New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Job 24:1 Why aren’t times laid up by the Almighty? Why don’t those who know Him perceive His days?- This could be read as a complaint that God's people don't realize the time periods of His operations in advance. Job sensed that his afflictions were for a period (see on Job 23:12,14), but he didn't know the end point. There is a purpose to that. All attempts to understand Bible prophecy as history and time periods predicted in advance are missing the whole point; these prophecies are so that we will understand once the fulfilment comes, rather than presenting history in advance.

Job 24:2 There are people who remove the landmarks. They violently take away flocks, and feed them-
Alluding to the taking away of Job's flocks. Probably his landmarks were removed at the same time. I have suggested that the satan figure morphs into the friends, and they may actually have been responsible for the theft of Job's flocks. The Bedouin tribes were certainly from the same areas as the friends came from. Job may be hinting that the theory that sin brought judgment was wrong, because the sins of the friends against him weren't being immediately judged.

Job 24:3 They drive away the donkey of the fatherless, and they take the widow’s ox for a pledge-
"Drive away" is the word used of the driving of God's people into captivity (Dt. 4:27; 28:37). The exiles were wondering why judgment had come upon them, and not upon their captors and abusers. The answer of the book of Job is that they were as Job, and the wicked whose day of judgment was surely to come ultimately refer to their captors.

Job 24:4 They turn the needy out of the way. The poor of the earth all hide themselves-
Turning aside the poor out of the way is the very phrase used in Am. 2:7 of how the Jewish leadership had done this to the righteous remnant. Again, the idea is that sufferings of the righteous remnant were going to be finally judged, even though it appeared as if the wicked had got away with it. This had powerful relevance to the exiles.

Job 24:5 Behold, as wild donkeys in the desert, they go forth to their work, seeking diligently for food. The wilderness yields them bread for their children-
It's unclear whether those referred to are the Bedouin tribes of the preceding verses, or the desperately poor who are not helped by them (as in the subsequent verses). Possibly the ambiguity is purposeful, as if to make the point that those Bedouin tribes didn't help their own people even, and they themselves became poor and desperate. See on :6.

Job 24:6 They cut their provender in the field. They glean the vineyard of the wicked-
LXX "They have reaped a field that was not their own before the time: the poor have laboured in the vineyards of the ungodly without pay and without food". The impression is that they were themselves thieves and yet were also oppressed by others; see on :5.

Job 24:7 They lie all night naked without clothing, and have no covering in the cold-
Particularly relevant to the cold desert nights in the region.

Job 24:8 They are wet with the showers of the mountains, and embrace the rock for lack of a shelter-
This could perhaps hint that through the experience of affliction, men "embrace the rock", a symbol of God and His Son, the Messiah Jesus. Job likewise was in essence led to the spirit of Christ through his experience of the abuse of others and lack of comfort from his own brethren.

Job 24:9 There are those who pluck the fatherless from the breast, and take a pledge of the poor-
Baby stealing was exactly the sort of thing practiced by the Bedouin Arab groups who had stolen Job's property, perhaps under the direction of the friends (see on :2). Job has accused the friends of abusing the fatherless (Job 6:27). The friends accused Job of doing so (Job 22:7). Job now insists that it is the wicked who do this (Job 24:3,9), and is dogmatic that he has in fact blessed the fatherless (Job 29:12; 31:17,21). As explained on Job 42:7, Job in various aspects suffers as if guilty for the very sins committed by the friends. He was their representative, and suffered the results of their sins, although he hadn't committed them. Therefore at the end, his prayer and further sacrifice for them was accepted, and they were thereby saved- by grace indeed.

Job 24:10 so that they go around naked without clothing. Being hungry, they carry the sheaves-
Keeping the pledge of the poor so he is left naked (:9) was recognized from earliest times as wicked behaviour. It is condemned in the law of Moses. But Job is observing that those who do even such things are apparently not immediately judged.

Job 24:11 They make oil within the walls of these men. They tread wine presses, and suffer thirst-
The wicked didn't even let their workers drink from the grape juice they were treading out. The law of Moses allowed even animals to eat bits of what they were treading out. This legislation clearly had a basis in very early standards of what was right and wrong, for the book of Job appears to be about a situation before the time of Moses. 

Job 24:12 From out of the populous city, men groan. The soul of the wounded cries out, yet God doesn’t regard the folly-
Because God doesn't judge the abuses listed in the previous verses, it is therefore wrong to suggest that He immediately judges sin with suffering, and rewards obedience with material blessing. That's Job's point. But Job also feels he has 'cried out' to God for justice and not been heard (Job 19:7; 30:20); and that there is nothing wrong with crying out to God in distress, it is a perfectly natural reaction (Job 24:12). One comment upon this is that the young ravens cry out to God for food and yet are not always heard (Job 38:41 s.w.). But God in the wider picture sustains all of creation by grace. Job did well to cry out to God even if there was no answer, because the hypocrites do not 'cry out' to God when they are facing judgment (Job 36:13 s.w.). Job feels hurt that God has not responded to his 'crying out' because he says that when the needy cried out to him, he had heard (Job 29:12 s.w.). But here we see his works based approach; he thought that his response to those who cried out to him meant that therefore God must respond to his crying out. And God is not so primitive. His apparent silence is because His response is not predicated upon human works and charity. It is by grace alone, as is taught in His final appearance to Job. The exiles likewise were to finally see the response to their crying out to God in the restoration (Is. 58:9), just as their representative Jonah cried out to God from the belly of sheol amidst the sea of nations, and was heard (s.w. Jonah 2:2).

Job 24:13 These are of those who rebel against the light. They don’t know its ways, nor stay in its paths-
The implication could be that these people knew the light but refused to walk in the way of light nor its paths; whereas Job insists he has held to the true path (Job 23:11). He perhaps is making oblique reference to the friends; who may be the wicked who had stolen his flocks (see on :2). But this attacking of the partner in dialogue is an indication that the dialogue is failing: 'I held on to the true path, you didn't' is not engagement with what has been said.

Job 24:14 The murderer rises with the light. He kills the poor and needy. In the night he is like a thief-
Job is appearing to overly labour his point; that the wicked are not immediately judged, nor are the righteous immediately rewarded. He almost revels in his description of wicked deeds which go unpunished, making the point that light or darkness make no difference to the wicked. Darkness is not a deterrent to them; they sin equally using both the light and the darkness. Therefore the accusation that Job has sinned in darkness is therefore untrue. But Job appears to be labouring his point. This too is a feature of how dialogue goes wrong once the actual words of our partner are ignored; lengthy digressions are made to prove a relatively minor point, and the essential thrust of the arguments is thereby lost. 

Job 24:15 The eye also of the adulterer waits for the twilight, saying, ‘No eye shall see me’. He disguises his face-
As noted on :14, the idea is that the wicked sin as much in the light as in the darkness. Murderers take the light as a signal to murder (:14), whilst adulterers wait for darkness to commit adultery. 

Job 24:16 In the dark they dig through houses. They shut themselves up in the daytime. They don’t know the light-
As commented upon on :14, Job is far over labouring his point- that sinners sin in both the light and the darkness. 

Job 24:17 For the morning is to all of them like thick darkness, for they know the terrors of the thick darkness-
Perhaps the idea is that they are disappointed when the morning comes, because they have to stop their wicked works. But AV "the shadow of death" for NEV "thick darkness" suggests that the morning is the time of their death. Job envisaged a morning coming which would mean judgment and death for the wicked. In the end this was to be the hope of the exiles too, that a day of judgment would come with the arising of Messiah as the dawn (Mal. 4:2).

Job 24:18 They are foam on the surface of the waters. Their portion is cursed in the earth. They don’t turn into the way of the vineyards-
GNB "The wicked are swept away by floods, and the land they own is under God's curse; they no longer go to work in their vineyards". This is relevant to the Jews exiled from their inheritance in the land and their vineyards. AV "He is swift as the waters" may refer to the swift coming of Divine judgment, like a flash flood of waters. The same word is used of the judgment of God's people (Lam. 4:19).

Job 24:19 Drought and heat consume the snow waters, so does Sheol those who have sinned-
In Job 6:17, Job sees the melting of the snow waters as representing the failing comfort of his three friends; now he uses the figure about the destruction of the wicked; he comes towards the conclusions that his friends, his fellow "sons of God" of Job 1:6, were in fact sinners, they are the wicked Bedouin people who have brought his trials (see on :2). And this is all preparing the way for him to finally pray for their forgiveness and salvation at the end of the book. Job, the righteous remnant amongst the captives, were to pray for and save the unspiritual majority; but they had to be convinced of how far astray their brethren really were. We note too that sheol, the grave, is understood by Job as the destruction of sinners; although he himself speaks of how sheol is waiting for him, although he believed he would be resurrected to justification in a bodily form. He therefore believed that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23) in the grave [sheol, where both righteous and wicked alike go], and not eternal torment in some other place.

Job 24:20 The womb shall forget him. The worm shall feed sweetly on him. He shall be no more remembered. Unrighteousness shall be broken as a tree-
GNB "Not even their mothers remember them now; they are eaten by worms and destroyed like fallen trees". As noted on :19, Job understood the judgment of the wicked as being eternal death, rather than conscious eternal torment. In Job 17:14, Job uses the same language about his own impending death. He believed that both he and the wicked were going to the same place in death; the difference was therefore in that Job would be resurrected, whereas the wicked would remain dead. 

The language of judgment as a tree being broken down was relevant to the exiles, who were bidden see their hope in the revival of the cut down stump, shooting forth as the shoot who would be known as Messiah.

Job 24:21 He devours the barren who don’t bear. He shows no kindness to the widow-
Job appears unable to resist the temptation to dwell yet further upon the wickedness of the wicked; for this further comment upon them appears slightly out of context between verses 20 and 22. He begins to bring God into the equation, but then in this verse flips back to relishing how wicked are the wicked, and how they avoid judgment in this life. Such an attitude would be appropriate if indeed the wicked he had in view were the friends who were seated before him (see on :2).

Job 24:22 Yet God preserves the mighty by His power. He rises up who has no assurance of life-
The 'rising up' could mean that the wicked mighty people are not only preserved alive by God, but at times rise up from their temporal sufferings.

Job 24:23 God gives them security, and they rest in it. His eyes are on their ways-
The apparent security of the wicked is from God, somehow; but God's eyes [a reference to the Angels?] are on their ways, and therefore [by implication] they will come to judgment.

Job 24:24 They are exalted; yet a little while, and they are gone. Yes, they are brought low, they are taken out of the way as all others, and are cut off as the tops of the ears of grain-
This was how the Egyptians harvested corn, cutting off the entire ear of corn at the top of the stalk, and lends support to the impression that these things really happened "in the land of Uz" to a historical Job (see on Job 1:1). The death of the wicked "as all others" implies to job that there must be a future point of justification for the righteous; for the wicked and the righteous die the same death, as other scripture also makes clear.

Job 24:25 If it isn’t so now, who will prove me a liar, and make my speech worth nothing?
- Job has argued himself into an invincible position, in his own eyes. Indeed, all he says is true; but like the friends, truths are expressed but within a wrong context. Finally Job is to lay his hand upon his mouth in repentance (Prov. 30:32; Mic. 7:16) and recognize he has not spoken rightly (Job 40:4), although he earlier demanded the friends lay their hands upon their mouths before the power of his arguments (Job 21:5). God confirms this by remarking that whoever has hope of overcoming Leviathan, His great beast (perhaps representing death and human mortality) is a liar to think he has such hope (Job 41:9 s.w. "liar"). Job has forgotten his humanity, despite being 'right' in his arguments. This is the problem with possessing truth; it can lead us to wrongly forget our humanity and consider ourselves invincible.