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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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JOB 24

THE CONCLUSION OF JOB'S EIGHTH ADDRESS

Why are times not laid up by the Almighty?

And why do not they that know him see his days?"

In this verse, Job raises the question of why God does not establish set days (or times) for judging men's conduct, and assigning rewards and punishment to men as they may be deserved. Job here poses this question as an argument against Eliphaz' notion that the wicked are invariably punished in this present life, and that the righteous are invariably rewarded, propositions which Job has rejected and resisted throughout the controversy as being absolutely contrary to the known facts of life.

As we have pointed out earlier, there are definite reasons WHY there must be variations in the life patterns both of the wicked and of the righteous, making it an impossibility to lay down set laws that it must always be either this way or that way for either class of men. These reasons are: (1) God has given all men the freedom of their will. (2) By reason of the Fall, Satan enjoys many powers as `the god of this world." (3) God has cursed the ground (the earth) for Adam's sake, and from this all kinds of natural disasters fall continually upon mankind. (4) "Time and chance happeneth unto them all (all men)" (Ecclesiastes 9:11).

All of these things, to which there must also be added the uncertainty of chance (luck), enter into the uncertainty and unpredictability of the life of any man, either wicked or righteous. The result of this is spelled out in the scripture just cited. "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill" (Ecclesiastes 9:11).

A SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING THIS CHAPTER

"In Job 24, we run into all kinds of problems. First, there are textual difficulties that render many lines almost unintelligible. The translators have patched them up to their satisfaction; but there is no unanimous agreement in the many solutions offered. A number of verses are rejected and removed by different scholars; but there's no agreement on any of this. The speech as a whole is incoherent; some of it seems at variance with what Job has maintained all along. Some scholars, such as Pope in the Anchor Bible have shuffled the verses around into a different order."F1

This problem is related by some to the brevity of the speech by Bildad in this third cycle, some supposing that what is here accredited to Job may, in fact have been spoken by Bildad. These problems and uncertainties which continue to appear throughout the last half of the text of Job are utterly beyond the scope of any ability of this writer to solve them.

We shall proceed, therefore, as Andersen stated it and, "Be content with accepting the text as it stands in our version, and to do the best we can to interpret it."F2

A LIST OF EVIL DEEDS COMMITTED BY THE WICKED AGAINST OTHERS

There are that remove the landmarks;

They violently take away flocks, and feed them.

They drive away the ass of the fatherless;

They take the widow's ox for a pledge.

They turn the needy out of the way;

The poor of the earth all hide themselves.

Behold, as wild asses in the desert

They go forth to their work, seeking food;

The wilderness yieldeth them bread for their children.

They cut their provender in the field;

And they glean the vintage of the wicked.

They lie all night naked without clothing,

And have no covering in the cold.

They are wet with the showers of the mountains,

And embrace the rock for want of a shelter.

There are that pluck the fatherless from the breast,

And take a pledge of the poor.

So that they go about naked without clothing,

And being hungry they carry the sheaves.

They make oil within the walls of these men;

They tread their winepresses and suffer thirst.

From out of the populous city, men groan,

And the soul of the wounded crieth out:

Yet God regardeth not the folly."

The picture that emerges here is that of the heartless oppressors of the poor. These wicked men steal land by moving landmarks (Job 24:2), they steal whole flocks of animals and keep them (Job 24:3), they steal an orphan's ass, exact an unjust pledge from widows (Job 24:4) and force their poor laborers who work for them to scavenge for food in the mountains, where they have no residences, and are not sufficiently clothed, and where they are often cold and hungry (Job 24:5-7).


 
Verses 2-12
There are that remove the landmarks; They violently take away flocks, and feed them. They drive away the ass of the fatherless; They take the widow's ox for a pledge. They turn the needy out of the way: The poor of the earth all hide themselves. Behold, as wild asses in the desert They go forth to their work, seeking diligently for food; The wilderness [yieldeth] them bread for their children. They cut their provender in the field; And they glean the vintage of the wicked. They lie all night naked without clothing, And have no covering in the cold. They are wet with the showers of the mountains, And embrace the rock for want of a shelter. There are that pluck the fatherless from the breast, And take a pledge of the poor; [So that] they go about naked without clothing, And being hungry they carry the sheaves. They make oil within the walls of these men; They tread [their] winepresses, and suffer thirst. From out of the populous city men groan, And the soul of the wounded crieth out: Yet God regardeth not the folly.
(Job 24:12).They violate the spirit of the Law of God (Deuteronomy 25:4) by denying those who tread their winepresses even a taste of the juice, and by forbidding them to eat of the grain as they carry the sheaves of the wicked (Job 24:10,11). Yet all of this wickedness does not result in any direct interference of God in the affairs of such evil men.

Job's argument throughout these verses is simply that the wicked are not judged and punished for such evil immediately, but that they get away with it, at least in many instances.

Driver and others have complained that much of the text here is obscure, damaged, uncertain, corrupt, etc.F3 In spite of such objections, it is clear enough what Job was telling us in this review of what the wealthy wicked were doing to the poor.

REGARDING MURDERERS, ADULTERERS, AND THIEVES

These are of them that rebel against the light;

They know not the ways thereof,

Nor abide in the paths thereof.

The murderer riseth with the light;

He killeth the poor and needy;

And in the night he is a thief.

The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight,

Saying, No eye shall see me;

And he disguiseth his face.

In the dark they dig through houses:

They shut themselves up in the day time;

They know not the light

For the morning is to all of them as thick darkness;

And they know the terrors of the thick darkness."

This whole paragraph identifies the gross wickedness of evil men as generally being perpetrated at night. This is in full harmony with the New Testament references to such sins as, "the works of darkness" (Romans 13:12), "the hidden things of darkness" (1 Corinthians 4:5), and "the unfruitful works of darkness" (Ephesians 5:11). Like certain animals of prey, such men sleep in the daytime and operate their nefarious business at night. Christians are everywhere referred to in the New Testament as the "Children of light."


 
Verses 13-17
These are of them that rebel against the light; They know not the ways thereof, Nor abide in the paths thereof. The murderer riseth with the light; He killeth the poor and needy; And in the night he is as a thief. The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, Saying, No eye shall see me: And he disguiseth his face. In the dark they dig through houses: They shut themselves up in the day-time; They know not the light. For the morning is to all of them as thick darkness; For they know the terrors of the thick darkness.
(Job 24:17). This means that they dread the morning as much as ordinary people dread the night.F4

THAT PART OF JOB'S SPEECH THAT SOME QUESTION

Swiftly they pass away upon the face of the waters;

Their portion is cursed on the earth:

They turn not into the way of the vineyards.

Drought and heat consume the snow waters:

So doth Sheol those that have sinned.

The womb shall forget him;

The worm shall feed sweetly on him;

He shall be no more remembered;

And unrighteousness shall be broken as a tree.

He devoureth the barren that beareth not,

And doth not good to the widow.

Yet God reserveth the mighty by his power:

He riseth up that hath no assurance of life.

God giveth them to be in security, and they rest thereon.

And his eyes are upon their ways.

They are exalted; and yet a little while and they are gone;

Yea, they are brought low, they are taken out of the way as all others,

And are cut off as the tops of the ears of grain.

And if it be not so now, who will prove me a liar,

And make my speech nothing worth?"

This, of course, is that part of Job's speech which is thought by some to be part of Bildad's speech, which follows at once, and seems to be unusually short; but, as the text stands, there is very little of it that is inappropriate upon the lips of Job.


 
Verses 18-25
Swiftly they [pass away] upon the face of the waters; Their portion is cursed in the earth: They turn not into the way of the vineyards. Drought and heat consume the snow waters: [So doth] Sheol [those that] have sinned. The womb shall forget him; The worm shall feed sweetly on him; He shall be no more remembered; And unrighteousness shall be broken as a tree. He devoureth the barren that beareth not, And doeth not good to the widow. Yet [God] preserveth the mighty by his power: He riseth up that hath no assurance of life. [God] giveth them to be in security, and they rest thereon; And his eyes are upon their ways. They are exalted; yet a little while, and they are gone; Yea, they are brought low, they are taken out of the way as all others, And are cut off as the tops of the ears of grain. And if it be not so now, who will prove me a liar, And make my speech nothing worth?
(Job 24:18), for example, may be only a reference to the brevity of life for all men.

He shall be no more remembered
(Job 24:20), does not seem to fit all that Job has said earlier.

Unrighteousness shall be broken as a tree
(Job 24:20) is in the same category as the first clause.

The best understanding of this perplexing paragraph among the writers we have consulted is that of Dr. Dale Hesser:

"The big thing that Job objected to was Eliphaz' theory that the wicked are punished at once. Job admits that if one looks at the whole picture, he will see that wickedness leads to suffering and that righteousness leads to rewards; but what puzzles Job is the exceptions which are obviously quite numerous. Job is pointing out that in the course of things crime brings misery to the criminal, but that God has not ordered that each crime shall bring immediate retribution."F5

We are not to suppose that Job here has changed his basic thesis. Both Job and his friends believed that God punishes the wicked; but Job vehemently rejected the notion (1) either that God always punished the wicked immediately upon their commission of wicked deeds, or (2) that sufferings and calamities coming upon any person were to be considered as proofs of his wickedness.


Footnotes for Job 24
1: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 13, pp. 207, 208.
2: Ibid., p. 208.
3: International Critical Commentary, Job, pp. 206, 207, 208.
4: Ibid., op. cit., p. 211.
5: R. B. Sweet Publishing Company, No. 216, p. 50.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 24". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=job&chapter=024>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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