Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Why, seeing times are not hidden froth the Almighty - Dr. Good renders this,
"Wherefore are not doomdays kept by the Almighty.
So that his offenders may eye his periods?"
"Why are not times of punishment reserved by the Almighty.
And why do not they, who regard him, see his judgments?"
Jerome, "Times are not hidden from the Almighty; but they who know him are ignorant of his days." The Septuagint, "But why have set times - ὧραι hōrai, escaped the notice - ἔλαθον elathon - of the Almighty, and the wicked transgressed all bounds? The word עתים ‛êthı̂ym, here translated "times," is rendered by the Chaldee (עדניא), "set times," times appointed for an assembly or a trial, beforehand designated for any purpose. The Hebrew word properly means, set time, fit and proper times; and in the plural, as used here, means "seasons," Est 1:13; Ch1 12:32; and then vicissitudes of things, fortunes, destinies; Psa 31:16; Ch1 29:30. Here it means, probably, the vicissitudes of things, or what actually occurs. All changes are known to God. He sees good and bad times; he sees the changes that take place among people. And since he sees all this, Job asks, with concern, Why is it that God does not come forth to deal with people according to their true character? That this was the fact, he proceeds to show further in illustration of the position which he had maintained in Job 21 by specifying a number of additional cases where the wicked undeniably prospered. It was this which perplexed him so much, for he did not doubt that their conduct was clearly known to God. If their conduct had been unknown to God, it would not have been a matter of surprise that they should go unpunished. But since all their ways were clearly seen by him, it might well excite inquiry why they were permitted thus to prosper. "He" believed that they were reserved to a future day of wrath, Job 21:30; Job 24:23-24. They would be punished in due time, but it was not a fact as his friends alleged, that they were punished in this life according to their deeds.
Do they that know him? - His true friends; the pious.
Not see his days - The days of his wrath, or the day when he punishes the wicked. Why are they not permitted to see him come forth to take vengeance on his foes? The phrase "his days" means the days when God would come forth to punish his enemies. They are called "his days," because at that time God would be the prominent object that would excite attention. They would be days when he would manifest himself in a manner so remarkable as to characterize the period. Thus, the day of judgment is called the day "of the Son of Man," or "his day" Luk 17:24, because at that time the Lord Jesus will be the prominent and glorious object that shall give character to the day. The "question" here seems to have been asked by Job mainly to call attention to "the fact" which he proceeds to illustrate. The fact was undeniable. Job did "not" maintain, as Eliphaz had charged on him Job 22:12-14, that the reason why God did not punish them was, that he could not see their deeds. He admitted most fully that God did see them, and understood all that they did. In this they were agreed. Since this was so, the question was why the wicked were spared, and lived in prosperity. The fact that it was so, Job affirms. The "reason" why it was so, was the subject of inquiry now. This was perplexing, and Job could solve it only by referring to what was to come hereafter.
Some remove the land-marks - Landmarks are pillars or stones set up to mark the boundaries of a farm. To remove them, by carrying them on to the land of another, was an act of dishonesty and robbery - since it was only by marks that the extent of a man's property could be known. Fences were uncommon; the art of surveying was not well understood, and deeds describing land were probably unknown also, and their whole dependence, therefore, was on the stones that were erected to mark the boundaries of a lot or farm. As it was not difficult to remove them, it became a matter of special importance to guard against it, and to make it a crime of magnitude. Accordingly, it was forbidden in the strictest manner in the law of Moses. "Cursed be he that removeth his neighbor's land-mark;" Deu 27:17; compare Deu 19:14; Pro 22:28; Pro 23:10.
And feed thereof - Margin, "or, them." The margin is correct. The meaning is, that they drive off the flocks of others, and "pasture" them; that is, they are at no pains to conceal what they do, but mingle them with their own herds, and feed them as if they were their own. If they drove them away to kill, and removed them wholly from view, it would be less shameful than to keep and claim them as their own, and to make the robbery so public.
They drive away the ass of the fatherless - Of the orphan, who cannot protect himself, and whose only property may consist in this useful animal. Injury done to an orphan is always regarded as a crime of special magnitude, for they are unable to protect themselves; see the notes at Job 22:9.
They take the widow's ox for a pledge - See the notes at Job 22:6. The widow was dependent on her ox to till the ground, and hence, the crime of taking it away in pledge for the payment of a debt.
They turn the needy out of the way - They crowd the poor out of the path, and thus oppress and injure them. They do not allow them the advantages of the highway.
The poor of the earth hide themselves together - For fear of the rich and mighty man. Driven from the society of the rich, without their patronage and friendship, they are obliged to associate together, and find in the wicked man neither protector nor friend. And yet the proud oppressor is not punished.
Behold, as wild asses in the desert - In regard to the wild ass, see the notes at Job 6:5. Schultens, Good, Noyes, and Wemyss, understand this, not as referring to the haughty tyrants themselves, but to the oppressed and needy wretches whom they had driven from society, and compelled to seek a precarious subsistence, like the wild ass, in the desert. They suppose that the meaning is, that these outcasts go to their daily toil seeking roots and vegetables in the desert for a subsistence, like wild animals. But it seems to me that the reference is rather to another class of wicked people: to the wandering tribes that live by plunder - who roam through the deserts, and live an unrestrained and a lawless life, like wild animals. The wild ass is distinguished for its fleetness, and the comparison here turns principally on this fact. These marauders move rapidly from place to place, make their assault suddenly and unexpectedly, and, having plundered the traveler, or the caravan, as suddenly disappear. They have no home, cultivate no land, and keep no flocks. The only objection to this interpretation is, that the wild ass is not a beast of prey. But, in reply to this, it may be said, that the comparison does not depend on that, but on the fact that they resemble those animals in their lawless habits of life; see Job 11:12, note; Job 39:5, note.
Go they forth to their work - To their employment - to wit, plunder.
Rising betimes - Rising early. It is a custom of the Orientals everywhere to rise by break of day. In journeys, they usually rise long before day, and travel much in the night, and during the heat of the day they rest. As caravans often traveled early, plunderers would rise early, also, to meet them.
For a prey - For plunder - the business of their lives.
The wilderness - The desert, for so the word wilderness is used in the Scriptures; see Isa 35:1, note; Mat 3:1, note.
Yieldeth food - To wit, by plunder. They obtain subsistence for themselves and their families by plundering the caravans of the desert. The idea of Job is, that they are seen by God, and yet that they are suffered to roam at large.
They reap every one his corn - Margin, "mingled corn," or "dredge." The word used here (בליל belı̂yl) denotes, properly, "meslin," mixed provender, made up of various kinds of grain, as of barley, vetches, etc., prepared for cattle; see the notes at Isa 30:24.
In the field - They break in upon the fields of others, and rob them of their grain, instead of cultivating the earth themselves. So it is rendered by Jerome - Agrum non suum deme-runt; et vineam ejus, quem vi. oppresserint vindemiant. The Septuagint renders it, "A field, not their own, they reap down before the time - πρὸ ὥρας pro hōras.
They gather the vintage of the wicked - Margin, "the wicked gather the vintage." Rather, they gather the vintage of the oppressor. It is not the vintage of honest industry; not a harvest which is the result of their own labor, but of plunder. They live by depredations on others. This is descriptive of those who support themselves by robbery.
They cause the naked to lodge without clothing - They strip others of their clothing, and leave them destitute.
That they have no covering in the cold - All travelers tell us, that though the day is intensely hot in the deserts of Arabia, yet the nights are often intensely cold. Hence, the sufferings of those who are plundered, and who have nothing to defend themselves from the cold air of the night.
They are wet with the showers of the mountains - That is, the poor persons, or the travelers whom they have robbed. Hills collect the clouds, and showers seem to pour down from the mountains. These showers often collect and pour down so suddenly that there is scarcely time to seek a shelter.
And embrace the rock for want of a shelter - Take refuge beneath a projecting rock. The robbers drive them away from their homes, or plunder them of their tents, and leave them to find a shelter from the storm, or at night, beneath a rock. This agrees exactly with what Niebuhr says of the wandering Arabs near mount Sinai: "Those who cannot afford a tent, spread out a cloth upon four or six stakes; and others spread their cloth near a tree, or endeavor to shelter themselves from the heat and the rain in the cavities of the rocks. Reisebeschreib. i. Thes s. 233.
They pluck the fatherless from the breast - That is, they steal away unprotected children, and sell them, or make slaves of them for their own use. If this is the correct interpretation, then there existed at that time, what has existed since, so much to the disgrace of mankind, the custom of kidnapping children, and bearing them away to be sold as slaves. Slavery existed in early ages; and it must have been in some such way that slaves were procured. The wonder of Job is, that such people were permitted to live - that God did not come forth and punish them. The fact still exists, and the ground of wonder is not diminished. Africa bleeds under wrongs of this kind; and the vengeance of heaven seems to sleep, though the child is torn away from its mother, and conveyed, amid many horrors, to a distant land, to wear out life in hopeless servitude.
And take a pledge of the poor - Take that, therefore, which is necessary for the comfort of the poor, and retain it, so that they cannot enjoy its use; see the notes at Job 22:6.
And they take away the sheaf from the hungry - The meaning of this is, that the hungry are compelled to bear the sheaf for the rich without being allowed to satisfy their hunger from it. Moses commanded that even the ox should not be muzzled that trod out the grain Deu 25:4; but here was more aggravated cruelty than that would be, in compelling men to bear the sheaf of the harvest without allowing them even to satisfy their hunger. This is an instance of the cruelty which Job says was actually practiced on the earth, and yet God did not interpose to punish it.
Which made oil within their walls - Or rather, they compel them to express oil within their walls. The word יצהירו yatshı̂yrû, rendered "made oil," is from צחר tsachar, to shine, to give light; and hence, the derivatives of the word are used to denote light, and then oil, and thence the word comes to denote to press out oil for the purpose of light. Oil was obtained for this purpose from olives by pressing them, and the idea here is, that the poor were compelled to engage in this service for others without compensation. The expression "within their walls," means probably within the walls of the rich; that is, within the enclosures where such presses were erected. They were taken away from their homes; compelled to toil for others; and confined for this purpose within enclosures erected for the purpose of expressing oil. Some have proposed to read this passage, "Between their walls they make them toil at noonday;" as if it referred to the cruelty of causing them to labor in the sweltering heat of the sun. But the former interpretation is the most common, and best agrees with the usual meaning of the word, and with the connection.
And tread their wine-presses and suffer thirst - They compel them to tread out their grapes without allowing them to slake their thirst from the wine. Such a treatment would, of course, be cruel oppression. A similar description is given by Addison in his letter from Italy:
Il povreo Abitante mira indarno
Il roseggiante Arancio e'l pingue grano,
Crescer dolente ei mira ed oli, e vini,
E de mirti odorar l' ombra ei sdegna.
In mezzo alla Bonta della Natura
Maledetto languisce, e deatro a cariche
Di vino vigne muore per la sete.
"The poor inhabitant beholds in vain
The reddening orange and the swelling grain;
Joyless he sees the growing oils and wines
And in the myrtle's fragrant shade repines;
Starves, in the midst of nature's bounty curst,
And in the loaden vineyard dies for thirst."
Addison's works, vol. i. pp. 51-53. Ed. Lond. 1721.
Men groan from out of the city - The evident meaning of this is, that the sorrows caused by oppression were not confined to the deserts and to solitary places; were not seen only where the wandering freebooter seized upon the traveler, or in the comparatively unfrequented places in the country where the poor were compelled to labor in the wine presses and the olive presses of others, but that they extended to cities also. In what way this oppression in cities was practiced, Job does not specify. It might be by the sudden descent upon an unsuspecting city, of hordes of freebooters, who robbed and murdered the inhabitants, and then fled, or it might be by internal oppression, as of the rich ever the poor, or of masters over their slaves. The idea which Job seems to wish to convey is, that oppression abounded. The earth was full of violence. It was in every place, in the city and the country, and yet God did not in fact come forth to meet and punish the oppressor as he deserved. There would be instances of oppression and cruelty enough occurring in all cities to justify all that Job here says, especially in ancient times, when cities were under the control of tyrants. The word which is translated "men" here is מתים mathı̂ym, which is not the usual term to denote men. This word is derived from מוּת mûth, "to die"; and hence, there may be here the notion of "mortals," or of the "dying," who utter these groans.
And the soul of the wounded crieth out - This expression appears as if Job referred to some acts of violence done by robbers, and perhaps the whole description is intended to apply to the sufferings caused by the sudden descent of a band of marauders upon the unsuspection and slumbering inhabitants of a city.
Yet God layeth not folly to them - The word rendered "folly" תפלה tı̂phlâh means "folly"; and thence also wickedness. If this reading is to be retained, the passage means that God does not lay to heart, that is, does not regard their folly or wickedness. He suffers it to pass without punishing it; compare Act 17:30. But the same word, by a change of the points, תפלה tephı̂llâh, means "prayer;" and many have supposed that it means, that God does not regard the prayer or cry of those who are thus oppressed. This, in itself, would make good sense, but the former rendering agrees better with the connection. The object of Job is not to show that God does not regard the cry of the afflicted, but that he does not interpose to punish those who are tyrants and oppressors.
They are of those that rebel against the light - That is, they hate the light: compare Joh 3:20. It is unpleasant to them, and they perform their deeds in the night. Job here commences a reference to another class of wicked persons - those who perform their deeds in the darkness of the night; and he shows that the same thing is true of them as of those who commit crimes in open day, that God does not interpose directly to punish them. They are suffered to live in prosperity. This should be rendered, "Others hate the light;" or, "There are those also who are rebellious against the light." There is great force in the declaration, that those who perform deeds of wickedness in the night are "rebels" against the light of day.
They know not the ways thereof - They do not see it. They work in the night.
Nor abide in the paths thereof - In the paths that the light makes. They seek out paths on which the light does not shine.
The murderer - One of the instances, referred to in the previous verse, of those who perform their deeds in darkness.
Rising with the light - Hebrew לאור lā'ôr. Vulgate "Mane primo - in the earliest twilight." The meaning is, that he does it very early; by daybreak. It is not in open day, but at the earliest dawn.
Killeth the poor and needy - Those who are so poor and needy that they are obliged to rise early and go forth to their toil. There is a double aggravation - the crime of murder itself, and the fact that it is committed on those who are under a necessity of going forth at that early hour to their labor.
And in the night is as a thief - The same man. Theft is usually committed under cover of the night. The idea of Job is, that though these crimes cannot escape the notice of God, yet that he does not interpose to punish those who committed them. A striking incidental illustration of the fact stated here, occurred in the journey of Messrs. Robinson and Smith, on their way from Akabah to Jerusalem. After retiring to rest one night, they were aroused by a sudden noise; and they apprehended attack by robbers. "Our Arabs," says Dr. R. "were evidently alarmed. They said, if thieves, "they would steal upon us at midnight; if robbers they would come down upon towards morning." Bibl. Research. i. 270. It would seem, therefore, that there was some settled time or order in which they are accustomed to commit their various depredations.
The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight; - compare the description in Pro 7:8-9, "He went the way to her house; in the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night."
And disguiseth his face - Margin, "setteth his face in secret." The meaning is, that he put a mask on his face, lest he should be recognized. So Juvenal, Sat. viii. 144, as quoted by Noyes:
- si nocturnus adulter
Tempora Santonico velas adoperta cucullo.
These deeds of wickedness were then performed in the night, as they are still; and yet, though the eye of God beheld them, he did not punish them. The meaning of Job is, that people were allowed to commit the blackest crimes, but that God did not come forth to cut them off.
In the dark they dig through houses - This refers, probably, to another class of wicked persons. The adulterer steals forth in the night, but it is not his way to "dig" into houses. But the persons here referred to are robbers, who conceal themselves by day, and who at night secretly enter houses for plunder. The phrase "dig through" probably has reference to the fact that houses were made of clay, or of bricks dried in the sun - a species of mud cottages, and whose walls, therefore, could be easily penetrated. In the East, nearly all the houses are made of unburned brick, and there is little difficulty in making a hole in the wall large enough to admit the human body; compare Eze 12:7. In Bengal, says Mr. Ward, it is common for thieves to dig through the walls of houses made of mud, or under the house floors, which are made merely of earth, and enter thus into the dwellings while the inmates are asleep. Rosenmuller's Alte u. neue Morgenland "in loc."
Which they had marked for themselves in the day-time - According to this translation the idea would be, that in the day-time they carefully observed houses, and saw where an entrance might be effected. But this interpretation seems contrary to the general sense of the passage. It is said that they avoid the light, and that the night is the time for accomplishing their purposes. Probably, therefore, the meaning of this passage is, "in the day time they shut themselves up." So it is rendered by Gesenius, Rosenmuller, Noyes, and others. The word here used, and rendered "marked" (חתם châtham), means to seal, to seal up; and hence, the idea of shutting up, or making fast; see Job 9:7, note; Isa 8:17, note. Hence, it may mean to shut up close as if one was locked in; and the idea here is, that in the day-time they shut themselves up close in their places of concealment, and went forth to their depredations in the night.
They know not the light - They do not see the light. They do all their work in the dark.
For the morning is to them even as the shadow of death - They dread the light as one does usually the deepest darkness. The morning or light would reveal their deeds of wickedness, and they therefore avoid it.
As the shadow of death - As the deepest darkness; see the notes at Job 3:5.
If one know them - If they are recognized. Or, more probably, this means "they," that is, each one of them, "are familiar with the terrors of the shadow of death," or with the deepest darkness. By this rendering the common signification of the word (יכיר yakı̂yr) will be retained, and the translation will accord with the general sense of the passage. The meaning is, that they are familiar with the blackest night. They do not dread it. They dread only the light of day. To others the darkness is terrible; to them it is familiar. The word rendered "shadow of death" in the latter part of this verse, is the same as in the former. It may mean in both places the gloomy night that resembles the shadow, of death. Such a night is "terrible" to most people, to them it is familiar, and they feel secure only when its deep shades are round about them.
He is swift as the waters - Noyes renders this, "They are as swift as the skiff upon the waters." Dr. Good, "Miserable is this man upon the waters." Wemyss, "Such should be as foam upon the waters." Le Clerc says that there is scarcely any passage of the Scriptures more obscure than this, and the variety of rendering adopted will show at once the perplexity of expositors. Rosenmuller supposes that the particle of comparison (כ k) is to be understood, and that the meaning is, "he is as a light thing upon the waters;" and this probably expresses the true sense. It is a comparison of the thief with a light boat, or any other light thing that moves gently on the face of the water, and that glides along without noise. So gently and noiselessly does the thief glide along in the dark. He is rapid in his motion, but he is still. It is not uncommon to describe one who is about to commit crime in the night as moving noiselessly along, and as taking every precaution that the utmost silence should be preserved. So Macbeth, when about to commit murder, soliloquizes:
Now o'er the one half world
Nature seems dead -
And withered murder,
Alarm'd by his sentinel, the wolf,
Who's howl'd his watch, thus with his stealthy pace,
With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design
Moves like a ghost.
Thou sure and firm-set earth,
Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
The very stones prate of my whereabout.
I do not know, however, that this comparison of a thief, with a light object on the waters, is to be found any where else, but it is one of great beauty. The word rendered "swift" (קל qal) may denote either that which is swift, or that which is light. In Isa 30:16, it is applied to a fleet horse. Here it may be rendered, "He is as a light thing upon the face of the waters."
Their portion is cursed in the earth - That is, their manner of life, their way of obtaining a livelihood, is deserving of execration. The result of humble toil and honest labor may be said to be blessed; but not the property which they acquire. Rosenmuller and Noyes, however, suppose that the word "portion" here refers to their habitation, and that the idea is, they have their dwelling in wild and uncultivated places; they live in places that are cursed by sterility and barrenness. The Hebrew will bear either construction. The word lot, as it is commonly understood by us, may perhaps embrace both ideas. "Theirs is a cursed lot on earth."
He beholdeth not the way of the vineyards - That is, they do not spend their lives in cultivating them, nor do they derive a subsistence from them. They live by plunder, and their abodes are in wild retreats, far away from quiet and civilised society. The object seems to be to describe marauders, who make a sudden descent at night on the possessions of others, and who have their dwellings far away from fields that are covered with the fruits of cultivation.
Drought and heat consume the snow-waters - Margin, "violently take;" see the notes at Job 6:17. The word rendered "consume," and in the margin "violently take" (יגזלו yı̂gâzelû), means properly to strip off, as skin from the flesh; and then to pluck or tear away by force; to strip, to spoil, to rob. The meaning here is, that the heat seems to seize and carry away the snow waters - to bear them off, as a plunderer does spoil. There is much poetic beauty in this image. The "snow-waters" here mean the waters that are produced by the melting of the snow on the hills, and which swell the rivulets in the valleys below. Those waters, Job says, are borne along in rivulets over the burning sands, until the drought and heat absorb them all, and they vanish away; see the beautiful description of this which Job gives in Job 6:15-18. Those waters vanish away silently and gently. The stream becomes smaller and smaller as it winds along in the desert until it all disappears. So Job says it is with these wicked people whom he is describing. Instead of being violently cut off; instead of being hurried out of life by some sudden and dreadful judgment, as his friends maintained, they were suffered to linger on calmly and peaceably - as the stream glides on gently in the desert - until they quietly disappear by death - as the waters sink gently in the sands or evaporate in the air. The whole description is that of a peaceful death as contradistinguished from one of violence.
So doth the grave those who have sinned - There is a wonderful terseness and energy in the original words here, which is very feebly expressed by our translation. The Hebrew is (חטאו שׁאול she'ôl châṭâ'û) "the grave, they have sinned." The sense is correctly expressed in the common version. The meaning is, that they who have sinned die in the same quiet and gentle manner with which waters vanish in the desert. By those who have sinned, Job means those to whom he had just referred - robbers, adulterers, murderers, etc., and the sense of the whole is, that they died a calm and peaceful death; see the notes at Job 21:13, where he advances the same sentiment as here.
The womb shall forget him - His mother who bare him shall forget him. The idea here seems to be, that he shall fade out of the memory, just as other persons do. He shall not be overtaken with any disgraceful punishment, thus giving occasion to remember him by a death of ignominy. At first view it would seem to be a calamity to be soon forgotten by a mother; but if the above interpretation be correct, then it means that the condition of his death would be such that there would be no occasion for a mother to remember him with sorrow and shame, as she would one who was ignominiously executed for his crimes. This interpretation was proposed by Mercer, and has been adopted by Rosenmuller, Noyes, and others. It accords with the general scope of the passage, and is probably correct. Various other interpretations, however, have been proposed, which may be seen in Good, and in the Critici Sacri.
The worm shall feed sweetly on him - As on others. He shall die and be buried in the usual manner. He shall lie quietly in the grave, and there return to his native dust. He shall not be suspended on a gibbet, or torn and devoured by wild beasts; but his death and burial shall be peaceful and calm; see Job 21:26, note; Job 19:26, note.
He shall be no more remembered - As having been a man of eminent guilt, or as ignominiously punished. The meaning is, that there is nothing marked and distinguishing in his death. There is no special manifestation of the divine displeasure. There is some truth in this, that the wicked cease to be remembered. People hasten to forget them; and having done no good that makes them the objects of grateful reminiscence, their memory fades away. This, so far from being a calamity and a curse, Job regards as a favor. It would be a calamity to be remembered as a bad man, and as having died an ignominious death.
And wickedness shall be broken as a tree - Evil here or wickedness (עולה ‛avlâh) means an evil or wicked man. The idea seems to be, that such a man would die as a tree that is stripped of its leaves and branches is broken down. He is not like a green tree that is violently torn up by the roots in a storm, or twisted off in a tempest, but like a dry tree that begins to decay, and that falls down gently by its own weight. It lives to be old, and then quietly sinks on the ground and dies. So Job says it is with the wicked. They are not swept away by the divine judgments, as the trees of the forest are torn up by the roots or twisted off by the tornado.
He evil entreateth the barren - The woman who has no children to comfort or support her. He increases her calamity by acts of cruelty and oppression. To be without children, as is well known, was regarded, in the patriarchal ages, as a great calamity.
And doeth not good to the widow - See the notes at Job 24:3. Notwithstanding all this, he is permitted to live in prosperity, and to die without any visible tokens of the divine displeasure.
He draweth also the mighty with his power - The word here rendered draweth (משׁך mâshak), means to draw; and then, to lay hold of, to take, to take away, and, hence, to remove, to destroy; Psa 28:3; Eze 22:20. The idea here seems to be, that his acts of oppression and cruelty were not confined to the poor and the defenseless. Even the great and the mighty were also exposed, and he spared none. No one was safe, and no rights could be regarded as secure. The character here described is one that pertains to a tyrant, or a conqueror, and Job probably meant to describe some such mighty man, who was regardless alike of the rights of the high and the low.
He riseth up - When he rises up; that is, when he enters on an enterprise, or goes forth to accomplish his wicked purposes.
And no man is sure of life - From the dread of him even the great and mighty have no security. This language will well describe the character of an Oriental despot. Having absolute power, no man, not even the highest in rank, can feel that his life is safe if the monarch becomes in any way offended. Yet, Job says that even such a despot was permitted to live in prosperity, and to die without any remarkable proof of the divine displeasure.
Though it be given him to be in safety - That is, God gives him safety. The name God is often understood, or not expressed. The meaning is, that God gives this wicked man, or oppressor, safety. He is permitted to live a life of security and tranquility.
Whereon he resteth - Or, rather, "And he is sustained, or upheld" - (וישׁען veyshâ‛an). The meaning is, that he is sustained or upheld by God.
Yet his eyes are upon their ways - "And the eyes of God are upon the ways of such men." That is, God guards and defends them. He seems to smile upon them, and to prosper all their enterprises.
They are exalted for a little while - This was the proposition which Job was maintaining. His friends affirmed that the wicked were punished for their sins in this life, and that great crimes would soon meet with great calamities. This Job denies, and says that the fact was, that they were "exalted." Yet he knew that it was to be but for a little time, and he believed that they would, at no distant period, receive the proper reward of their deeds. He maintains, however, that their death might be tranquil and easy, and that no extraordinary proof of the divine displeasure would be perceived in the manner of their departure.
But are gone and brought low - Margin, "not." Hebrew ואיננו ve'ayı̂nenû - "and are not;" compare Gen 42:13. "The youngest is this day with our father, and one is not;" Gen 37:30. "The child is not, and I, whither shall I go?" That is, the child is dead; compare the expression Troja fuit. The meaning here is, that they soon disappear, or vanish.
They are taken out of the way as all other - They die in the same manner as other people do, and without any extraordinary expressions of the divine displeasure in their death. This was directly contrary to what his friends had maintained. The Hebrew word here (קפץ qâphats) means, "to gather", "to collect"; and is often used in the sense of "gathering to one's fathers," to denote death.
And cut off as the tops of the ears of corn - Of wheat, barley, or similar grain. Corn, in the sense in which the word is commonly used in this country, was not known in the time of Job. The allusion here is to the harvest. When the grain was ripe, it seems they were in the habit of cutting off the ears, and not of cutting it near the root, as we do. The body of the stalk was left, and, hence, there is so frequent allusion in the Scriptures to stubble that was burned. So, in Egypt, the children of Israel were directed to obtain the stubble left in the fields, in making brick, instead of having straw furnished them. The meaning of Job here is, that they would not be taken away by a violent death, or before their time, but that they would be like grain standing in the field to the time of harvest, and then peacefully gathered; compare Psa 73:4.
And if it be not so now, who will make me a liar? - A challenge to anyone to prove the contrary to what he had said. Job had now attacked their main position, and had appealed to facts in defense of what he held. He maintained that, as a matter of fact, the wicked were prospered, that they often lived to old age, and that they then died a peaceful death, without any direct demonstration of the divine displeasure. He boldly appeals, now, to anyone to deny this, or to prove the contrary. The appeal was decisive. The fact was undeniable, and the controversy was closed. Bildad Job 25:1-6 attempts a brief reply, but he does not touch the question about the facts to which Job had appealed, but utters a few vague and irrelevant proverbial maxims, about the greatness of God, and is silent. His proverbs appear to be exhausted, and the theory which he and his friends had so carefully built up, and in which they had been so confident, was now overthrown. Perhaps this was one design of the Holy Spirit, in recording the argument thus far conducted, to show that the theory of the divine administration, which had been built up with so much care, and which was sustained by so many proverbial maxims, was false. The overthrow of this theory was of sufficient importance to justify this protracted argument, because:
(1) it was and is of the highest importance that correct views should prevail of the nature of the divine administration; and
(2) it is of special importance in comforting the afflicted people of God.
Job had experienced great aggravation, in his sufferings, from the position which his friends had maintained, and from the arguments which they had been able to adduce, to prove that his sufferings were proof that he was a hypocrite. But it is worth all which it has cost; all the experience of the afflicted friends of God, and all the pains taken to reveal it, to show that affliction is no certain proof of the divine displeasure, and that important ends may be accomplished by means of trial.