Job 24 Commentary

Job 24 Commentary

Job 24 Commentary
Explaining the Book of Job

 
 
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Job 24 Commentary: Each of us has a natural sense of justice. We want good to win and bad to lose.

And this is the case by-and-large whether we’re Christians or not. The definition of what is good and what is bad certainly differs between Christians and the lost. Nevertheless, humankind typically cheers for what they consider good and jeers for what they consider bad.

In fact, this is a large part of storytelling. If you’ve ever thought about classic stories – or stories that you love – you’ll probably recognize that there’s a protagonist – a.k.a. the good guy. And usually there’s also an antagonist – the bad guy – or sometimes the bad guy is not a guy at all. Sometimes it’s nature or something else.

But everyone for the most part seems to have this internal desire to see whatever they conceive of as justice carried out in this life.

And this seems to be the impasse that the biblical character Job and his three friends are experiencing as they consider what’s happening in Job’s life.

So, let’s turn to Job, chapter 24 to see this.

And in Job 24 we’re going to see the result of the long argument that Job and his three friends have been engaging in.

These two groups are looking at justice from different perspectives.

Job and his friends are all equally interested in justice being carried out in this life.

The friends have bought into the idea that God always punishes evil immediately and always rewards good immediately in this life. And so, if a person is being punished – he’s evil.

See the logic? If God punishes evil, then if you’re being punished then you’re… Good? No – evil. That’s what the friends believe.

And Job would have believed that himself. Until out of nowhere he starts receiving what seems to be punishment from God! We saw that in chapters 1 and 2 of this book. All his stuff was taken – loved ones, wealth, and health. All gone.

And Job has had time to think. And Job has had to defend himself against these friends’ accusation against him that he is wicked.

But Job hasn’t changed. He’s still righteous. But what has changed? The way that God is dealing with him. And so, instead of blessing Job for his righteousness – God is now punishing Job for his righteousness. And this makes no sense to anyone – Job or his friends.

But the way that his friends make sense of it in their mind is that Job is secretly wicked. And within this extended argument that they’ve been waging with one another – often times the friends will resort to describing how the typical wicked man fares in this life.

And then the friends extend that to Job and say – look Job, we see how what’s happening to you fits with what we think happens to wicked people!

The wicked man – according to the friends – is cursed in every way. He’s miserable. His kids meet with an untimely end. Their possessions and everything they have is cursed in this life.

But Job is looking at those claims. And in this chapter he says – in effect – but, that’s just not the way that things work in this life.

And so, in Job 24 we’re going to see an entire chapter devoted by Job to pointing to times when he’s seen wicked men going unpunished.

Job 24 Commentary: Wicked Men Go Unpunished

So, Job is going to start this chapter by asserting that very thing – that in numerous ways and in numerous circumstances, wicked men go unpunished in this life!

KJV Job 24:1 Why, [seeing times are not/are times not] [hidden/stored up/appointed] [from/by] the Almighty, [why does the Almighty not punish?…]
[and why…] do they that know him not see his [own…] days?

So, Job is asserting that times are not hidden from God. Nothing is, really. And since that’s the case and God knows everything – why do people who don’t know God see his days? I think that’s speaking of ungodly people living long in this life that God gives them.

So, why do wicked men live long lives in this life that God has given them – when God knows all about their wickedness and nothing is hidden from him? You’d think – and Job is thinking – that if God knows all, then men who don’t know him should not live very long. But they do sometimes!

Job 24 Commentary: Some Who Don’t Get Their Day

And so, Job is going to highlight these people who don’t know God and yet live long lives. And he makes a composite picture of them – not saying that every single wicked man does everything that he mentions. But giving a glimpse across the spectrum of wicked people and giving some characteristics and practices that they tend toward.

Job 24 Commentary: Thieves

And so, Job starts by highlighting that these men steal.

2 [Some/Men] [remove/move] [the landmarks/boundary stones];
they [violently take away/seize] flocks, and [feed thereof/devour them/pasture them].

Now, landmarks or boundary stones in the Old Testament marked where one man’s property ended and another’s began.

We have something similar in our time. For my house we have a pipe driven into the ground that sticks out of the grass a few inches and that’s what people before me have used to remind themselves of where their property ends.

And Job is saying that there are people who take that kind of marker and they move it. And the idea is that they move it in such a way as would disadvantage their neighbor and results in more land for themselves.

And then Job pointed to the wicked men who take people’s flocks and treat that flock like their own.

In both cases, Job is saying that there are people in this life who take what belongs to someone else and make it their own through deception and robbery.

And here’s the key. The friends have said that these people will always be cursed and punished. And yet, Job is saying – No! These people keep the land they steal. They keep the flocks they steal. Sometimes these men go unpunished and they prosper in their wickedness!

Job 24 Commentary: Cruel

Now, you can sort of understand the motivation for stealing. I’m not saying it’s right. It’s not right. But if a person needs food or land or whatever – you can sort of identify with desperation taking over and in the moment just doing something foolish to survive.

But this next characteristic that Job highlights is not like that at all. Did you know that there are some who just take a perverse joy in causing mischief? They’re just plain cruel. Let Job tell you about it.

3 They drive away the [ass/donkey] of the [fatherless/orphan],
they take the widow’s ox for a pledge.

So, note the abuse that these men perpetrate against the least-powerful members of society and their material substance.

A child who had no father or mother might still have a donkey – which could assist him in doing work in order to make some money and support himself.

But Job is alerting us to the fact that there are men in this world who would drive that donkey away – either to that wicked man’s home – or what I think is more likely just out into the dessert for some sort of sick “fun” – deriving joy by depriving the needy of the little that they do have.

Same thing with the widow. Job is identifying that there are widows who have an ox that might help them to plow the field and make some sort of meager living. But then that widow falls on extremely hard times and needs to borrow money.

And this hypothetical wicked man is willing to lend to her. But it’ll cost her that ox – the only thing that she has to plow her field and make any sort of living.

So, the widow is left in a bind. She can give the ox and take the money or keep the ox and not have the money. Either way, she’s left in no better shape than when she began.

And so, Job is recognizing the fact that there are wicked men in this world who will take advantage of and mistreat the neediest people in society – not because of personal need – but just out of cruel pleasure.

Job 24 Commentary: Fearful

And so, Job continues highlighting how wicked men abuse those who are less powerful than they are. And in verse 4 Job says that these men are fearful – fear-inducing.

4 They [turn/push] the needy [out of/aside from/from] the [way/road/pathway]:
the poor of the [earth/land] [hide/are made to hide] themselves [together/altogether].

So, these wicked men intimidate and threaten the needy. And in response, the needy are pictured as cowering in some hidden place together – away from their wicked oppressor whom God never seems to judge.

Job 24 Commentary: The Oppressed

So, then Job moves on from there and seems to highlight the plight of those poor and needy ones who are abused by wicked men.

5 Behold, [as/like] wild [asses/donkeys] in the [desert/widerness], go they forth to their work;
[rising betimes/seeking diligently] for [a prey/food]:

the [wilderness/desert/wasteland] yieldeth food for them
and for their children.

So, the poor and needy are driven to hide themselves in the desert from these wicked men whom God never seems to punish. And there in the wastelands they scrape together something that would resemble food for them and their poor helpless children.

Job 24 Commentary: Wicked Prosper

And yet the wicked are well-fed. Verse 6.

6 They [reap/harvest] [every one his corn/their fodder] in the field:
and they gather [the/in the] [vintage/vineyard] of the wicked.

So, meanwhile – as the needy are forced to forage in the desert for their own food back in verse 5 – at the same time, after they’ve done that then they need to come to work for the wicked and reap their fields.

And they end up taking in a great harvest – even though they don’t get to eat any of it. And, it’s the vintage of the wicked. It should be cursed according to the Retribution Theology of Job’s friends. And yet, Job is pointing out that sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. Sometimes the vintage of the wicked amazingly seems to be blessed – by the very God whom they spurn.

Job 24 Commentary: Wicked Don’t Clothe Needy

And yet again, Job juxtaposes the apparent blessings of the wicked with the apparent curses and miseries of the needy. Here’s what the wicked do to the needy…

7 They [cause the naked to lodge/spend the night naked] [without/because they lack] clothing,
[that they have/and they have] no covering [in/against] the cold.

So, the wicked would have something to clothe the naked with. But they withhold it. Just like they have food for the needy but make the needy go out into the desert to gather whatever they can find.

And in fact, it’s worse than that. The assumption here is that the wicked actively steal the clothing of the needy.

And according to Retribution Theology – and really, even according to our own innate sense of justice – this isn’t right! It’s the wicked who should go poorly clothed and hungry! And yet, that’s not always the way it works. In fact, it’s often not the way things work.

Job’s friends don’t want to recognize that. But Job is making a big issue of this inconvenient truth. Because if Job can establish the fact that sometimes the wicked aren’t punished – then couldn’t it be said that sometimes the righteous aren’t blessed materially? Because that’s what Job is starting to recognize is happening to him – even though his friends aren’t willing to believe that.

Job 24 Commentary: Needy Wet With Rain

And so, Job keeps his focus on the needy who are disadvantaged because of wicked men.

8 They are [wet with/soaked by] [the showers of the mountains/mountain rains],
and [embrace the rock/hug the rock/huddle in the rocks] [for want of a/because they lack] shelter.

So, not only do the needy lack proper clothing like in verse 7. They also lack proper shelter sometimes.

And again – if the needy are innocent of wickedness or are positively righteous then the Retribution Theology way of thinking would say that these people should be blessed materially. They should have nice houses.

And sometimes God does work it out that way. But he doesn’t always.

And to tie this all into what Job is trying to say in these last 20-some chapters – just because Job is suffering doesn’t mean that he’s secretly sinning – like his three friends have constantly been maintaining.

Job 24 Commentary: Stealing Children from Parents

But Job has more to say regarding how sometimes bad things happen to relatively good people and good things happen to really bad people…

9 [They/Others] [pluck/snatch] the [fatherless/orphan/fatherless child] from the breast,
and take a pledge [of/against] the poor.

And in context that pledge might well be the infant that the wicked stole from his poor mother.

And by the way – if you’re really thinking about these various scenes that Job is portraying, you should be angry. This is not right! Powerful people ought not abuse their power at the expense of those who have little to no power.

Part of the image of God in man surely must be a desire to meet the needs of those who have less than you. And so, when Job keeps parading before our mind’s eye all of these cases in which those who are struggling are beaten down even more by those who have the means to lift them up… there should be a sense of anger in us – of holy indignation!

That’s surely how Job feels about it. But I think the friends haven’t thought that deeply about injustice in this life. They’d rather ignore the facts and continue in what they’ve always believed – even when what they believe is neither based on God’s word – nor in line with reality.

But in the mind of everyone who’s pondered or experienced this kind of thing – our minds do start to wonder as to why God seems to not take any action. Why does he let this go on?

And we have answers for this in Scripture that Job and his friends didn’t seem to have access to. Namely – even the message of this book is helpful in this regard: When We Can’t Understand God’s Ways, We Must Trust His Wisdom.

God’s ways of patiently allowing evil to happen are not easy to understand. But even when we can’t understand his ways, we do well to – we must – trust his wisdom.

Job 24 Commentary: Living without Proper Food and Clothing

Well, Job continues to pile up in his mind the injustices in this world – especially as they relate to wicked men seeming to avoid being punished for their wickedness to their fellow-man.

10 They [cause him to go/cause the poor to go about/go about] naked without clothing,
and they take away the sheaf from the hungry; [or, someone goes hungry while carrying sheaves…]

So, the wicked is being pictured either as stealing a sheaf of grain from the hungry – or making the hungry work while carrying his sheaves in the harvest field. In other words, making a hungry man work while not allowing him to eat a little of what he’s working on that could be a benefit to the hungry. Like muzzling the ox while he’s threshing.

Job 24 Commentary: No Drink

And that second option might be the more likely one – making the hungry work while not letting them eat what they’re working on. Because in the next verse, Job seems to mention the needy working for the wicked while they themselves go thirsty. They worked with the wicked man’s sheaves without any food. Now they work for the wicked man making oil and wine – liquids – without getting to drink anything.

11 [Which/They] [make/produce/press out] oil [within/between] [their walls/the rows of olive trees],
and tread their winepresses, [and suffer thirst/but thirst/while they are thirsty].

So, the poor man presses the olives and grapes of his wicked masters. But the ones doing the work go without any of the benefit of the work they’re producing. They’re like slave labor – with their masters failing to recognize that these poor and needy men are men – who are made in God’s image and worthy of compassion and care.

Job 24 Commentary: Bleak Life

Well then, Job goes on in verse 12 to paint a really bleak picture of life on this earth where wicked men prosper. And then Job adds this note: “God doesn’t do anything to stop it!”

12 [Men/Dying men] groan [from out of/from] the city,
and the soul of the wounded crieth out [for help…]:

yet God [layeth not folly to them/does not pay attention to folly/charges no one with wrongdoing].

And this is the thrust of Job’s frustration that he’s pouring out in this chapter. The wicked even go so far as to kill people. And it’s as if the groans of their victims could be heard from all around the city as these men die at the hand of wicked people.

And according to the way that Job and his friends have been thinking – this shouldn’t happen. Or if it does happen, God should immediately stop it. Because – after all – God punishes evil. He rewards good. He delivers the innocent.

And the reality is that God does those things often. But not always.

Sometimes he does let wicked men prosper. Sometimes he does let the innocent and needy be abused and taken advantage of.

And that makes no sense to us. Because even as we’ve heard in our church in a recent message – God is good and God is powerful. And if that’s the case, then we would assume that God would basically make earth like heaven – no sin, no wickedness, no injustice. In fact, as we’ve heard on Wednesday nights – that’s how Jesus commands us to pray – that earth would be like heaven in terms of God’s will being done in both.

But that’s where Pastor Kindstedt’s third point comes in from a few Sunday evenings ago. God is also wise. Not just good and powerful – but also wise. He knows what he’s doing. And he knows what to allow and when. And it won’t always make sense to us. But again we’re reminded that When We Can’t Understand God’s Ways, We Must Trust God’s Wisdom.

Job is almost ready to do that. His friends are nowhere near being able to accept that. They have forced God’s ways make sense to them. And in the process, they’re condemning an innocent man. They’re accusing Job of sinning – and sinning to such an extent that God has brought this suffering in his life as a form of punishment.

But that’s why Job is pointing out the fact that wicked men do sometimes get away with murder – literally. And innocent men suffer wrongfully. It happens! – Job is telling these men.

Job 24 Commentary: More of a View of Wickedness

Then, Job continues to speak of wicked men.

13 [They are of/Others have been with/There are] those that rebel against the light;
they know not the ways thereof, [and don’t want to …]
nor [abide/stay] in the paths thereof.

And from there, Job adds to his composite portrait of wicked people.

Job 24 Commentary: Murderers

We have murderers in verse 14.

14 The murderer rising [with the light/at dawn/before daybreak]
killeth the poor and needy,
and in the night is as a thief.

Job 24 Commentary: Adulterers

Then, adulterers are in view in verse 15.

15 The eye also of the adulterer [waiteth/watches] for the twilight,
saying, No eye [shall/will/can] see me:
and [disguiseth/covers with a mask] his face.

Job 24 Commentary: Adulterers or Thieves

Then in verses 16 and 17 Job is speaking either of adulterers from verse 15 – or he’s starting a new category of wicked people by speaking once more of thieves.

16 In the dark [they/robbers] [dig through/dig into/breaks into] houses,
which they [had marked for themselves/shut themselves in] in the daytime:
they know not the light.

17 For the morning is to them [even/the same] as [the shadow of death/thick darkness/deep darkness]:
[if one know them, they are in/he knows/they are friends with] the terrors of [the shadow of death/thick darkness].

Job 24 Commentary: The Friends are Overly-Simple

And in light of all of this – of wicked men prospering – of wicked men abusing others with no justice brought to them – Job seems to take aim at the overly-simple representation of reality that his friends have constructed in their minds.

18 [You say…] He is [swift/insignificant/foam] [as/on] the waters;
their portion is cursed [in the earth/of land]:
[he beholdeth not/they do not turn toward/so that no one goes] the way of [the/their] vineyards.

So, the friends have claimed that wicked people are insignificant. They’re like water. Further, what they have in this life is cursed. And as an example of that cursing – these evil people don’t even get to see their vineyards.

But Job was just telling them of times where the wicked have the innocent and needy work in those vineyards! And God doesn’t seem to do anything about it in order to make the situation like what the friends say it should be!

Either that, or Job is saying here that the needy are insignificant in this life and that their portion – rather than the portion of the wicked – is cursed and that the needy don’t get to be benefited from the produce of vineyards.

I lean toward the first interpretation. That Job is attacking the friends’ overly-simple way of thinking of the wicked in this life.

Job 24 Commentary: More False Claims

And here’s another thing the friends claim.

19 Drought and heat [consume/carry away] the snow waters:
so doth the grave those which have sinned.

20 [The womb/A mother] shall forget him;
the worm shall [feed sweetly/feast] on him;

he shall be no more remembered; [because of the worm’s work…]
and wickedness shall be broken as a tree.

So, the friends claim that wicked men simply die. They are forgotten by everyone and their bodies decay. God destroys them.

And while that is usually ultimately true, Job has just furnished numerous examples where that doesn’t happen right away.

Job 24 Commentary: No Consequences

No – in fact, Job says – the wicked man abuses others in this life with no consequence. And this is now Job speaking what he personally believes – not what he’s saying the friends think.

21 He [evil entreateth/wrongs/preys on] the barren that beareth not:
and doeth not good to the widow.

So, Job paints the picture of bad people preying on the barren and the widow – with no repercussion.

Job 24 Commentary: The Wicked Destroy the Mighty

And it’s not just the weak and disadvantaged that evil men overcome. They even destroy the mighty!

22 [He/God] [draweth/drags off] [also/but] the [mighty/valiant] [with/by] his power:
[he/God] riseth up, and no man is sure of life.

Now, one translation I often consult makes these statements to apply to God – as if this is Job still quoting his three friends and the wrong things they’ve asserted. But I don’t think that’s necessary. In the flow, it seems that Job is still speaking of wicked men – not of God.

Job 24 Commentary: How God Deals with the Wicked

And then I think Job grapples with the idea that God seems to do two actions at the same time that seem to not operate in harmony – 1) God grants the wicked safety and 2) He’s watching everything they do.

23 Though it be given [him/the wicked] [by God…] to be in safety, whereon [he/the wicked] resteth;
[yet/but] [his/God’s] eyes are upon [their/the wicked’s] ways.

Job 24 Commentary: The Wicked Do Eventually Die

And in the end though, it seems like Job admits that the wicked do eventually die.

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

they are [taken out of the way/gathered up/gathered in] as all other,
and cut off as the tops of the [ears of corn/heads of grain].

So, perhaps what we see here in this verse is Job calibrating his thoughts.

For much of this chapter we’ve seen him go to one extreme and paint a picture of the wicked always winning and prospering. And in fact, as I’ve taught this chapter, I’ve consciously added words to qualify what Job is saying – because at face value, his bare words are giving the impression that the wicked never lose or suffer or even die.

And so, I think what Job is doing here in verse 24 that we just read is adjusting his message a bit. He’s recognizing that the wicked do eventually die – just like everyone else. And really, their exaltation is just for a little while in the scheme of things.

And yet, what Job has said in this chapter he still does really believe – that wicked men don’t always suffer and face curses from God in this life. That there are long stretches of time during which it will look like the wicked are doing very well and that God is doing absolutely nothing about it.

Job 24 Commentary: A Challenge Raised

And so, Job ends his speech by throwing down the gauntlet and raising a challenge to these thoughtless friends of his.

25 And if it be not so now, who will [make/prove] me a liar,
and make my speech [nothing worth/worthless]?

And, Job shouldn’t have offered that challenge. Because one last time, one of his friends is going to answer that challenge and try to prove Job wrong. We’ll see that next time.

Job 23 Commentary

Job 23 Commentary

Job 23 Commentary
Explaining the Book of Job

 
 
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Job 23 Commentary: Let’s turn our attention to Job 23. The 23rd chapter of the book of Job.

And we need to remind ourselves that Eliphaz’s advice in chapter 22 didn’t help Job. Part of what Eliphaz said was accusing Job of committing secret sins. And the other part was holding out false hope for Job that if he stopped sinning God would bless him.

Neither of these pieces of advice were correct. And so Eliphaz failed to do what he came to do – to comfort Job.

And that was his third chance at trying to comfort Job. And you know what they say – three strikes and … you’re out. And so, that was Eliphaz’s last speech to Job recorded in this book.

Job 23 Commentary: Lamenting Current Situation

But Job’s still trying to make sense of what’s going on in his life. Why God is seeming to punish him. Him – who is a righteous man, no less! Why is all of this happening?

And that’s why Job begins in verses 1 and 2 lamenting his utterly confusing current situation.

KJV Job 23:1 Then Job answered and said,

2 Even to day is my complaint [bitter/rebellion]:
[my stroke/his hand] is [heavier than/heavy despite] my groaning.

And so, Eliphaz promised Job blessings from God if he stopped sinning. And Job hears that and says – Yes, I should be having God’s favor if I’m not sinning against him. And yet even now is my stroke – or the stroke from God’s hand – heavy on me. He hasn’t let up – even though I’m totally innocent.

And so, that leads Job to yearn to be able to locate God and come into his presence.

3 Oh that I knew where I might find him!
that I might come even to his [seat/place of residence]!

And here’s what Job would do if he were to ever be granted audience with God.

4 I would [order/present/lay out] my [cause/case] before him,
and fill my mouth with arguments.

So, Job – as he envisions this fantasy of appearing before God to figure out why God appears to be punishing him for nothing – Job imagines that he would lay out his case with God. He would argue that what God was doing to him was wrong.

And surely Job would be telling God that he hadn’t sinned and therefore God shouldn’t be punishing him!

Because that doesn’t make sense to Job. It doesn’t make sense to him that an innocent man should be given difficulties by God. Even though Job had originally told his wife that they should receive both good and bad from God – Job has had enough of it.

It’s one thing to give verbal assent to a spiritual truth. It’s quite another to internally agree with that truth and submit to it when it’s in action in your life.

Well, so, Job plans – in his mind – that he could come to God and sort of set God straight on some things. And – of course – he’s expecting that God will answer back.

5 I would [know/learn] the words which he would answer me,
and [understand/perceive] what he would say unto me.

So, Job wishfully imagines a time when he comes before God and argues that God should stop doing bad things to him.

Job 23 Commentary: Hope in God’s mercy

And we saw that Job is anticipating an answer from God. But the way he spoke about that betrays an uncertainty in his heart as to how the Almighty will respond.

And so, God’s response to Job’s theoretical arguments is what’s in Job’s mind in verse 6. How will God respond to Job if he were to stand before him? He wonders…

6 [Will/Would] he [plead against/contend with] me with his great power?
No; [but/surely/only] he would [put strength/pay attention] [in/to] me.

So, Job is hoping for mercy from God – should he ever get this chance to stand before his Maker and plead his case.

And yet, it seems like Job hardly views God’s gracious hearing of his complaints as mercy. In fact, in verse 7, Job makes it sound like God is practically obligated to agree with him and take Job’s perspective of the matter.

7 There [the righteous/the upright/an upright person] [might/would/could] [dispute with/reason with/present his case before] him;
[so/and] [should/would] I be delivered for ever from my judge.

And so, if Job is viewing God as his judge – this statement is a little unsettling. Job feels like he needs to be delivered from God – the one who is judging and supposedly punishing him.

Job is putting God in the position of being his adversary. And he’s also in his mind viewing his ways of thinking as wiser than God’s.

This is – of course – why God is going to have to come and question Job at the end of this book about all sorts of things that Job knows nothing about.

Job is getting to the point where he really feels that if he were to be able to bring God to court and sue him for wrongdoing – Job would be vindicated. But what does that mean for God? It means that God would need to adjust his ways to accommodate Job’s supposedly superior wisdom.

And we can all identify and sympathize with Job. At yet – at the same time we recognize that Job is going a little too far here. To assume that we know more than God is simply arrogant. It borders on blasphemy.

When we assume that we’re wiser than God, we are believing lies about him. We’re bringing him down to our level. We must not do this.

When we don’t understand God’s ways, I suppose we have two choices. We can assume that God is wrong. But that’s never the case. And so, the second and correct option is to trust God’s wisdom. Even when it doesn’t make sense to us.

Job 23 Commentary: Despair

So, Job is starting to feel pretty good about his chances of being heard by God. He’s going to appear before God and tell God that he’s not wicked and that therefore he should not be suffering. God will hear Job and relent and stop punishing him as if he were wicked.

Simple enough.

Or is it?

Well, that would be simple enough – except there’s one major problem with Job’s plan.

And it’s this. Job feels like he can’t find God anywhere…

8 Behold, I go [forward/to the east], but he is not there;
and [backward/to the west], but I [cannot/do not] perceive him:

9 [On the left hand/In the north], [where he doth work/when he acts/when he is at work], but I [cannot behold/do not see] him:
he [hideth/turns] himself [on/to] the [right hand/south], that I cannot see him:

So, it’s pretty hard to drag someone into court when you can’t find that person. And that’s how Job is picturing God. He would present his arguments to God. But the problem is – God’s nowhere to be found.

Job 23 Commentary: Confidence

And yet, despite that problem of not being able to find God to discuss matters with him – Job bounces back in his own spirit and recognizes that even though he can’t find God – he knows that God can find him, and that God knows the truth about Job and his righteousness perfectly well.

10 But he knoweth the [way/pathway] that I take:
[when/if] he [hath tried/tested] me, I [shall/would] come forth as gold.

And here are some samples of what Job’s “way” that God knows about has looked like that would give him such confidence if God were to try or test him…

11 My foot hath [held/held fast to/followed closely] his [steps/path],
his way have I kept, and not [declined/turned aside].

So, one of the ways that Job is so confident that God knows his way – back in verse 10 – is because Job’s way has stuck so close to God’s way – in verse 11.

So, Job highlighted in verse 11 how he’s followed God. And the focus was on the feet – so to speak. He talks about his foot holding to God’s steps and not turning with his feet away from God’s way or path.

But now in verse 12, Job is going to focus – not on feet – but on the mouth – and in particular on God’s mouth – as he has obeyed God in his life to this point.

12 Neither have I [gone back/departed] from the commandment of his lips;
I have [esteemed/treasured] the words of his mouth more than my [necessary food/allotted portion].

So, Job is testifying that he has not disobeyed God’s commands. And really – it’s deeper than that. Obedience in Job’s life was merely the fruit of a right estimation of God’s word. He perceived God’s word to be more important than even things that he had a right to – like food.

And by the way, this indicates that at least Job had some access to some amount of divine revelation. But how much of it and which parts of it were available to him are anyone’s guess, I’m afraid.

Well, we just saw Job change his attitude from one of despair into one of some degree of confidence – that if God were to test him, he would come out looking pure.

And that fact should give Job a great amount of joy. But it won’t.

Job 23 Commentary: I can’t change God’s mind

Because, when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter how right Job is and how confident he is in his righteousness. In the end, Job is now going to express his lament that God refuses to change his mind concerning Job in verses 13 and 14.

13 But he is [in one mind/unique/unchangeable], and who can [turn/change] him?
and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.

14 For he [performeth/fulfills] [the thing that is appointed/his decree] [for/against] me:
and many such [things/decrees] are [with him/his plans].

So, I think that some of us have been exposed to teaching that has caused us to think that verse 14 is a great source of assurance and rest for our souls. As in, God will sovereignly do what he has decreed that he will do in my life and I can rest in his care.

And that concept is true and biblical – God is sovereign. He has plans for you. He will make sure they happen.

However – that’s not what Job is expressing. Job is expressing a bleak dread of what God has in store for him next. In Job’s mind, nothing can change God’s course of action in his life. And that course of action has involved a lot of unexplainable suffering in Job’s life.

And Job is taking note of God’s sovereignty – yes. But he’s not resting peacefully in that sovereignty. He’s grudgingly going along with it – because he has no other choice.

Because in Job’s mind, God’s mind cannot be changed and his course of action is inevitable and miserable in Job’s life.

Job 23 Commentary: I’m afraid of God now

And because of this, Job ends this chapter by declaring that he’s now afraid of God.

15 [Therefore/That is why] [am/would be] I [troubled/dismayed/terrified] [at/in] his presence:
when I consider, I am [afraid/terrified] [of/because of] him.

And I can guarantee you that this isn’t how Job felt back in chapter 1 of this book. He would have rejoiced at God’s presence.

But now, he’s terrified of God. And – by the way – I think it’s interesting that Job was talking so big about meeting God in court and arguing his case before him and everything – and now look at what he says. He doesn’t really want to be in God’s presence. He’s afraid of God.

And yet, he has declared that his redeemer lives and that he’ll see him some day. Job has given numerous others indication of confidence and trust in the Lord.

And so, it shouldn’t surprise us when those who are suffering waiver back and forth in their feelings about God and his dealings in their lives. We’re seeing with Job a kind of back-and-forth dynamic in terms of his perception of God. We should expect no less from brethren now who undergo suffering of any form.

Well, Job says that he’s scared of God. Why? Verse 16.

16 [For/It is/Indeed] God maketh my heart [soft/faint],
and the Almighty [troubleth/who has dismayed/has terrified] me:

So, God makes Job’s heart soft or faint and troubles him.

But what does that feel like to Job? In a word, darkness

17 [Because/But/Yet] I [was not cut off/am not silenced/have not been silent] [before/by/because of] the darkness,
[neither/(blank)] hath [he/(the darkness)] covered [the darkness/deep gloom/thick darkness] [from/(blank)] my face.

Now, this verse is difficult to translate. And so, scholars have a difficult time knowing exactly how to interpret it.

But if we take it as the KJV translates it, then what Job seems to be saying is this. If God would have cut Job off before the darkness – Job wouldn’t be afraid. Why? Because he would be dead.

And on the other hand, God has not covered his face from the darkness. So, God allows Job to experience dark times in his life. And yet, God has not yet allowed those dark times to kill Job. And for that reason, Job fears God.

Job 23 Commentary: Conclusion

So, we’ve seen in this chapter Job responding to Eliphaz – lamenting his current situation, expressing some level of hope that God will be merciful to him, then sinking into despair, but rising to confidence that he will be vindicated, then to lament that he can’t change God’s mind, and finally to express that he fears God – and not the kind of healthy, reverent fear he had back in chapter 1.

In the next chapter we’ll see Job once again declare that wicked men go unpunished – a concept that his three friends disagreed with.

Skin for Skin in Job

“Skin for Skin” Job: I just recently added a live chat plugin, hoping that I could have a more direct impact on folks that come to this site looking for a better understanding of the Bible.

God be praised, I just had one such experience!

The visitor (I assume it was a man, so I’ll refer to him with a masculine pronoun from here on out) found my Job 2 Commentary and was wanting more information about what Satan says to God in Job 2:4. There Satan responds to God with an obscure idiom “skin for skin.

This man didn’t understand that phrase and asked for some clarification. He also wanted to know my opinion on the theme of Job 2:4-6. See below for the discussion…

(By the way, I’m Paul and the visitor is V1521867741132964 below, in case that isn’t clear…)

Conversation started on Saturday, March 24 2018, 00:02
================================================================

[00:02] Visitor navigated to https://www.explainingthebook.com/job-2-commentary/
[00:02] Customer Support (System Message) : Welcome to our site, if you need help simply reply to this message, we are online and ready to help.
[00:14] V1521867741132964 : i need to understand more in verse 1 to verse 6 of job chapter2 plse
[00:15] Paul : Hi! Thanks for visiting and interacting. Let me get this material in front of me…
[00:16] Paul : OK, so you’re wanting to understand better what’s happening in Job 2:1-6?
[00:17] Paul : Is there anything in particular that’s confusing to you?
[00:18] V1521867741132964 : verse 4 skin for skin whats that refer to
[00:19] Paul : Good question
[00:19] Paul : It’s apparently a Hebrew idiom.
[00:21] Paul : One possibility is that Satan is saying that a person will sacrifice the skin of another to save his own. In other words, Job’s family all died but he’s free to keep on living. God has touched their skin but not his in that way.
[00:22] Paul : And that’s why he follows up and demands that God touch Job’s own skin.
[00:23] Paul : But even the NET acknowledges that this phrase is obscure.
[00:23] Paul : Do you mind me asking what you need to know this for? Are you teaching/preaching on it or is it for personal study?
[00:29] V1521867741132964 : honestly I have time my pastor allow me to preach but I know I’m a weak Christian in Gods word ..I read the bible and the help from the holy spirit makes me moving forward ,,,I’m happy when I open up to see some commentary in Job 2 and you show up thanks God …im sorry for that
[00:30] Paul : Wow, what a great opportunity for you. And so are you planning to preach Job 2 this Sunday?
[00:31] V1521867741132964 : I’m preparing for a call from my pastor,,
[00:32] Paul : And are you two going to be discussing Job 2 in that call? Sorry if I’m missing what you’re saying! 🙂
[00:35] V1521867741132964 : yes I’m studing Job 2 and preach on that if I have a chance next time,,
[00:37] Paul : Great. So maybe your pastor will have an idea about what that idiom means, as well. I’d be interested to know what he thinks.

But basically, we can tell from the context that Satan is challenging God and saying that what he allowed Satan to do to Job previously wasn’t enough to prove that Job worships God “for nothing” or because God deserves to be worshiped for who he is rather than for the material stuff that God gives him.
[00:37] Paul : Does that help at all?
[00:38] Paul : Does your church record your sermons and publish them online? If so, I’d like to hear how it turns out!
[00:41] V1521867741132964 : no we don’t do that but what you are explaining helps me understand more
[00:41] Paul : I thank God for that. Are there any other questions you had that I might be able to address?
[00:43] V1521867741132964 : if you don’t mind what would be your theme to Job 2 verse4 to verse6
[00:45] Paul : Good question. I mean, we see there Satan not being satisfied with the torment that he unleashed on Job in chapter 1. Satan challenges God to do worse to Job. And we see God grant Satan’s additional request. But the request does need to be granted. It appears that Satan had and has no authority outside of what God allows.
[00:45] Paul : So, perhaps a theme could be God’s Sovereignty Over Our Suffering
[00:46] Paul : Or God Will Test Your Faith
[00:46] Paul : Or Satan is Under God’s Control
[00:46] Paul : Or Will You Worship God for Nothing?
[00:47] Paul : Personally, I would deal with Job 2 as a story/narrative and probably deal with a section broader than just three verses of that one chapter. But that’s just me.
[00:48] Paul : Job 1 and 2 really go together as the introduction to the book.
[00:49] Paul : Is any of that beneficial to you?
[00:52] V1521867741132964 : well that amazing from you sir I’m been blessed by your sharing and do hope more sharing like this ,,from me and my family we only say God bless you all in your life,,
[00:53] Paul : Thank you. Feel free to contact me any time at [my email address] or visit the site and see if I’m available on live chat. Have a good evening!
[00:55] V1521867741132964 : Thank you so much I will keep in touch ..God bless
[00:55] Paul : You too! Good night.

Job 22 Commentary

Job 22 Commentary

Job 22 Commentary
Explaining the Book of Job

 
 
00:00 / 43:21
 
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Let’s take a look at Job 22 for this Job 22 commentary. The 22nd chapter of the Old Testament book of Job.

Last time, we saw Job give a speech to his friends. He told them something that would have shocked them.

The friends have been telling Job that he’s being punished by God because he’s committing secret sin. And in their minds – this is the only viable explanation. If a person is suffering, it’s because God is punishing them. And if God is punishing a person, it’s because that person is sinning.

But we saw last time that Job denied their assertions. But then he pointed to all the cases in which wicked men don’t get punished. He pointed to situations in which wicked men actually prosper!

And so, at this point Job is hoping that these friends would actually pay attention to what he’s saying and stop accusing him of being secretly wicked – and to instead rather comfort him.

But the sad reality is that Job is not going to get what he wants.

Because in Job 22 today we’re going to witness Eliphaz’s last speech. And in this last speech, Eliphaz is going to once more accuse Job of being wicked. He apparently didn’t understand Job’s message from the previous chapter. Or – more likely – he understands – but doesn’t agree.

So, let’s witness this chapter that basically boils down to an extended false accusation against Job on the part of Eliphaz.

Job 22 Commentary: Man is worthless to God

And so, we begin with verses 1-3 where Eliphaz claims that man is worthless to God.

KJV Job 22:1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite [answered and said/responded/answered],

2 Can a [man/vigorous man/strong man] be [profitable/of use/of benefit] unto God,
[as/or] he that is wise may be [profitable/useful] unto [himself/him]?

3 Is it any [pleasure/special benefit] to the Almighty, that thou art righteous?
or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways [perfect/blameless]?

So, Eliphaz is telling Job that it’s really no big deal if he’s righteous. The fact that Job is a good man doesn’t really make a difference to God.

God’s not in need of strong men. He’s not in need of righteous men even.

In other words, if no one in this world was physically strong or morally good – God would still be God.

On the other hand, if a person is strong or righteous – it’s not like God is impressed and owes the guy something.

That’s Eliphaz’s point.

And so, as he’s hearing Job declare his own moral integrity, Eliphaz says basically, “Who cares? No big deal, Job! That doesn’t impress God.

Job 22 Commentary: When it comes down to it, God is punishing you for sin

But when it comes down to it – even though Eliphaz appears to give Job the benefit of the doubt and assumes for the benefit of the doubt that he’s righteous – just for a little while, at least – the reality is that Eliphaz does not at all for a second really believe that Job is being honest.

How could Job be suffering so horrendously if he’s truly as righteous as he claims!? That’s the incredulity that Eliphaz expresses in verse 4.

4 [Will/Does] he [reprove/rebuke] thee for [fear of thee/your reverence/your piety]?
[i.e., and…] [will he enter/enters] with thee into judgment?

So, Eliphaz is asking Job if it really makes any sense that God is judging him for his fear of God. You can imagine Eliphaz cocking his head to one side and looking out the corner of his eye at Job as he asks this question.

So, despite what Eliphaz said in verses 2 and 3 – what Eliphaz really thinks of Job comes out in verse 4 in the form of a question – Job is it really because of your righteousness that God is punishing you – as if you were a wicked person???

Because Eliphaz assumes that righteousness doesn’t meet with punishment – but rather with reward. So, when he sees a man like Job seeming to be receiving punishment – well, the implication is clear. Job must be wicked.

Job 22 Commentary: Cut to the chase!

And so, Eliphaz stated his suspicion in verse 4 in the form of a kind of sarcastic question.

But now in verse 5 he comes right out and asks a rhetorical question that demands the answer of “yes” that demonstrates without a doubt that Eliphaz thinks that Job is unrighteous!

5 Is not thy wickedness great?
and thine iniquities [infinite/without end]?

The answer that Eliphaz expects? YES! Yes, Job’s wickedness is great. Yes, his iniquities are infinite! Despite what Job maintains – Eliphaz wants Job to stop the nonsense and admit that he’s a sinner and that that’s why God is punishing him.

Job 22 Commentary: How Job is secretly wicked

And so, to help his accusation to have some weight to it, Eliphaz now in verses 6-9 is going to level several indictments against Job – just kind of guessing – in a very confident manner – what Job might have done to deserve the treatment he’s receiving from God.

Who knows – maybe Eliphaz is thinking – maybe one of these accusations will stick!

6 For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother [for nought/without cause/for no reason],
and stripped the naked of their clothing.

7 Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink,
and thou hast withholden [bread/food] from the hungry.

8 [But as for/Although you were] the mighty man, [he/and] [had/owned] [the earth/land];
and [i.e., you were…] the honourable man [i.e., who…] dwelt in it.

9 Thou hast sent widows away empty[-handed],
and the [arms/strength] of the [fatherless/orphans] have been [broken/crushed] [by you…].

So, the gist of Eliphaz’s accusations is that Job has mistreated people who are disadvantaged – people who are lower in social standing than him – the poorly clothed, the weary, the hungry, widows, and orphans.

By the way – isn’t Eliphaz guilty of the very thing that he’s accusing Job of? Here Job is – in great need in every way. And what is Eliphaz doing to help him? Nothing! He’s accusing him and heaping more misery on his already-miserable condition.

So, according to Eliphaz, Job was secretly unrightous to those who are most needy in society.

Job 22 Commentary: The result of Job’s secret sin

And so – even though Job’s wickedness was in secret – Eliphaz asserts in verses 10 and 11 that God’s punishment for these secret sins is now being played out very publicly.

10 [Therefore/That is why] snares [are round about/surround] thee,
and [why…] sudden [fear/dread] [troubleth/terrifies] thee;

11 Or [why…] darkness [surrounds you…], [that/so that] thou canst not see;
and [abundance/why a flood] of waters cover thee.

And verses 10 and 11 are definitely happening to Job. There’s no denying that.

But the problem with Eliphaz’s thinking is that he sees the results. And he can accurately identify the results in Job’s life. But he’s getting the cause wrong. Eliphaz assumes the cause by seeing the effects. You can’t do that!

When a person falls upon hard times – with sickness or financial struggles or relationship issues – we can’t assume that it’s a result of some direct punishment from God for specific sin in that man’s life. Now – at the same time – those things could be direct punishment from God for sin in this man’s life – couldn’t it? But we don’t know. And we shouldn’t assume.

Job 22 Commentary: God is aware of your secret sin

But Eliphaz does assume.

And so, based on what he sees happening in Job’s life, he’s now going to declare to Job in verses 12-14 that God is well aware of Job’s secret sin.

12 Is not God in the height of heaven?
and behold the height of the stars, how high they are!

13 [And/But] thou sayest,

[How/What] doth God know?
can he judge through [the dark cloud/such deep darkness]?

14 Thick clouds are a [covering to/veil for] him, that he seeth not [us…];
and he [walketh/goes back and forth] in the [circuit/vault] of heaven.

In other words, Eliphaz says that Job’s attitude toward God is that God can’t see his wickedness because God is so far removed from proximity of the evil that he’s supposedly committing on this earth.

This is a huge and incorrect – and plainly slanderous – assertion from Eliphaz. How can he possibly presume to know Job’s uncommunicated thoughts about God?

But what we’ve seen from these friends throughout this book is that assumptions prevail with them. They love to assume the worst of others. And that kind of behavior is going to get them a stern reprimand from the God who – in the New Testament – commands his people to bear, believe, hope, and endure all things from others.

Job 22 Commentary: Job is following the sin of men before him

But Eliphaz isn’t about ready to believe the best about Job.

And so, in verses 15-18, Eliphaz is going to accuse Job of following the sin of men who had gone before him.

15 [Hast/Will] thou [marked/keep to] the [old/ancient] [way/path]
which wicked men have trodden?

And here’s what happened to those wicked men of old…

16 Which were [cut down/snatched away/carried off] [out of/before their] time,
whose foundation was overflown with [a/the] flood:

And why did this happen to them?…

17 Which said unto God,

[Depart/Turn away] from us:
and what can the Almighty do for [them/us]?

And they spoke this way of God even though he was good to them…

18 Yet he filled their houses with good things:
but the counsel of the wicked is far from me.

So, let’s try to follow what Eliphaz is saying. Job is following the sin of wicked men from ancient times. That’s not reality – but it’s Eliphaz’s perception of things. And – as they say – perception is reality.

And Eliphaz is arguing against what Job said in the last chapter where he identified places where the wicked are actually blessed rather than punished.

And it’s like Eliphaz just wants to totally ignore and forget about that. Because it doesn’t mesh with his theology.

No – instead Eliphaz wants to remember the places in history where his man-made theology proved itself right. And so, he seems to harken back to Noah’s flood.

Noah’s flood is a place where Retribution Theology works for the most part. The people of the earth were wicked. And as a result, God destroyed them. That’s Retribution Theology. You do bad. You get bad.

And so Eliphaz wants to ignore the other areas where his theology doesn’t work – and instead focus on this instance where it does work.

And Eliphaz also appears to be interacting – somewhat indirectly – with Job’s message from last time when he speaks the words of verse 18.

Verse 18 sounds very similar to what Job said in chapter 21. And I think what’s going on is that Eliphaz is saying – “Yes, Job – sometimes God does give good things to wicked and ungrateful men. But you need to understand that in the end – in this life, God always punishes these wicked men. You need an example, Job? Look no farther than what happened to the wicked men during the flood.

Job 22 Commentary: The righteous rejoice when the wicked are surely punished

And it seems that Job’s assertion that wicked men sometimes are blessed in this life – that thought is particularly troubling to Eliphaz. And so, Eliphaz wants to emphasize with Job in verses 19 and 20 that when the wicked are punished – and they are surely punished!!! – well, when that happens, the righteous rejoice.

19 The righteous see [it/their destruction], and [are glad/rejoice]:
and the innocent [laugh/mock] them [to scorn/scornfully] [saying…].

20 [Whereas/Truly/Surely] our [substance/adversaries/enemies] [is not cut down/are cut off/are destroyed],
but [the remnant of them/their abundance/their wealth] the fire consumeth.

So, the righteous see that they’re doing fine – but that the wicked and his stuff are consumed with fire – and he rejoices.

By the way, I wonder what Job was thinking as Eliphaz says this. We remember that some of Job’s stuff was indeed consumed by “the fire of God.” If Eliphaz is saying that Job is wicked, and Eliphaz is maintaining that he himself is righteous – is Eliphaz saying that he’s rejoicing in the fact that Job is suffering?

Maybe…

Job 22 Commentary: A plea to repent

Or maybe not – because what we’re going to see next is uncharacteristic of a man who is rejoicing in the suffering of his friend – even if the friend is secretly wicked.

Yes, what Eliphaz is going to do in verses 21 and 22 would be the loving thing to do under different circumstances. Because he’s going to plead with Job to repent.

21 [Acquaint now/Yield now/Reconcile] thyself with [him/God], and be at peace:
thereby good shall come unto thee.

22 [Receive/Accept], I pray thee, [the law/instruction] from his mouth,
and [lay up/establish/store up] his words in thine heart.

So, Eliphaz urges Job to be reconciled to and at peace with God. This will be for Job’s good – Eliphaz admonishes.

Of course, Eliphaz has no idea that God is fine with Job. No need for reconciliation.

But the really interesting statement came in verse 22 that we just read. Eliphaz advises Job to receive God’s law – his instruction – his torah in Hebrew.

And then Eliphaz follows that up with an admonition to lay up God’s words.

And I point this out to say that this is uncharacteristic of Eliphaz or any of these three friends – to direct Job to God’s word.

In fact, this is the only place in the book of Job where that Hebrew word torah is used.

I unfortunately can’t explain why Eliphaz just now starts directing Job to God’s instruction and his words. I don’t know why he never mentions them again.

Because this really is where a godly counselor begins – with God’s words.

So much of what these men have given Job is tradition from ancient wisdom men – or their own personal experience. And this has not helped him at all.

But now – finally someone is pointing Job to God’s words.

The problem is that this advice has come too late. And it won’t be repeated again. And Eliphaz does nothing to direct Job to specific statements that God has made that would help Job in his life situation.

In fact, given how Eliphaz has handled himself thus far, I wouldn’t be surprised if Eliphaz is simply asserting to Job that whatever Eliphaz is saying to Job is indeed the very word of God – his law – his torah!

And if that’s the case, then this is yet another instance in which one of these three friends reaches closer and closer to the height of arrogance. But they’re not getting any closer to helping Job.

Job 22 Commentary: Promise of blessings for repentance

And yet, that’s not what Eliphaz thinks. Eliphaz feels that what he’s sharing with Job is going to revolutionize his life. In fact, Eliphaz is going to take the rest of his speech to highlight to Job the abundant blessings that Job will meet with if and when he does repent of his sin and start hearing Eliphaz’s wise counsel – which is pretty much the “words of God!”

And what could be more helpful to Job than to get all of his stuff back – all of his blessings from the Lord back?!

Job 22 Commentary: Forsake wicked riches, get good riches from God

So, Eliphaz starts with a conditional sentence in verses 23-25 that amount to Eliphaz promising true riches to Job when he forsakes his wicked riches and returns to God.

23 If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be [built up/restored],
[thou shalt/if you] [put away/remove] [iniquity/unrighteousness/wicked behavior] far from thy tabernacles.

24 [Then shalt thou lay up/and place your/and throw your] gold [as/in the] dust,
and the gold of Ophir [as/among] the stones of the brooks.

25 [Yea/Then], the Almighty shall be thy [defence/gold],
and thou shalt have [him as…] [plenty of/choice] silver.

And so, Eliphaz is urging Job to depart from the sin that he accused him of back in the beginning of this chapter – that of making money off of the losses of others – by exploiting them and mistreating them – swindling them.

Eliphaz says that if Job throws away the gold made in that kind of a transaction and if he abandons the kind of practices that resulted in him getting that kind of – as the KJV would say – “filthy lucre,” then God will basically replace Job’s gold with gold that’s lawfully gained.

Job 22 Commentary: God will answer your prayers

Furthermore, if Job forsakes the secret sin that Eliphaz assumes that he’s involved in – Job will start having God answer his prayers once more, according to verses 26-30.

26 For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty,
and shalt lift up thy face unto God.

27 Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him,
and he shall hear thee,
and thou shalt [pay/fulfill to him] thy vows.

28 [Whatever…] Thou shalt also [decree/decide on] a [thing/matter], and it shall be established [unto/for] thee:
and the light shall shine upon thy ways.

29 When men are [cast down/brought low], then thou shalt say, [There is lifting up/Lift them up!];
and he shall save the [humble/downcast] person.

30 He shall deliver the [island of the/one who is not/someone who is not] innocent:
and [it is/he will be] delivered [by/through] the [pureness/cleanness] of thine hands.

So, Job isn’t having his prayers answered anymore. Well, Eliphaz has the solution. Just repent of being corrupt and wicked and God will starts answering your prayers once more!

Well, it’s no wonder that with advice like this – that’s so one-dimensional and false and unhelpful – it’s no wonder that Job doesn’t even immediately respond to Eliphaz in the next chapter. Instead, he yearningly laments that he can’t seem to find God anywhere. And these friends aren’t helping Job find him either. We’ll see that next time.

Job 21 Commentary

Job 21 Commentary

Job 21 Commentary
Explaining the Book of Job

 
 
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Let’s look together at Job, chapter 21 for this Job 21 commentary.

Last time in chapter 20 we had a strange speech from Zophar. He seemed to be preoccupied with food as he described what he believed happens to all wicked men.

And what Zophar described matches the system of theology that he and his two buddies – and even Job up to this point – have believed. And that is the idea that wicked men are punished right away in this life. In contrast, righteous men are rewarded right away in this life.

This is what we’ve labeled “Retribution Theology.”

Everyone believes it in the book of Job. That is, up to this point.

But something really interesting happens in this chapter – chapter 21.

Job starts articulating the ways in which this theology is wrong. We haven’t seen him do this yet. Job has mostly defended himself to his friends by pleading his innocence – by expressing bewilderment as to why he’s suffering – and by sometimes flatly accusing God of not doing things right. There have also been times where Job’s faith shines through the darkness of his own spiritual turmoil.

But never before have we seen Job make an attack directed squarely at the faulty assumptions of Retribution Theology.

That is, until now.

So, as we enter into this last cycle of speeches between Job and his friends – we’ll see Job developing in his understanding of reality. We’ll see him questioning his man-made theology.

Job 21 Commentary: Please listen to me

And so, Job has something substantial to say to these three friends of his right now. And so, he starts this chapter in verses 1-4 by demanding that these men listen to him.

KJV Job 21:1 But Job answered and said,

2 [Hear diligently/Listen carefully to] my [speech/words],
and let this be your consolations [i.e., that you offer me…].

So, he says “You want to console me? That’s why you came here? Well, then do just this one thing for me – listen to me!!!

3 [Suffer/Bear with] me [that/and] I may speak;
and after that I have spoken, mock on.

So, you can sense the sarcasm. He’s telling them that they can wait just a little while so that he can speak. And then after he speaks, he gives them permission to continue to mock him.

Obviously, Job doesn’t want them continuing to mock him. And so a command like this is to be taken as sarcasm. And that’s partly because these friends certainly wouldn’t think that what they were doing could be considered mocking. After all, they came to console. Not to mock.

And yet, their consolations to Job have been so pathetic that he declares that what they’re doing is nothing more than mocking.

Job 21 Commentary: I am complaining to God

And one thing that Job wants to remind these men of is that his complaint is not against them. It’s against God.

4 As for me, is my complaint [to/again a] man?
[and if it were so/and why/if so], why should [not my spirit/I not] be [troubled/impatient]?

And I don’t know about you, but when someone under my authority complains about something – really, anything – a strange thing can happen. I can assume that that person is complaining about me.

She could be complaining about anything – even something that has nothing to do with me. And yet, when there’s a complaint, I can easily think that the complaint is directed against me.

And I wonder if that’s what Job is getting at here. He’s wanting to assure his friends that his complaint is not at all against them – or, at least it wasn’t originally. The friends aren’t Job’s real problem. Job’s problem is with God himself.

So, Job is trying to assure the friends that this is nothing personal against them. He’s having problems figuring out why God is seeming to punish him even though he’s righteous.

So, in other words, he’s telling the friends to back off. Job’s complaint and impatience is directed against the Lord.

Job 21 Commentary: An astonishing reality

And so, now Job is going to lay out that complaint against the Lord.

Job – all his life, apparently – has believed the Retribution principle of how God works in this world. Wicked men are punished in this life. Righteous men are rewarded in this life. That’s just how God works – at least, from what we can see in this world

But through his suffering, Job has been brought to a place where he now understands that God doesn’t do this.

Sometimes God punishes the righteous. I mean, after all, Job knows himself to be righteous. And yet – to Job – it’s like God has gone haywire and is now actually punishing him rather than rewarding him.

And so, now Job looks at what the friends have been telling him over and over again about how the wicked man is punished in this life and how his life is so hard and how God gets him right away… And Job is looking at that and he’s now going to say, “That’s just not the way God works.

Job 21 Commentary: Preparing for that reality

But this kind of startling revelation takes some preparation to receive. And so, Job starts this section that spans from verse 5 to the very end of this chapter by warning his friends to prepare themselves for what he’s about to say in verses 5 and 6.

5 [Mark/Look at] me, and be [astonished/appalled],
and [lay/put] your hand [upon/over] your mouth.

6 [Even/For] when I [remember/think about this] I am [afraid/disturbed/terrified],
and [trembling/horror/a shudder] [taketh hold on/is felt by] my [flesh/body].

And Job will now get in to what makes him afraid and causes trembling to take hold on this flesh.

Job 21 Commentary: The wicked do well

But first, I want to say that in this chapter we’re going to see Job doing a little too much idealizing of the life of the wicked. We know that the life of the wicked is not as great as Job is going to say here.

But I think that Job is looking at a composite picture of the typical wicked man’s life. He’s looking “from the other side of the fence” where he notices that it seems like “the grass is greener on the other side.”

And Job is especially looking at the lives of wicked men and comparing their lives to his – and then he’s also comparing what he sees in the lives of wicked men to what these three friends of his are asserting. And it’s just not lining up.

And so, Job is reacting to two things as he gives this idealized portrait of the wicked man’s life – to his own calamitous existence and to the gross overstatements of his misguided friends.

Job 21 Commentary: Longevity and quality of life

OK, so Job begins to reveal this shocking reality – that the wicked actually do well in this life – by noticing the longevity and quality of their lives in verse 7. And he states this in the form of a question.

7 Wherefore do the wicked [live/keep living/go on living],
[become old/continue on/grow old], [yea/also/even], [are mighty/increase] in power?

So, the wicked live. No – they don’t just live. They continue or grow old. Wait a second – they don’t just grow old, they actually increase in their might and power.

So, not only do wicked men sometimes not just die as a punishment from God. Sometimes they do very well in this life and live for a long time!

Job 21 Commentary: Longevity and safety of progeny

And not only do wicked people live a long time. So do their offspring. And so, Job turns to the matter of the longevity and safety of the children of wicked men in verse 8.

8 Their [seed/children] [is/are] [i.e., firmly…] established in their sight with them,
and their offspring before their eyes.

So, unlike Job’s kids, the kids of wicked people often live a safe and long life. That in contrast to a few things we’ve heard from these friends – and even from Job himself – to the effect that the children of wicked men always meet with calamity. That simply is not the case – at least it doesn’t always happen.

Job 21 Commentary: No reason to fear God

And so, because of these realities – long life and safety and prosperity for both them and their children – the wicked have absolutely no reason to fear God according to verse 9.

9 Their houses are safe [from/and without] fear,
neither is the rod [i.e., of punishment…] of God upon them.

So, there’s not just “no fear of God” – but really, no reason to fear God. His chastening rod is not after them. They’re safe with nothing to disturb them.

This is in contrast to the picture that these men have constantly been painting – that the wicked are harried at every turn by God. That their houses are destroyed and cast into darkness, etc.

It just doesn’t happen like that, Job is now recognizing.

Job 21 Commentary: Unimaginable agricultural success

In fact, it’s not just that the wicked fear nothing negative happening to them. The converse is true – according to verse 10, they so often meet with unimaginable agricultural success.

10 Their bull [gendereth/mates/breeds], [and faileth not/without fail];
their cow calveth, and [casteth not her calf/does not miscarry].

So, bovines provided men with food and with power to plow their fields and do other manual work. In some ways they could even assist with some form of transportation.

To have these creatures mate successfully was key to the success of a farmer.

And I’m not a farmer and most of you aren’t either. So, let me try to bring this into our world.

Bulls mating and cows having calves would be like you making a box of noodles – and suddenly another box magically takes its place! Or when your car finally bites the dust, you’re not bothered because actually you have a few more cars in fine shape just parked in your back yard.

So, bulls and cows reproducing is so key to the success of a farmer. And Job is now recognizing that this happens to the wicked. According to his former theology – wicked men’s cows should always be barren or birthing stillborn calves. But they don’t.

And Job is now going so far as to say that sometimes their bovines are 100% successful in mating.

Job 21 Commentary: Fruitful and joyful domestic life

And, in addition – not only are the agricultural pursuits of the wicked fruitful and joyful. So is the domestic life of these wicked men, according to verse 11.

11 They send forth their little ones like a flock,
and their children dance.

The friends make it sound like the families of wicked men are full of misery.

Not so – Job says. They have abundant children – like flocks. And these little ones are happy and dancing, often.

Job 21 Commentary: Joyful existence all-around

And it’s not just the children of the wicked who are joyful – these wicked men themselves can oftentimes have an all-around joyful existence, according to verse 12!

12 They take the timbrel and harp,
and rejoice at the sound of the [organ/flute].

And no wonder they are so filled with joy. Just look at how their lives are characterized by Job!

Job 21 Commentary: Perfect life and death

And yet, death will come – even to these wicked men whose lives are so seemingly perfect. And yet, Job is going to assert in verse 13 that both the life and even the death of these men is just perfectly pleasant.

13 They [spend their days/live out their years] in [wealth/prosperity],
and [in a moment/suddenly/peacefully] go down to the grave.

So, in life, the wicked man is wealthy and prosperous. And he deserves a really horrible and prolonged death. But that’s not what he gets. His death is sudden and peaceful.

Job 21 Commentary: Defiance to God’s face

And because of all of this, the wicked man defies God to his face, according to verses 14 and 15.

14 [Therefore/So] they say unto God,

Depart from us;
for we [desire not the knowledge of/don’t want to know] thy ways.

15 [What/Who] is the Almighty, that we should serve him?
and what [profit should we have/would we gain], if we pray unto him?

And they have a point. What’s the use of praying to God when a person has everything he wants? That’s the way the natural mind thinks.

And yet, here we have Job. A man who will serve God “for nothing” – as we heard in the first two chapters of this book.

But he’s a rare case. Most people – as Satan noted in those first two chapters – serve God for the stuff he gives. As long as he gives the stuff, we follow. The moment he stops giving the stuff, we forsake him.

But not so with Job. And that shouldn’t be the case for us either.

Brethren – are you prepared to follow God even if he makes your life miserable? Are you prepared to Trust God’s Wisdom, even if you can’t Understand His Ways?

When we’re gathered together to Jesus Christ, I guarantee that you and I and our brother Job will find it completely worth-it that we followed the Lord – even if and when he took all of our stuff away. So, let’s live like that’s the case right now.

Job 21 Commentary: This, despite God’s blessings

Well, Job had just declared that the wicked don’t serve or pray to God because they have everything they want already.

And yet, the ironic part of the whole matter is that it’s God himself that has actually given the wicked everything that they have – according to verse 16.

16 [Lo/But], their [good/prosperity] is not [in their hand/of their own doing]:

the counsel of the wicked is far from me.

So, Job reviews these things and declares that – contrary to what his friends say – Job is not wicked. And further, he has absolutely no desire to share the activities, heart attitudes, or words of these men. Their counsel and advice is far from Job, he says.

Job 21 Commentary: Questioning the wicked man’s demise

Well, next, Job asks five questions in verses 17 and 18 – all of which are intended to cast doubt on the assumptions of his friends regarding what the life of the wicked man is really like.

17 How oft is the [candle/lamp] of the wicked [put out!/extinguished?]
and how oft cometh their [destruction/calamity/misfortune] upon them[!/?]
[i.e., How often does…] God [distributeth/apportions] [sorrows/destruction/pain] [i.e., to them…] in his anger[./?]

18 [They are/Are they/How often are they] [as/like] [stubble/straw] before the wind[,/?]
and [as/like] chaff that the storm carrieth away[./?]

So, Job is saying – does what you guys are saying really happen?

And Job has come to the conclusion that – no – the lamp of the wicked is not put out and their destruction often does not come and God doesn’t give them sorrow and they’re not like stubble or chaff.

Their lives are far from being short and sad. This is in direct contradiction to their Retribution Theology-understanding of the way that God works in this world.

Job 21 Commentary: Questioning God’s delayed justice

Ah – but Job’s friends might reply something like this to what Job just said… “Yes, Job, perhaps sometimes God doesn’t punish the wicked man directly. But at least God will be sure to punish his children!

And Job takes issue with that in verses 19 through 21.

19 [i.e., You may say, “…] God [layeth/stores] up his [iniquity/punishment] for his children:

So, yeah, that’s how this could work. God could possibly be saving his wrath for the children of the wicked man. But Job doesn’t like that arrangement at all…

[he rewardeth him/Let God repay him/Instead let him repay the man himself], [and/so that] he [shall/may] know it.

20 [His eyes shall/Let his own eyes] see his [destruction/decay],
and [he shall/let him] drink of the wrath of the Almighty.

So, why would God wait to punish the wicked man’s kids? What good does that do? How does that hurt the wicked man at all? That’s what Job asks in verse 21.

21 For what [pleasure hath he in/does he care for/is his interest in] his [house/household/home] after [him/his death],
when the number of his months [is cut off in the midst/is cut off/has been broken off]?

Job 21 Commentary: But I shouldn’t be questioning God

And I think we need to catch what we just witnessed in those last few verses. Job is confronting – not just his friends and their faulty assumptions – but he’s really questioning why God is doing things the way he does them – or at least, the way that these men are thinking God works.

And that realization – that Job is directly questioning the way God runs this world – causes Job to step back a bit and acknowledge that he’s on shaky ground. Because – as he says in verse 22…

22 [Shall any/Can anyone] teach God knowledge?
[seeing/since] he judgeth those that are high.

Job 21 Commentary: The seeming randomness of death

And yet, Job isn’t going to stop questioning the way that God works in this world any time soon.

And so, Job continues into verses 23-26 by declaring the seeming randomness of death.

23 One [i.e., man…] dieth in his full [strength/vigor],
[being wholly/completely] [at ease/secure] and [quiet/satisfied/prosperous].

24 His [breasts/sides/body] are [full/filled out] [of milk/with fat] [i.e., well nourished…],
and his bones are moistened with marrow.

So, that’s the fortunate guy – the one whose death is sudden and whose life has been just great.

Then there’s the other kind of guy – the one that Job more closely resembles these days…

25 [And/While] another dieth in the bitterness of his soul,
and never [eateth with pleasure/having tasted anything good].

And they both share the same fate…

26 They shall lie down [alike/together] in the dust,
and the worms shall cover them.

And that’s not right! That’s not the way that God should work – according to Retribution Theology. The first guy – whose life and death are pleasant – should always be the righteous guy. And the one who dies in bitterness after a bitter life should always be the wicked guy. But that’s just not how God works in this world.

By the way, this sounds a lot like a few arguments made in the book of Ecclesiastes – don’t you think?

Job 21 Commentary: Job’s friends are thinking wrong

And with this mention of death – which Job very well might consider to be imminent for himself – Job seems to recoil at the thought that his friends probably think that if he dies in the state that he’s currently in – that that proves that he’s wicked.

27 [Behold/Yes], I know [your thoughts/what you are thinking],
and the [devices/plans/schemes] which ye wrongfully imagine against me [i.e., by which you would wrong me…].

Job 21 Commentary: Questioning the friends’ assumptions

And while Job is attacking his friends for assuming that his death would prove their point, he now is going to attack their assumptions about the fate of the wicked elite of society starting in verse 28.

28 For ye say,

Where is the house of the [prince/nobleman]?
and where are the dwelling places of the wicked?

So, Job is saying that these friends of his are assuming the quick demise of wicked men – especially wicked men in power – princes or noblemen.

Job 21 Commentary: They’re obviously wrong

But Job wants to state that these friends are obviously wrong in their assuming that the powerful wicked of the world meet their demise quickly in this life. And everyone knows it – verse 29.

29 Have ye not asked [them that go by the way/wayfaring men/those who travel the roads]?
and do ye not [know/recognize] their [tokens/witness/accounts],

And Job’s intention is that if these friends had asked anyone that sees what’s happening in the world, they would know that what they’re thinking regarding the wicked is totally absurd and indefensible.

Job 21 Commentary: The wicked avoids punishment in this life

And what these travelers who know what’s happening in this world would tell these friends is that the wicked avoids punishment in this life – according to verses 30 and 31.

30 That the wicked is [reserved to/spared from] the day of [destruction/calamity/destruction]?
they [shall be brought forth to/he is delivered from] the day of wrath.

31 Who [shall declare/will confront/will denounce] his [way/actions/conduct] to his face?
and who shall repay him what he hath done?

And the answer to he questions in verse 31 in Job’s mind is “Nobody!” No one is going to denounce the wicked in this life. No one will repay him for what he’s done in this life.

And I think that at this point, Job is getting so exasperated with his suffering and his friends’ wrong answers – that Job might even be starting to question whether the wicked ever gets what’s coming to him – even after this life!

Of course, we know from the Scripture that there is a punishment for the wicked – at the very least, after this life. And so, if Job is questioning that, he’s wrong.

Job 21 Commentary: The death of the wicked is sweet

And yet, what Job asserts next is right – at least some of the times. And that is, that the death of the wicked is sweet – according to verses 32 and 33.

32 Yet shall he [be brought/is carried] to the grave,
and [shall remain/watch is kept] [in the/over his] tomb.

33 The clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him,
and [every man/all men/everybody] shall [draw/follow] after him [i.e., in procession…],
as there are [innumerable/a countless throng] before him.

So, the wicked is oftentimes honored in his death. He’s not vilified as he ought to be. No – he’s honored.

Job 21 Commentary: The friends’ counsel from wrong assumptions can’t help Job

And so, what these friends are telling Job just can’t be trusted. They’re speaking falsehood and lies to him. And so, Job ends his speech to them in verse 34 by asserting that their counsel which is based on wrong assumptions cannot help him at all.

34 How then [comfort/console] ye me [in vain/with futile words],
seeing in your answers there [remaineth/is nothing but] falsehood?

And yet – despite this warning from Job – the sad reality is that next time in chapter 22 – Eliphaz is going to once again accuse Job of being wicked. We’ll see that next time.