Matthew Henry's Commentary
But Job answered and said,
21:1-6 Job comes closer to the question in dispute. This was, Whether outward prosperity is a mark of the true church, and the true members of it, so that ruin of a man's prosperity proves him a hypocrite? This they asserted, but Job denied. If they looked upon him, they might see misery enough to demand compassion, and their bold interpretations of this mysterious providence should be turned into silent wonder.
Hear diligently my speech, and let this be your consolations.
Suffer me that I may speak; and after that I have spoken, mock on.
As for me, is my complaint to man? and if it were so, why should not my spirit be troubled?
Mark me, and be astonished, and lay your hand upon your mouth.
Even when I remember I am afraid, and trembling taketh hold on my flesh.
Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?
21:7-16 Job says, Remarkable judgments are sometimes brought upon notorious sinners, but not always. Wherefore is it so? This is the day of God's patience; and, in some way or other, he makes use of the prosperity of the wicked to serve his own counsels, while it ripens them for ruin; but the chief reason is, because he will make it appear there is another world. These prospering sinners make light of God and religion, as if because they have so much of this world, they had no need to look after another. But religion is not a vain thing. If it be so to us, we may thank ourselves for resting on the outside of it. Job shows their folly.
Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes.
Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.
Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf.
They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance.
They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ.
They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.
Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.
What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?
Lo, their good is not in their hand: the counsel of the wicked is far from me.
How oft is the candle of the wicked put out! and how oft cometh their destruction upon them! God distributeth sorrows in his anger.
21:17-26 Job had described the prosperity of wicked people; in these verses he opposes this to what his friends had maintained about their certain ruin in this life. He reconciles this to the holiness and justice of God. Even while they prosper thus, they are light and worthless, of no account with God, or with wise men. In the height of their pomp and power, there is but a step between them and ruin. Job refers the difference Providence makes between one wicked man and another, into the wisdom of God. He is Judge of all the earth, and he will do right. So vast is the disproportion between time and eternity, that if hell be the lot of every sinner at last, it makes little difference if one goes singing thither, and another sighing. If one wicked man die in a palace, and another in a dungeon, the worm that dies not, and the fire that is not quenched, will be the same to them. Thus differences in this world are not worth perplexing ourselves about.
They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away.
God layeth up his iniquity for his children: he rewardeth him, and he shall know it.
His eyes shall see his destruction, and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty.
For what pleasure hath he in his house after him, when the number of his months is cut off in the midst?
Shall any teach God knowledge? seeing he judgeth those that are high.
One dieth in his full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet.
His breasts are full of milk, and his bones are moistened with marrow.
And another dieth in the bitterness of his soul, and never eateth with pleasure.
They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them.
Behold, I know your thoughts, and the devices which ye wrongfully imagine against me.
21:27-34 Job opposes the opinion of his friends, That the wicked are sure to fall into visible and remarkable ruin, and none but the wicked; upon which principle they condemned Job as wicked. Turn to whom you will, you will find that the punishment of sinners is designed more for the other world than for this, Jude 1:14,15. The sinner is here supposed to live in a great deal of power. The sinner shall have a splendid funeral: a poor thing for any man to be proud of the prospect of. He shall have a stately monument. And a valley with springs of water to keep the turf green, was accounted an honourable burial place among eastern people; but such things are vain distinctions. Death closes his prosperity. It is but a poor encouragement to die, that others have died before us. That which makes a man die with true courage, is, with faith to remember that Jesus Christ died and was laid in the grave, not only before us, but for us. That He hath gone before us, and died for us, who is alive and liveth for us, is true consolation in the hour of death.
For ye say, Where is the house of the prince? and where are the dwelling places of the wicked?
Have ye not asked them that go by the way? and do ye not know their tokens,
That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath.
Who shall declare his way to his face? and who shall repay him what he hath done?
Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb.
The clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him, and every man shall draw after him, as there are innumerable before him.
How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood?