Job 21:7
Why do the wicked live, become old, yes, are mighty in power?
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Job 21:7. Wherefore do the wicked live? — That is, long and happily: become old? — Namely, in their prosperous state: yea, are mighty in power? — Are preferred to places of authority and trust, and not only make a great figure, but bear a great sway? Now, if things be as you say, how comes this to pass? Wherefore does the righteous God distribute things so unequally? “The description, which follows, of a prosperous estate is such as might, indeed, justly create envy, were a wicked man, in any state, to be envied; for we have here the chief ingredients of human happiness, as it respects this life, brought together and described in terms exactly suiting the simplicity of manners, and the way of living in Job’s time and country, as, first, security and safety to themselves and families; Job 21:9. Their houses are safe from fear — Of the incursions of robbers, we may suppose, or the depredations of the neighbouring clans, so usual in those ancient times, and of which Job had felt the mischievous effects. Next health, or a freedom from diseases, called in the language of that age, the rod of God. See 1 Samuel 26:10. To this is added plenty of cattle, the riches of those times; Job 21:10. Next comes a numerous and hopeful offspring; and what a rural picture has he drawn of them! Job 21:11. They send forth their little ones like a flock — Of sheep or goats, as the word signifies, in great numbers, and with sweet concord, which is a singular delight to them and their parents. They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the pipe; Job 21:12. Lastly, and to crown all, after a prosperous and pleasant life comes an easy death. They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave — That is, their days pass on in a continual flow of prosperity, till they drop into the grave without a groan. As every thing in this divine poem is wonderful, there is scarce any thing more to be admired in it than the variety of descriptions which are given us of human life, in its most exalted prosperity, on the one hand, and its deepest distress on the other: for this is what their subject led them to enlarge upon on both sides; with this only difference, that the three friends were for limiting prosperity to the good, whereas Job insists upon a mixed distribution of things from the hand of Providence; but as all of them, in every speech almost, enlarge upon one or other of these topics, the variety of imagery and colouring in which they paint to us these different estates, all drawn from nature, and suiting the simplicity of those ancient times, is inexpressibly amusing and entertaining: then their being considered as the dispensations of Providence, and it being represented that we can receive neither good nor evil but from God, the judge of all, a point acknowledged on both hands, is what renders these descriptions interesting and affecting to us in the highest degree; and the whole affords no contemptible argument of the antiquity of the book. See Peters and Dodd.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.Wherefore do the wicked live? - Job comes now to the main design of his argument in this chapter, to show that it is a fact, that the wicked often have great prosperity; that they are not treated in this life according to their character; and that it is not a fact that men of eminent wickedness, as his friends maintained, would meet, in this life, with proportionate sufferings. He says, that the fact is, that they enjoy great prosperity; that they live to a great age; and that they are surrounded with the comforts of life in an eminent degree. The meaning is, "If you are positive that the wicked are treated according to their character in this life - that great wickedness is followed by great judgments, how is it to be accounted for that they live, and grow old, and are mighty in power?" Job assumes the fact to be so, and proceeds to argue as if that were indisputable. It is remarkable, that the fact was not adverted to at an earlier period of the debate. It would have done much to settle the controversy. The "question," "Why do the wicked live?" is one of great importance at all times, and one which it is natural to ask, but which it is not even yet always easy to answer. "Some" points are clear, and may be easily suggested. They are such as these - They live

(1) to show the forbearance and long suffering of God;

(2) to furnish a full illustration of the character of the human heart;

(3) to afford them ample space for repentance, so that there shall not be the semblance of a ground of complaint when they are called before God, and are condemned;

(4) because God intends to make some of them the monuments of his mercy, and more fully to display the riches of his grace in their conversion, as he did in the case of Paul, Augustine, John Bunyan, and John Newton;

(5) they may be preserved to be the instruments of his executing some important purpose by them, as was the case with Pharaoh, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar; or,

(6) he keeps them, that the great interests of society may be carried on; that the affairs of the commercial and the political world may be forwarded by their skill and talent.

For some, or all of these purposes, it may be, the wicked are kept in the land of the living, and are favored with great external prosperity, while many a Christian is oppressed, afflicted, and crushed to the dust. Of the "fact," there can be no doubt; of the "reasons" for the fact, there will be a fuller development in the future world than there can be now.

Become old - The friends of Job had maintained that the wicked would be cut off. Job, on the other hand, affirms that they live on to old age. The "fact" is, that many of the wicked are cut off for their sins in early life, but that some live on to an extreme old age. The argument of Job is founded on the fact, that "any" should live to old age, as, according to the principles of his friends, "all" were treated in this life according to their character.

Yea, are mighty in power - Or, rather, "in wealth" - חיל chayı̂l. Jerome, "Are comforted in riches" - "confortatique divitiis." So the Septuagint, ἐν πλούτῳ en ploutō. The idea is, that they become very rich.

7. The answer is Ro 2:4; 1Ti 1:16; Ps 73:18; Ec 8:11-13; Lu 2:35-end; Pr 16:4; Ro 9:22.

old—in opposition to the friends who asserted that sinners are "cut off" early (Job 8:12, 14).

He expostulates this matter partly with his friends, If things be as you say, how comes this to pass, &c? partly with God himself, Wherefore doth the righteous God distribute things so unequally?

The wicked live, to wit, long and happily; as living is oft taken, as Leviticus 18:5 1 Samuel 10:24 25:6 Psalm 38:19; a painful and afflicted life being a kind of death, and oft so called, as Deu 30:15,19 Pr 15:10 19:16 1 Corinthians 3:22 15:31.

Become old, to wit, in their prosperous estate. Wherefore do the wicked live,.... Which question is put either to God himself, as not knowing ow to account for it, or to reconcile it to his divine perfections; that he, a holy, just, and righteous Being, should suffer such wretches to live upon his earth, who had been, and still were, continually sinning against him, transgressing his law, and trampling under foot his power and authority; when he, a man that feared the Lord, as God himself had borne witness of him, laboured under such heavy affliction, that he seemed rather to die than live: or else it is put to his friends, to whom he appeals for the truth of it, as Zophar had to him, about the short time of the prosperity of the wicked, Job 10:4; and desires them to try how they could make such undeniable facts comport with their own principles, that wicked men are always and only afflicted to any great degree, and not holy and good men; but if so, it is asked, why do they "live", even live at all? why is not their breath stopped at once, that breathe out nothing but sin and wickedness? or why are they "lively?" as Mr. Broughton renders the word; that is, brisk, cheerful, and jocund, live merrily, having an abundance of this world's good things; call upon themselves to eat, drink, and be merry, and indulge themselves in all the gratifications of sensual pleasures and delights; live at ease, in peace and outward comfort, and are not in trouble as other men, having nothing to disturb, disquiet, and distress them; nay, not only live comfortably, but live long: while a righteous man perishes or dies in his righteousness, the wicked man prolongs his life in his wickedness, Ecclesiastes 7:15, as it follows:

become old; live to a considerable old age, as Ishmael did, to whom he may have respect, as well as to some others within his knowledge; or are "durable" (n), not only in age, as the sinner is supposed to die, and sometimes does die an hundred years old, or more, but in wealth and riches, in outward prosperity; for though spiritual riches are only durable riches, in opposition to temporal ones, yet these sometimes endure with a wicked man, and he endures with them as long as he lives, as may be seen in the instances of wicked rich men in Luke 12:16; with which agrees what follows:

yea, are mighty in power? are in great authority among men, being kings, princes, civil magistrates, see Psalm 37:35; are advanced to great dignity and honour, as the twelve princes that sprung from Ishmael, and the race of kings and dukes that came from Esau. Mr. Broughton renders it, "be mighty in riches", greatly increase in them; and so the Targum, possess substance or riches.

(n) "durant", Mercerus, Cocceius, Michaelis; "edurant", Schultens.

Wherefore do the wicked {d} live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?

(d) Job proves against his adversaries that God does not punish the wicked immediately, but often gives them long life and prosperity, so we must not judge God just or unjust by the things that appear to our eyes.

7. Wherefore do the wicked live] The question scarcely means, How is it, if your principles be true, that the wicked live? Job’s mind is engrossed with the great problem itself, and he asks, Why in the government of a righteous God do the wicked live? They not only live, they live to old age, and wax mighty in the earth.

7–16. The mystery is, Why do the wicked prosper? They live long, they see their children grow up, and their homes are peaceful (Job 21:7-9). Their cattle thrives (Job 21:10). Their children and they pass a mirthful life with music and dance (Job 21:11-12). And with no pain at last they die, though they had openly renounced God (Job 21:13-15). Yet it is God who bestows this prosperity upon them (Job 21:16).

7–21. This great mystery of the prosperity of the wicked in God’s providence Job now unfolds on both its sides: first, they and all belonging to them prosper, and they die in peace, although in conscious godlessness they bade the Almighty depart from them, Job 21:7-16; and second, negatively, examples of calamity befalling them are few, Job 21:17-21.Verse 7. - Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power? Job asks for an explanation of the facts which his own experience has impressed upon him. He has seen that "the wicked live" quite as long as the righteous, that in many cases they attain to a ripe old age, and become among the powerful of the earth. The great "pyramid kings" of Egypt, whose cruel oppressions were remembered down to the time of Herodotus (Herod., 2:124-128), reigned respectively, according to Egyptian tradition, sixty-three and sixty-six years(Manetho ap. Euseb., 'Chronicles Can.,' pars 2.). Rameses II., the cruel oppressor of the Jews, and the Pharaoh from whom Moses fled, had a reign of sixty-seven years ('Hist. of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 2. p. 301). 1 Then began Job, and said:

2 Hear, oh hear, my speech,

And let this be instead of your consolations.

3 Suffer me, and I will speak,

And after I have spoken thou mayest mock.

4 As for me, then, doth my complaint concern man,

Or wherefore should I not become impatient?

5 Turn ye to me and be astonished,

And lay your hand upon your mouth.

6 Even if I think of it I am bewildered,

And my flesh taketh hold on trembling - :

The friends, far from being able to solve the enigma of Job's affliction, do not once recognise the mystery as such. They cut the knot by wounding Job most deeply by ever more and more frivolous accusations. Therefore he entreats them to be at least willing to listen (שׁמעוּ with the gerund) to his utterance (מלּה) respecting the unsolved enigma; then (Waw apodosis imper.) shall this attention supply the place of their consolations, i.e., be comforting to him, which their previous supposed consolations could not be. They are to bear with him, i.e., without interruption allow him to answer for himself (שׂאוּני with Kametz before the tone, as Jonah 1:12, comp. קחהוּ, 1 Kings 20:33, not as Hirz. thinks under the influence of the distinctive accent, but according to the established rule, Ges. 60, rem. 1); then he will speak (אנכי contrast to the "ye" in שׂאוני without further force), and after he has expressed himself they may mock. It is, however, not תלעיגוּ (as Olshausen corrects), but תלעיג (in a voluntative signific. equals תלעג), since Job here addresses himself specially to Zophar, the whole of whose last speech must have left the impression on him of a bitter sarcasm (sarkasmo's from sarka'zein in the sense of Job 19:22), and has dealt him the freshest deep blow. In Job 21:4 שׂיחת is not to be understood otherwise than as in Job 7:13; Job 9:27; Job 10:1; Job 23:2, and is to be translated "my complaint." Then the prominently placed אנכי is to be taken, after Ezekiel 33:17, Ges. 121, 3, as an emphatic strengthening of the "my": he places his complaint in contrast with another. This emphasizing is not easily understood, if one, with Hupf., explains: nonne hominis est querela mea, so that ה is equivalent to הלא (which here in the double question is doubly doubtful), and ל is the sign of the cause. Schultens and Berg, who translate לאדם more humano, explain similarly, by again bringing their suspicious ל comparativum

(Note: In the passage from Ibn-Kissa quoted above, p. 421, Schultens, as Fleischer assures me, has erroneously read Arab. lmchâlı̂b instead of kmchâlı̂b, having been misled by the frequent failing of the upper stroke of the Arab. k, and in general Arab. l is never equals k, and also ל never equals כ, as has been imagined since Schultens.)

here to bear upon it. The ל by שׂיחי (if it may not also be compared with Job 12:8) may certainly be expected to denote those to whom the complaint is addressed. We translate: As for me, then, does my complaint concern men? The אנכי which is placed at the beginning of the sentence comes no less under the rule, Ges. 145, 2, than 121, 3. In general, sufferers seek to obtain alleviation of their sufferings by imploring by words and groans the pity of sympathizing men; the complaint, however, which the three hear from him is of a different kind, for he has long since given up the hope of human sympathy, - his complaint concerns not men, but God (comp. Job 16:20).


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