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Job Replies: The Wicked Do Prosper
1Then Job answered and said:
2“Keep listening to my words,
and let this be your comfort.
3Bear with me, and I will speak,
and after I have spoken, mock on.
4As for me, is my complaint against man?
Why should I not be impatient?
5Look at me and be appalled,
and lay your hand over your mouth.
6When I remember, I am dismayed,
and shuddering seizes my flesh.
7Why do the wicked live,
reach old age, and grow mighty in power?
8Their offspring are established in their presence,
and their descendants before their eyes.
9Their houses are safe from fear,
and no rod of God is upon them.
10Their bull breeds without fail;
their cow calves and does not miscarry.
11They send out their little boys like a flock,
and their children dance.
12They sing to the tambourine and the lyre
and rejoice to the sound of the pipe.
13They spend their days in prosperity,
and in peace they go down to Sheol.
14They say to God, ‘Depart from us!
We do not desire the knowledge of your ways.
15What is the Almighty, that we should serve him?
And what profit do we get if we pray to him?’
16Behold, is not their prosperity in their hand?
The counsel of the wicked is far from me.
17“How often is it that the lamp of the wicked is put out?
That their calamity comes upon them?
That God11Hebrew he distributes pains in his anger?
18That they are like straw before the wind,
and like chaff that the storm carries away?
19You say, ‘God stores up their iniquity for their children.’
Let him pay it out to them, that they may know it.
20Let their own eyes see their destruction,
and let them drink of the wrath of the Almighty.
21For what do they care for their houses after them,
when the number of their months is cut off?
22Will any teach God knowledge,
seeing that he judges those who are on high?
23One dies in his full vigor,
being wholly at ease and secure,
24his pails22The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain full of milk
and the marrow of his bones moist.
25Another dies in bitterness of soul,
never having tasted of prosperity.
26They lie down alike in the dust,
and the worms cover them.
27“Behold, I know your thoughts
and your schemes to wrong me.
28For you say, ‘Where is the house of the prince?
Where is the tent in which the wicked lived?’
29Have you not asked those who travel the roads,
and do you not accept their testimony
30that the evil man is spared in the day of calamity,
that he is rescued in the day of wrath?
31Who declares his way to his face,
and who repays him for what he has done?
32When he is carried to the grave,
watch is kept over his tomb.
33The clods of the valley are sweet to him;
all mankind follows after him,
and those who go before him are innumerable.
34How then will you comfort me with empty nothings?
There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood.”
Punishment of the Wicked. (b. c. 1520.)
27 Behold, I know your thoughts, and the devices which ye wrongfully imagine against me. 28 For ye say, Where is the house of the prince? and where are the dwelling places of the wicked? 29 Have ye not asked them that go by the way? and do ye not know their tokens, 30 That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath. 31 Who shall declare his way to his face? and who shall repay him what he hath done? 32 Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb. 33 The clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him, and every man shall draw after him, as there are innumerable before him. 34 How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood?
In these verses,
I. Job opposes the opinion of his friends, which he saw they still adhered to, that the wicked are sure to fall into such visible and remarkable ruin as Job had now fallen into, and none but the wicked, upon which principle they condemned Job as a wicked man. "I know your thoughts," says Job (v. 27); "I know you will not agree with me; for your judgments are tinctured and biassed by your piques and prejudices against me, and the devices which you wrongfully imagine against my comfort and honour: and how can such men be convinced?" Job's friends were ready to say, in answer to his discourse concerning the prosperity of the wicked, "Where is the house of the prince? v. 28. Where is Job's house, or the house of his eldest son, in which his children were feasting? Enquire into the circumstances of Job's house and family, and then ask, Where are the dwelling-places of the wicked? and compare them together, and you will soon see that Job's house is in the same predicament with the houses of tyrants and oppressors, and may therefore conclude that doubtless he was such a one."
II. He lays down his own judgment to the contrary, and, for proof of it, appeals to the sentiments and observations of all mankind. So confident is he that he is in the right that he is willing to refer the cause to the next man that comes by (v. 29): "Have you not asked those that go by the way—any indifferent person, any that will answer you? I say not, as Eliphaz (ch. v. 1), to which of the saints, but to which of the children of men will you turn? Turn to which you will, and you will find them all of my mind, that the punishment of sinners is designed more for the other world than for this, according to the prophecy of Enoch, the seventh from Adam, Jude 14. Do you not know the tokens of this truth, which all that have made any observations upon the providences of God concerning mankind in this world can furnish you with?" Now,
1. What is it that Job here asserts? Two things:—(1.) That impenitent sinners will certainly be punished in the other world, and, usually, their punishment is put off until then. (2.) That therefore we are not to think it strange if they prosper greatly in this world and fall under no visible token of God's wrath. Therefore they are spared now, because they are to be punished then; therefore the workers of iniquity flourish, that they may be destroyed for ever, Ps. xcii. 7. The sinner is here supposed, [1.] To live in a great deal of power, so as to be not only the terror of the mighty in the land of the living (Ezek. xxxii. 27), but the terror of the wise and good too, whom he keeps in such awe that none dares declare his way to his face, v. 31. None will take the liberty to reprove him, to tell him of the wickedness of his way, and what will be in the end thereof; so that he sins securely, and is not made to know either shame or fear. The prosperity of fools destroys them, by setting them (in their own conceit) above reproofs, by which they might be brought to that repentance which alone will prevent their ruin. Those are marked for destruction that are let alone in sin, Hos. iv. 17. And, if none dares declare his way to his face, much less dare any repay him what he has done and make him refund what he has obtained by injustice. He is one of those great flies which break through the cobwebs of the law, that hold only the little ones. This emboldens sinners in their sinful ways that they can brow-beat justice and make it afraid to meddle with them. But there is a day coming when those shall be told of their faults who now would not bear to hear of them, those shall have their sins set in order before them, and their way declared to their face, to their everlasting confusion, who would not have it done here, to their conviction, and those who would not repay the wrongs they had done shall have them repaid to them. [2.] To die, and be buried in a great deal of pomp and magnificence, v. 32, 33. There is no remedy; he must die; that is the lot of all men; but every thing you can think of shall be done to take off the reproach of death. First, He shall have a splendid funeral—a poor thing for any man to be proud of the prospect of; yet with some it passes for a mighty thing. Well, he shall be brought to the grave in state, surrounded with all the honours of the heralds' office and all the respect his friends can then pay to his remains. The rich man died, and was buried, but no mention is made of the poor man's burial, Luke xvi. 22. Secondly, He shall have a stately monument erected over him. He shall remain in the tomb with a Hic jacet—Here lies, over him, and a large encomium. Perhaps it is meant of the embalming of his body to preserve it, which was a piece of honour anciently done by the Egyptians to their great men. He shall watch in the tomb (so the word is), shall abide solitary and quiet there, as a watchman in his tower. Thirdly, The clods of the valley shall be sweet to him; there shall be as much done as can be with rich odours to take off the noisomeness of the grave, as by lamps to set aside the darkness of it, which perhaps was referred to in the foregoing phrase of watching in the tomb. But it is all a jest; what is the light, or what the perfume, to a man that is dead? Fourthly, It shall be alleged, for the lessening of the disgrace of death, that it is the common lot: He has only yielded to fate, and every man shall draw after him, as there are innumerable before him. Note, Death is the way of all the earth: when we are to cross that darksome valley we must consider, 1. That there are innumerable before us; it is a tracked road, which may help to take off the terror of it. To die is ire ad plures—to go to the great majority. 2. That every man shall draw after us. As there is a plain track before, so there is a long train behind; we are neither the first nor the last that pass through that dark entry. Every one must go in his own order, the order appointed of God.
2. From all this Job infers the impertinency of their discourses, v. 34. (1.) Their foundation is rotten, and they went upon a wrong hypothesis: "In your answers there remains falsehood; what you have said stands not only unproved but disproved, and lies under such an imputation of falsehood as you cannot clear it from." (2.) Their building was therefore weak and tottering: "You comfort me in vain. All you have said gives me no relief; you tell me that I shall prosper again if I turn to God, but you go upon this presumption, that piety shall certainly be crowned with prosperity, which is false; and therefore how can your inference from it yield me any comfort?" Note, Where there is not truth there is little comfort to be expected.