Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Why, seeing times are not hidden from the Almighty, do they that know him not see his days?1 Wherefore are not bounds reserved by the Almighty,
And they who honour Him see not His days?
2 They remove the landmarks,
They steal flocks and shepherd them.
3 They carry away the ass of the orphan,
And distrain the ox of the widow.
4 They thrust the needy out of the way,
The poor of the land are obliged to slink away together.
The supposition that the text originally stood מדּוּע לרשׁעים משּׁדּי is natural; but it is at once destroyed by the fact that Job 24:1 becomes thereby disproportionately long, and yet cannot be divided into two lines of comparatively independent contents. In fact, לרשׁעים is by no means absolutely necessary. The usage of the language assumes it, according to which את followed by the genitive signifies the point of time at which any one's fate is decided. Isaiah 13:22; Jeremiah 27:7; Ezekiel 22:3; Ezekiel 30:3; the period when reckoning is made, or even the terminus ad quem, Ecclesiastes 9:12; and ywm followed by the gen. of a man, the day of his end, Job 15:32; Job 18:20; Ezekiel 21:30, and freq.; or with יהוה, the day when God's judgment is revealed, Joel 1:15, and freq. The boldness of poetic language goes beyond this usage, by using עתּים directly of the period of punishment, as is almost universally acknowledged since Schultens' day, and ימיו dna ,y of God's days of judgment or of vengeance;
(Note: On עתים, in the sense of times of retribution, Wetzstein compares the Arab. ‛idât, which signifies predetermined reward or punishment; moreover, עת is derived from עדת (from ועד), and עתּים is equivalent to עדתּים, according to the same law of assimilation, by which now-a-days they say לתּי instead of לדתּי (one who is born on the same day with me, from Arab. lidat, lida), and רתּי instead of רדתּי (my drinking-time), since the assimilation of the ד takes place everywhere where ת is pronounced. The ת of the feminine termination in עתים, as in שׁקתות and the like, perhaps also in בתים (bâttim), is amalgamated with the root.)
and it is the less ambiguous, since צפן, in the sense of the divine predetermination of what is future, Job 15:20, especially of God's storing up merited punishment, Job 21:19, is an acknowledged word of our poet. On מן with the passive, vid., Ew. 295, c (where, however, Job 28:4 is erroneously cited in its favour); it is never more than equivalent to ἀπό, for to use מן directly as ὑπό with the passive is admissible neither in Hebrew nor in Arabic. ידעו (Keri ידעיו, for which the Targ. unsuitably reads ידעי) are, as in Psalm 36:11; Psalm 87:4, comp. supra, Job 18:21, those who know God, not merely superficially, but from experience of His ways, consequently those who are in fellowship with Him. לא חזוּ is to be written with Zinnorith over the לא, and Mercha by the first syllable of חזו. The Zinnorith necessitates the retreat of the tone of חזו to its first syllable, as in כי־חרה, Psalm 18:8 (Br's Pslaterium, p. xiii.); for if חזו remained Milra, לא ought to be connected with it by Makkeph, and consequently remain toneless (Psalter, ii.507).
Next follows the description of the moral, abhorrence which, while the friends (Job 22:19) maintain a divine retribution everywhere manifest, is painfully conscious of the absence of any determination of the periods and days of judicial punishment. Fearlessly and unpunished, the oppression of the helpless and defenceless, though deserving of a curse, rages in every form. They remove the landmarks; comp. Deuteronomy 27:17, "Cursed is he who removeth his neighbour's landmark" (מסּיג, here once written with שׂ, while otherwise השּׂיג from נשׂג signifies assequi, on the other hand הסּיג from סוּג signifies dimovere). They steal flocks, ויּרעוּ, i.e., they are so barefaced, that after they have stolen them they pasture them openly. The ass of the orphans, the one that is their whole possession, and their only beast for labour, they carry away as prey (נהג, as e.g., Isaiah 20:4); they distrain, i.e., take away with them as a pledge (on חבל, to bind by a pledge, obstringere, and also to take as a pledge, vid., on Job 22:6, and Khler on Zechariah 11:7), the yoke-ox of the widow (this is the exact meaning of שׁור, as of the Arab. thôr). They turn the needy aside from the way which they are going, so that they are obliged to wander hither and thither without home or right: the poor of the land are obliged to hide themselves altogether. The Hiph. הטּה, with אביונים as its obj., is used as in Amos 5:12; there it is used of turning away from a right that belongs to them, here of turning out of the way into trackless regions. אביון (vid., on Job 29:16) here, as frequently, is the parallel word with ענו, the humble one, the patient sufferer; instead of which the Keri is עני, the humbled, bowed down with suffering (vid., on Psalm 9:13). ענוי־ארץ without any Keri in Psalm 76:10; Zephaniah 2:3, and might less suitably appear here, where it is not so much the moral attribute as the outward condition that is intended to be described. The Pual חכּאוּ describes that which they are forced to do.
The description of these unfortunate ones is now continued; and by a comparison with Job 30:1-8, it is probable that aborigines who are turned out of their original possessions and dwellings are intended (comp. Job 15:19, according to which the poet takes his stand in an age in which the original relations of the races had been already disturbed by the calamities of war and the incursions of aliens). If the central point of the narrative lies in Haurn, or, more exactly, in the Nukra, it is natural, with Wetzstein, to think of the Arab. 'hl 'l-wukr or ‛rb 'l-ḥujr, i.e., the (perhaps Ituraean) "races of the caves" in Trachonitis.
Some remove the landmarks; they violently take away flocks, and feed thereof.
They drive away the ass of the fatherless, they take the widow's ox for a pledge.
They turn the needy out of the way: the poor of the earth hide themselves together.
Behold, as wild asses in the desert, go they forth to their work; rising betimes for a prey: the wilderness yieldeth food for them and for their children.5 Behold, as wild asses in the desert,
They go forth in their work seeking for prey,
The steppe is food to them for the children.
6 In the field they reap the fodder for his cattle,
And they glean the vineyard of the evil-doer.
7 They pass the night in nakedness without a garment,
And have no covering in the cold.
8 They are wet with the torrents of rain upon the mountains,
And they hug the rocks for want of shelter.
The poet could only draw such a picture as this, after having himself seen the home of his hero, and the calamitous fate of such as were driven forth from their original abodes to live a vagrant, poverty-stricken gipsy life. By Job 24:5, one is reminded of Psalm 104:21-23, especially since in Job 24:11 of this Psalm the פּראים, onagri (Kulans), are mentioned, - those beautiful animals
(Note: Layard, New Discoveries, p. 270, describes these wild asses' colts. The Arabic name is like the Hebrew, el-ferâ, or also himâr el-wahsh, i.e., wild ass, as we have translated, whose home is on the steppe. For fuller particulars, vid., Wetzstein's note on Job 39:5.)
which, while young, as difficult to be broken in, and when grown up are difficult to be caught; which in their love of freedom are an image of the Beduin, Genesis 16:12; their untractableness an image of that which cannot be bound, Job 11:12; and from their roaming about in herds in waste regions, are here an image of a gregarious, vagrant, and freebooter kind of life. The old expositors, as also Rosenm., Umbr., Arnh., and Vaih., are mistaken in thinking that aliud hominum sceleratorum genus is described in Job 24:5. Ewald and Hirz. were the first to perceive that Job 24:5 is the further development of Job 24:4, and that here, as in Job 30:1, those who are driven back into the wastes and caves, and a remnant of the ejected and oppressed aborigines who drag out a miserable existence, are described.
The accentuation rightly connects פראים במדבר; by the omission of the Caph similit., as e.g., Isaiah 51:12, the comparison (like a wild ass) becomes an equalization (as a wild ass). The perf. יצאוּ is a general uncoloured expression of that which is usual: they go forth בפעלם, in their work (not: to their work, as the Psalmist, in Psalm 104:23, expresses himself, exchanging ב for ל). משׁחרי לטּרף, searching after prey, i.e., to satisfy their hunger (Psalm 104:21), from טרף, in the primary signification decerpere (vid., Hupfeld on Psalm 7:3), describes that which in general forms their daily occupation as they roam about; the constructivus is used here, without any proper genitive relation, as a form of connection, according to Ges. 116, 1. The idea of waylaying is not to be connected with the expression. Job describes those who are perishing in want and misery, not so much as those who themselves are guilty of evil practices, as those who have been brought down to poverty by the wrongdoing of others. As is implied in משׁחרי (comp. the morning Psalm 63:2; Isaiah 26:9), Job describes their going forth in the early morning; the children (נערים, as Job 1:19; Job 29:5) are those who first feel the pangs of hunger. לו refers individually to the father in the company: the steppe (with its scant supply of roots and herbs) is to him food for the children; he snatches it from it, it must furnish it for him. The idea is not: for himself and his family (Hirz., Hahn, and others); for v. 6, which has been much misunderstood, describes how they, particularly the adults, obtain their necessary subsistence. There is no MS authority for reading בּלי־לו instead of בּלילו; the translation "what is not to him" (lxx, Targ., and partially also the Syriac version) is therefore to be rejected. Raschi correctly interprets יבולו as a general explanation, and Ralbag תבואתו: it is, as in Job 6:5, mixed fodder for cattle, farrago, consisting of oats or barley sown among vetches and beans, that is intended. The meaning is not, however, as most expositors explain it, that they seek to satisfy their hunger with food for cattle grown in the fields of the rich evil-doer; for קצר does not signify to sweep together, but to reap in an orderly manner; and if they meant to steal, why did they not seize the better portion of the produce? It is correct to take the suff. as referring to the רשׁע which is mentioned in the next clause, but it is not to be understood that they plunder his fields per nefas; on the contrary, that he hires them to cut the fodder for his cattle, but does not like to entrust the reaping of the better kinds of corn to them. It is impracticable to press the Hiph. יקצירו of the Chethib to favour this rendering; on the contrary, הקציר stands to קצר in like (not causative) signification as הנחה to נחה (vid., on Job 31:18). In like manner, Job 24:6 is to be understood of hired labour. The rich man prudently hesitates to employ these poor people as vintagers; but he makes use of their labour (whilst his own men are fully employed at the wine-vats) to gather the straggling grapes which ripen late, and were therefore left at the vintage season. the older expositors are reminded of לקשׁ, late hay, and explain ילקּשׁוּ as denom. by יכרתו לקשׁו (Aben-Ezra, Immanuel, and others) or יאכלו לקשׁו (Parchon); but how unnatural to think of the second mowing, or even of eating the after-growth of grass, where the vineyard is the subject referred to! On the contrary, לקּשׁ signifies, as it were, serotinare, i.e., serotinos fructus colligere (Rosenm.):
(Note: In the idiom of Hauran, לקשׂ, fut. i, signifies to be late, to come late; in Piel, to delay, e.g., the evening meal, return, etc.; in Hithpa. telaqqas, to arrive too late. Hence laqı̂s לקישׂ and loqsı̂ לקשׂי, delayed, of any matter, e.g., לקישׁ and זרע לקשׂי, late seed ( equals לקשׁ, Amos 7:1, in connection with which the late rain in April, which often fails, is reckoned on), ולד לקשׂי, a child born late (i.e., in old age); bakı̂r בכיר and bekrı̂ בכרי are the opposites in every signification. - Wetzst.)
this is the work which the rich man assigns to them, because he gains by it, and even in the worst case can lose but little.
Job 30:7 tell how miserably they are obliged to shift for themselves during this autumnal season of labour, and also at other times. Naked (ערום, whether an adverbial form or not, is conceived of after the manner of an accusative: in a naked, stripped condition, Arabic ‛urjânan) they pass the night, without having anything on the body (on לבוּשׁ, vid., on Psalm 22:19), and they have no (אין supply להם) covering or veil (corresponding to the notion of בּגד) in the cold.
(Note: All the Beduins sleep naked at night. I once asked why they do this, since they are often disturbed by attacks at night, and I was told that it is a very ancient custom. Their clothing (kiswe, כסוה), both of the nomads of the steppe (bedû) and of the caves (wa‛r), is the same, summer and winter; many perish on the pastures when overtaken by snow-storms, or by cold and want, when their tents and stores are taken from them in the winter time by an enemy. - Wetzst.)
They become thoroughly drenched by the frequent and continuous storms that visit the mountains, and for want of other shelter are obliged to shelter themselves under the overhanging rocks, lying close up to them, and clinging to them, - an idea which is expressed here by חבּקוּ, as in Lamentations 4:5, where, of those who were luxuriously brought up on purple cushions, it is said that they "embrace dunghills;" for in Palestine and Syria, the forlorn one, who, being afflicted with some loathsome disease, is not allowed to enter the habitations of men, lies on the dunghill (mezâbil), asking alms by day of the passers-by, and at night hiding himself among the ashes which the sun has warmed.
(Note: Wetzstein observes on this passage: In the mind of the speaker, מחסה is the house made of stone, from which localities not unfrequently derive their names, as El-hasa, on the east of the Dead Sea; the well-known commercial town El-has, on the east of the Arabian peninsula, which is generally called Lahs; the two of El-hasja (אלחסיה), north-east of Damascus, etc.: so that חבקו צור forms the antithesis to the comfortable dwellings of the Arab. ḥaḍarı̂, hadarı̂, i.e., one who is firmly settled. The roots חבק, חבך, seem, in the desert, to be only dialectically distinct, and like the root עבק, to signify to be pressed close upon one another. Thus חבקה (pronounced hibtsha), a crowd equals zahme, and asâbi‛ mahbûke (מחבוּכה), the closed fingers, etc. The locality, hibikke (Beduin pronunciation for habka, חבכה with the Beduin Dag. euphonicum), described in my Reisebericht, has its name from this circumstance alone, that the houses have been attached to (fastened into) the rocks. Hence חבּק in this passage signifies to press into the fissure of a rock, to seek out a corner which may defend one (dherwe) against the cold winds and rain-torrents (which are far heavier among the mountains than on the plain). The dherwe (from Arab. ḏarâ, to afford protection, shelter, a word frequently used in the desert) plays a prominent part among the nomads; and in the month of March, as it is proverbially said the dherwe is better than the ferwe (the skin), they seek to place their tents for protection under the rocks or high banks of the wadys, on account of the cold strong winds, for the sake of the young of the flocks, to which the cold storms are often very destructive. When the sudden storms come on, it is a general thing for the shepherds and flocks to hasten to take shelter under overhanging rocks, and the caverns (mughr, Arab. mugr) which belong to the troglodyte age, and are e.g., common in the mountains of Hauran; so that, therefore, Job 24:8 can as well refer to concealing themselves only for a time (from rain and storm) in the clefts as to troglodytes, who constantly dwell in caverns, or to those dwelling in tents who, during the storms, seek the dherwe of rock sides.)
The usual accentuation, מזרם with Dech, הרים with Munach, after which it should be translated ab inundatione montes humectantur, is false; in correct Codd. זרם has also Munach; the other Munach is, as in Job 23:5, Job 23:9, Job 24:6, and freq., a substitute for Dech. Having sketched this special class of the oppressed, and those who are abandoned to the bitterest want, Job proceeds with his description of the many forms of wrong which prevail unpunished on the earth:
They reap every one his corn in the field: and they gather the vintage of the wicked.
They cause the naked to lodge without clothing, that they have no covering in the cold.
They are wet with the showers of the mountains, and embrace the rock for want of a shelter.
They pluck the fatherless from the breast, and take a pledge of the poor.9 They tear the fatherless from the breast,
And defraud the poor.
10 Naked, they slink away without clothes,
And hungering they bear the sheaves.
11 Between their walls they squeeze out the oil;
They tread the wine-presses, and suffer thirst.
12 In the city vassals groan, And the soul of the oppressed crieth out -
And Eloah heedeth not the anomaly.
The accentuation of Job 24:9 (יגזלו with Dech, משׁד with Munach) makes the relation of שׁד יתום genitival. Heidenheim (in a MS annotation to Kimchi's Lex.) accordingly badly interprets: they plunder from the spoil of the orphan; Ramban better: from the ruin, i.e., the shattered patrimony; both appeal to the Targum, which translates מביזת יתום, like the Syriac version, men bezto de-jatme (comp. Jerome: vim fecerunt depraedantes pupillos). The original reading, however, is perhaps (vid., Buxtorf, Lex. col. 295) מבּיזא, ἀπὸ βυζίου, from the mother's breast, as it is also, the lxx (ἀπὸ μαστοῦ), to be translated contrary to the accentuation. Inhuman creditors take the fatherless and still tender orphan away from its mother, in order to bring it up as a slave, and so to obtain payment. If this is the meaning of the passage, it is natural to understand יחבּלוּ, Job 24:9, of distraining; but (1) the poet would then repeat himself tautologically, vid., Job 24:3, where the same thing is far more evidently said; (2) חבל, to distrain, would be construed with על, contrary to the logic of the word. Certainly the phrase חבל על may be in some degree explained by the interpretation, "to impose a fine" (Ew., Hahn), or "to distrain" (Hirz., Welte), or "to oppress with fines" (Schlottm.); but violence is thus done to the usage of the language, which is better satisfied by the explanation of Ralbag (among modern expositors, Ges., Arnh., Vaih., Stick., Hlgst.): and what the unfortunate one possesses they seize; but this על equals אשׁר על directly as object is impossible. The passage, Deuteronomy 7:25, cited by Schultens in its favour, is of a totally different kind.
But throughout the Semitic dialects the verb חבל also signifies "to destroy, to treat injuriously" (e.g., Arab. el-châbil, a by-name of Satan); it occurs in this signification in Job 34:31, and according to the analogy of הרע על, 1 Kings 17:20, can be construed with על as well as with ל. The poet, therefore, by this construction will have intended to distinguish the one חבל from the other, Job 22:6; Job 24:3; and it is with Umbreit to be translated: they bring destruction upon the poor; or better: they take undue advantage of those who otherwise are placed in trying circumstances.
The subjects of Job 24:10 are these עניים, who are made serfs, and become objects of merciless oppression, and the poet here in Job 24:10 indeed repeats what he has already said almost word for word in Job 24:7 (comp. Job 31:19); but there the nakedness was the general calamity of a race oppressed by subjugation, here it is the consequence of the sin of merces retenta laborum, which cries aloud to heaven, practised on those of their own race: they slink away (הלּך, as Job 30:28) naked (nude), without (בּלי equals מבּלי, as perhaps sine equals absque) clothing, and while suffering hunger they carry the sheaves (since their masters deny them what, according to Deuteronomy 25:4, shall not be withheld even from the beasts). Between their walls (שׁוּרת like שׁרות, Jeremiah 5:10, Chaldee שׁוּריּא), i.e., the walls of their masters who have made them slaves, therefore under strict oversight, they press out the oil (יצהירוּ, ἅπ. γεγρ.), they tread the wine-vats (יקבים, lacus), and suffer thirst withal (fut. consec. according to Ew. 342, a), without being allowed to quench their thirst from the must which runs out of the presses (נּתּות, torcularia, from which the verb דּרך is here transferred to the vats). Bttch. translates: between their rows of trees, without being able to reach out right or left; but that is least of all suitable with the olives. Carey correctly explains: "the factories or the garden enclosures of these cruel slaveholders." This reference of the word to the wall of the enclosure is more suitable than to walls of the press-house in particular. From tyrannical oppression in the country,
(Note: Brentius here remarks: Quantum igitur judicium in eos futurum est, qui in homines ejusdem carnis, ejusdem patriae, ejusdem fidei, ejusdem Christi committunt quod nec in bruta animalia committendum est, quod malum in Germania frequentissimum est. Vae igitur Germaniae!)
Job now passes over to the abominations of discord and was in the cities.
They cause him to go naked without clothing, and they take away the sheaf from the hungry;
Which make oil within their walls, and tread their winepresses, and suffer thirst.
Men groan from out of the city, and the soul of the wounded crieth out: yet God layeth not folly to them.It is natural, with Umbr., Ew., Hirz., and others, to read מתים like the Peschito; but as mı̂te in Syriac, so also מתים in Hebrew as a noun everywhere signifies the dead (Arab. mauta), not the dying, mortals (Arab. matna); wherefore Ephrem interprets the praes. "they groan" by the perf. "they have groaned." The pointing מתים, therefore, is quite correct; but the accentuation which, by giving Mehupach Zinnorith to מעיר, and Asla legarmeh to מתים, places the two words in a genitival relation, is hardly correct: in the city of men, i.e., the inhabited, thickly-populated city, they groan; not: men (as Rosenm. explains, according to Genesis 9:6; Proverbs 11:6) groan; for just because מתים appeared to be too inexpressive as a subject, this accentuation seems to have been preferred. It is also possible that the signification fierce anger (Hosea 11:9), or anguish (Jeremiah 15:8), was combined with עיר, comp. Arab. gayrt, jealousy, fury ( equals קנאה), of which, however, no trace is anywhere visible.
(Note: Wetzstein translates Hosea 11:9 : I will not come as a raging foe, with ב of the attribute equals Arab. b-ṣifat 'l-‛ayyûr (comp. Jeremiah 15:8, עיר, parall. שׁדד) after the form קים, to which, if not this עיר, certainly the עיר, ἐγρήγορος, occurring in Daniel 4:10, and freq., corresponds. What we remarked above, p. 483, on the form קים, is cleared up by the following observation of Wetzstein: "The form קים belongs to the numerous class of segolate forms of the form פעל, which, as belonging to the earliest period of the formation of the Semitic languages, take neither plural nor feminine terminations; they have often a collective meaning, and are not originally abstracta, but concreta in the sense of the Arabic part. act. mufâ‛l. This inflexible primitive formation is frequently found in the present day in the idiom of the steppe, which shows that the Hebrew is essentially of primeval antiquity (uralt). Thus the Beduin says: hû qitlı̂ (הוּא קטלי), he is my opponent in a hand-to-hand combat; nithı̂ (נטחי), my opponent in the tournament with lances; chı̂lfı̂ (חלפי) and diddı̂ (צדּי), my adversary; thus a step-mother is called dı̂r (ציר), as the oppressor of the step-children, and a concubine dirr (צרר), as the oppressor of her rival. The Kamus also furnishes several words which belong here, as tilb (טלב), a persecutor." Accordingly, קים is derived from קום, as also עיר, a city, from עור (whence, according to a prevalent law of the change of letters, we have עיר first of all, plur. עירים, Judges 10:4), and signifies the rebelling one, i.e., the enemy (who is now in the idiom of the steppe called qômâni, from qôm, a state of war, a feud), as עיר, a keeper and ציר, a messenger; עיר (קיר) is also originally concrete, a wall (enclosure).)
With Jer., Symm., and Theod., we take מתים as the sighing ones themselves; the feebleness of the subject disappears if we explain the passage according to such passages as Deuteronomy 2:34; Deuteronomy 3:6, comp. Judges 20:48 : it is the male inhabitants that are intended, whom any conqueror would put to the sword; we have therefore translated men (men of war), although "people" (Job 11:3) also would not have been unsuitable according to the ancient use of the word. נאק is intended of the groans of the dying, as Jeremiah 51:52; Ezekiel 30:24, as Job 24:12 also shows: the soul of those that are mortally wounded cries out. חללים signifies not merely the slain and already dead, but, according to its etymon, those who are pierced through those who have received their death-blow; their soul cries out, since it does not leave the body without a struggle. Such things happen without God preventing them. לא־ישׂים תּפלה, He observeth not the abomination, either equals לא ישׂים בלבו, Job 22:22 (He layeth it not to heart), or, since the phrase occurs nowhere elliptically, equals לא ישׂים לבו על, Job 1:8; Job 34:23) He does not direct His heart, His attention to it), here as elliptical, as in Job 4:20; Isaiah 41:20. True, the latter phrase is never joined with the acc. of the object; but if we translate after שׂים בּ, Job 4:18 : non imputat, He does not reckon such תפלה, i.e., does not punish it, בּם (בּהם) ought to be supplied, which is still somewhat liable to misconstruction, since the preceding subject is not the oppressors, but those who suffer oppression. תּפלה is properly insipidity (comp. Arab. tafila, to stink), absurdity, self-contradiction, here the immorality which sets at nought the moral order of the world, and remains nevertheless unpunished. The Syriac version reads תּפלּה, and translates, like Louis Bridel (1818): et Dieu ne fait aucune attention leur prire.
They are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof.13 Others are those that rebel against the light,
They will know nothing of its ways,
And abide not in its paths.
14 The murderer riseth up at dawn,
He slayeth the sufferer and the poor,
And in the night he acteth like a thief.
15 And the eye of the adulterer watcheth for the twilight;
He thinks: "no eye shall recognise me,"
And he putteth a veil before his face.
With המּה begins a new turn in the description of the moral confusion which has escaped God's observation; it is to be translated neither as retrospective, "since they" (Ewald), nor as distinctive, "they even" (Bttch.), i.e., the powerful in distinction from the oppressed, but "those" (for המה corresponds to our use of "those," אלּה to "these"), by which Job passes on to another class of evil-disposed and wicked men. Their general characteristic is, that they shun the light. Those who are described in Job 24:14 are described according to their general characteristic in Job 24:13; accordingly it is not to be interpreted: those belong to the enemies of the light, but: those are, according to their very nature, enemies of the light. The Beth is the so-called Beth essent.; היוּ (comp. Proverbs 3:26) affirms what they are become by their own inclination, or as what they are fashioned, viz., as ἀποστάται φωτός (Symm.); מרד (on the root מר, vid., on Job 23:2) signifies properly to push one's self against anything, to lean upon, to rebel; מרד therefore signifies one who strives against another, one who is obstinate (like the Arabic mârid, merı̂d, comp. mumâri, not conformable to the will of another). The improvement מרדי אור (not with Makkeph, but with Mahpach of mercha mahpach. placed between the two words, vid., Br's Psalterium, p. x.) assumes the possibility of the construction with the acc., which occurs at least once, Joshua 22:19. They are hostile to the light, they have no familiarity with its ways (הכּיר, as Joshua 22:17, Psalm 142:5; Ruth 2:19, to take knowledge of anything, to interest one's self in its favour), and do not dwell (ישׁבוּ, Jer. reversi sunt, according to the false reading ישׁבוּ) in its paths, i.e., they neither make nor feel themselves at home there, they have no peace therein. The light is the light of day, which, however, stands in deeper, closer relation to the higher light, for the vicious man hateth τὸ φῶς, John 3:20, in every sense; and the works which are concealed in the darkness of the night are also ἔργα τοῦ σκότους, Romans 13:12 (comp. Isaiah 29:15), in the sense in which light and darkness are two opposite principles of the spiritual world. It need not seem strange that the more minute description of the conduct of these enemies of the light now begins with לאור. It is impossible that this should mean: still in the darkness of the night (Stick.), prop. towards the light, when it is not yet light. Moreover, in biblical Hebrew, אור does not signify evening, in which sense it occurs in Talmudic Hebrew (Pesachim 1a, Seder olam rabba, c. 5, אור שׁביעי, vespera septima), like אורתּא ( equals נשׁף) in Talmudic Aramaic. The meaning, on the contrary, is that towards daybreak (comp. הבקר אור, Genesis 44:3), therefore with early morning, the murderer rises up, to go about his work, which veils itself in darkness (Psalm 10:8-10) by day, viz., to slay (comp. on יקטל...יקוּם, Ges. 142, 3, c) the unfortunate and the poor, who pass by defenceless and alone. One has to supply the idea of the ambush in which the waylayer lies in wait; and it is certainly inconvenient that it is not expressed.
The antithesis וּבלּילה, Job 24:14, shows that nothing but primo mane is meant by לאור. He who in the day-time goes forth to murder and plunder, at night commits petty thefts, where no one whom he could attack passes by. Stickel translates: to slay the poor and wretched, and in the night to play the thief; but then the subjunctivus ויהי ought to precede (vid., e.g., Job 13:5), and in general it cannot be proved without straining it, that the voluntative form of the future everywhere has a modal signification. Moreover, here יהי does not differ from Job 18:12; Job 20:23, but is only a poetic shorter form for יהיה: in the night he is like a thief, i.e., plays the part of the thief. And the adulterer's eye observes the darkness of evening (vid., Proverbs 7:9), i.e., watches closely for its coming on (שׁמר, in the usual signification observare, to be on the watch, to take care, observe anxiously), since he hopes to render himself invisible; and that he may not be recognised even if seen, he puts on a mask. סתר פּנים is something by which his countenance is rendered unrecognisable (lxx ἀποκρυβὴ προσώπου), like the Arab. sitr, sitâreh, a curtain, veil, therefore a veil for the face, or, as we say in one word borrowed from the Arabic mascharat, a farce (masquerade): the mask, but not in the proper sense.
(Note: The mask was perhaps never known in Palestine and Syria; סתר פנים is the mendı̂l or women's veil, which in the present day (in Hauran exclusively) is called sitr, and is worn over the face by all married women in the towns, while in the country it is worn hanging down the back, and is only drawn over the face in the presence of a stranger. If this explanation is correct the poet means to say that the adulterer, in order to remain undiscovered, wears women's clothes comp. Deuteronomy 22:5; and, in fact, in the Syrian towns (the figure is taken from town-life) women's clothing is always chosen for that kind of forbidden nocturnal undertaking, i.e., the man disguises himself in an ı̂zâr, which covers him from head to foot, takes the mendı̂l, and goes with a lantern (without which at night every person is seized by the street watchman as a suspicious person) unhindered into a strange house. - Wetzst.)
The murderer rising with the light killeth the poor and needy, and in the night is as a thief.
The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, saying, No eye shall see me: and disguiseth his face.
In the dark they dig through houses, which they had marked for themselves in the daytime: they know not the light.16 In the dark they dig through houses,
By day they shut themselves up,
They will know nothing of the light.
17 For the depth of night is to them even as the dawn of the morning,
For they know the terrors of the depth of night.
The handiwork of the thief, which is but slightly referred to in Job 24:14, is here more particularly described. The indefinite subj. of חתר, as is manifest from what follows, is the band of thieves. The בּ, which is elsewhere joined with chtr (to break into anything), is here followed by the acc. בּתּים (to be pronounced bâttim, not bottim),
(Note: Vid., Aben-Ezra on Exodus 12:7. The main proof that it is to be pronounced bâttim is, that written exactly it is בּתּים, and that the Metheg according to circumstances, is changed into an accent, as Exodus 8:7; Exodus 12:7; Jeremiah 18:22; Ezekiel 45:4, which can only happen by Kametz, not by Kometz (K. chatph); comp. Khler on Zechariah 14:2.)
as in the Talmudic, חתר שׁנּו, to pick one's teeth (and thereby to make them loose), b. Kidduschin, 24 b. According to the Talmud, Ralbag, and the ancient Jewish interpretation in general, Job 24:16 is closely connected to btym: houses which they have marked by day for breaking into, and the mode of its accomplishment; but חתם nowhere signifies designare, always obsignare, to seal up, to put under lock and key, Job 14:17; Job 9:7; Job 37:7; according to which the Piel, which occurs only here, is to be explained: by day they seal up, i.e., shut themselves up for their safety (למו is not to be accented with Athnach, but with Rebia mugrasch): they know not the light, i.e., as Schlottm. well explains: they have no fellowship with it; for the biblical ידע, γινώσκειν, mostly signifies a knowledge which enters into the subject, and intimately unites itself with it. In Job 24:17 one confirmation follows another. Umbr. and Hirz. explain: for the morning is to them at once the shadow of death; but יחדּו, in the signification at the same time, as we have taken יחד in Job 17:16 (nevertheless of simultaneousness of time), is unsupportable: it signifies together, Job 2:11; Job 9:32; and the arrangement of the words למו...יחדּו (to them together) is like Isaiah 9:20; Isaiah 31:3; Jeremiah 46:12. Also, apart from the erroneous translation of the יחדו, which is easily set aside, Hirzel's rendering of Job 24:17 is forced: the morning, i.e., the bright day, is to them all as the shadow of death, for each and every one of them knows the terrors of the daylight, which is to them as the shadow of death, viz., the danger of being discovered and condemned. The interpretation, which is also preferred by Olshausen, is far more natural: the depth of night is to them as the dawn of the morning (on the precedence of the predicate, comp. Amos 4:13 and Amos 5:8 : walking in the darkness of the early morning), for they are acquainted with the terrors of the depth of night, i.e., they are not surprised by them, but know how to anticipate and to escape them. Job 38:15 also, where the night, which vanishes before the rising of the sun, is called the "light" of the evil-doer, favours this interpretation (not the other, as Olsh. thinks). The accentuation also favours it; for is בקר had been the subj., and were to be translated: the morning is to them the shadow of death, it ought to have been accented בקר למו צלמות, Dech, Mercha, Athnach. It is, however, accented Munach, Munach, Athnach, and the second Munach stands as the deputy of Dech, whose value in the interpunction it represents; therefore בקר למו is the predicate: the shadow of death is morning to them. From the plur. the description now, with יכּיר, passes into the sing., as individualizing it. בּלהות constr. of בּלּהות, is without a Dagesh in the second consonant. Mercier admirably remarks here: sunt ei familiares et noti nocturni terrores, neque eos timet aut curat, quasi sibi cum illis necessitudo et familiaritas intercederet et cum illis ne noceant foedus aut pactum inierit. Thus by their skill and contrivance they escape danger, and divine justice allows them to remain undiscovered and unpunished, - a fact which is most incomprehensible.
It is now time that this thought was once again definitely expressed, that one may not forget what these accumulated illustrations are designed to prove. But what now follows in Job 24:18 seems to express not Job's opinion, but that of his opponents. Ew., Hirz., and Hlgst. regard Job 24:18, Job 24:22, as thesis and antithesis. To the question, What is the lot that befalls all these evil-doers? Job is thought to give a twofold answer: first, to Job 24:21, an ironical answer in the sense of the friends, that those men are overtaken by the merited punishment; then from Job 24:22 is his own serious answer, which stands in direct contrast to the former. But (1) in Job 24:18 there is not the slightest trace observable that Job does not express his own view: a consideration which is also against Schlottman, who regards Job 24:18 as expressive of the view of an opponent. (2) There is no such decided contrast between Job 24:18 and Job 24:22, for Job 24:19 and Job 24:24 both affirm substantially the same thing concerning the end of the evil-doer. In like manner, it is also not to be supposed, with Stick., Lwenth., Bttch., Welte, and Hahn, that Job, outstripping the friends, as far as Job 24:21, describes how the evil-doer certainly often comes to a terrible end, and in Job 24:22 how the very opposite of this, however, is often witnessed; so that this consequently furnishes no evidence in support of the exclusive assertion of the friends. Moreover, Job 24:24 compared with Job 24:19, where there is nothing to indicate a direct contrast, is opposed to it; and Job 24:22, which has no appearance of referring to a direct contrast with what has been previously said, is opposed to such an antithetical rendering of the two final strophes. Job 24:22 might more readily be regarded as a transition to the antithesis, if Job 24:18 could, with Eichh., Schnurr., Dathe, Umbr., and Vaih., after the lxx, Syriac, and Jerome, be understood as optative: "Let such an one be light on the surface of the water, let ... be cursed, let him not turn towards," etc., but Job 24:18 is not of the optative form; and Job 24:18, where in that case אל־יפנה would be expected, instead of אל־יפנה, shows that Job 24:18, where, according to the syntax, the optative rendering is natural, is nevertheless not to be so rendered. The right interpretation is that which regards both Job 24:18 and Job 24:22 as Job's own view, without allowing him absolutely to contradict himself. Thus it is interpreted, e.g., by Rosenmller, who, however, as also Renan, errs in connecting Job 24:18 with the description of the thieves, and understands Job 24:18 of their slipping away, Job 24:18 of their dwelling in horrible places, and Job 24:18 of their avoidance of the vicinity of towns.
For the morning is to them even as the shadow of death: if one know them, they are in the terrors of the shadow of death.
He is swift as the waters; their portion is cursed in the earth: he beholdeth not the way of the vineyards.18 For he is light upon the surface of the water;
Their heritage is cursed upon the earth;
He turneth no more in the way of the vineyard.
19 Drought, also heat, snatch away snow water -
So doth Shel those who have sinned.
20 The womb forgetteth him, worms shall feast on him,
He is no more remembered;
So the desire of the wicked is broken as a tree -
21 He who hath plundered the barren that bare not,
And did no good to the widow.
The point of comparison in Job 24:18 is the swiftness of the disappearing: he is carried swiftly past, as any light substance on the surface of the water is hurried along by the swiftness of the current, and can scarcely be seen; comp. Job 9:26 : "My days shoot by as ships of reeds, as an eagle which dasheth upon its prey," and Hosea 10:7, "Samaria's king is destroyed like a bundle of brushwood (lxx, Theod., φρύγανον) on the face of the water," which is quickly drawn into the whirlpool, or buried by the approaching wave.
(Note: The translation: like foam (spuma or bulla), is also very suitable here. Thus Targ., Symm., Jerome, and others; but the signification to foam cannot be etymologically proved, whereas קצף in the signification confringere is established by קצפה, breaking, Joel 1:7, and Arab. qṣf; so that consequently קצף, as synon. of אף, signifies properly the breaking forth, and is then allied to אברה.)
But here the idea is not that of being swallowed up by the waters, as in the passage in Hosea, but, on the contrary, of vanishing from sight, by being carried rapidly past by the rush of the waters. If, then, the evil-doer dies a quick, easy death, his heritage (חלקה, from חלק, to divide) is cursed by men, since no one will dwell in it or use it, because it is appointed by God to desolation on account of the sin which is connected with it (vid., on Job 15:28); even he, the evil-doer, no more turns the way of the vineyard (פּנה, with דּרך, not an acc. of the obj., but as indicating the direction equals אל־דּרך; comp. 1 Samuel 13:18 with 1 Samuel 13:17 of the same chapter), proudly to inspect his wide extended domain, and overlook the labourers. The curse therefore does not come upon him, nor can one any longer lie in wait for him to take vengeance on him; it is useless to think of venting upon him the rage which his conduct during life provoked; he is long since out of reach in Shel.
That which Job says figuratively in Job 24:18, and in Job 21:13 without a figure: "in a moment they go down to Shel," he expresses in Job 24:19 under a new figure, and, moreover, in the form of an emblematic proverb (vid., Herzog's Real-Encyklopdie, xiv. 696), according to the peculiarity of which, not כּן, but either only the copulative Waw (Proverbs 25:25) or nothing whatever (Proverbs 11:22), is to be supplied before שׁאול חטאו. חטאוּ is virtually an object: eos qui peccarunt. Job 24:19 is a model-example of extreme brevity of expression, Ges. 155, 4, b. Sandy ground (ציּה, arid land, without natural moisture), added to it (גּם, not: likewise) the heat of the sun - these two, working simultaneously from beneath and above, snatch away (גּזלוּ, cogn. גּזר, root גז, to cut, cut away, tear away; Arab. jzr, fut. i, used of sinking, decreasing water) מימי שׁלג, water of (melted) snow (which is fed from no fountain, and therefore is quickly absorbed), and Shel snatches away those who have sinned ( equals גּזלה את־אשׁר חטאוּ). The two incidents are alike: the death of those whose life has been a life of sin, follows as a consequence easily and unobserved, without any painful and protracted struggle. The sinner disappears suddenly; the womb, i.e., the mother that bare him, forgets him (רחם, matrix equals mater; according to Ralbag: friendship, from רחם, to love tenderly; others: relationship, in which sense Arab. raḥimun equals רחם is used), worms suck at him (מתקו for מתקתּוּ, according to Ges. 147, a, sugit eum, from which primary notion of sucking comes the signification to be sweet, Job 21:33 : Syriac, metkat ennun remto; Ar. imtasahum, from the synonymous Arab. maṣṣa equals מצץ, מצה, מזה), he is no more thought of, and thus then is mischief (abstr. pro concr. as Job 5:16) broken like a tree (not: a staff, which עץ never, not even in Hosea 4:12, directly, like the Arabic ‛asa, ‛asât, signifies). Since עולה is used personally, רעה וגו, Job 24:21, can be connected with it as an appositional permutative. His want of compassion (as is still too often seen in the present day in connection with the tyrannical conduct of the executive in Syria and Palestine, especially on the part of those who collected the taxes) goes the length of eating up, i.e., entirely plundering, the barren, childless (Genesis 11:30; Isaiah 54:1), and therefore helpless woman, who has no sons to protect and defend her, and never showing favour to the widow, but, on the contrary, thrusting her away from him. There is as little need for regarding the verb רעה here, with Rosenm. after the Targ., in the signification confringere, as cognate with רעע, רצץ, as conversely to change תּרעם, Psalm 2:9, into תּרעם; it signifies depascere, as in Job 20:26, here in the sense of depopulari. On the form ייטיב for יימיב, vid., Ges. 70, 2, rem.; and on the transition from the part. to the v. fin., vid., Ges. 134, rem. 2. Certainly the memory of such an one is not affectionately cherished; this is equally true with what Job maintains in Job 21:32, that the memory of the evil-doer is immortalized by monuments. Here the allusion is to the remembrance of a mother's love and sympathetic feeling. The fundamental thought of the strophe is this, that neither in life nor in death had he suffered the punishment of his evil-doing. The figure of the broken tree (broken in its full vigour) also corresponds to this thought; comp. on the other hand what Bildad says, Job 18:16 : "his roots dry up beneath, and above his branch is lopped off" (or: withered). The severity of his oppression is not manifest till after his death.
In the next strophe Job goes somewhat further. But after having, in Job 24:22, Job 24:23, said that the life of the ungodly passes away as if they were the favoured of God, he returns to their death, which the friends, contrary to experience, have so fearfully described, whilst it is only now and then distinguished from the death of other men by coming on late and painlessly.
Drought and heat consume the snow waters: so doth the grave those which have sinned.
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.
He evil entreateth the barren that beareth not: and doeth not good to the widow.
He draweth also the mighty with his power: he riseth up, and no man is sure of life.22 And He preserveth the mighty by His strength;
Such an one riseth again, though he despaired of life.
23 He giveth him rest, and he is sustained,
And His eyes are over their ways.
24 They are exalted - a little while, - then they are no more,
And they are sunken away, snatched away like all others,
And as the top of the stalk they are cut off. -
25 And if it is not so, who will charge me with lying,
And make my assertion worthless?
Though it becomes manifest after their death how little the ungodly, who were only feared by men, were beloved, the form of their death itself is by no means such as to reveal the retributive justice of God. And does it become at all manifest during their life? The Waw, with which the strophe begins, is, according to our rendering, not adversative, but progressive. God is the subject. משׁך, to extend in length, used elsewhere of love, Psalm 36:11; Psalm 109:12, and anger, Psalm 85:6, is here transferred to persons: to prolong, preserve long in life. אבּירים are the strong, who bid defiance not only to every danger (Psalm 76:6), but also to all divine influences and noble impulses (Isaiah 46:12). These, whose trust in their own strength God might smite down by His almighty power, He preserves alive even in critical positions by that very power: he (the אבּיר) stands up (again), whilst he does not trust to life, i.e., whilst he believes that he must succumb to death (האמין as Psalm 27:13, comp. Genesis, S. 368; חיּין, Aramaic form, like מלּין, Job 4:2; Job 12:11; the whole is a contracted circumstantial clause for והוא לא וגו). He (God) grants him לבטח, in security, viz., to live, or even directly: a secure peaceful existence, since לבטח is virtually an object, and the ל is that of condition (comp. לרב, Job 26:3). Thus Hahn, who, however, here is only to be followed in this one particular, takes it correctly: and that he can support himself, which would only be possible if an inf. with ל had preceded. Therefore: and he is supported or he can support himself, i.e., be comforted, though this absolute use of נשׁען cannot be supported; in this instance we miss על־טוּבו, or some such expression (Job 8:15). God sustains him and raises him up again: His eyes (עיניחוּ equals עיניו) are (rest) on the ways of these men, they stand as it were beneath His special protection, or, as it is expressed in Job 10:3 : He causes light to shine from above upon the doings of the wicked. "They are risen up, and are conscious of the height (of prosperity) - a little while, and they are no more." Thus Job 24:24 is to be explained. The accentuation רומו with Mahpach, מעט with Asla legarmeh (according to which it would have to be translated: they stand on high a short time), is erroneous. The verb רוּם signifies not merely to be high, but also to rise up, raise one's self, e.g., Proverbs 11:11, and to show one's self exalted, here extulerunt se in altum or exaltati sunt; according to the form of writing רומּוּ, רוּם is treated as an Ayin Waw verb med. O, and the Dagesh is a so-called Dag. affecuosum (Olsh. 83, b), while רמּוּ (like רבּוּ, Genesis 49:23) appears to assume the form of a double Ayin verb med. O, consequently רמם (Ges. 67, rem. 1).
מעט, followed by Waw of the conclusion, forms a clause of itself, as more frequently עוד מעט ו (yet a little while, then ... ), as, e.g., in an exactly similar connection in Psalm 37:10; here, however, not expressive of the sudden judgment of the ungodly, but of their easy death without a struggle (εὐθανασία): a little, then he is not (again a transition from the plur. to the distributive or individualizing sing.). They are, viz., as Job 24:24 further describes, bowed down all at once (an idea which is expressed by the perf.), are snatched off like all other men. המּכוּ is an Aramaizing Hophal-form, approaching the Hoph. of strong verbs, for הוּמכּוּ (Ges. 67, rem. 8), from מכך, to bow one's self (Psalm 106:43), to be brought low (Ecclesiastes 10:18); comp. Arab. mkk, to cause to vanish, to annul. יקּפצוּן (for which it is unnecessary with Olsh. to read יקּבצוּן, after Ezekiel 29:5) signifies, according to the primary signification of קפץ, comprehendere, constringere, contrahere (cogn. קבץ, קמץ, קמט, comp. supra, p. 481): they are hurried together, or snatched off, i.e., deprived of life, like the Arabic qbḍh allâh (קפצו אלהים) and passive qubiḍa, equivalent to, he has died. There is no reference in the phrase to the componere artus, Genesis 49:33; it is rather the figure of housing (gathering into the barn) that underlies it; the word, however, only implies seizing and drawing in. Thus the figure which follows is also naturally (comp. קמץ, Arab. qabḍat, manipulus) connected with what precedes, and, like the head of an ear of corn, i.e., the corn-bearing head of the wheat-stalk, they are cut off (by which one must bear in mind that the ears are reaped higher up than with us, and the standing stalk is usually burnt to make dressing for the field; vid., Ges. Thes. s.v. קשׁ).
(Note: Another figure is also presented here. It is a common thing for the Arabs (Beduins) in harvest-time to come down upon the fields of standing corn - especially barley, because during summer and autumn this grain is indispensable to them as food for their horses - of a district, chiefly at night, and not unfrequently hundreds of camels are laden at one time. As they have no sickles, they cut off the upper part of the stalk with the ‛aqfe (a knife very similar to the Roman sica) and with sabres, whence this theft is called qard קרץ, sabring off; and that which is cut off, as well as the uneven stubble that is left standing, is called qarid. - Wetzst.)).
On ימּלוּ (fut. Niph. equals ימּלּוּ), vid., on Job 14:2; Job 18:16; the signification praedicuntur, as observed above, is more suitable here than marcescunt (in connection with which signification Job 5:26 ought to be compared, and the form regarded as fut. Kal). Assured of the truth, in conformity with experience, of that which has been said, he appeals finally to the friends: if it be not so (on אפו equals אפוא in conditional clauses, vid., Job 9:24), who (by proving the opposite) is able to charge me with lying and bring to nought (לאל equals לאין, Ew. 321, b, perhaps by אל being conceived of as originally infin. from אלל (comp. אליל), in the sense of non-existence, Arab. 'l-‛adam) my assertion?
The bold accusations in the speech of Eliphaz, in which the uncharitableness of the friends attains its height, must penetrate most deeply into Job's spirit. But Job does not answer like by like. Even in this speech in opposition to the friends, he maintains the passionless repose which has once been gained. Although the misjudgment of his character has attained its height in the speech of Eliphaz, his answer does not contain a single bitter personal word. In general, he does not address them, not as though he did not wish to show respect to them, but because he has nothing to say concerning their unjust and wrong conduct that he would not already have said, and because he has lost all hope of his reproof taking effect, all hope of sympathy with his entreaty that they would spare him, all hope of understanding and information on their part.
In the first part of the speech (Job 23) he occupies himself with the mystery of his own suffering lot, and in the second part (Job 24) with the reverse of this mystery, the evil-doers' prosperity and immunity from punishment. How is he to vindicate himself against Eliphaz, since his lament over his sufferings as unmerited as accounted by the friends more and more as defiant obstinacy (מרי), and consequently tends to bring him still deeper into that suspicion which he is trying to remove? His testimony concerning himself is of no avail; for it appears to the friends more self-delusive, hypocritical, and sinful, the more decidedly he maintains it; consequently the judgment of God can alone decide between him and his accusers. But while the friends accuse him by word of mouth, God himself is pronouncing sentence against him by His acts, - his affliction is a de facto accusation of God against him. Therefore, before the judgment of God can become a vindication of his affliction against the friends, he must first of all himself have defended and proved his innocence in opposition to the Author of his affliction. Hence the accusation of the friends, which in the speech of Eliphaz is become more direct and cutting than heretofore, must urge on anew with all its power the desire in Job of being able to bring his cause before God.
At the outset he is confident of victory, for his consciousness does not deceive him; and God, although He is both one party in the cause and judge, is influenced by the irresistible force of the truth. Herein the want of harmony in Job's conception of God, the elevation of which into a higher unity is the goal of the development of the drama, again shows itself. He is not able to think of the God who pursues him, the innocent one, at the present time with suffering, as the just God; on the other hand, the justice of the God who will permit him to approach His judgment throne, is to him indisputably sure: He will attend to him, and for ever acquit him. Now Job yields to the arbitrary power of God, but then he will rise by virtue of the justice and truth of God. His longing is, therefore, that the God who now afflicts him may condescend to hear him: this seems to him the only way of convincing God, and indirectly the friends, of his innocence, and himself of God's justice. The basis of this longing is the desire of being free from the painful conception of God which he is obliged to give way to. For it is not the darkness of affliction that enshrouds him which causes Job the intensest suffering, but the darkness in which it has enshrouded God to him, - the angry countenance of God which is turned to him. But if this is sin, that he is engaged in a conflict concerning the justice of the Author of his affliction, it is still greater that he indulges evil thoughts respecting the Judge towards whose throne of judgment he presses forward. He thinks that God designedly avoids him, because He is well aware of his innocence; now, however, he will admit no other thought but that of suffering him to endure to the end the affliction decreed. Job's suspicion against God is as dreadful as it is childish. This is a profoundly tragic stroke. It is not to be understood as the sarcasm of defiance; on the contrary, as one of the childish thoughts into which melancholy bordering on madness falls. From the bright height of faith to which Job soars in Job 19:25. he is here again drawn down into the most terrible depth of conflict, in which, like a blind man, he gropes after God, and because he cannot find Him thinks that He flees before him lest He should be overcome by him. The God of the present, Job accounts his enemy; and the God of the future, to whom his faith clings, who will and must vindicate him so soon as He only allows himself to be found and seen - this God is not to be found! He cannot get free either from his suffering or from his ignominy. The future for him is again veiled in a twofold darkness.
Thus Job does not so much answer Eliphaz as himself, concerning the cutting rebukes he has brought against him. He is not able to put them aside, for his consciousness does not help him; and God, whose judgment he desires to have, leaves him still in difficulty. But the mystery of his lot of affliction, which thereby becomes constantly more torturing, becomes still more mysterious from a consideration of the reverse side, which he is urged by Eliphaz more closely to consider, terrible as it may be to him. He, the innocent one, is being tortured to death by an angry God, while for the ungodly there come no times of punishment, no days of vengeance: greedy conquerors, merciless rulers, oppress the poor to the last drop of blood, who are obliged to yield to them, and must serve them without wrong being helped by the right; murderers, who shun the light, thieves, and adulterers, carry on their evil courses unpunished; and swiftly and easily, without punishment overtaking them, or being able to overtake them, Shel snatches them away, as heat does the melted snow; even God himself preserves the oppressors long in the midst of extreme danger, and after a long life, free from care and laden with honour, permits them to die a natural death, as a ripe ear of corn is cut off. Bold in the certainty of the truth of his assertion, Job meets the friends: if it is not so, who will convict me as a liar?! What answer will they give? They cannot long disown the mystery, for experience outstrips them. Will they therefore solve it? They might, had they but the key of the future state to do it with! But neither they nor Job were in possession of that, and we shall therefore see how the mystery, without a knowledge of the future state, struggled through towards solution; or even if this were impossible, how the doubts which it excites are changed to faith, and so are conquered.
Though it be given him to be in safety, whereon he resteth; yet his eyes are upon their ways.
They are exalted for a little while, but are gone and brought low; they are taken out of the way as all other, and cut off as the tops of the ears of corn.
And if it be not so now, who will make me a liar, and make my speech nothing worth?