Job 27 Commentary: The late Stephen Covey in his popular book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People tells of his own personal experience giving a perception test to numerous audiences.
His test involved showing a picture of an old woman to half of the group and a young woman to the other half. But neither half knew what he showed the other half of the audience.
Then he would show a composite picture of both a young woman and old woman together where both images are on the page.
And then he would have individuals from each half of the audience speak to each other about the picture and try to come to some consensus on what they saw in the picture.
He says that the results were predictable – the people who were shown the old woman before saw her in the composite picture. And the people who were shown the young woman saw that in the composite picture.
And what’s interesting is that sometimes these individuals would become angry at one another. Sometimes there would even be name-calling. And this is among adult professionals.
And we see a very similar situation occurring with the biblical character Job and his three friends. So, let’s turn our attention to Job, chapter 27.
We’re going to see eventually in this chapter that both Job and his friends are in close agreement as to how God treats the wicked in this world. We’ll see him state that toward the end of this chapter.
And yet – you would have no idea that these men agreed about anything with how they’re talking to each other. And that’s how this chapter starts – with some more harsh words from Job directed against these three men who had come originally to comfort him.
Job 27 Commentary: A Defiant Response
So, in verses 1 through 6, Job gives a defiant response to his friends’ attempt to prove that he’s wicked.
KJV Job 27:1 [Moreover/Then/And] Job [continued/took up] his [parable/discourse (again)], and said,
2 As God liveth, who hath [taken away/denied] [my judgment/my right/me justice];
and the Almighty, who hath [vexed my soul/embittered my soul/made my life bitter];
And let’s stop there for a moment. Job is starting this chapter with an oath. “As God liveth…” That’s an oath formula.
And so, what’s to follow is then what Job is sure is or will be the case. As surely as God lives, this or that will be the case or won’t be the case.
But the problem is what he says about God. Yes – positively Job recognizes that God is living. He’s real. He’s not an idol. He lives.
But what does he accuse God of doing?
Of denying Job justice. And of vexing his soul or making his life bitter.
And while it’s true that God has made Job’s life difficult – it can hardly be said that God has denied Job justice. But Job is thinking that God is acting out of character – that he should only be punishing the wicked – and because he’s punishing Job who isn’t wicked – God is doing something wrong. God is being unjust, says Job!
And while we can understand why Job thinks the way he does, it doesn’t mean that he’s right. And in this case, he’s actually very wrong.
OK – but Job is making an oath as I say. So, let’s see what Job is giving an oath to – what he is swearing will or will not be the case…
3 [All the while/For as long as/For while] my [breath/life/spirit] is [still…] in me,
and the [spirit/breath] [of/from] God is in my nostrils;
4 My lips shall not speak wickedness,
nor my tongue [utter/mutter/whisper] deceit.
So, as long as Job lives he asserts that he will not lie. He’s not going to be wicked by saying things that are not true. He refuses to do that.
Well, but is there something in particular he has in mind? Is Job really just promising to not lie and that’s all? Or is he focusing in on one particular area where he especially refuses to say things that aren’t true?
And it becomes apparent that Job does have one area in mind. And that is that Job will not lie about his integrity simply to justify his friends and their assertions that Job is suffering because he’s an evildoer.
5 [God forbid/Far be it from me] that I should [justify you/declare you to be in the right]: [I will never do it!…]
till I die I will not [remove/put away/set aside] mine integrity from me.
And here’s how Job is thinking. His friends are promising him blessings like he had before his trials started – if he only turns from his sin and starts praying to God.
But Job knows that he’s not suffering because of sin. He’s remained righteous and is not at all involved in what his friends are claiming.
Now, a lesser man would cave in and just confess some fake sin in order to be back on God’s good side – if that were even possible.
But Job isn’t going to do that. The righteousness in his own life that assures him that his friends’ accusations against him are totally baseless is the same righteousness that will not allow him to pretend to repent just so that he can get all of his blessings back from God.
So – no – Job is not going to justify his friends and help them to prove their point. Because they’re totally wrong. Job is not suffering because of personal sin.
And that’s what he says to end this sub-section of this chapter.
6 My righteousness I [hold fast/maintain],
and will not let it go:
my heart [shall/does/will] not reproach me
so long as I live.
And some of this can sound almost self-righteous. But we need to recognize the power of polarization that Job is experiencing here.
You know what polarization is – it’s when there’s an issue that you’re either totally for it or completely against it. There’s no middle ground. There’s no moderate position.
Issues that tend to polarize groups of people in America would include abortion, homosexuality, race relations, the size and function of the federal government, and a whole host of other topics. You have a lot of people who are either totally for or against whatever issue it is and very few in between.
And for Job and his friends, the issue of why Job is suffering is very polarizing. The friends are completely convinced that Job has been involved in some very heinous – yet secret – sin. And that’s why Job is suffering – God is punishing him.
And so, as Job is simply trying to maintain what God has already said of him – that he’s righteous – Job is forced to emphasize that fact to the point of it sounding almost like ungodly boasting. And yet, he’s right in what he’s saying, I think.
Job 27 Commentary: Curses on Job’s Enemies (Friends!?)
So, after uttering an oath to maintain his righteousness and integrity in the first six verses of this chapter, now Job turns to utter a curse against his enemies in verses 7-10. And in the context, I do believe that Job is directing this curse at these three men who originally came to comfort him.
7 Let mine enemy be as the wicked,
and [he that riseth up against me/my opponent/my adversary] as the unrighteous.
So, Job is distinguishing a bit between his enemy and the wicked. Or he that rises up against Job and the unrighteous.
He’s not saying that his friends are wicked and unrighteous – and so in that way he’s being a bit more courteous to these men than they’re being to him.
But at the same time, Job is cursing them. He’s calling on God to do something negative to them. He asks God to cause these men to meet with the fate of the wicked – the fate that they keep associating with Job himself.
So, he wants these men to have no hope in this life or the next.
8 For what is the hope of the [hypocrite/godless], [though/when] he [hath gained/is cut off],
when God taketh away his [soul/life]?
Further, Job wants God to not hear the prayers of his friends.
9 Will God [hear/listen to] his cry
when [trouble/distress] [cometh upon/overtakes] him?
And finally, Job wishes that these friends never know the reality of having God to delight in and call upon – for eternity.
10 Will he [delight himself/take delight/find delight] in the Almighty?
will he [always/at all times] call [upon/out to] God?
So, once more we realize that this is serious business for Job and these men. These four men are not calmly debating the theology of suffering. They’re at each other’s throats! Job is at the point where he’s actually cursing them and praying for very bad things to happen to them.
Job 27 Commentary: Job Teaches the Friends
And part of Job’s reason for this is that these men have continued to take it upon themselves to teach Job as if they knew more than he does.
And yet, now Job is wanting to teach them a thing or two.
11 I will teach you [by/about] the [hand/power] of God:
that which is [with/on the mind of] the Almighty will I not conceal.
So, Job wants to teach these men about God’s power.
And Job really marvels at how they could miss it and not understand it as they ought.
12 Behold, all [ye yourselves/of you/of this you have] have seen it;
[why then/why in the world] [are ye thus altogether vain/do you act foolishly/do you continue this meaningless talk]?
So, Job says that if these men knew God’s power they would have stopped talking a long time ago.
Job 27 Commentary: The Wicked
And so, for the rest of the chapter Job is going to focus on the punishment that the wicked receive from God.
But what does that have to do with the power of God? And how can Job say that if these men knew this then they would stop all their incessant talking?
Because, really, this is most of what they’ve been saying for a long time now. They’ve said what Job is going to say to the end of this chapter.
But I think that’s what Job is getting at. These friends have not needed to continually belabor this point that God punishes wicked men – because Job absolutely agrees. Yes, God does punish people who do wrong – who sin against him and others.
Now, Job is also willing to recognize times when God doesn’t immediately punish sin – he made that point a few chapters ago. But Job is going on the record in this chapter as saying that he believes that God really does punish evildoers.
And so, Job wants these three to feel as though they never ever need to speak of this topic again.
13 This is the portion of a wicked man [with/from/allotted by] God,
and the [heritage/inheritance] of [oppressors/tyrants/evildoers], which they shall receive of the Almighty.
And so, now Job is going to tell the friends what wicked men receive from God.
First, they might have a lot of children – but these children will ultimately die and/or starve.
14 [If/Though] his children [be multiplied/are many/increase], [it is/they are destined] for the sword:
and his offspring [shall not be satisfied with bread/never have enough to eat].
15 Those that [remain of/survive] him shall be buried [in death/because of the plague]:
and [his/their] widows shall not [will not/are not able to…] weep [for them…].
So, the family of a wicked person has a very hard and dangerous life. And ultimately, if any members of the man’s family survive him, they won’t miss him all that much. That’s what Job is claiming – and he’s claiming that this is how God’s power is displayed against evil people.
Next, Job states that an evil person may be rich – but ultimately that will all be taken from him and given to those who are more deserving.
16 [Though/If] he [heap/piles] up silver as the dust,
and prepare [raiment/garments] as [the/mounds of] clay;
17 He may prepare it,
but [the just/a righteous man] shall [put it on/wear it],
and the innocent shall [divide the/inherit his] silver.
Furthermore, Job asserts that wicked people are temporary in this life without a solid foundation.
18 He buildeth his house as a moth[‘s cocoon…],
and as a [booth/hut] that the [keeper/watchman] maketh.
And not only is the dwelling place of wicked people temporary – so is his very life.
19 The rich man shall lie down, [he goes to bed rich…]
but he shall not be gathered: [and will never do so again…]
he openeth his eyes,
and [he/it] is [not/all gone].
Then Job pictures evildoers as being terrified by God’s onslaught against them.
20 Terrors [take hold on/overtake/overwhelm] him as [waters/a flood],
a [tempest/whirlwind] stealeth him away in the night.
21 The east wind carrieth him away, and he [departeth/is gone]:
and as a storm [hurleth/it whirls/it sweeps] him out of his place.
22 For [God shall cast upon/it will hurl at(against)] him, [and not spare/without pity]:
he would [fain/try to] flee [out of/from] [his hand/its power].
So, that’s how God treats these evil people.
But now Job is going to mention how men treat them in response to God’s punishing them.
23 [Men/It] shall clap their hands at him [in derision…],
and shall hiss him out of his place.
But I’ll just mention as well that the word “Men” is in italics in the KJV which means that that’s not there in the Hebrew text. It’s something the translators did to aid in understanding – but they’re acknowledging that they were making an interpretational decision.
So, there’s also the possibility that “Men” should be read as “it” – that is, the east wind or storm that Job was talking about as overtaking the wicked and being sent by God.
Either way, Job paints a really bleak picture for wicked people in this chapter. Job is not soft on those who hate God. And he really believes this. And he’s trying to show his friends that this really is how he thinks.
And yet – several of these things that Job has mentioned sound a lot like how God is treating him. And God treating him like this would be fine – if he were evil. But Job is actually righteous.
And that’s why in the very next chapter that we’ll study next time Lord-willing – Job is going to speak of his inability to find wisdom. He’s having no success in making God’s ways make sense to him. Everything is confusing.
And we’ve seen Job trust God’s wisdom. Yes – Job trusts God’s wise dealings in nature all around him. He’s testified to that fact in this book – even in recent chapters.
But where Job needs to grow and mature is in the matter of trusting God’s wisdom – not solely regarding how he runs the creation – but regarding how he’s dealing in Job’s life.
So, we’ll see Job wrestle with this reality next time.