Job 15:20
The wicked man travails with pain all his days, and the number of years is hidden to the oppressor.
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(20) Travaileth with pain.—This and the following verses contain the result of this experience. Here, again, we have a highly-coloured and poetical description of the oppressor, true to the character of the speaker in Job 4:12, &c. We should read Job 15:20 : The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days, even the number of years that are laid up for the oppressor. It is not an independent statement, as in the Authorised Version. A sound of terror is for ever in his ears lest the spoiler should come upon him in his prosperity—he always seems to dread his war-swoop. And this condition of darkness within, which contrasts so painfully with his outward prosperity, he sees no escape from; he is over in fear of a sword hanging over him, like Damocles.

Job 15:20. The wicked man travaileth with pain — That is, lives a life of care, and fear, and grief, by reason of God’s wrath, the torments of his own mind, and his outward calamities. The number of his years is hidden — He knows not how short the time of his life is, and therefore lives in continual fear of losing it. To the oppressor — To the wicked man: he names this one sort of them, because he supposed Job to be guilty of this sin; and in opposition to what Job had affirmed of the safety of such persons, Job 12:6, and because such are apt to promise themselves a longer and happier life than other men.15:17-35 Eliphaz maintains that the wicked are certainly miserable: whence he would infer, that the miserable are certainly wicked, and therefore Job was so. But because many of God's people have prospered in this world, it does not therefore follow that those who are crossed and made poor, as Job, are not God's people. Eliphaz shows also that wicked people, particularly oppressors, are subject to continual terror, live very uncomfortably, and perish very miserably. Will the prosperity of presumptuous sinners end miserably as here described? Then let the mischiefs which befal others, be our warnings. Though no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby. No calamity, no trouble, however heavy, however severe, can rob a follower of the Lord of his favour. What shall separate him from the love of Christ?Travaileth with pain - That is, his sorrows are like the pains of parturition. Eliphaz means to say that he is a constant sufferer.

All his days - It seems difficult to see how they could have ever formed this universal maxim. It is certainly not literally true now; nor was it ever. But in order to convey the doctrine that the wicked would be punished in as pointed and striking a manner as possible, it was made to assume this universal form - meaning that the life of the wicked would be miserable. There is some reason to think that this and what follows to the close of the chapter, is an ancient fragment which Eliphaz rehearses as containing the sentiments of a purer age of the world.

And the number of years is hidden to the oppressor - Wemyss renders this, "and a reckoning of years is laid up for the violent." So, also, Dr. Good. The Vulgate renders it, "and the number of the years of his tyranny is uncertain." Rosenmuller, Cocceius, Drusius, and some others suppose that there should be understood here and repeated the clause occurring in the first hemistich, and that it means, "and in the number of years which are laid up for the violent man, he is tortured with pain." Luther renders it, "and to a tyrant is the number of his years concealed." It is difficult to tell what the passage means. To me, the most probable interpretation is one which I have not met with in any of the books which I have consulted, and which may be thus expressed," the wicked man will be tormented all his days." To one who is an oppressor or tyrant, the number of his years is hidden. He has no security of life. He cannot calculate with any certainty on its continuance. The end is hid. A righteous man may make some calculation, and can see the probable end of his days. He may expect to see an honored old age. But tyrants are so often cut down suddenly; they so frequently perish by assassination, and robbers are so often unexpectedly overcome, that there is no calculation which can be formed in respect to the termination of their course. Their end is hid. They die suddenly and disappear. This suits the connection; and the sentiment is, in the main, in accordance with facts as they occur.

20. travaileth—rather, "trembleth of himself," though there is no real danger [Umbreit].

and the number of his years, &c.—This gives the reason why the wicked man trembles continually; namely, because he knows not the moment when his life must end.

Travaileth with pain, i.e. lives a life of care, and fear, and grief, by reason of God’s wrath, and the torments of his own mind, and his manifold and dreadful outward calamities.

The number of his years is hidden, i.e. he knows not how short the time of his tyranny and life is, and therefore lives in continual fear of losing them. The number of a good man’s years are also hid from him as well as they are from the wicked men; but to those this is a great torment and mischief; whereas it is not so to him. Or, and a few years (Heb. a number of years, put by a common hypallage for years of number; as few years are called, Job 16:22, because they are soon numbered; as men of number, is put for a few men, Genesis 34:30 Deu 4:27 33:6) are laid or treasured up, i.e. are allotted to him by God’s secret counsel; for God cuts off such men in the midst of their days. Psalm 55:23; whereas long life is promised, and commonly given, to righteous men.

To the oppressor, i.e. to the wicked man; but he names this one sort of them, the oppressors, partly, because he supposed Job to be guilty of this sin, Job 22:6; partly, in opposition to what Job had affirmed of the safety and happiness of such persons, Job 12:6; and partly, because such are most apt to expect and promise to themselves a longer and happier life than other men, because of their singular preservatives and advantages of life above other men. The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days,.... Either to commit iniquity, which he is at great pains to do, and even to weariness; and, agreeably to the metaphor used, he conceives it in his heart, he travails with it in his mind, and he brings forth falsehood and a lie, what disappoints him, and which issues in death, eternal death, see Psalm 7:14; or to get wealth and riches, in obtaining of which he pierces himself through with many sorrows; and these being like thorns, in using them he gets many a scratch, and has a good deal of trouble, pain, and uneasiness in keeping them, insomuch that he cannot sleep comfortably through fear of losing them; wherefore he does not enjoy that peace, comfort, and happiness, it may be thought he does; and, besides all this, he has many an inward pain and gripe of conscience for his many sins and transgressions, which lie at the door of conscience, and when it is opened rush in, and make sad work, and put him to great pain and distress; for otherwise this cannot be said of every wicked man, that they are in outward pain and distress, or in uncomfortable circumstances, at least in appearance; for of some it is said, "they are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men", Psalm 73:5; they live wholly at ease, and are quiet, and die so, at least seemingly: some restrain this to some particular person whom Eliphaz might have in view; the Targum paraphrases it of wicked Esau, who it was expected would repent, but did not; others think that he had in his eye some notorious oppressor, that had lived formerly, or in his time, as Nimrod, the mighty hunter and tyrant, or Chedorlaomer, who held for some years several kings in subjection to him; but it is much if he does not design Job himself; however, he forms the description of the wicked man in such a manner, that it might as near as possible suit his case, and in many things he plainly refers to it: and this is a sad case indeed, for a wicked man to travail in pain all his days in this life, and in the world to come to suffer the pains of hell fire to all eternity; the pains of a woman, to which the allusion is, are but short at most, but those of the wicked man are for life, yea, for ever; and among the rest of his pains of mind, especially in this world, what follows is one, and which gives much uneasiness: and the number of years is hidden to the oppressor; Mr. Broughton renders it, soon numbered years; that is, few, as the years of man's life at most are but few, and those of the oppressor fewer still, since bloody and deceitful men do not live out half the days of the years of man's life, but are oftentimes cut off in the midst of their days; and be they more or fewer, they are all numbered and fixed, and the number of them is with God, and him only; they are fixed and settled by the decree of God, and laid up in his purposes, and reserved for the oppressor; but they are a secret to him, he does not know how long he shall live, or how soon he may die, and then there will be an end of his oppression and tyranny, and of his enjoyment of his wealth and riches unjustly got; and this frets him, and gives him pain, and makes him uneasy; whereas a good man is easy about it, he is willing to wait his appointed time, till his change comes; he is not so much concerned to know the time of his death as to be in a readiness for it. The Targum paraphrases this of Ishmael the mighty: the oppressor is the same with the wicked man in the preceding clause. The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days, and the number {m} of years is hidden to the oppressor.

(m) The cruel man is always in danger of death, and is never quiet in conscience.

20. The sense is,

All the days of the wicked man he is in pain,

And the number of years that are laid up for the oppressor,

i. e., constantly and throughout his whole life, as long as it endures, the wicked man is in pain (or, torments himself). The word “laid up” means appointed, reserved, for the oppressor. This is said against Job’s statement, Job 12:6, that the tents of robbers were in peace.

20–35. This doctrine itself. The passage gives a picture of the conscience of the wicked man filled with presentiments of evil, in opposition to such statements as that of Job, ch. Job 12:6, and to his whole claims regarding himself.Verses 20-35. - Schultens calls this "a magnificently elaborate oration, crowded with illustrations and metaphors, in which it is shown that the wicked cannot possibly escape being miserable, but that the punishment which they have so richly deserved assuredly awaits them, and is to be inflicted on them, as an example and terror to others, by a holy and just God, because, just as he loves virtue, so he pursues vice with a fierce and deadly hatred" ('Liber Jobi,' p. 104, edit. R. Grey). Verse 20. - The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days. Certainly an over-statement of the truth. With a much nearer approach to the facts of the case, the Psalmist remarked, "I was grieved at the wicked: I do also see the ungodly in such prosperity. For they are in no peril of death, but are lusty and strong. They come in no misfortune like other folk; neither are they plagued like other men" (Psalm 73:3-5). And the number of years is hidden to the oppressor; rather, even the number of years that is laid up for the oppressor. So Merx and the Revised Version. Another possible meaning is, "And a [small] number of years is laid up," etc. If we take the former view, we must regard the clause as exegetical of "all his days." 14 What is mortal man that he should be pure,

And that he who is born of woman should be righteous?

15 He trusteth not His holy ones,

And the heavens are not pure in His eyes:

16 How much less the abominable and corrupt,

Man, who drinketh iniquity as water!

The exclamation in Job 15:14 is like the utterance: mortal man and man born flesh of flesh cannot be entirely sinless. Even "the holy ones" and "the heavens" are not. The former are, as in Job 5:1, according to Job 4:18, the angels as beings of light (whether קדשׁ signifies to be light from the very first, spotlessly pure, or, vid., Psalter, i. 588f., to be separated, distinct, and hence exalted above what is common); the latter is not another expression for the אנגּלי מרומא (Targ.), the "angels of the heights," but שׁמים is the word used for the highest spheres in which they dwell (comp. Job 25:5); for the angels are certainly not corporeal, but, like all created things, in space, and the Scriptures everywhere speak of angels and the starry heavens together. Hence the angels are called the morning stars in Job 38:7, and hence both stars and angels are called צבא השׁמים and צבאות (vid., Genesis. S. 128). Even the angels and the heavens are finite, and consequently are not of a nature absolutely raised above the possibility of sin and contamination.

Eliphaz repeats here what he has already said, Job 4:18.; but he does it intentionally, since he wishes still more terribly to describe human uncleanness to Job (Oetinger). In that passage אף was merely the sign of an anti-climax, here כּי אף is quanto minus. Eliphaz refers to the hereditary infirmity and sin of human nature in Job 15:14, here (Job 15:16) to man's own free choice of that which works his destruction. He uses the strongest imaginable words to describe one actualiter and originaliter corrupted. נתעב denotes one who is become an abomination, or the abominated equals abominable (Ges. 134, 1); נאלח, one thoroughly corrupted (Arabic alacha, in the medial VIII conjugation: to become sour, which reminds one of ζύμη, Rabb. שׂאר שׁבּעסּה, as an image of evil, and especially of evil desire). It is further said of him (an expression which Elihu adopts, Job 34:7), that he drinks up evil like water. The figure is like Proverbs 26:6, comp. on Psalm 73:10, and implies that he lusts after sin, and that it is become a necessity of his nature, and is to his nature what water is to the thirsty. Even Job does not deny this corruption of man (Job 14:4), but the inferences which the friends draw in reference to him he cannot acknowledge. The continuation of Eliphaz' speech shows how they render this acknowledgment impossible to him.

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