealings with his neighbors.

Christian charity does not dispense with the primitive duty of justice.

 

3 “They drive away the ass of the fatherless, they take the widow’s ox

for a pledge.” They drive away the ass of the fatherless. This was another

form of oppression. “Whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken?

or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed?” says Samuel, on

laying down his judgeship (I Samuel 12:3). The “fatherless” were

particularly liable to such ill treatment, seeing that they had lost their

natural protector. They take the widow’s ox for a pledge. It may be true

that this was nowhere a legal offence, not even among the Hebrews;

but it was a real act of oppression, and forms a fitting counterpart to the

injury done to the orphan. (On the natural tendency of selfish men to bear

hard on these two classes, see Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 24:17; 27:19;

Psalm 94:6; Isaiah 1:23; 10:2; Jeremiah 5:28; Zechariah 7:10.)

 

4 “They turn the needy out of the way: the poor of the earth hide

themselves together.” They turn the needy out of the way. Either “they force

poor men to turn out of the road when they are using it, and wait till they have

passed” (compare the recent practice of the Japanese daimios), or they

make the highways so dangerous with their violence that they compel the

poor and needy to seek byways for safety (Judges 5:6). The second

hemistich favors the latter interpretation. The poor of the earth (or, the

meek of the earth) hide themselves together. In the East there have

always been superior and subject races, as well as proud nobles and

downtrodden men of the same race. It is not clear of which of these two Job

speaks. The former were often hunted out of all the desirable lands, and

forced to fly to rooks and caves and holes in the ground, whence they were

known as “Troglodytes” (cavemen).  The latter, less frequently, banded

together, and withdrew to remote and sequestered spots, where they might

hope to live unmolested by their oppressors (Hebrews 11:38).

 

 

 

                                                Oppressing the Poor (v. 4)

 

·         A COMMON PRACTICE. The Old Testament rings with denunciations

of this evil, showing that it was rife in the days of ancient Israel. The New

Testament repeats the denunciations of the Old. John the Baptist and

Christ Himself had to speak against unjust exactions. St. James suggests

that the practice was even found in Christian Churches (James 5:4). It

has not disappeared in our own day, though it often assumes subtle and

deceptive forms. Many things contribute to an unfair treatment of the poor.

 

Ø      Their ignorance. They do not always know their rights, nor perceive

where cunning men have an advantage over them. Thus they are not able

to protect themselves fairly.

 

Ø      Their obscurity. It is difficult for a poor person who has been wronged

to attract attention. Nobody knows him. He has no influential friends.

 

Ø      Their inability to obtain legal redress. Theoretically the law is equal in

its treatment of rich and poor. Practically it is nothing of the kind. For the

law is proverbially costly, and a poor man cannot afford to put its

machinery in motion.

 

Ø      Their prejudiced position. People look disapprovingly at shabby clothes. If a

man is low in the social scale, a certain stigma attaches to him in the eyes

of money-worshippers. His poverty is a reproach. Our own day has seen

the emancipation of labor. The organized working classes can exact their

rights. But the very poor are beneath the help of the new trades union

machinery. The tendency of the sweating system and of other forms of

selfishness is to grind down and oppress the most helpless and needy.

 

·         A GREAT SIN. The commonness of the practice does not lessen its

guilt. Because many of the well-to-do people who manage affairs combine

to get as much as they can for themselves out of the less fortunate people

beneath them, they are not individually innocent. The law regards

combination to do a wrong as conspiracy, and therefore as an aggravated

offense; and conspiracy to oppress the poor is an aggravated offense in the

sight of God.

 

Ø      Against justice. Poor men have their rights, even if the law cannot help

them to exact them. A right is not the less morally inviolable because

means cannot be found to put it in force. This may not be recognized

now. But the righteous government of God cannot ignore the sin of

trampling on the just claims of the helpless.

 

Ø      Against Christian brotherhood. Christ has taught us to rise above the

plea of Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” He has shown that we are not

to regard ourselves as self-contained, or as having no interest in our

neighbors. The parable of “the good Samaritan” has set before us for all

time the pattern of the conduct that He approves of. All who need have

claims upon us — claims springing directly out of their need and our

neighborhood in regard to them. Christ’s own life and work teach us that

the helpless are our brothers. To oppress them is to commit an outrage

against members of our own family. It is the mission of Christianity to

spread the spirit of brotherhood among men, and so to substitute

                        brotherly kindness for heartless oppression.

 

5 “Behold, as wild asses in the desert, go they forth to their work;

rising betimes for a prey: the wilderness yieldeth food for them and

for their children.”  Behold, as wild asses in the desert, go they forth to

their work. Plundering bands of wicked marauders scour the desert, like troops

of wild asses, going forth early to their work, and late taking rest — rising

betimes for a prey, and generally finding it, since the wilderness yieldeth

food for them and for their children. They are sure to find some plunder or

other ere the day is over.

 

6 “They reap every one his corn in the field: and they gather the

vintage of the wicked.” They reap every one his corn in the field. When

they have scoured the desert, the marauders approach the cultivated ground

bordering on it, and thence carry off, each of them. a quantity of “fodder,”

or “provender” (Revised Version), for the sustentation of their horses.

And they gather the vintage of the wicked; rather, as in the margin, and

the wicked gather the vintage. Sometimes they burst into the vineyards, and

rob them, carrying off the ripe grapes.

 

7 “They cause the naked to lodge without clothing, that they have no

covering in the cold.” They cause the naked to lodge without clothing; rather,

they lie all night naked, without clothing. The marauders are still the subject of

the narrative. When engaged in their raids, they endure to pass the night

without clothing, as the Bedouins are said to do to this day, so that they

have no covering in the cold. They are so bent upon plunder that they do

not mind these inconveniences.

 

8 “They are wet with the showers of the mountains, and embrace the

rock for want of a shelter.”  Further unpleasant consequences

of marauding, but endured without complaint by the wild robber-tribes.

 

 

A Threefold Religious Emblem; of the Shelter of the Rock (v. 8)

 

  • AN EMBLEM OF THE SINNER’S MISERABLE CONDITION.

 

Ø      Exposed to a storm. Like the unhappy victims of tyrannical oppression,

men, in their unconverted state, are liable to be overtaken by the

 tempest of God’s righteous wrath and indignation against sin

(Psalm 11:6; Romans 1:18; Colossians 3:6; I Thessalonians 1:10;

Revelation 6:16-17), which will not assail the body merely, but destroy

both SOUL and BODY IN HELL (Luke 12:5), AND THAT

FOR EVER.

 

Ø      Destitute of shelter. Like the homeless wanderers among

the mountains, unpardoned souls are without a refuge to which

 they can betake themselves in the day of their calamity. Driven

forth from the place of safety in which they originally stood, they have

now “no covering in the cold,” no garment of righteousness in

which they can wrap their trembling spirits. Nor can they by any

wisdom, wealth, or labor of their own construct or discover for

themselves a habitation and defense against the storm.

 

  • AN EMBLEM OF THE GREAT SALVATION OFFERED IN THE

GOSPEL. As the shivering outcasts crept into the rocky caves on the

mountain-side, so Christ has been set forth as a Rock and a Hiding-place

(Isaiah 32:2).

 

Ø      Accessible by all; the approach to Christ is hindered by no

formidable barriers, and no stupendous effort being required to

reach His side  (I highly recommend the three sermons on

Isaiah 45 by Charles Spurgeon – this web site – CY – 2013)

(Romans 10:6), nothing beyond a simple exercise of faith which is

within the ability of even a child.  (Look and Live)

 

Ø      Sufficient for all; there being room enough in Christ for all who

come to Him in faith (Luke 14:22), yea, for the entire world of

mankind (Isaiah 45:22; John 3:16), if only they sincerely come to

Him; and perfect safety and protection for all who gain its shelter,

complete defense against:

 

o       the charges of the Law,

o       the accusations of conscience,

o       the penalties of sin,

o       the terrors of death, and

o       of the wrath to come (Romans 5:1).

o        

Ø      Free to all; every one who seeks His presence and

assistance being accorded a welcome, without money

and without price.  (Isaiah 55:1-2)

 

“All the fitness He requireth

Is to feel our need of Him.”

 

  • AN EMBLEM OF THE ACT OF SAVING FAITH. As the miserable

victims of the strong man’s oppression embraced the rock for a shelter, so

must needy sinners embrace CHRIST THE ROCK!

 

Ø      With personal application; Christ being of no more use to a sinner

without individual appropriation than the mountain rock would

have been to those who did not cling to it. Faith is the hand that

lays hold of and embraces Christ as He is exhibited in the gospel.

 

Ø      With fervent gratitude; giving thanks to God for His abundant

mercy in PROVIDING A SHELTER FOR THE SOUL, as no

doubt the poor creatures whom the mountain-storms drenched were

grateful for even the protection of a cave.

 

Ø      With immediate action; ALLOWING NO DELAY  to prevent

 the soul from fleeing from the storm of impending wrath

to the hope set before it IN THE GOSPEL!

 

9 “They pluck the fatherless from the breast, and take a pledge of the

poor.”  They pluck the fatherless from the breast. Other oppressors,

not of the marauding class, but dwellers in towns (v. 12), are so cruel

that they tear the unweaned child of the debtor from the mother’s breast, as

satisfaction for a debt, and carry him off into slavery (compare II Kings 4:1;

Nehemiah 5:5). And take a pledge of the poor; literally, take in

pledge that which is on the poor — in other words, their clothing. They

will not lend to them on any other terms, and so force them to part with

their garments, and go about naked. Even Hebrew creditors seem to have

done this (Exodus 22:26; Deuteronomy 24:12-13); and the Mosaic

Law did not forbid the practice, but only required the creditor to let the

debtor have his garment at night, that he might sleep in it (Exodus 22:27;

Deuteronomy 24:13).

 

10 “They cause him to go naked without clothing, and they take away

the sheaf from the hungry;” They cause him to go naked without clothing;

rather, they go naked without clothing. The effects of the oppression on its victims

are now traced. First of all, the poor man, whose only wrap or cloak has been

taken in pledge, is compelled to go naked, or almost naked, both day and

night, exposed alike to extremes of heat and cold. Secondly, he is

compelled to reap and bind and carry home the sheaves of his oppressor,

while he himself is half famished with hunger. The second clause of the

verse is wrongly translated in the Authorized Version, where we read, and

they take away the sheaf from the hungry; the real meaning being, “and

they who are an hungered, carry the sheaves” (compare the Revised

Version).

 

11 “Which make oil within their walls, and tread their winepresses,

and suffer thirst.”  In the third place, the same unfortunates are

employed in the homesteads of their oppressors to press oil from the

olives and wine from the rich clusters of grapes, while they themselves are

tormented with unceasing thirst.

 

12 “Men groan from out of the city, and the soul of the wounded crieth

out: yet God layeth not folly to them.” Men groan from out of the city.

It is not only in the wild tracts bordering on the desert (vs. 5-8), or on the large

farms of rich landholders (vs. 9-11), that oppression takes place. Men’s groans are

heard also “from the city,” and in the midst of the city, where murder,

robbery, burglary, adultery, and other crimes of the deepest dye abound.

And the soul of the wounded crieth out. In appeals to God for help, or in

inarticulate cries, the wounded spirit of the oppressed and injured vents

itself. Yet God layeth not folly to them. Yet God seems to take no

notice. He gives no sign of disapproval, but allows the oppressors to go on

in their foolish courses unchecked.

 

 

 

 

                                    An Answer Wanted to a Great Question (vs. 1-12)

 

·         AN IMPORTANT PROPOSITION STATED. That the Almighty does

not call wicked men before His tribunal on earth. “Why are not times,” i.e.

of reckoning or punishment, “reserved,” or kept in store, “by the Almighty,

and why do they who know Him see not his days?” i.e. his doomsdays, or

days of judicial visitation on the wicked (v. 1).

 

Ø      A caution. The language does not imply either that there should not be,

or that there do not exist, such times of reckoning with the ungodly, and

indeed with all men. On the contrary, it tacitly assumes that God both

ought to have, and in point of fact does have, days of retribution which

are appropriately described as “His.” That men ought to be judged for

their characters and lives, the moral instincts of humanity proclaim; that

men will be arraigned before Shaddai’s impartial tribunal, is explicitly

asserted in Scripture (ch. 21:30; 34:11; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Psalm 98:9;

Daniel 7:10;  Matthew 25:32; II Corinthians 5:10; II Timothy 4:1;

Hebrews 9:27).

 

Ø      An explanation. What the language asserts is that such court-days are

not kept by the Almighty on earth, or at least that His people do not see

them; in other words, that the godlessness of men is permitted to stalk

forth on earth unchallenged and unavenged, without let or hindrance,

pretty much as if there were no such tribunal in existence. And this fact,

which Job so strenuously affirms, in addition to having been observed by

Asaph (Psalm 73:5), David (ibid. 50:21), the Preacher (Ecclesiastes 8:11),

Jeremiah 12:1, Habakkuk 1:15-16, and others, is likewise recognized

in Scripture generally as correct.

 

·         A CONVINCING DEMONSTRATION OFFERED. That the

Almighty does not hold a regular assize on earth established by two patent

facts.

 

Ø      The most autrocious wickedness is suffered to rage without either

punishment or restraint. The special form of ungodliness depicted is

that of ruthless oppression of the helpless and defenseless, exemplified

in such crimes as:

 

o        Secret fraud. “They,” i.e. the tyrannical oppressors of the aborigines of

the soil, “remove the landmarks,” shift the stones or stakes which mark

the boundary-line between the poor man’s plot and the rich man’s farm,

so as to diminish the one and increase the other — an act of impiety

denounced in the Law of Moses as worthy of, and certain to be

punished by, the curse of God (Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:17), a crime

practiced in the days of Solomon (Proverbs 22:28; 23:10) and of Hosea

5:10, a form of wickedness not unknown to modern society. Every

attempt by covert fraudulence to augment one’s own estate at the

expense of a neighbor’s, whether that neighbor be poor or rich, is

equivalent to a removing of the landmark between meum and tuum

(mine and thine), and as such incurs the Divine displeasure. If one

thing is more saddening than the prevalence of indirect and minute

spoliation amongst all ranks and classes, it is that good men

should not be able to see that theft is still theft, although practiced in

infinitesimal proportions and by underhand contrivances, and that even

wicked men should not be deterred from such nefarious actions by a

recollection of God’s anathemas against the thief.

 

o        Barefaced robbery. “They violently take away flocks and feed them”

(v. 2), not taking the trouble to dispose of the stolen sheep by slaughter

or sale, but openly and coolly retaining them amongst their own, as the

Sabeans had done with Job’s oxen (ch. 1:14) — an aggravation of

their crime that they were so shameless and audacious in its commission;

but they who could brave God’s curse in order to remove a landmark

would not likely shrink from enduring man’s scorn in order to steal a

flock. Sin inevitably tends to sear the conscience and to petrify the

feelings.

 

o        Pitiless exaction. “They drive away the ass of the fatherless, they take

the widow’s ox for a pledge” (v. 3). Besides being out of all proportion,

and therefore unjust, to carry off an ass or an ox in payment of a trifling

loan or debt, it was unspeakably heartless to proceed to such extremity

against those whose friendless condition should have drawn forth

sympathy and succor. It was also a clear violation of the Divine Law

to appropriate what was so indispensable to the subsistence of an

orphan as the one ass wherewith he labored, or so needful for the

widow as the ox which ploughed her plot of ground. For similar

reasons the Mosaic Law forbade the taking in pledge of a widow’s

raiment (Deuteronomy 24:17), and much more, it may be argued,

of a widow’s yoke ox, or of an orphan’s ass (Exodus 22:22).

The nether or the upper millstone also, for a like cause, was an

illegal pledge (Deuteronomy 24:6).

 

o        Violent oppression. “They turn the needy out of the way” (v. 4),

thrusting them out of their accustomed paths and pursuits, compelling

them through fear to abandon the highways and travel through

trackless regions, ejecting them by force from their wonted

habitations and ancient possessions (compare ch. 22:8, homiletics).

 

o        Merciless subjugation. “They pluck the fatherless from the breast,

      and take a pledge of the poor” (v. 9). So pitiless are these inhuman

monsters, that they confiscate not the widow’s ox merely, but her

infant child as well, plucking it from her bosom, and carrying it off to

be reared in miserable servitude; yea, if the second clause may be

added to the first, after robbing the broken-hearted mother of her babe,

stripping her of her raiment, and turning her forth naked and trembling

to find food and clothing as best she may. It is doubtful if any

American Legree or modern slave-driver ever eclipsed these

ancient child-stealers in relentless barbarity.

 

Ø      The most extreme misery is allowed to go unnoticed and unrelieved. In

three affecting pictures, according to one view of the poet’s meaning, he

sketches the calamitous fate of the unhappy victims of those remorseless

destroyers. The first (vs. 5-8) depicts the melancholy fortunes of the poor

of the land (perhaps the aboriginal inhabitants), who being cast forth from

their ancient possessions are obliged to “hide themselves together” (v. 4),

or to slink away out of sight, disappearing, as inferior races have since

done, because unable to stand before the violence of their invaders.

 

o        Leading a gregarious and wandering life, like wild asses in the desert,

like the vagrant gypsies of modern times, rising up early and going

forth in search of food with an appetite as keen as if they were

hunting prey, with infinite labor extracting a scanty subsistence

for themselves and children from the innutritious roots and herbs

of the inhospitable steppe.

 

o        Enraging in the lowest forms of menial service, being obliged to hire

themselves out as day laborers, and the only work available for them

being the cutting of fodder for the rich man’s cattle — not the better

sorts of grain, lest they should be tempted to pluck and eat; or the

gleaning of the late ripening grapes of the rich man’s vineyard —

not the earliest and best, for fear they should seek to quench their

thirst by devouring the luscious fruit.

 

o        Reduced to the saddest state of destitution, being without clothes, so

that they must pass the night in a stripped and naked condition,

exposed to the “frequent and continuous storms that visit the

mountains,” and without homes, so that “they embrace the rock

for want of a shelter.” The second picture (vs. 10-11) is, if possible,

more excruciatingly painful in the aspect of wretchedness it presents.

It recites the evil hap of those widows’ children who have been taken

for their mothers’ debt, or of the poorer section of the conquering clan

themselves who in turn have become victims of the haughty tyrants,

and have been reduced to a condition little short of abject slavery.

 

§         Utter penury. In consequence of the oppressive exactions of

their masters, they are compelled to part with the last stitch of

clothing, and to slink away in almost entire nudity like a gang

of slaves driven to the market or the cotton field.

 

§         Unrequited toil. Hungry, they must not pluck a handful of ears

from their overseer’s cornfield, a privilege not denied to the

brute beasts beside them (Deuteronomy 25:4). Thirsty,

they dare not moisten their parched tongues with the must

running from the presses as they squeeze but the oil

and tread down the grapes. The abominable wickedness of

exacting labor without remuneration (and that also adequate),

as is done in slavery, is severely reprehended in Scripture

(Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14-15; Jeremiah 22:13;

James 5:4).

 

o        The third picture (v. 12) alludes to the miseries of a densely

populated city, where:

 

§         oppression reigns as fierce and intolerable as exists in the

country, causing men to groan in anguish — a description

not exclusively applicable to an ancient Arabian town

suddenly invaded by hordes of freebooters, but

finding also too faithful realization in the great cities and

large centers of population belonging to the nineteenth

Christian century, in which the same spectacle is still seen,

of the strong trampling on the weak, the rich on the

poor, the lordly and tyrannical on the plebeian and servile;

and where:

 

§         strife rages, leading not unfrequently to bloodshed and murder,

in which the soul of the wounded mourns — a state of things

as often seen today as it was some five or six thousand years

ago, nothing being so characteristic of the present times as just

the bloody warfare existing between the various classes of

society, and leading as a natural result to a prolific

development of crimes against the person and estate. And

all this sweltering abomination, this moral putridity,

social disorder, and civil corruption which infests both

town and country, the Almighty appears to be as indifferent

to as He was in the days of Job (Psalm 50:21).

 

·         AN URGENT QUESTION ASKED. Why does not God call wicked

men to account?

 

Ø      Not for want of power. Otherwise He would not be Shaddai (I

recommend  Genesis 17 - The Names of God - El Shaddai by

Nathan Stone - #320 this website - CY - 2021)  the

Almighty, the all-powerful and all-sufficient Deity, whose ability to

perform his counsel Job has just commented on (ch. 23:13).

 

Ø      Not for lack of knowledge. Job’s atheistical contemporaries supposed

that mundane affairs were concealed from the gaze of Him who walked

upon the circuit of the heavens, and whose feet were wrapped about with

clouds (ch. 22:13); but Job and his friends alike admitted that times,

i.e. at any rate the main events and circumstances of terrestrial history,

were not hidden from Shaddai’s omniscient glance (v. 1, Authorized

Version).

 

Ø      Not for want of right. Both parties in the present controversy recognize

that such appalling wickedness should not be suffered to go for ever

unchallenged and unpunished, that such detestable criminals as above

described ought to be arrested and brought before the tribunal of Heaven.

Nay, on the theory of the friends, these workers of iniquity ought at once

to be called to account. Yet notoriously, says Job, they are not. Hence it

can only be:

 

Ø      For lack of will. It is not God’s intention to hold a circuit court here on

earth, and try men for their misdeeds. In other words, the Divine

government is not, so far as this world is concerned, as the friends

contended, strictly retributive.

 

·         LEARN. 

 

1.      The impunity of sinners on earth is no proof that they shall

      enjoy like impunity hereafter. 

2.      That God’s people do not now discern  His judgment throne

is no argument that such a throne does not exist.

3.  Mighty despots may deprive the poor of their estates by either fair

     means or foul; but God regards the deed as spoliation and robbery.

4.  Little faults are as really sins, and as certain to be punished, as great

     offences.

5.      Criminals who start with stealthy and minute acts of transgression

      are in danger of proceeding to large as well as open works of

      wickedness.

6. “Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.”

7.  It is a wiser policy to prevent pauperism from being developed

     in a state than to provide for it after it has been developed. 

    (As the United States is finding out through welfare! – CY – 2013) 

8.      Town and country are much the same in their moral characteristics.

9.      It is a mistake to infer from God’s silence that He neither sees

                              nor cares for the wickedness and misery of man.

 

 

 

 

The Bitter Cry of the City (v. 12)

 

“Men groan from out of  the city.”An ominous characteristic of the social

condition of modern England is the continuous draining of the population out of

the rural districts into the cities. No greater scandal exists than the condition of

the crowded multitudes in these great centers. From time to time we are roused

by some prophet-voice that draws our attention to the misery and degradation

of the city poor, and warns us of the danger that lurks therein. But it is not

enough to be periodically startled, and to make occasional spasmodic

efforts to remedy the evil. Continuous study and patient, unremitting toil

are called for to cope with the dark problem. The bitter cry is shrill and

penetrating, and of many voices.

 

  • POVERTY. This is the first visible cause of the misery. The poor

regard London as an Eldorado. It seems as though they must get some

employment in the vast, busy city. So they pour into it in shoals. There

individually they are lost sight of. The very multitude of them drowns their

separate claims and appeals. A huge mass of poverty does not touch

personal sympathies. It is a horror of misery, but it does not call for the aid

that the distress of one person whose exact circumstances and history are

known elicits.

 

  • OVERCROWDING. This evil means more than wretchedness. It is a

distinct cause of moral deterioration, a direct source of dark vices.

Herded like beasts, is a wonder that men live like beasts? The decencies

of life are impossible. All the finer feelings are crushed by coarse

surroundings.  The gracious influences of silence and privacy are unknown.

People are forced to live and move and have their being in the midst of a

noisy mob.  The certain result is a break-down of civilization, and

a corrupt civilization is worse than barbarism. The savagery of city

slums is of a more degraded type than that of African forests.

 

  • DRINK. (Now drugs – CY – 2013).  All who have looked carefully into

the condition of the miserably poor of great cities are driven to the one

conclusion that the most prolific source of evil is intemperance. No doubt

the overcrowding, the misery, the absence of all other resources drive

people to this one desperate consolation. We must remove the causes

of intemperance if we would sweep away the vice. Still, it is a vice.

Indulgence in it is morally degrading. So huge a vice demands

exceptional treatment. It is the duty of Christian people not merely to

enjoy their aesthetic worship, but also to follow Christ in saving the

lost. Temperance work must take a prominent place in the activities

of the Church.

 

  • NARROWNESS OF LIFE. The town life is dingy and compressed.

The influences of nature are not felt. The School Board has not yet brought

the spirit of culture within the horizon of the crowded people in the lower

parts of great cities. Religion is little more than a name to too many of

these unhappy people. Such a cramped and crushed life cannot grow and

bear fruit in the graces of human experience. Here, then, is a bitter cry that

all Christians should hearken to for Christ’s sake. It is humiliating to a

Christian nation that such a cry should be heard in our land; it will be a sign

that our religion is but hypocritical Pharisaism if the cry is unheeded.

 

13 “They are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the

ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof.” They are of those who

rebel against the light. These city oppressors go beyond the others in entirely

rejecting the light of reason, conscience, and law. They threw off every

restraint. The “light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world”

(John 1:9) is nothing to them. They know not the ways thereof nor abide in

the paths thereof. They will not know, will not have anything to do with, the

law of moral restraint — much less will they abide in the paths thereof; i.e.

acknowledge and be guided by such restraints continually. On the contrary,

 

14 “The murderer rising with the light killeth the poor and needy, and

in the night is as a thief.” The murderer rising with the light killeth the

 poor and needy. The murderer rises at the first glimpse of dawn — the time

when most men sleep most soundly. He cannot go about his wicked business in

complete darkness. He has not the courage to attack the great and

powerful, who might be well armed and have retainers to defend them, but

enters the houses of a comparatively poor class, in which he is less afraid to

risk himself. And in the night is as a thief.  Here, in the night he is as a thief.

He has not come into the house simply for murder. Theft is his main object. He

will not take life unless he is resisted or discovered, and so, in a certain sense,

driven to it.

 

15 “The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, saying, No

eye shall see me: and disguiseth his face.” The eye also of the adulterer

waiteth for the twilight, saying, No eye shall see me. There is an analogy

between moral and physical light, and between moral and physical darkness.

The class of men here spoken of (vs. 14-16), who have rebelled against

 moral light (v.13), and refused its ways, and rejected its paths, are no great

lovers of physical light. Their deeds of darkness are only suited to be done in the

dark, and they wait for the evening twilight or the dusk of dawn to engage

in them (compare John 3:19-21, “And this is the condemnation, that light

is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because

their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither

cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth

truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they

are wrought in God.” See also John 8:12; 12:35; Romans 13:12; Ephesians

5:8-14, etc.). And disguiseth his face. As a further precaution against discovery,

the adulterer disguiseth, or covereth up, his face. The same is often done by thieves

and murderers.

 

16 “In the dark they dig through houses, which they had marked for

themselves in the daytime: they know not the light.” In the dark they dig

through houses. In ancient times, burglary commonly took this form. Windows

were few, and high up in the walls; doors were strongly fastened with bolts and

bars. But the walls, being of clay, or rubble, or sun-dried brick, were weak and

easily penetrable. This was especially the case with party walls; and if burglars

entered an unoccupied house, nothing was easier than to break through the

slight partition which separated it from the house next door. The Greek

word for “burglar” is τοιχώρυχος toichoruchos -  “he who digs through

 a wall.” Which they had marked for themselves in the daytime; rather,

they shut themselves up in the daytime; literally, they seal themselves up; the

meaning being that they carefully keep themselves close.. They know not the

light; i.e. they avoid it, keep away from it, will have nothing to do with it.

 

17 “For the morning is to them even as the shadow of death: if one

know them, they are in the terrors of the shadow of death.”

For the morning is to them even as the shadow of death.

They hate the morning light. It is associated in their minds with the idea of

detection; for when it breaks in upon them unexpectedly in the midst of

their ill deeds, detection commonly follows; and detection is a true

“shadow of death,” for it commonly means the gallows. If one know them,

they are in the terrors of the shadow of death; rather, for they know the

terrors of the shadow of death (see the Revised Version). It is a familiar

experience to them; as, whenever crime is severely punished, it is to the

criminal class generally.  (And to think that modern so-called progressives

say that FEAR IS NO DETERRENT?????????? – CY – 2013)

 

 

18 “He is swift as the waters; their portion is cursed in the earth: he

beholdeth not the way of the vineyards.” He is swift as the waters.

Scarcely any two commentators agree even as to the subject on which Job

proceeds to speak. Some regard him as giving his own judgment on the

ultimate fate of the wicked; others, as anticipating what his opponents will

say on the point. One recent expositor takes the passage as referring to the

efforts made by the malefactors of vs. 14-16 to escape from justice, and

to the discredit and difficulty in which they involve themselves. Another

suggests that Job here calls attention to a fresh class of oppressors, viz.

water-thieves, who, starting in light boats from some island in a lake or

river, plundered the neighboring lands, making the portions of the landholders 

worthless, and causing them to neglect the cultivation, even of their vineyards.

If we accept this view, the proper translation of the present verse will be, Swift

 is he (i.e. the water-thief) upon the face of the waters: then is the portion

of them who dwell in the land worthless; no one turneth his face toward

his vineyards.

 

19 Drought and heat consume the snow waters; so doth the

grave those which have sinned.” This rendering is further confirmed by

the next verse. Accepting it, we must suppose Job to pass at this point to

the consideration of the ultimate end of the wicked, though in v. 21 he

returns to the consideration of their ill doings. The heat and drought of

summer, he says, consume and dry up all the water which comes from the

melting of the winter’s snows. So does Sheol, or the grave, absorb, and as

it were consume, the wicked.

 

 

The Death-Penalty of Sin (v. 19)

 

Job admits this as freely as his friends. Sin must lead to the grave. It may

not do this so swiftly as the friends assume; nor may the course thither be

what they anticipate. But, in the long run, a man’s sin MUST BE HIS

DEATH!

 

  • THE SPECIFIC PENALTY OF SIN IS DEATH. Sin may fulfill, and

more than fulfill, some of its promises first; but the end is death. This

dreadful fact, which is made clear to us from the story of Adam and Eve,

throughout the whole of the Old and New Testaments, is obscured by

popular conceptions of the future. The Church has regarded pain as the

main consequence of sin. The gruesome mediaeval hell has been presented

to the trembling sinner as the goal of his evil course. Now suffering, bitter

and grievous, is in store for the impenitent, for Christ speaks of “wailing

and gnashing of teeth”  (Luke 13:28).  But suffering is not the only end

of sin. Much more frequent than any references to the suffering of the wicked

are the Scripture warnings of DEATH and DESTRUCTION!   Whatever

interpretation we put upon these warnings — whether we take them as

denoting absolute extinction of being, pure annihilation, or whether we regard

them as pointing to some corrupting, dissolving influence — they mean

 something else than keen, wakeful pain.

 

  • THE DEATH-PENALTY IS A NATURAL CONSEQUENCE OF

SIN. Job tells us that the effect is like that of drought and heat consuming

the snow-waters. No destroying angel need be sent forth with flaming

sword to cut down the army of sinners. They are their own destroyers.

The sword is in their own conduct. This is often seen in the physical effects

of vice, which sows seeds of disease, and hastens premature decay. It is

always present in the moral consequences of evil. The spiritual nature is

diseased, corrupted, lowered. Powers and faculties fade and wither

away.  The true self shrinks and shrivels. Existence in the body on earth

becomes A LIVING DEATH!   When the life of the body is gone it is

difficult to see what life is left, for this life seemed to be all that was

possessed.

 

  • THE DEATH-PENALTY CAN ONLY BE AVOIDED BY THE

GENERATION OF A NEW LIFE.  Sentence has gone out against us;

the sentence is in our own constitution. Here is the difficulty. If it were

external, an external process might abolish it; but seeing that it is internal,

it must be dealt with internally. No mere decree of pardon will be sufficient,

for the poison is in the blood, the death is ALREADY AT WORK

THERE!   A simple order of forgiveness can do nothing. The pressing

need is for an antidote within. Nay, the old self has been so injured and

corrupted by sin, that a new life is needed. We are beyond cure; we

are like lepers who have lost limbs in their disease. Healing is not enough;

A NEW CREATION IS NECESSARY!  Now, THIS IS JUST WHAT

CHRIST EFFECTS!   He does not only give external pardon, He is not

satisfied to manipulate legal points; HE REGENERATES!   He

says, “Ye must be born again (John 3:3); and Paul tells us that he

that is in Christ Jesus is a new creature  (creation – II Corinthians 5:17).

 

20 “The womb shall forget him; the worm shall feed sweetly on him;

he shall be no more remembered; and wickedness shall be broken

as a tree.”  The womb shall forget him: Some regard this as equivalent

to “Earth shall forget him;” but most suppose “the womb” to mean “his

own mother.” The worm shall feed sweetly on him (compare ch.17:14).

He shall be no more remembered. Oblivion shall fall upon him and

his doings. And wickedness shall be broken as a tree. As a strong wind

suddenly snaps off a tree at the root, so wickedness, in the person of the

wicked man — the abstract for the concrete — shall be overtaken by

death, and perish in a moment (compare v. 24).

 

21 “He evil entreateth the barren that beareth not: and doeth not good

to the widow.” He evil entreateth the barren that beareth not. Oppressors

of another class are perhaps here spoken of, or perhaps there is a mere

return to the idea with which Job’s enumeration opened (v. 3), which

was the oppression of the weaker and more defenseless classes. As

barrenness in women was considered the greatest possible misfortune

(I Samuel 1:5-8; 3:1-10), so oppressing one that was barren indicated

extreme cruelty. And doeth not good to the widow; i.e. neglects to

vindicate her cause — an admitted part of man’s duty (see ch.22:9;

29:13; 31:16).

 

22 “He draweth also the mighty with his power: he riseth up, and no

man is sure of life.” He draweth also the mighty with his power; i.e.

 he draws to his side, and makes his helpers, those who are mighty, attracting

them or compelling them to join him by the power which he already has. He

riseth up, and no man is sure of life. This is also the translation of the

Revised Version. Some commentators, however, prefer to render, “He riseth up,

when he has despaired of life; “i.e. the wicked man, when he has been

brought into trouble, either sickness or danger of death at the hands of

Justice, to men’s surprise, “riseth up” — is delivered from the danger, and

recovers his prosperity.

 

 

 

            Apparent Anomalies in the Divine Judgment (vs. 1-22)

 

Job again points to the anomalous conditions of human life — goodness,

which has its approval in every breast, and on which, by universal consent

of belief, a Divine blessing rests, is nevertheless often overcast with the

shadow of calamity; and, on the other hand, evil-doing, which merits only

judgment, affliction, and correction, is often found to prosper. To it

outward events seem to be favorable. Men sin without let or hindrance.

Apparently, “God layeth not folly to them.” This aspect of human affairs is

much dwelt upon in the Book of Job; it seems to be one of the central

themes of the book. It finds its exemplification in the case of Job himself.

The principal idea of the book is the unraveling of this mysterious

confusion. Punishment may follow evil-doing, but it does not always

immediately accompany it. Therefore some explanation is needed. It is

evident:

 

·         THAT A TRUE ESTIMATE OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENT MUST

NOT BE BASED ON MERE INCIDENTS. Incidents do not always

explain themselves. There are hidden springs of events. We know but little

of every incident. We cannot trace its rise or its end. Other considerations

must be taken into view besides the mere events on which judgment is to

be passed.

 

·         THE ESTIMATE OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENT MUST NOT BE

BASED ON A PARTIAL VIEW. All the materials needed to enable one to

form a just estimate of God’s dealings in any single instance are not always

immediately to hand. Much is hidden. Many purposes are to be served as

much by the Divine inaction as by the Divine work. Men expect judgment

upon an evil work to be presently executed. The Divine hand is withheld

for many purposes which are not apparent. All judgment, to be true, must

take all things into account. A wide range of vision is needed for this. Few

have opportunity of making it; therefore judgment must be suspended.

 

·         THE ESTIMATE OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENT CAN ONLY BE

TRULY FORMED WHEN THE WHOLE PURPOSES OF GOD ARE

MADE KNOWN. The one purpose most vital to a correct estimate may be

withheld. It may be beyond the power of the human mind to grasp all.

Certainly it is not possible to see all the bearings of the conduct of men.

God alone can see the end from the beginning. In patience then must men

wait for the end. A final judgment is needed to clear up the apparent

anomalies of the present.

 

Ø      Judgment upon the wicked is mercifully suspended that men may repent;

Ø      chastisement falls upon the righteous for the perfecting of character.

 

In due time the chastened, sorrowful, but good man shall receive an ample

reward. These latter truths are especially illustrated in the history of Job.

 

23 “Though it be given him to be in safety, whereon he resteth; yet His

eyes are upon their ways.” Though it be given him to be in safety, whereon

 he resteth; rather, he (i.e. God) granteth him to be in securityand thereon

he resteth; i.e. God allows the escape of the wicked man from his trouble, and lets

him live on, safe and secure, and the man himself rests on the security thus

afforded him, quite contented with it. Yet his eyes are upon their ways.

God’s eyes are still upon the ways of the wicked: they are, or seem to be,

the objects of a special providential care.

 

24 “They are exalted for a little while, but are gone and brought low;

they are taken out of the way as all other, and cut off as the tops of

the ears of corn.” They are exalted for a little while, but are gone and

brought low; rather, they are exalted: after a little while they are gone

they are brought low. Job has to admit that death comes upon wicked men

at last; but he minimizes the terrors of their death, and exaggerates its

alleviations. First, it comes on them when they have risen to eminence,

have gained themselves a reputation, and “are exalted.” Next, it is sudden

and painless, preceded by no long, lingering illness, but just a sinking into

non-existence; a tranquil passing away. Thirdly, it is at a ripe age, when

they have reached the full term of human life, and are as ears of corn ripe

for the harvest. Further, it is the common fate: They are taken out of the

way as all other (compare ch.9:22; 21:13), and cut off as the tops of the

ears of corn. We may gather from this expression that the reaping in the

land of Uz was conducted in Job’s time much in the same way as it was in

Egypt under the early Pharaohs, viz. by cutting the stalk with a sharp sickle

almost immediately below the ear, and collecting the ears in baskets.

 

 

 

                        The Prosperity of the Wicked Unsolved (vs. 23-24)

 

In the midst of many apparent anomalies in the method of the Divine

dealing with evil-doing, there shines out one obvious indication of the

Divine judgment against the evil-doer. “They are exalted for a little while,”

but suddenly they “are gone and brought low.” Patiently the good Ruler

waits, giving opportunity for repentance and amendment; but if the wicked

return not, He will bend His bow and make ready His arrow upon the string.

Iniquity shall not go wholly unpunished; nor shall that punishment be

merely a hidden one — it shall be made apparent. Such is the general

testimony and experience; but there are many striking instances which seem

to contradict this view, and Job adduces the frequent prosperity of the evildoer.

 

·         THE PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED IS AN UNSOLVED

MYSTERY. Even with the clearer light that now shines on human life it is

not possible wholly to divest the mind of the feeling of surprise at the

anomalous instances of prospering wickedness and suffering virtue.

 

·         THE PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED A FURTHER EXERCISE

TO THE PATIENCE AND FAITH OF THE GODLY. It demands that the

eye of faith be turned upwards to God. Events do not explain themselves.

Nor are men able to find the Divine purposes revealed by events. More and

more must the tried and tempted believer look off from the uncertain event,

and place his faith in God alone. That faith is strained, but it grows thereby.

 

·         THE PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED IS NO GUARANTEE OF

DEFENCE FROM JUDGMENT. Judgment lingers. It is even hidden. The

good Lord of all would fain altogether restrain it. He rejoices in mercy.

Wickedness often takes advantage of the withholding of judgment; but in

this is no assurance that the judgment which is held back shall not be

revealed.

 

·         THE PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED NEEDS THE SOLUTION

OF THE FUTURE. It points to a future judgment when men must give

account, and seems to demand it. In that future what is mysterious in

history will doubtless be made plain. No work can be fairly estimated until

its completion. If it ever please the Lord of all to justify His dealings with

men, He will do it in that dread judgment when each shall receive the due

reward of his deeds.

 

·         THE PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED MAY BE A MERCIFUL

FORBEARANCE IN THE HOPE OF REPENTANCE. God is kind, and

waiteth long for the returning one, in hope that even the goodness of God

may lead him to repentance. (Romans 2:4) How often is this abused! But

such is the spirit of wrong that it abuses the best of God’s gifts, and is

indifferent to the kindest of God’s dealings.

 

The Book of Job represents the entanglement of human affairs, but it

throws light upon it and helps to resolve it. We live in clearer light, but the

clearest light of all has yet to shine when we shall see light in His light. For

this we must prepare and patiently wait.

 

 

 

 

                                                 A Little While (v. 24)

 

Job is here taking a step towards the solution of the problem that his

misfortunes have raised. Rejecting the hackneyed doctrine of his friends

that trouble comes as the temporal punishment of sin, and seeing that bad

men often escape trouble, he concludes that all the injustice is but

temporary. The prosperity of the wicked is but for “a little while.” Before

long there will be a fair treatment of all.

 

·         WICKEDNESS MAY BE ACCOMPANIED BY TEMPORARY

PROSPERITY,

 

Ø      This is an obvious fact. Only the extraordinary blindness of bigotry

could have allowed the three friends to deny it. Job has only to point to

events which are open to the eyes of all, to show that there are bad

prosperous men. This is always admitted when it is approached from

another point of view, i.e. when the sins of the rich are denounced.

 

Ø      This should not dismay us. All faith has grown up in face of the obvious

fact of the prosperity of the wicked. If we have not considered it, others

have in bygone ages. Yet faith has flourished and triumphed, although she

could not explain the mystery. Therefore faith may still find ground to

stand on, even when one more person discovers to his surprise what has

always been patent to all who would take the trouble to observe it.

 

Ø      This cannot justify wickedness. Earthly prosperity is not the seal of

heavenly approval. The assumption that it is so only originated in a

mistake. Here ancient orthodoxy has proved to be in error. If the notion

is erroneous when used against a man in misfortune, it is equally

erroneous when claimed by one who is temporarily prosperous.

 

·         THE PROSPERITY THAT ACCOMPANIES WICKEDNESS CAN

ONLY ENDURE FOR A LITTLE WHILE.

 

Ø      It does not outlast death. By the nature of things it cannot do so,

because it simply springs from accidental circumstances and earthly

influences, which are confined to this life. It has not its source in a

deep and enduring spiritual experience. The very triumph of it rests

on the score of the spiritual. But though the spiritual may be trampled

on now, it cannot be pretended that the material will continue after

death. Riches, pleasures, pomp, and prowess are all left behind on

this side of the grave.

 

Ø      Its earthly existence is brief. The careless man may postpone all

consideration of his end. He may be satisfied that he has enough and

to spare for the present. Nevertheless, the present is rushing away

from him.  As he looks back, all past years seem to be but a brief

period, and coming years will accelerate their speed. What, then,

is this short tenure of prosperity for which he is selling himself?

A PASSING SHADOW!

 

Ø      It is of no worth even while possessed. The temporary character of this

prosperity of the wicked is a sign that it is a hollow deception. Its charms

are proved to be pretentious by the fact that it will not remain with us.

So ephemeral a good cannot be substantial. The seeds of decay are in it

from the first. And what is its joy but a deceitful mockery? There is a

dreadful doom in the very quietness of this hopeless life. All that is

worth living for is gone out of it. Rich, gay, outwardly prosperous,

the soul is

 

“Left in God’s contempt apart,

With ghastly smooth life, dead at heart.”

 

25 “And if it be not so now, who will make me a liar, and make my

speech nothing worth?” And if it be not so now; i.e. “if these things be

not as I say.” Who will make me a liar? Which of you will stand forth and

disprove them, and so “make me a liar?” And make my speech nothing

 worth! Show, i.e.’ my whole discourse to be valueless. This bold challenge

no one attempts to take up.

 

 

Pictures of Secret and Unpunished Evil-Doers (vs. 13-25)

 

  • THE MURDERER AND THE ADULTERER. (vs. 13-17.) A class

of the wicked different from the foregoing is now placed before us; rebels,

revolters against the light, who refuse to know anything of the ways of

light, and to abide in its paths. These are the “children of darkness,” so

emphatically contrasted in the New Testament with the “children of light”

(Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:8; I Thessalonians 5:5).  Before the morning

breaks, the murderer rises, to strike down the poor and needy, and at night

he carries on the trade of the thief. The adulterer waits for the dusk, and veils

his face (Proverbs 7:7-10). In the darkness houses are broken into by men

who have shut themselves up during the day — men who have no

 affinity with THE LIGHT as the description repeats (v.16). To these

 malefactors the dense darkness is their morning; for then, when others sleep

 from daily toil, THEIR VILE TRADE AND WORK BEGINS

“because they know the terrors of the gloomy darkness’ (v. 17), being as

familiar with darkness as others are with the bright daytime. The joyous

consciousness, the cheerful spirits of THE CHILDREN OF THE

LIGHT are contrasted with the fear, the anxiety, the incessant

 terrors of THE CHILDREN OF THE DARKNESS.  Conscience,

that makes cowards of all, will not suffer the most hardened to escape.

“Certain dregs of conscience’ will remain even in the most imbruted; the

murderer will react to the shadow of a falling leaf. When the light that is

within a man has become darkness, the very blessed day itself is turned to

night. (“How great is that darkness.”  - Matthew 6:23).  In their revolt

from GOD THE ETERNAL LIGHT -  they carry about night in

their bosom, and all their terrors are present to them in the brightness of

the day (John 11:10).

 

  • JUDGMENT ON THESE EVIL-DOERS; ITS CERTAINTY. (vs.18-21.)

They pass away swiftly as upon some gliding flood (ch. 9:26; Hosea 10:7). His

portion in the land being cursed — either by men or by God, or by both — the

wicked man no more bends his steps to his vineyard and his other beloved

possessions. Then — a powerful comparison — as dryness and heat carry

away the short snows of winter, so the sinner evaporates as it were

INTO HELL. (Psalm 21:9;49:14). Forgotten by a mother’s womb!

Deserted even of the most tenacious affections the human heart can know,

worms make a dainty repast upon his flesh. He is like a blasted tree upon

the heath, or a felled trunk in the forest (ch.19:10; Ecclesiastes 11:3;

Daniel 4:10-15). For he was rotten at the core; the heart of kindly

affections was eaten away; he had plundered the childless and dealt

cruelly with the widow.

 

  • JUDGMENT, THOUGH CERTAIN, IS DELAYED. (vs. 22-24.)

“God maintains the tyrant for a long time by His power,” does not execute

judgment at once (Isaiah 13:22; Psalm 36:11; 85:6). Although the

oppressor is sometimes in despair of life, yet he rises up and flourishes

again. God grants him safety, and he is supported, and God’s eyes are

upon his ways to protect and to bless. But it is for a little while only that

this recovery and this security last THEN THEY VANISH!

(Genesis 5:24).  Oppressors are bowed down, perish, pass away like ears

of corn.  Because sin seems unpunished, it is not forgotten. Retribution

 is certain, though it may be delayed. The “treacherous calm” is more

to be dreaded than the “tempests overhead.” The greater the forbearance

and the long-suffering shown by God towards the wicked (“The Lord

is…….longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish,

but that all should come to repentance.”  - II Peter 3:9), the more

 severe their punishment in the end.  

 

 

 

                        Examples of God’s Incomprehensible Dealings (vs. 1-12)

 

·         DEEDS OF VIOLENCE AND FRAUD. (vs. 1-4.) “Why are not

times laid up,” i.e. reserved, determined by the Almighty, “and why do

those who know Him (i.e. his friends) not see His days?” — the days when

he arises to judgment, days of revelation, days of the Son of man

(Ezekiel 30:3; Luke 17:22). Then comes a series of acts of

violence, oppression, persecution, permitted by God the removal of

landmarks (Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:17; Proverbs 22:28; 23:10);

the plunder of herds (ch. 20:19); the taking of the property of the

helpless in pledge (Exodus 22:26; Deuteronomy 24:6); the thrusting

of the poor from the way into pathless spots, so that the miserable of the

land are compelled to hide themselves from the intolerable oppression.

 

·         THE MISERY OF THE PERSECUTED. (vs. 5-8) V. 5 is an apt

description of the beggarly vagabond way of life of these Troglodytes, the

types of the present Hottentots or Bushmen in South Africa: “As wild

asses in the desert they go forth in their daily work, looking out for booty;

the steppe gives them food for their children. On the field they reap the

fodder of the cattle, and glean the vineyard of the wicked,” thievishly not

labouring in his service. Naked, cold, shelterless, exposed to the rain

amidst the mountains, they cower for shelter among the rocks (vs- 7, 8).

 

·         FURTHER DESCRIPTIONS OF TYRANNY. (vs. 9-12.) The

orphan is torn from the mother’s breast by cruel creditors, who intend to

repay themselves by bringing up the child as a slave. The property of the

poor is seized in pledge (compare Amos 2:8; Micah 2:9). Then

follows another picture of the victims of oppression, not now as wanderers

of the steppe, but as the wretched denizens of inhabited cities (vs. 10-12).

In nakedness and hunger, they carry sheaves for the supply of the rich

man’s table, while they themselves are starving. And thus the cry of those

whose wages have been kept back by fraud goes up to Heaven

(Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Timothy 5:18; James 5:4). We have a

picture of ancient labor in the olive and vine-growing East. While they

press the olive or tread the wine-press they suffer cruelly from thirst. The

groans of dying men fill the air, “and yet God never speaks a word!” “He

heeds not the folly” with which these impious tyrants disregard and trample

upon the moral order.

 

           

                                    Ancient Rebels against the Light (vs. 13-25)

 

·         THEIR BLACK CHARACTER.

 

Ø      They are hostile to the light. The light alluded to is the light of day. The

wicked persons spoken of regard that light with aversion, as being

unfavorable to the special forms of ungodliness they delight to practice.

Distinguished from the previously mentioned sinners who transact their

nefarious deeds openly and unblushingly beneath the clear firmament of

heaven, these night-birds may be taken, in their general characteristics at

least, as representatives of those evil-doers whom Christ designates

(John 3:20) haters of the light. Light is a frequent biblical symbol for

Divine truth (Proverbs 6:23; Psalm 119:105; Isaiah 2:5), and in

particular for the gospel (Matthew 4:16; Luke 2:32; John 12:36;

Ephesians 5:8). Hence the unbelieving and therefore unconverted

wicked heart naturally looks upon the light of God’s Law and of Christ’s

gospel with repugnance (Romans 8:7), and for the same reason, that

the light condemns their works.

 

Ø      They know not the ways of the light. They have no familiarity with such

modes of living as men practice in open day. The ordinary avocations of

law-abiding citizens possess for them no interest and yield to them no

enjoyment; in which respect again they fitly typify ungodly men in

general, who neither know nor care for the ways of holiness and truth.

The way of the wicked is a way:

 

o          OF DARKNESS (Proverbs 4:19; Romans 13:12),

o          of unbelief (Hebrews 3:12),

o          of disobedience (Romans 8:7),

o          of folly (Proverbs 12:15),

o          of sorrow (Proverbs 13:15),

 

a way that is displeasing to God (Proverbs 15:9), and

that leadeth unto death (Matthew 7:13; Romans 6:23).

 

They do not keep, love, or know:

 

o       The way of truth (Psalm 119:30),

o       of understanding (Isaiah 40:14),

o       of holiness (Isaiah 35:8),

o       of peace (Isaiah 59:8; Romans 3:17), or,

o       of life (Matthew 7:14),

 

Ø      They shun the paths of the light. They remove themselves and their

abominable practices as far as possible from the light, lest they should

be seen of men. Even so evil workers come not to the light lest their

deeds should be reproved (John 3:20). Honest men fear not to stand

in the sun. Nor do children of the light require to wrap themselves

in cloaks of darkness. But because GOD’S LIGHT (of the Law and the

gospel) has a singular power of discovering men’s wickedness to

themselves and others (Ephesians 5:13), the children of darkness

avoid the light.

 

·         THEIR DARK DEEDS. The poet sketches portraits of three of these

ancient rebels against the light.

 

Ø      The murderer; whose villainies are described by a threefold

characteristic.

 

o       The time of their perpetration“at the dawn,” i.e. just before

the breaking forth of the morning light, or while it is yet dark, that

hour being selected for:

 

§         its adaptation to the works about to be performed, works

      of darkness (Romans 13:12), such as robbery and murder,

which cannot bear the light, and

§         the facilities it affords for finding subjects on which to

operate.

 

o       The victims of their perpetration“the poor and needy,”

who by reason of penury are obliged at that early hour to be

afoot, probably on the road to their daily tasks. Murder, in

itself an atrocious crime, is immensely aggravated when, for

the petty spoil which can thereby be obtained, it is committed

against the indigent and feeble.

 

o       The manner of their perpetration — by sudden ambush.

“At dawn the manslayer riseth up,” i.e. out of his concealment,

“and killeth the poor and the needy;” another aggravation of

his wickedness. The language may also indicate the eagermess

and earnestness with which this son of darkness, this

child of the devil, sets about his unhallowed work; in which

respect his conduct may administer rebuke to the children of light.

 

Ø      The adulterer; who also is possessed of the infernal sagacity to select

the season most appropriate, and the manner most effective, for

accomplishing his diabolic purpose. Not at early dawn, but with the

falling of the evening twilight, he sallies forth towards his neighbor’s

harem, saying, “No eye shall see me;” to render detection impossible,

putting a mask upon his face, forgetting that masks hide from men,

but not from God, who can see as well in darkness as in light. But most

criminals and sinners omit to reckon with the invisible Spectator

of their abominations. Notoriously so did Cain (Genesis 4:10),

David (II Samuel 11:4), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:2). Yet, again,

from even a teacher so unworthy as this violator of marriage sanctities,

God’s people may derive a lesson to transact their deeds of light with

wisdom and efficiency.

 

Ø      The burglar; who, already referred to as the highwayman of the morning

dawn (v. 14), is reintroduced as the midnight housebreaker who, with

pick and spade (the modern thief using crowbar and chisel, skeleton keys,

etc.), digs beneath the mud walls of rich men’s abodes, marked by him

during day (vs. 16-17). The more probable translation, however, sets

forth the housebreaker’s horror of the light: “In the daytime they shut

themselves up,” because “they know not,” i.e. hate, “the light:” and

“to them together the morning is as the shadow of death,” i.e. through

fear of discovery; “for they are acquainted with,” and therefore are

greatly afraid of, “the terrors of the shadow of death.”

 

·         THEIR TERRESTRIAL REWARDS. The treatment of neither of the

two classes described in the present chapter is strictly retributive.

 

Ø      The fate of the petty criminals; i.e. of the murderer, the adulterer, the

thief, and all included in the category of rebels against the light.

According to Eliphaz, these creatures of the darkness should be

overtaken with calamities proportioned to their crimes; but, according

to Job, the contrary is the case — they are:

 

o       prosperous in life, gliding down the stream and current of time

like a light skiff (v. 18), experiencing no curse upon their

heritages while they live; and

 

o       honored in death, by being vouchsafed

 

§         a quick and easy disappearance from the earth, like the

      passing away of a light substance upon the face of the

waters (compare ch.  9:26), instead of struggling

towards the grave through protracted and painful

suffering, or like the melting of snow before the

scorching heats of summer (v. 19), going down

into Sheol suddenly as in a moment (ch. 21:13); and

 

§         a complete escape from the just penalties of their crimes,

the curse not descending upon their heritages until they

themselves have departed from the scene (v. 18), and

though forgotten by the very mothers that bore

them because of their wickedness, yet not compelled

to eat the bitter fruits of their transgression, since by

death their iniquity has been broken off like a tree, i.e.

before it has had time to yield its appropriate results.

 

Ø      The fate of the rapacious despots; i.e. of those sketched in the preceding

section (vs. 2-12), who are here identified as the oppressors of barren

and widowed women (v. 21). They, too, should be arrested by visible

judgments; but altogether different, according to Job, is their lot.

 

o        They are preserved alive by that very hand which should rather slay

them (v. 22). So were God to deal with any sinners on earth according

to their iniquities they would instantly be cut down (Psalm 130:3). But

God magnifies His grace and evinces His long-suffering towards sinful

men by upholding in existence those who bid defiance to every danger,

and even to God Himself, who are not only insensible to all Divine

impulses, but flagrant violators of all Divine laws.

 

o        They are raised up from sickness at the moment when they seem to be

about to die (v. 22). The mercy God’s singer guarantees to the humble

saint that considereth the poor (Psalm 41:1), and Christ’s servant

promises to the believing Christian (James 5:15), is extended to the

poor man’s oppressor, and the supreme God’s denier — another

marvel of grace!

 

o        They are kept in security instead of living in constant terror (v. 23).

Were God not to moderate the fears of good men, much more therefore

of bad men, their lives would be intolerable. But God’s special

providence watches over villains as well as over virtuous people,

keeping both from danger, fear, and death, hoping thereby to lead

the former to repentance, and seeking to induce the latter to confide

in His grace.

 

o        They are exalted for a season in conscious prosperity instead of being

humbled and cast down (v. 24) — an additional proof of God’s

kindness towards them. And

 

o        when the end comes they only share in the common lot, being taken

out of the way like all other men.

 

  • LEARN. 

 

1.       The unnatural wickedness of those who despise God’s mercies

even His common gifts of providence, but much more HIS

GRANDEST GIFT OF GRACE.  

2 . It is an unmistakable evidence of depravity when  a man loves the

     DARKNESS rather than THE LIGHT. 

3.  The present-day forms of wickedness are of extreme antiquity, some of

      them, such as murder, being nearly as old as the Fall.

4.  The soul that hates the light has the seed-corn in his heart out of

     which the greatest crimes may be developed. 

5. The truest security a man can have that he shall  never perpetrate such

    wickedness as murder, adultery, etc., is TO WALK IN THE LIGHT!

            6. The destruction of the most powerful sinner that walks the earth is a

                work of perfect ease to God.

7.  A man’s triumph or superiority over his fellows terminates with the grave.

            8. That wickedness must be great which causes a mother to forget her child.

            9. That mercy must be great which continues when human love in its

                 highest form is exhausted.

         10.  Death may seem to remove the curse from the sinner, but in reality it

    only CONDUCTS THE SINNER TO THE CURSE.

         11. God’s goodness and mercy may follow a sinner to the grave’s mouth;

   BUT THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT IT WILL FOLLOW HIM

   It is  appointed unto all men once to die, and after this, 

   THE JUDGMENT!   (Hebrews 9:27)

 

 

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