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Song of Solomon
Job 24 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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Why, seeing times are not hidden from the Almighty, do they that know him not see his days?
Why, seeing times are not hidden from the almighty
. By "times" seem to be meant God's special periods of exhibiting himself in action as the moral Governor of the world, vindicating the righteous, and taking vengeance upon sinners. Such "times" are frequently spoken of in the prophetical Scriptures as "days of the Lord" (see
Isaiah 13:6, 9
Joel 2:1, 11
Zephaniah 1:7, 14
, etc.). They are, of course, "not hidden" from him, seeing that it is he who determines on them beforehand, and, when their fixed date is come, makes them special "days," or "times," different from all others.
Do they who know him not see his days?
why are even they, who know and serve God, kept in the dark as to these "times," so that they do not foresee them or know when they are coming? This is to Job a great perplexity.
remove the landmarks; they violently take away flocks, and feed
Some remove the landmarks
. (On this form of wickedness, see
.) Where neighbouring properties are not divided by fences of any kind, as in the East generally, the only way of distinguishing between one man's land and another's is by termini, or "landmarks," which are generally low stone metes or bourns, placed at intervals on the boundary-line. An easy form of robbery was to displace these bourns, putting them further back on one's neighbour's land.
They violently take away flocks
. Others openly drive off their neighbours' flocks from their pastures, mix them with their own flocks, and say that they are theirs (comp.
and feed them
in the margin);
They drive away the ass of the fatherless, they take the widow's ox for a pledge.
They drive away the ass of the fatherless
. This was another form of oppression. "Whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed?" says Samuel, on laying down his judgeship (
1 Samuel 12:3
). The "fatherless" were particularly liable to such ill treatment, seeing that they had lost their natural protector.
They take the widow's ox for a pledge
. It may be true that this was nowhere a legal offence, not even among the Hebrews (Lee); but it was a real act of oppression, and forms a fitting counterpart to the injury done to the orphan. (On the natural tendency of selfish men to bear hard on these two classes, see
They turn the needy out of the way: the poor of the earth hide themselves together.
They turn the needy out of the way
. Either "they force poor men to turn out of the road when they are using it, and wait till they have passed" (compare the recent practice of the Japanese daimios), or "they make the highways so dangerous with their violence that they compel the poor and needy to seek byways for safety" (
). The second hemistich favours the latter interpretation.
The poor of the earth
the meek of the earth
hide themselves together
. In the East there have always been superior and subject races, as well as proud nobles and down-trodden men of the same race. It is not clear of which of these two Job speaks. The former were often hunted out of all the desirable lands, and forced to fly to rooks and caves and holes in the ground, whence they were known as "Troglodytes." The latter, less frequently, handed together, and withdrew to remote and sequestered spots, where they might hope to live unmolested by their oppressors (
wild asses in the desert, go they forth to their work; rising betimes for a prey: the wilderness
food for them
Behold, as wild asses in the desert, go they forth to their work
. Plundering bands of wicked marauders scour the desert, like troops of wild asses, going forth early to their work, and late taking rest - rising betimes for a prey, and generally finding it, since the wilderness yieldeth food for them and for their children. They are sure to find some plunder or other ere the day is over.
his corn in the field: and they gather the vintage of the wicked.
They reap every one his corn in the field
. When they have scoured the desert, the marauders approach the cultivated ground bordering on it, and thence carry off, each of them. a quantity of "fodder," or "provender" (Revised Version), for the sustentation of their horses
. And they gather the vintage of the wicked
; rather, as in the margin,
and the wicked gather the vintage
. (So Rosenmuller and Professor Lee.) Sometimes they burst into the vineyards, and rob them, carrying off the ripe grapes.
They cause the naked to lodge without clothing, that
no covering in the cold.
They cause the naked to lodge without clothing
they lie all night naked
The marauders are still the subject of the narrative. When engaged in their raids, they endure to pass the night without clothing, as the Bedouins are said to do to this day, so that they have no covering in the cold. They are so bent upon plunder that they do not mind these inconveniences.
They are wet with the showers of the mountains, and embrace the rock for want of a shelter.
They are wet with the showers of the mountains, and embrace the rock for want of a shelter
. Further unpleasant consequences of marauding, but endured without complaint by the wild robber-tribes.
They pluck the fatherless from the breast, and take a pledge of the poor.
They pluck the fatherless from the breast
. Other oppressors, not of the marauding class, but dwellers in towns (ver. 12), are so cruel that they tear the unweaned child of the debtor from the mother's breast, as satisfaction for a debt, and carry him off into slavery (comp.
2 Kings 4:1
And take a pledge of the poor
take in pledge that which is on the poor -
in other words, their clothing. They will not lend to them on any other terms, and so force them to part with their garments, and go about naked. Even Hebrew creditors seem to have done this (
Deuteronomy 24:12, 13
); and the Mosaic Law did not forbid the practice, but only required the creditor to let the debtor have his garment at night, that he might sleep in it (
to go naked without clothing, and they take away the sheaf
They cause him to go naked without clothing
they go naked without clothing.
The effects of the oppression on its victims are now traced. First of all, the poor man, whose only wrap or cloak has been taken in pledge, is com-polled to go naked, or almost naked, both day and night, exposed alike to extremes of heat and cold. Secondly, he is compelled to reap and bind and carry home the sheaves of his oppressor, while he himself is half famished with hunger. The second clause of the verse is wrongly translated in the Authorized Version, where we read, and they take away the sheaf from the hungry; the real meaning being, "and they who are an hungered, carry the sheaves" (compare the Revised Version).
make oil within their walls,
winepresses, and suffer thirst.
Which make oil within their walls
, and tread their wine-presses, and suffer thirst. In the third place, the same unfortunates are employed in the homesteads of their oppressors to express oil from the olives and wine from the rich clusters of grapes, while they themselves are tormented with unceasing thirst.
Men groan from out of the city, and the soul of the wounded crieth out: yet God layeth not folly
Men groan from out of the city.
It is not only in the wild tracts bordering on the desert (vers. 5-8), or on the large farms of rich landholders (vers. 9-11), that oppression takes place. Men's groans are heard also "from the city," and in the midst of the city, where murder, robbery, burglary, adultery, and other crimes of the deepest dye abound. Then the soul of the wounded crieth out. In appeals to God for help, or in inarticulate cries, the wounded spirit of the oppressed and injured vents itself.
Yet God layeth not folly to them
. Yet God seems to take no notice. He gives no sign of disapproval, but allows the oppressors to go on in their foolish courses unchecked.
They are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof.
They are of those who rebel against the light
. These city oppressors go beyond the others in entirely rejecting the light of reason, conscience, and law. They threw off every restraint. The "light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" is nothing to them. They know not the ways thereof. They will not know, will not have anything to do with, the law of moral restraint - much less will they abide in the paths thereof;
acknowledge and be guided by such restraints continually. On the contrary,
The murderer rising with the light killeth the poor and needy, and in the night is as a thief.
The murderer rising with the light killeth the poor and needy
. The murderer rises at the first glimpse of dawn - the time when mast men sleep most soundly. He cannot go about his wicked business in complete darkness. He has not the courage to attack the great and powerful, who might be well armed and have retainers to defend them, but enters the houses of a comparatively poor class, in which he is less afraid to risk himself. Here, in the night he is as a thief. He has not come into the house simply for murder. Theft is his main object. He will not take life unless he is resisted or discovered, and so, in a certain sense, driven to it.
The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, saying, No eye shall see me: and disguiseth
The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, saying, No eye shall see me
. There is an analogy between moral and physical light, and between moral and physical darkness. The class of men here spoken of (vers. 14-16), who have rebelled against moral light (ver. 13), and refused its ways, and rejected its paths, are no great lovers of physical light. Their deeds of darkness are only suited to be done in the dark, and they wait for the evening twilight or the dusk of dawn to engage in them (comp.
, "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." See also
, etc.). And he disguiseth his face. As a further precaution against discovery, the adulterer disguiseth, or covereth up, his face. The same is often done by thieves and murderers.
In the dark they dig through houses,
they had marked for themselves in the daytime: they know not the light.
In the dark they dig through houses
. In ancient times, burglary commonly took this form. Windows were few, and high up in the walls; doors were strongly fastened with bolts and bars. But the walls, being of clay, or rubble, or sun-dried brick, were weak and easily penetrable. This was especially the case with party walls; and if burglars entered an unoccupied house, nothing was easier than to break through the slight partition which separated it from the house next door. The Greek word for "burglar" is
" he who digs through a wall."
Which they had marked for themselves in the daytime
; rather, they
shut themselves up in the daytime
they seal themselves up
; the meaning being that they carefully keep themselves close. Professor Lee, however, defends the Authorized Version. They know not the light;
they avoid it, keep away from it, will have nothing to do with it.
For the morning
to them even as the shadow of death: if
them, they are in
the terrors of the shadow of death.
For the morning is to them even as the shadow of death
. They hate the morning light. It is associated in their minds with the idea of detection; for when it breaks in upon them unexpectedly in the midst of their ill deeds, detection commonly follows; and detection is a true "shadow of death," for it commonly means the gallows. If one know them, they are in the terrors of the shadow of death; rather,
for they know the terrors of the shadow of death
the Revised Version). It is a familiar experience to them; as, whenever crime is severely punished, it is to the criminal class generally.
swift as the waters; their portion is cursed in the earth: he beholdeth not the way of the vineyards.
He is swift as the waters
. "Locus obscurissimus" (Schulteus). Scarcely any two commentators agree even as to the subject on which Job proceeds to speak. Some regard him as giving his own judgment on the ultimate fate of the wicked; others, as anticipating what his opponents will say on the point. One recent expositor takes the passage as referring to the efforts made by the malefactors of vers. 14-16 to escape from justice, and to the discredit and difficulty in which they involve themselves. Another suggests that Job here calls attention to a fresh class of oppressors, viz. water-thieves (see Strabo, 16:18), who, starting in light boats from some island in a lake or river, plundered the neighbouring lands, making the portions of the landholders worthless, and causing them to neglect the cultivation, even of their vineyards. If we accept this view, the proper translation of the present verse will be,
Swift is he
upon the face of the waters
then is the portion of them who dwell in the land worthless
no one turneth his face toward his vine. yards
(see Professor Lee's 'Book of Job,' pp. 153, 378, 379).
Drought and heat consume the snow waters:
Drought and heat consume the snow waters; so doth the grave those which have sinned
. This rendering is further confirmed by the next verse. Accepting it, we must suppose Job to pass at this point to the consideration of the ultimate end of the wicked, though in ver. 21 he returns to the consideration of their ill doings. The heat and drought of summer, he says, consume and dry up all the water which comes from the melting of the winter's snows. So does Shoel, or the grave, absorb, and as it were consume, the wicked.
The womb shall forget him; the worm shall feed sweetly on him; he shall be no more remembered; and wickedness shall be broken as a tree.
The womb shall forget him
: Some regard this as equivalent to "Earth shall forget him;" but most suppose "the womb" to mean "his own mother."
The worm shall feed sweetly on him
). He shall be no more remembered. Oblivion shall fall upon him and his doings. And wickedness shall be broken as a tree. As a strong wind suddenly snaps off a tree at the root, so wickedness, in the person of the wicked man - the abstract for the concrete - shall be overtaken by death, and perish in a moment (comp. ver. 24).
He evil entreateth the barren
beareth not: and doeth not good to the widow.
He evil entreateth the barren that beareth not
. Oppressors of another class are perhaps here spoken of, or perhaps there is a mere return to the idea with which Job's enumeration opened (ver. 3), which was the oppression of the weaker and more defenceless classes. As barrenness in women was considered the greatest possible misfortune (
1 Samuel 1:5-8
1 Samuel 3:1-10
), so oppressing one that was barren indicated extreme cruelty
. And doeth not good to the widow
neglects to vindicate her cause - an admitted part of man's duty (see
He draweth also the mighty with his power: he riseth up, and no
is sure of life.
He draweth also the mighty with his power
he draws to his side, and makes his helpers, those who are mighty, attracting them or compelling them to join him by the power which he already has.
He riseth up, and no man is sure of life
. This is also the translation of the Revised Version. Some commentators, however, prefer to render, "He riseth up, when he has despaired of life; "
the wicked man, when he has been brought into trouble, either sickness or danger of death at the hands of Justice, to men's surprise, "riseth up" - is delivered from the danger, and recovers his prosperity.
it be given him
in safety, whereon he resteth; yet his eyes
upon their ways.
Though it be given him to be in safety, whereon he resteth
granteth him to be in security
and thereon he resteth
God allows the escape of the wicked man from his trouble, and lets him live on, safe and secure, and the man himself rests on the security thus afforded him, quite contented with it. Yet his eyes are upon their ways. God's eyes are still upon the ways of the wicked: they are, or seem to be, the objects of a special providential care.
They are exalted for a little while, but are gone and brought low; they are taken out of the way as all
, and cut off as the tops of the ears of corn.
They are exalted for a little while, but are gone and brought low;
they are exalted
after a little while they are gone
they are brought low.
Job has to admit that death comes upon wicked men at last; but he minimizes the terrors of their death, and exaggerates its alleviations. First, it comes on them when they have risen to eminence, have gained themselves a reputation, and "are exalted." Next, it is sudden and painless, preceded by no long, lingering illness, but just a sinking into non-existence; a tranquil passing away. Thirdly, it is at a ripe age, when they have reached the full term of human life, and are as ears of corn ripe for the harvest. Further, it is the common fate:
They are taken out of the way as all other
), and cut off as the tops of the ears of corn. We may gather from this expression that the reaping in the land of Uz was conducted in Job's time much in the same way as it was in Egypt under the early Pharaohs, viz. by cutting the stalk with a sharp sickle almost immediately below the ear, and collecting the ears in baskets (see the author's 'Hist. of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 1. p. 162; and his 'Herodotus,' vol. 2. p. 59, 3rd edit.).
now, who will make me a liar, and make my speech nothing worth?
And if it be not so now
"if these things be not as I say."
Who will make me a liar?
Which of you will stand forth and disprove them, and so "make me a liar "? And make my speech nothing worth! Show,
my whole discourse to be valueless. This bold challenge no one attempts to take up.
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