Job 24 – The Problem of the Seeming Security of the Wicked
A. Job explains the conduct of the wicked.
1. (1-8) The conduct of the wicked.
“Since times are not hidden from the Almighty,
Why do those who know Him see not His days?”
“Some remove landmarks;
They seize flocks violently and feed on them;
They drive away the donkey of the fatherless;
They take the widow’s ox as a pledge.
They push the needy off the road;
All the poor of the land are forced to hide.
Indeed, like wild donkeys in the desert,
They go out to their work, searching for food.
The wilderness yields food for them and for their children.
They gather their fodder in the field
And glean in the vineyard of the wicked.
They spend the night naked, without clothing,
And have no covering in the cold.
They are wet with the showers of the mountains,
And huddle around the rock for want of shelter.”
a. Since times are not hidden from the Almighty, why do those who know Him see not His days: The sense of this difficult verse seems to be, “Since God knows and will judge everything, why are the godly kept in the dark about His ways?” This had special application to the question of why God allows the seeming prosperity of the wicked, discussed in the following verses.
i. The NIV translates this verse, Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment? Why must those who know him look in vain for such days? The New Living Translation has, Why doesn’t the Almighty open the court and bring judgment? Why must the godly wait for him in vain?
ii. The first verse of this chapter is not the only difficult portion. “In chapter 24 we run into all kinds of problems. First there are textual difficulties, which render many lines almost unintelligible… Secondly, the speech as a whole seems incoherent to many readers… Thirdly, chapter 24 is said to express sentiments that Job could never have uttered. They would sound better on the lips of his friends.” (Andersen)
b. Some remove landmarks… they take the widow’s ox as a pledge… all the poor of the land are forced to hide: Here, Job described the mostly financial sins of the wicked, rooted in greed and cruelty. In Job 22:5-11, Eliphaz said that Job’s calamity came upon him because he acted this way towards others, and his riches were therefore gained by greed and wickedness. Job agreed with Eliphaz that this is how wicked people act, without agreeing with him that he himself acted this way.
i. “The law of Moses denounces curses on those who remove their neighbours’ landmarks. See Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:17.” (Clarke)
ii. “Here you see the rich landowner removing his neighbour’s landmark, curtailing by fraud, in a hedgeless unfenced land, the narrow possessions of his poorer countrymen. Cursed, you remember the solemn words, cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen! But Job sees no curse fall!” (Bradley)
2. (9-12) The wicked oppress the weak.
“Some snatch the fatherless from the breast,
And take a pledge from the poor.
They cause the poor to go naked, without clothing;
And they take away the sheaves from the hungry.
They press out oil within their walls,
And tread winepresses, yet suffer thirst.
The dying groan in the city,
And the souls of the wounded cry out;
Yet God does not charge them with wrong.”
a. Some snatch the fatherless from the breast, and take a pledge from the poor: In a vivid description, Job described the heartless oppression inflicted upon the poor by the godless. One would expect that Job would not condemn this so strongly if he were guilty of the same (as accused by Eliphaz in Job 22:5-11).
i. “The touching pathos of these word-pictures should be felt by the reader, for they give us some insight into Job’s contempt for wickedness and his ability to empathize with those in distress.” (Smick)
b. Yet God does not charge them with wrong: This was the part that was difficult for Job to understand and accept. He knew how wicked the wicked were; what he could not comprehend was why God did not judge them as they deserved.
i. “Job pleads with God to subpoena sinners and judge them. With mounting frustration, Job cites example after example of sinners who go unpunished.” (Lawson)
ii. “Job felt God should demonstrate his justice by openly punishing the wicked. In the divine speeches God would teach him a tremendous lesson about this, which he did not now understand.” (Smick)
iii. The dying groan in the city: “After having shown the oppressions carried on in the country, he takes a view of those carried on in the town. Here the miseries are too numerous to be detailed.” (Clarke)
B. The seeming security of the wicked.
1. (13-17) The deeds done in darkness.
“There are those who rebel against the light;
They do not know its ways
Nor abide in its paths.
The murderer rises with the light;
He kills the poor and needy;
And in the night he is like a thief.
The eye of the adulterer waits for the twilight,
Saying, ‘No eye will see me’;
And he disguises his face.
In the dark they break into houses
Which they marked for themselves in the daytime;
They do not know the light.
For the morning is the same to them as the shadow of death;
If someone recognizes them,
They are in the terrors of the shadow of death.”
a. There are those who rebel against the light: In powerful poetic images, Job describes the kind of sin that happens under the cover of darkness. Darkness is used as a cloak for the murderer, the thief, and the adulterer.
i. It was almost as if Job anticipated the later instruction from the Apostle Paul: The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts (Romans 13:12-14).
b. For the morning is the same to them as the shadow of death: One should regard the morning as something good; the coming of light after the dark night. Yet for these wicked people, morning is the same to them as the shadow of death. It is a bad thing to them, not a good thing.
i. Clarke made special application of this to the adulterer. “The morning dawns: but it is to him as the shadow of death, lest he should be detected before he can reach his own home. And if one know him – if he happen to be recognized in coming out of the forbidden house; the terrors of death seize upon him, being afraid that the thing shall be brought to light, or that he shall be called to account, a sanguinary account, by the injured husband.”
2. (18-21) What should happen to the wicked.
“They should be swift on the face of the waters,
Their portion should be cursed in the earth,
So that no one would turn into the way of their vineyards.
As drought and heat consume the snow waters,
So the grave consumes those who have sinned.
The womb should forget him,
The worm should feed sweetly on him;
He should be remembered no more,
And wickedness should be broken like a tree.
For he preys on the barren who do not bear,
And does no good for the widow.”
a. Their portion should be cursed in the earth: Job wondered why God did not judge the wicked as He should (Job 24:1). Here, it is as if Job gave God advice on how He should judge the wicked; mainly, He should do it in this life and not wait until the life beyond (cursed in the earth).
b. The worm should feed sweetly on him; he should be remembered no more: Job wasn’t against the idea of the wicked being punished after death; he simply didn’t want the punishment to begin there. He thought it should begin in this life and be continued afterwards.
i. He preys on the barren who do not bear: “The barren wife was considered more helpless than the widow, as the latter might have sons to help her.” (Bullinger)
3. (22-25) The seeming security of the wicked.
“But God draws the mighty away with His power;
He rises up, but no man is sure of life.
He gives them security, and they rely on it;
Yet His eyes are on their ways.
They are exalted for a little while,
Then they are gone.
They are brought low;
They are taken out of the way like all others;
They dry out like the heads of grain.”
“Now if it is not so, who will prove me a liar,
And make my speech worth nothing?”
a. But God draws the mighty away with His power: Job here considered that perhaps the fate of the wicked in the world beyond was retribution enough for the scales of divine justice. Yes, the wicked seem to prosper in this life (he rises up); yet at the same time no man is sure of life.
i. In these verses Job sounds almost like Asaph in Psalm 73, who was troubled at the prosperity of the wicked until he went into the house of God, and understood their end.
ii. “Job does not counter the friends by a one-sided exaggeration of his own, claiming that God is hostile to the upright and an accomplice of the crooked. His position is more balanced, but more baffled. He simply cannot see how God’s justice works out in his own case.” (Andersen)
b. He gives them security, and they rely on it; yet His eyes are on their ways: Job reminded himself that God was not blind to the sins of the wicked, and even if they did seem to prosper well enough in this life, soon enough then they are gone and they are brought low.
i. The sense from Job is that God allows such prosperity to some of the wicked to increase their ultimate judgment. He does indeed give them security and they do rely on it; but they end up as dry… heads of grain.
ii. “In the East, they generally reap their harvest by just taking off the tops of the ears of corn, and leaving the straw. Thus will the wicked be cut off.” (Spurgeon)
c. Now if it is not so, who will prove me a liar: “Job challenges all men to contradict what he affirms, — that the righteous may be greater sufferers, and the wicked may for awhile prosper, but that God will, in the end, overthrow the ungodly, and establish the righteous.” (Spurgeon)
©2019 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission