Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Why, seeing times are not hidden from the Almighty, do they that know him not see his days?
1. Why is it that, seeing that the times of punishment (Eze 30:3; "time" in the same sense) are not hidden from the Almighty, they who know Him (His true worshippers, Job 18:21) do not see His days (of vengeance; Joe 1:15; 2Pe 3:10)? Or, with Umbreit less simply, making the parallel clauses more nicely balanced, Why are not times of punishment hoarded up ("laid up"; Job 21:19; appointed) by the Almighty? that is, Why are they not so appointed as that man may now see them? as the second clause shows. Job does not doubt that they are appointed: nay, he asserts it (Job 21:30); what he wishes is that God would let all now see that it is so.
Some remove the landmarks; they violently take away flocks, and feed thereof.
2-24. Instances of the wicked doing the worst deeds with seeming impunity (Job 24:2-24).
landmarks—boundaries between different pastures (De 19:14; Pr 22:28).
They drive away the ass of the fatherless, they take the widow's ox for a pledge.
3. pledge—alluding to Job 22:6. Others really do, and with impunity, that which Eliphaz falsely charges the afflicted Job with.
They turn the needy out of the way: the poor of the earth hide themselves together.
4. Literally, they push the poor out of their road in meeting them. Figuratively, they take advantage of them by force and injustice (alluding to the charge of Eliphaz, Job 22:8; 1Sa 8:3).
poor—in spirit and in circumstances (Mt 5:3).
hide—from the injustice of their oppressors, who have robbed them of their all and driven them into unfrequented places (Job 20:19; 30:3-6; Pr 28:28).
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. wild asses—(Job 11:12). So Ishmael is called a "wild ass-man"; Hebrew (Ge 16:12). These Bedouin robbers, with the unbridled wildness of the ass of the desert, go forth thither. Robbery is their lawless "work." The desert, which yields no food to other men, yields food for the robber and his children by the plunder of caravans.
rising betimes—In the East travelling is begun very early, before the heat comes on.
They reap every one his corn in the field: and they gather the vintage of the wicked.
6. Like the wild asses (Job 24:5) they (these Bedouin robbers) reap (metaphorically) their various grain (so the Hebrew for "corn" means). The wild ass does not let man pile his mixed provender up in a stable (Isa 30:24); so these robbers find their food in the open air, at one time in the desert (Job 24:5), at another in the fields.
the vintage of the wicked—Hebrew, "the wicked gather the vintage"; the vintage of robbery, not of honest industry. If we translate "belonging to the wicked," then it will imply that the wicked alone have vineyards, the "pious poor" (Job 24:4) have none. "Gather" in Hebrew, is "gather late." As the first clause refers to the early harvest of corn, so the second to the vintage late in autumn.
They cause the naked to lodge without clothing, that they have no covering in the cold.
7. Umbreit understands it of the Bedouin robbers, who are quite regardless of the comforts of life, "They pass the night naked, and uncovered," &c. But the allusion to Job 22:6, makes the English Version preferable (see on Job 24:10). Frost is not uncommon at night in those regions (Ge 31:40).
They are wet with the showers of the mountains, and embrace the rock for want of a shelter.
8. They—the plundered travellers.
embrace the rock—take refuge under it (La 4:5).
They pluck the fatherless from the breast, and take a pledge of the poor.
9. from the breast—of the widowed mother. Kidnapping children for slaves. Here Job passes from wrongs in the desert to those done among the habitations of men.
pledge—namely, the garment of the poor debtor, as Job 24:10 shows.
They cause him to go naked without clothing, and they take away the sheaf from the hungry;
10. (See on Job 22:6). In Job 24:7 a like sin is alluded to: but there he implies open robbery of garments in the desert; here, the more refined robbery in civilized life, under the name of a "pledge." Having stripped the poor, they make them besides labor in their harvest-fields and do not allow them to satisfy their hunger with any of the very corn which they carry to the heap. Worse treatment than that of the ox, according to De 25:4. Translate: "they (the poor laborers) hungering carry the sheaves" [Umbreit].
Which make oil within their walls, and tread their winepresses, and suffer thirst.
11. Which—"They," the poor, "press the oil within their wall"; namely, not only in the open fields (Job 24:10), but also in the wall-enclosed vineyards and olive gardens of the oppressor (Isa 5:5). Yet they are not allowed to quench their "thirst" with the grapes and olives. Here, thirsty; Job 24:10, hungry.
Men groan from out of the city, and the soul of the wounded crieth out: yet God layeth not folly to them.
12. Men—rather, "mortals" (not the common Hebrew for "men"); so the Masoretic vowel points read as English Version. But the vowel points are modern. The true reading is, "The dying," answering to "the wounded" in the next clause, so Syriac. Not merely in the country (Job 24:11), but also in the city there are oppressed sufferers, who cry for help in vain. "From out of the city"; that is, they long to get forth and be free outside of it (Ex 1:11; 2:23).
wounded—by the oppressor (Eze 30:24).
layeth not folly—takes no account of (by punishing) their sin ("folly" in Scripture; Job 1:22). This is the gist of the whole previous list of sins (Ac 17:30). Umbreit with Syriac reads by changing a vowel point, "Regards not their supplication."
They are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof.
13. So far as to openly committed sins; now, those done in the dark. Translate: "There are those among them (the wicked) who rebel," &c.
light—both literal and figurative (Joh 3:19, 20; Pr 2:13).
paths thereof—places where the light shines.
The murderer rising with the light killeth the poor and needy, and in the night is as a thief.
14. with the light—at early dawn, while still dark, when the traveller in the East usually sets out, and the poor laborer to his work; the murderous robber lies in wait then (Ps 10:8).
is as a thief—Thieves in the East steal while men sleep at night; robbers murder at early dawn. The same man who steals at night, when light dawns not only robs, but murders to escape detection.
The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, saying, No eye shall see me: and disguiseth his face.
15. (Pr 7:9; Ps 10:11).
disguiseth—puts a veil on.
In the dark they dig through houses, which they had marked for themselves in the daytime: they know not the light.
16. dig through—Houses in the East are generally built of sun-dried mud bricks (so Mt 6:19). "Thieves break through," literally, "dig through" (Eze 12:7).
had marked—Rather, as in Job 9:7, "They shut themselves up" (in their houses); literally, "they seal up."
for themselves—for their own ends, namely, to escape detection.
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.
17. They shrink from the "morning" light, as much as other men do from the blackest darkness ("the shadow of death").
if one know—that is, recognize them. Rather, "They know well (are familiar with) the terrors of," &c. [Umbreit]. Or, as Maurer, "They know the terrors of (this) darkness," namely, of morning, the light, which is as terrible to them as darkness ("the shadow of death") is to other men.
He is swift as the waters; their portion is cursed in the earth: he beholdeth not the way of the vineyards.
18-21. In these verses Job quotes the opinions of his adversaries ironically; he quoted them so before (Job 21:7-21). In Job 24:22-24, he states his own observation as the opposite. You say, "The sinner is swift, that is, swiftly passes away (as a thing floating) on the surface of the waters" (Ec 11:1; Ho 10:7).
is cursed—by those who witness their "swift" destruction.
beholdeth not—"turneth not to"; figuratively, for He cannot enjoy his pleasant possessions (Job 20:17; 15:33).
the way of the vineyards—including his fields, fertile as vineyards; opposite to "the way of the desert."
Drought and heat consume the snow waters: so doth the grave those which have sinned.
19. Arabian image; melted snow, as contrasted with the living fountain, quickly dries up in the sunburnt sand, not leaving a trace behind (Job 6:16-18). The Hebrew is terse and elliptical to express the swift and utter destruction of the godless; (so) "the grave—they 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.
20. The womb—The very mother that bare him, and who is the last to "forget" the child that sucked her (Isa 49:15), shall dismiss him from her memory (Job 18:17; Pr 10:7). The worm shall suck, that is, "feed sweetly" on him as a delicate morsel (Job 21:33).
wickedness—that is, the wicked; abstract for concrete (as Job 5:16).
as a tree—utterly (Job 19:10); Umbreit better, "as a staff." A broken staff is the emblem of irreparable ruin (Isa 14:5; Ho 4:12).
He evil entreateth the barren that beareth not: and doeth not good to the widow.
21. The reason given by the friends why the sinner deserves such a fate.
barren—without sons, who might have protected her.
widow—without a husband to support her.
He draweth also the mighty with his power: he riseth up, and no man is sure of life.
22-25. Reply of Job to the opinion of the friends. Experience proves the contrary. Translate: "But He (God) prolongeth the life of (literally, draweth out at length; Ps 36:10, Margin) the mighty with His (God's) power. He (the wicked) riseth up (from his sick bed) although he had given up hope of (literally, when he no longer believed in) life" (De 28:66).
Though it be given him to be in safety, whereon he resteth; yet his eyes are upon their ways.
23. Literally, "He (God omitted, as often; Job 3:20; Ec 9:9; reverentially) giveth to him (the wicked, to be) in safety, or security."
yet—Job means, How strange that God should so favor them, and yet have His eyes all the time open to their wicked ways (Pr 15:3; Ps 73:4)!
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.
24. Job repeats what he said (Job 21:13), that sinners die in exalted positions, not the painful and lingering death we might expect, but a quick and easy death. Join "for a while" with "are gone," not as English Version. Translate: "A moment—and they are no more! They are brought low, as all (others) gather up their feet to die" (so the Hebrew of "are taken out of the way"). A natural death (Ge 49:33).
ears of corn—in a ripe and full age, not prematurely (Job 5:26).
And if it be not so now, who will make me a liar, and make my speech nothing worth?
25. (So Job 9:24).