Job 24


Job asserts that there are various transgressors whose

wickedness is not visited on them in this life; and

particularizes the adjust and oppressive, 1-6;

those who are cruel to the poor, 7-13;

the murderer, 14;

the adulterer, 15;

thieves and plunderers, 16, 17.

Nevertheless they have an accursed portion, and shall die, and

their memory perish, 18-20.

He speaks of the abuse of power, and of the punishment of

oppressors, 21-24;

and asserts that what he has said on these subjects cannot be

contradicted, 25.


Verse 1. Why, seeing times are not hidden from the Almighty] Mr.

Good translates: "Wherefore are not doomsdays kept by the

Almighty, so that his offenders may eye their periods?" Doomsdays

are here used in the same sense as term times; and the wish is,

that God would appoint such times that the falsely accused might

look forward to them with comfort; knowing that, on their arrival,

they should have a fair hearing, and their innocence be publicly

declared; and their detractors, and the unjust in general, meet

with their deserts. But God reserves the knowledge of these things

to himself. "The holy patriarch," says Mr. Good, "has uniformly

admitted that in the aggregate scale of Providence the just are

rewarded and the wicked punished for their respective deeds, in

some period or other of their lives. But he has contended in

various places, and especially in Job 21:7-13, that the

exceptions to this general rule are numerous: so numerous, as to

be sufficient to render the whole scheme of providential

interposition perfectly mysterious and incomprehensible,

Job 23:8-12; so in the passage before us: if the retribution ye

speak of be universal, and which I am ready to admit to a certain

extent to be true and unquestionable, I not only ask, Why do the

just ever suffer in the midst of their righteousness? but, Why do

not the wicked see such retribution displayed before their eyes by

stated judgments, so that they may at one and the same time know

and tremble?"

Verse 2. Some remove the landmarks] Stones or posts were

originally set up to ascertain the bounds of particular estates:

and this was necessary in open countries, before hedges and fences

were formed. Wicked and covetous men often removed the landmarks

or termini, and set them in on their neighbours' ground, that, by

contracting their boundaries, they might enlarge their own. The

law of Moses denounces curses on those who remove their

neighbours' landmarks. See De 19:14; 27:17, and the note on the

former place, where the subject is considered at large.

They violently take away flocks, and feed thereof.] Mr. Good

translates yiru, they destroy, deriving the word, not from

raah, to feed, but from ra, to rend, to


The Septuagint had read roch, a shepherd; and therefore

have translated ποιμνιονσυνποιμενιαρπασαντες, "violently

carrying off both the flock and the shepherd."

Verse 4. They turn the needy out of the way] They will not

permit them to go by the accustomed paths; they oblige them to

take circuitous routes. When the Marquis of H. was made ranger of

Richmond Park, he thought it his duty to shut up a pathway which

had existed for a long time; and those who presumed, after this

shutting up, to break the fence, and take that path as formerly,

were prosecuted. A cobbler near the place entered an action

against the marquis: the cause was tried, the marquis cast, and

the path ordered to be opened, on the ground that it had, time out

of mind, been a public undisputed path. When one asked the

cobbler, "How he could have the boldness to go to law with the

Marquis of H.?" he answered, "Because I did not like to leave the

world worse than I found it." All tolerated oppression and

voluntary forfeiture of ancient rights, are injurious to society

at large, and they who wink at them leave the world worse than

they found it.

Verse 5. Rising betimes for a prey] The general sense here seems

plain enough. There are some who live a lawless roaming life: make

a predatory life their employment; for this purpose, frequent the

wilderness, where they seize on and appropriate whatsoever they

find, and by this method they and their families are supported.

Mr. Good says: "The sense has never yet been understood by any

commentator;" and hence he proposes a different division of the

words, placing arabah, the desert or wilderness, in the

first hemistich, thus:-

"Rising early for the pillage of the wilderness;

The bread of themselves and of their children."

Others think that the words are spoken solely of the poor under

the hand of oppression, who are driven away from their homes, and

obliged to seek such support as the wilderness can afford. Such

was originally the state of the Bedouins, and of the wandering

Arab hordes in general: the oppression of the tyrannous governors

obliged them to seek refuge in the deserts, where they still live

in a roaming predatory life.

Verse 6. They reap every one his corn in the field] This is

perfectly characteristic. These wandering hordes often make sudden

irruptions, and carry off the harvest of grain, olives, vines,

&c., and plunge with it into the wilderness, where none can follow

them. The Chaldee gives the same sense: "They reap in a field that

is not their own, and cut off the vineyard of the wicked."

Verse 7. They cause the naked to lodge without clothing] Or

rather, They spend the night naked, without clothing; and without

a covering from the cold: another characteristic of the wandering

Arabs. They are ill-fed, ill-clothed. and often miserable off,

even for tents. They can have little household stuff: as they are

plunderers, they are often obliged to fly for their lives, and

cannot encumber themselves with what is not absolutely needful.

Verse 8. They are wet with the showers of the mountains] Mr.

Good thinks that torrents, not showers, is the proper

translation of the original zerem; but I think showers of the

mountain strictly proper. I have seen many of these in mountainous

countries, where the tails of water-spouts have been intercepted

and broken, and the outpouring of them would be incredible to

those who have never witnessed similar phenomena. The rain fell in

torrents, and produced torrents on the land, carrying away earth

and stones and every thing before them, scooping out great

gullies in the sides of the mountains. Mountain torrents are not

produced but by such extraordinary outpourings of rain, formed

either by water-spouts, or by vast masses of clouds intercepted

and broken to pieces by the mountain tops.

And embrace the rock for want of a shelter.] In such cases as

that related above, the firm rock is the only shelter which can be

found, or safely trusted.

Verse 9. They pluck the fatherless from the breast] They

forcibly take young children in order that they may bring them up

in a state of slavery. This verse is the commencement of a new

paragraph, and points out the arbitrary dealings of oppressors,

under despotic governors.

Take a pledge of the poor.] Oppressive landlords who let out

their grounds at an exorbitant rent, which the poor labourers,

though using the utmost diligence, are unable at all times to pay;

and then the unfeeling wretch sells then up, as the phrase here

is, or takes their cow, their horse, their cart, or their bed,

in pledge, that the money shall be paid in such a time. This is

one of the crying sins of some countries of Europe.

Verse 10. They cause him to go naked] These cruel, hard-hearted

oppressors seize the cloth made for the family wear, or the wool

and flax out of which such clothes should be made.

And they take away the sheaf] Seize the grain as soon as it is

reaped, that they may pay themselves the exorbitant rent at which

they have leased out their land: and thus the sheaf-the thraves

and ricks, by which they should have been supported, are taken

away from the hungry.

Verse 11. Make oil within their walls] Thus stripped of all that

on which they depended for clothing and food, they are obliged to

become vassals to their lord, labour in the fields on scanty fare,

or tread their wine-presses, from the produce of which they are

not permitted to quench their thirst.

Verse 12. Men groan from out of the city] This is a new

paragraph. 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. The poor in such

places are often in the most wretched state; they are not only

badly fed, and miserably clothed, but also most unwholesomely

lodged. I was once appointed with a benevolent gentleman, J. S.,

Esq., to visit a district in St. Giles's London, to know the real

state of the poor. We took the district in House Row, and found

each dwelling full of people, dirt, and wretchedness. Neither old

nor young had the appearance of health: some were sick, and others

lying dead, in the same place! Several beds, if they might be

called such, on the floor in the same apartment; and, in one

single house, sixty souls! These were groaning under various

evils; and the soul of the wounded, wounded in spirit, and

afflicted in body, cried out to God and man for help! It would

have required no subtle investigation to have traced all these

miseries to the doors, the hands, the lips, and the hearts,

of ruthless landlords; or to oppressive systems of public

expenditure in the support of ruinous wars, and the stagnation of

trade and destruction of commerce occasioned by them: to which

must be added the enormous taxation to meet this expenditure.

Yet God layeth not folly to them.] He does not impute their

calamities to their own folly. Or, according to the Vulgate, Et

Deus inultum abire non patitur; "And God will not leave (these

disorders) unpunished." But the Hebrew may be translated And God

doth not attend to their prayers. Job's object was to show, in

opposition to the mistaken doctrine of his friends, that God did

not hastily punish every evil work, nor reward every good one.

That vice often went long unpunished, and virtue unrewarded; and

that we must not judge of a man's state either by his prosperity

or adversity. Therefore, there might be cases in which the

innocent oppressed poor were crying to God for a redress of their

grievances, and were not immediately heard; and in which their

oppressors were faring sumptuously every day, without any apparent

mark of the Divine displeasure. These sentiments occur frequently.

Verse 13. They-rebel against the light] Speaking of wicked men.

They rebel against the light of God in their consciences, and his

light in his word. They are tyrants in grain, and care neither for

God nor the poor. They know not the ways thereof-they will not

learn their duty to God or man. Nor abide in the paths thereof-if

brought at any time to a better mind, they speedily relapse; and

are steady only in cruelty and mischief. This is the character

of the oppressors of suffering humanity, and of sinners audacious

and hardened.

This whole verse Mr. Good translates in the following manner:-

They are indignant of the light;

They respect not its progress;

And will not return to its paths.

They hate good; they regard not its operation; they go out of the

way of righteousness, and refuse to return.

Verse 14. The murderer rising with the light] Perhaps the words

should be read as Mr. Good has done:-

With the daylight ariseth the murderer;

Poor and needy, he sheddeth blood.

This description is suitable to a highwayman; one who robs in

daylight, and who has been impelled by poverty and distress to

use this most unlawful and perilous mode to get bread; and for

fear of being discovered or taken, commits murder, and thus adds

crime to crime.

In the night is as a thief.] Having been a highwayman in the

daytime, he turns footpad or housebreaker by night; and thus

goes on from sin to sin.

There have been several instances like the case above, where

poverty and distress have induced a man to go to the highway and

rob, to repair the ruin of himself and family. I shall introduce

an authentic story of this kind, which the reader may find at the

end of this chapter. See Clarke on Job 24:25.

Verse 15. The eye also of the adulterer] This is another sin

particularly of the city. The adulterer has made his assignation;

he has marked the house of her into whose good graces he has

insinuated himself, called digging through the house; he waits

impatiently for the dusk; and then goes forth, having muffled or

disguised his face, and spends a criminal night with the

faithless wife of another man. 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.

This seems to be the general sense of the very natural picture

which Job draws in the 15th, 16th, and 17th verses.

Job 24:15-17

Verse 16. In the dark they dig through houses] Thieves in Bengal

very frequently dig through the mud wall and under the clay floors

of houses, and, entering unperceived, plunder them while the

inhabitants are asleep.

Mr. Good's version of this paragraph I shall lay before the


Ver. 15. For the dark too watcheth the eye of the adulterer;

Exclaiming, No eye shall behold me.

Then putteth he the muffler on his face;

Ver. 16. He wormeth into houses amidst the darkness.

In the daytime they seal themselves up,

They know not the light:

Ver. 17. For, the dawn they reckon to themselves as the


The horrors of the death-shade as it returneth.

Verse 18. He is swift as the waters] Literally, Light is he on

the face of the waters: and cursed shall be their portion on the

earth, which Mr. Good translates:-

Miserable is this man on the waters:

Deeply miserable the lot of those on dry land.

He beholdeth not the way of the vineyards.] These no longer

flourish or bring forth fruit. The labour of the vintage fails.

Verse 19. Drought and heat consume the snow-waters] The public

cisterns or large tanks which had been filled with water by the

melting of the snow on the mountains, and which water was stored

for the irrigation of their lands, had been entirely exhausted by

the intensity of the heat, and the long continuance of drought.

So doth the grave those which have sinned.] For this whole

paragraph we have only two words in the original; viz.,

sheol chatau, "the pit, they have sinned;" which Mr. Good

translates:-"They fall to their lowest depth."

I believe the meaning to be,-even the deepest tanks, which held

most water, and retained it longest, had become exhausted; so that

expectation and succour were cut off from this as well as from

every other quarter.

I have elsewhere shown that sheol signifies, not only hell

and the grave, but any deep pit; and, also, that chata

signifies to miss the mark. Mr. Good, properly aware of these

acceptations of the original words, has translated as above; and

it is the only ground on which any consistent meaning can be given

to the original.

Verse 20. The womb shall forget him] The mother that bare him

shall have no affection for him, nor be afflicted at his death.

But the word rechem signifies compassion, mercy. Mercy

shall be unmindful of him. How dreadful such a state! When mercy

itself forgets the sinner, his perdition slumbereth not.

The worm shall feed sweetly on him] The Chaldee has, "The cruel,

who have neglected to commiserate the poor, shall be sweet to the

worms." He shall be brought into a state of the greatest

degradation, and shall be no more remembered.

And wickedness shall be broken as a tree.] He shall be as a

rotten or decayed tree, easily broken to pieces. If it were clear

that avlah, here rendered wickedness, has the same sense as

aleh, a leaf, sucker, or shoot, then we might translate

according to the ingenious version of Mr. Good; viz., But the

shoot shall be broken off as a tree; which might, in this case, be

supposed to refer to illicit commerce, the fruit of the womb

becoming abortive.

Verse 21. He evil entreateth the barren] I believe the original

word should be translated he feedeth, and so the Vulgate

understood the word: Pavit enim sterilem. He has been kind to the

barren woman; but he has done no good to the widow. He has shown

no mercy to large families; he has been an enemy to the

procreation of children. Though he may, for particular reasons,

have provided for a barren woman; yet the widow he has not

comforted, she being old or infirm, or such as might not suit his


Verse 22. He draweth also the mighty] Calmet gives the following

version of the original: "He draws with him guards for his

defense; he raises himself up, and does not feel assured of his

life." In the midst even of his guards he is afraid; and dares not

put confidence in any person. This is an admirable delineation of

the inquietudes and terrors of a tyrant.

Verse 23. Though it be given him to be in safety] The Vulgate

gives this verse a singular turn: Dedit ei Deus locum

paenitentiae, et ille abutitur eo in superbiam, "God gave him

space for repentance, but he has abused it through pride." This is

by no means conformable to the original. I think the words should

be translated thus: "He gives them (i.e., the guards) to him for

security, and he leans upon them; yet his eyes are upon their

ways." Though he have taken the guards, mentioned in the preceding

verse, for his personal defence, and for this purpose he uses

them; yet he is full of diffidence, and he is continually watching

them lest they should be plotting his destruction. The true

picture of an Eastern tyrant. Without are fightings; within are


Verse 24. They are exalted for a little while] Such tyrants are

exalted for a time, for God putteth down one and raiseth up

another; but he turns his hand against them, and they are gone.

They are removed by his justice as all of the same character have

been and shall be; time and judgment shall mow them down as the

grass, and crop them off as the ears of ripe corn. They may

flourish for a time, and continue their oppressions; but they

shall at last come to an untimely end. Few tyrants ever visit the

eternal world sicca morte, but by a violent death. All Eastern

history is full of this great fact.

Verse 25. And if it be not so now] Job has proved by examples

that the righteous are often oppressed; that the wicked often

triumph over the just, that the impious are always wretched even

in the midst of their greatest prosperity; and he defies his

friends to show one flaw in his argument, or an error in his

illustration of it; and that existing facts are farther proofs of

what he has advanced.

IN the preceding chapters we find Job's friends having continual

recourse to this assertion, which it is the grand object of all

their discourses to prove, viz., The righteous are so

distinguished in the approbation of God, that they live always in

prosperity, and die in peace.

On the other hand, Job contends that the dispensations of

Providence are by no means thus equal in this life; that

experience shows that the righteous are often in adversity, and

the wicked in power and prosperity.

Job's friends had also endeavoured to prove that if a reported

good man fell into adversity, it was a proof that his character

had been mistaken, that he was an internal sinner and hypocrite;

and that God, by these manifest proofs of his disapprobation,

unmasked him. Hence they charged Job with hypocrisy and secret

sins, because he was now suffering adversity, and that his sins

must be of the most heinous nature, because his afflictions were

uncommonly great. This Job repels by appeals to numerous facts

where there was nothing equivocal in the character; where the bad

was demonstrably bad, and yet in prosperity; and the good

demonstrably good, and yet in adversity. It is strange that none

of these could hit on a middle way: viz., The wicked may be in

prosperity, but he is ever miserable in his soul: the righteous

may be in adversity, but he is ever happy in his God. In these

respects, God's ways are always equal.

On Job 24:14, I have referred to the case of unfortunate men

who, falling into adversity, madly have recourse to plunder to

restore their ruined circumstances. The following anecdote is told

of the justly celebrated Dr. Sharp, archbishop of York, the

grandfather of that highly benevolent, useful, learned, and

eminent man, Granville Sharp, Esq., with whom I had for several

years the honour of a personal acquaintance.

"Never was any man, as well by the tenderness of his nature as

by the impulse of religion, better disposed to succour the

distressed, and relieve the necessities of the poor; to which

merciful offices he had so strong an inclination that no

reasonable solicitations were ever in danger of meeting with a

repulse. Nay, he was more prone to seek out proper objects of his

bounty, than to reject them when recommended; and so far was his

charity from any suspicion of being extorted by importunity, that

it appeared rather a delight than uneasiness to him to extend his

liberality upon all proper occasions."

For the same reason, a singular anecdote of the archbishop,

related in the London Chronicle of Aug. 13, 1785, and always

credited by his family, may be thought worth preserving.

"It was his lordship's custom to have a saddle-horse attend his

carriage, that in case of fatigue from sitting, he might take the

refreshment of a ride. As he was thus going to his episcopal

residence, and was got a mile or two before his carriage, a

decent, well-looking young man came up with him; and, with a

trembling hand and a faltering tongue presented a pistol to his

lordship's breast, and demanded his money. The archbishop, with

great composure, turned about; and, looking steadfastly at him,

desired he would remove that dangerous weapon, and tell him fairly

his condition. 'Sir! sir!' with great agitation, cried the youth;

'no words, 'tis not a time; your money instantly.' 'Hear me, young

man,' said the archbishop; 'you see I am an old man, and my life

is of very little consequence: yours seems far otherwise. I am

named Sharp, and am archbishop of York; my carriage and servants

are behind. Tell me what money you want, and who you are, and I

will not injure you, but prove a friend. Here, take this; and now

ingenuously tell me how much you want to make you independent of

so destructive a business as you are now engaged in.' 'O sir,'

replied the man, 'I detest the business as much as you. I

am-but-but-at home there are creditors who will not stay-fifty

pounds, my lord, indeed would do what no tongue besides my own can

tell.' 'Well, sir, I take it on your word; and, upon my honour, if

you will, in a day or two, call on me at ___, what I have now

given you shall be made up that sum.' The highwayman looked at

him, was silent, and went off; and, at the time appointed,

actually waited on the archbishop, and assured his lordship his

words had left impressions which nothing could ever destroy.

"Nothing more transpired for a year and a half or more; when one

morning a person knocked at his grace's gate, and with peculiar

earnestness desired to see him. The archbishop ordered the

stranger to be brought in. He entered the room where his lordship

was, but had scarce advanced a few steps before his countenance

changed, his knees tottered, and he sank almost breathless on the

floor. On recovering, he requested an audience in private. The

apartment being cleared, 'My lord,' said he, 'you cannot have

forgotten the circumstances at such a time and place; gratitude

will never suffer them to be obliterated from my mind. In me, my

lord, you now behold that once most wretched of mankind; but now,

by your inexpressible humanity, rendered equal, perhaps superior,

in happiness to millions. O, my lord!' tears for a while

preventing his utterance, ''tis you, 'tis you that have saved me,

body and soul; 'tis you that have saved a dear and much-loved

wife, and a little brood of children, whom I tendered dearer than

my life. Here are the fifty pounds; but never shall I find

language to testify what I feel. Your God is your witness; your

deed itself is your glory; and may heaven and all its blessings be

your present and everlasting reward! I was the younger son of a

wealthy man; your lordship knows him; his name was ___. My

marriage alienated his affection; and my brother withdrew his

love, and left me to sorrow and penury. A month since my brother

died a bachelor and intestate. What was his, is become mine; and

by your astonishing goodness, I am now at once the most penitent,

the most grateful, and happiest of my species.'"

See Prince Hoar's life of Granville Sharp, Esq., page 13.

I have no doubt there have been several cases of a similar kind,

when the first step in delinquency was urged by necessity; but few

of such wretched adventurers have met with an Archhishop Sharp. An

early and pious education is the only means under God to prevent

such dangerous steps, which generally lead to the most fearful

catastrophe. Teach a child, that whom God loveth he chasteneth.

Teach him, that God suffers men to hunger, and be in want, that he

may try them if they will be faithful, and do them good in their

latter end. Teach him, that he who patiently and meekly bears

providential afflictions, shall be relieved and exalted in due

time. Teach him, that it is no sin to die in the most abject

poverty and affliction, brought on in the course of Divine

providence, but that any attempts to alter his condition by

robbery, knavery, cozening, and fraud, will be distinguished with

heavy curses from the Almighty, and necessarily end in perdition

and ruin. A child thus educated is not likely to abandon himself

to unlawful courses.

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