Job 21:18
They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Job 21:18. They are as stubble before the wind, &c. — That is, their destruction shall be speedy, certain, and irrecoverable. Thus he goes on to concede to his adversaries, “that wicked men are sometimes thus severely punished, as they in their speeches had been fond of representing; but then he had before shown, that they were sometimes as remarkably prosperous; and this made way for a third particular, which is indeed his general assertion all along, and the medium by which he endeavoured to convince them of the rashness of their censures and suspicions of him; namely, that things are dealt out here promiscuously, and without any strict regard to merit or demerit.” — Dodd.

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 - According to the interpretation proposed of the previous verse, this may be read as a question, "How often is it that the wicked are made like stubble? You say that God deals with people exactly according to their characters, and that the wicked are certainly subjected to calamities; but how often does this, in fact, occur? Is it a uniform law? Do they not, in fact, live in prosperity, and arrive at a good old age?" It is not uncommon in the Scriptures to compare the wicked with stubble, and to affirm that they shall be driven away, as the chaff is driven by the wind; see the notes at Isaiah 17:13.

The storm carrieth away - Margin, "stealeth away." This is a literal translation of the Hebrew. The idea is that of stealing away before one is aware, as a thief carries off spoil.

18. Job alludes to a like sentiment of Bildad (Job 18:18), using his own previous words (Job 13:25). i.e. Their destruction shall be speedy, and certain, and irrecoverable.

They are as stubble before the wind,.... Or how oft "are they as stubble?" &c. or how oft does God do the above things, "so that they are", or "become, as stubble before the wind" (u),

and as chaff that the storm carrieth, or "steals away" (x)? hastily, suddenly, at an unawares like a thief: wicked men are comparable to stubble and chaff; for the vanity of their minds, their emptiness of all good things; for their lightness, the levity and inconstancy of their hearts, their principles and practices; for their uselessness and unprofitableness to God and men, to themselves and their fellow creatures; for their being fit fuel for everlasting burnings, their end like these being to be burned; and whose destruction is inevitable and irresistible, and can no more be withstood and prevented than stubble and chaff can stand before a strong wind and a stormy tempest: but is this their common case now? are they usually tossed to and fro with the wind of adversity, and the storms of desolating judgments? are they not, on the other hand, seen in great power, and spreading themselves like a green bay tree; taking root, increasing in outward prosperity, and bringing forth the fruit of it? see Psalm 37:35.

(u) "ut sint velut palea", Tigurine version; so Broughton, "quoties sunt", Junius & Tremellius; "quoties fiunt", Piscator, Michaelis. (x) "furatus est eam", Montanus; "suffuratur", Vatablus; "furatur", Drusius, Cocceius, Schultens.

They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 18. - They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away; rather, How oft is it that they are as stubble before the wind and as chaff etc.? The construction begun in the first clause of ver. 17 is carried on to the end of ver. 18. "Stubble" and "chaff" are ordinary figures for foolish and ungodly men, whom the blast of God's anger swoops away to destruction (comp. Exodus 15:7; Psalm 1:4; Psalm 35:5; Psalm 83:13; Isaiah 27:13; Isaiah 29:5; Isaiah 41:2, etc.). Job 21:1817 How rarely is the light of the wicked put out,

And their calamity breaketh in upon them,

That He distributeth snares in his wrath,

18 That they become as straw before the wind,

And as chaff which the storm sweepeth away!?

19 "Eloah layeth up his iniquity for his children!"

May He recompense it to him that he may feel it.

20 May his own eyes see his ruin,

And let him drink of the glowing wrath of the Almighty.

21 For what careth he for his house after him,

When the number of his months is cut off?

The interrogative כּמּה has here the same signification as in Psalm 78:40 : how often (comp. Job 7:19, how long? Job 13:23, how many?), but in the sense of "how seldom?!" How seldom does what the friends preach to him come to pass, that the lamp of the wicked is put out (thus Bildad, Job 13:5), and their misfortune breaks in upon them (יבא, ingruit; thus Bildad, Job 18:12 : misfortune, איד, prop. pressure of suffering, stands ready for his fall), that He distributes (comp. Zophar's "this is the portion of the wicked man," i.e., what is allotted to him, Job 20:29) snares in His wrath. Hirz., Ew., Schlottm., and others, translate הבלים, after the precedent of the Targ. (עדבין, sortes), "lots," since they understand it, after Psalm 16:6, of visitations of punishment allotted, and as it were measured out with a measuring-line; but that passage is to be translated, "the measuring-lines have fallen to me in pleasant places," and indeed חבל can signify the land that is allotted to one (Joshua 17:14, comp. Joshua 17:5); but the plural does not occur in that tropical sense, and if it were so intended here, חבליהם or חבלים להם might at least be expected. Rosenm., Ges., Vaih., and Carey transl. with lxx and Jer. (ὠδῖνες, dolores) "pains," but הבלים is the peculiar word for the writhings of those in travail (Job 39:3), which is not suited here. Schnurr. and Umbr. are nearer to the correct interpretation when they understand חבלים like פחים, Psalm 11:6, of lightning, as it were fiery strings cast down from above. If we call to mind in how many ways Bildad, Job 18:8-10, has represented the end of the godless as a divinely decreed seizure, it is certainly the most natural, with Stick. and Hahn, to translate (as if it were Arabic ḥabâ'ilin) "snares," to be understood after the idea, however, not of lightning, but generally of ensnaring destinies (e.g., חבלי עני, Job 36:8).

Both Job 21:17 with its three members and Job 21:18 with two, are under the control of כמה. The figure of straw, or rather chopped straw (Arab. tibn, tabn), occurs only here. The figure of chaff is more frequent, e.g., Psalm 1:4. Job here puts in the form of a question what Psalm 1:1-6 maintains, being urged on by Zophar's false application and superficial comprehension of the truth expressed in the opening of the Psalter. What next follows in Job 21:19 is an objection of the friends in vindication of their thesis, which he anticipates and answers; perhaps the clause is to be spoken with an interrogative accent: Eloah will - so ye object - reserve his evil for his children? אונו, not from און, strength, wealth, as Job 18:7, Job 18:12; Job 20:10; Job 40:16, but from און, wickedness (Job 11:11) and evil (Job 15:35), here (without making it clear which) of wickedness punishing itself by calamity, or of calamity which must come forth from the wickedness as a moral necessity comp. on Job 15:31. That this is really the opinion of the friends: God punishes the guilt of the godless, if not in himself, at least in his children, is seen from Job 20:10; Job 5:4. Job as little as Ezekiel, ch. 18, disputes the doctrine of retribution in itself, but that imperfect apprehension, which, in order that the necessary satisfaction may be rendered to divine justice, maintains a transfer of the punishment which is opposed to the very nature of personality and freedom: may He recompense him himself, וידע, that he may feel it, i.e., repent (which would be in Arab. in a similar sense, faja'lamu; ידע as Isaiah 9:8; Hosea 9:7; Ezekiel 25:14).

Job 21:20 continues in the same jussive forms; the ἅπ. γεγρ. כּיד signifies destruction (prop. a thrust, blow), in which sense the Arab. caid (commonly: cunning) is also sometimes used. The primary signification of the root כד, Arab. kd, is to strike, push; from this, in the stems Arab. kâd, med. Wau and med. Je, Arab. kdd, kdkd, the most diversified turns and applications are developed; from it the signif. of כּידוד, Job 41:11, כּידון, Job 39:23, and according to Fleischer (vid., supra, pp. 388) also of כּידור, are explained. Job 21:20, as Psalm 60:5; Obadiah 1:16, refers to the figure of the cup of the wrath of God which is worked out by Asaph, Psalm 75:9, and then by the prophets, and by the apocalyptic seer in the New Testament. The emphasis lies on the signs of the person in עינו (עיניו) and ישׁתּה. The rather may his own eyes see his ruin, may he himself have to drink of the divine wrath; for what is his interest (what interest has he) in his house after him? מה puts a question with a negative meaning (hence Arab. mâ is directly used as non); חפץ, prop. inclination, corresponds exactly to the word "interest" (quid ejus interest), as Job 22:3, comp. Isaiah 58:3, Isaiah 58:13 (following his own interest), without being weakened to the signification, affair, πραγμα, a meaning which does not occur in our poet or in Isaiah. JObadiah 21:21 is added as a circumstantial clause to the question in Job 21:21: while the number of his own months ... , and the predicate, as in Job 15:20 (which see), is in the plur. per attractionem. Schnurr., Hirz., Umbr., and others explain: if the number of his months is drawn by lot, i.e., is run out; but חצץ as v. denom. from חץ morf, in the signification to shake up arrows as sticks for drawing lots (Arab. sahm, an arrow and a lot, just so Persian tı̂r) in the helmet or elsewhere (comp. Ezekiel 21:26), is foreign to the usage of the Hebrew language (for מחצצים, Judges 5:11, signifies not those drawing lots, but the archers); besides, חצּץ (pass. חצּץ) would signify "to draw lots," not "to dispose of by lot," and "disposed of by lot" is an awkward metaphor for "run out." Cocceius also gives the choice of returning to חצץ, ψῆφος, in connection with this derivation: calculati sive ad calculum, i.e., pleno numero egressi, which has still less ground. Better Ges., Ew., and others: if the number of his months is distributed, i.e., to him, so that he (this is the meaning according to Ew.) can at least enjoy his prosperity undisturbed within the limit of life appointed to him. By this interpretation one misses the לו which is wanting, and an interpretation which does not require it to be supplied is therefore to be preferred. All the divers significations of the verbs חצץ (to divide, whence Proverbs 30:27, חצץ, forming divisions, i.e., in rank and file, denom. to shoot with the arrow, Talm. to distribute, to halve, to form a partition), חצה (to divide, Job 40:20; to divide in two equal parts), Arab. hṣṣ (to divide, whence Arab. hṣṣah, portio), and Arab. chṣṣ (to separate, particularize) - to which, however, Arab. chṭṭ (to draw, write), which Ew. compares here, does not belong - are referable to the primary signification scindere, to cut through, split (whence חץ, an arrow, lxx 1 Samuel 20:20, σχίζα); accordingly the present passage is to be explained: when the number of his months is cut off (Hlgst., Hahn), or cut through, i.e., when a bound is set to the course of his life at which it ends (comp. בּצּע, of the cutting off of the thread of life, Job 6:9; Job 27:8, Arab. ṣrm). Job 14:21., Ecclesiastes 3:22, are parallels to Job 21:21. Death is the end of all clear thought and perception. If therefore the godless receives the reward of his deeds, he should receive it not in his children, but in his own body during life. But this is the very thing that is too frequently found to be wanting.

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