Job 24:18
He is swift as the waters; their portion is cursed in the earth: he beholdeth not the way of the vineyards.
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(18) He is swift.—That is—each of these rebels against the light is swift to make his escape over the face of the waters. So we ought to read it, and not, with Authorised Version, as a comparison.

Their portion is cursed in the earth.—That is, men so regard it; it has an evil name, and is of bad repute.

He beholdeth not.—Rather, he—that is, each of them—turneth not the way of the vineyards, which is frequented and cultivated, but chooseth rather lone, desolate, solitary, and rugged paths.

Job 24:18. He is swift as the waters — That is, the wicked man quickly passeth away, with all his glory, as the waters, which never stay in one place, but are always hasting away. Their portion — Or, his portion (for he still speaks of the same person, though with a change of the number) is cursed in the earth — His habitation and estate, which he leaves behind him, is accursed of God; and, by all men who live near it, or observe it, is pronounced accursed, because of the remarkable judgments of God upon it, and upon his posterity or family, to which he left it, and from whom it is strangely and unexpectedly alienated. He beholdeth not the way of the vineyards — He shall never more see or enjoy his vineyards, or other pleasant places and things, which seem to be comprehended under this particular. Thus, though Job constantly maintains against his friends, that many ungodly men do prosper, and escape punishment, in this life, yet, withal, he asserts that God will certainly, sooner or later, punish them; and that he sometimes doth it here, cutting them off by cruel and untimely deaths, or otherwise inflicting some notable judgment upon them, of which he also speaks Job 21:17.

24:18-25 Sometimes how gradual is the decay, how quiet the departure of a wicked person, how is he honoured, and how soon are all his cruelties and oppressions forgotten! They are taken off with other men, as the harvestman gathers the ears of corn as they come to hand. There will often appear much to resemble the wrong view of Providence Job takes in this chapter. But we are taught by the word of inspiration, that these notions are formed in ignorance, from partial views. The providence of God, in the affairs of men, is in every thing a just and wise providence. Let us apply this whenever the Lord may try us. He cannot do wrong. The unequalled sorrows of the Son of God when on earth, unless looked at in this view, perplex the mind. But when we behold him, as the sinner's Surety, bearing the curse, we can explain why he should endure that wrath which was due to sin, that Divine justice might be satisfied, and his people saved.He is swift as the waters - Noyes renders this, "They are as swift as the skiff upon the waters." Dr. Good, "Miserable is this man upon the waters." Wemyss, "Such should be as foam upon the waters." Le Clerc says that there is scarcely any passage of the Scriptures more obscure than this, and the variety of rendering adopted will show at once the perplexity of expositors. Rosenmuller supposes that the particle of comparison (כ k) is to be understood, and that the meaning is, "he is as a light thing upon the waters;" and this probably expresses the true sense. It is a comparison of the thief with a light boat, or any other light thing that moves gently on the face of the water, and that glides along without noise. So gently and noiselessly does the thief glide along in the dark. He is rapid in his motion, but he is still. It is not uncommon to describe one who is about to commit crime in the night as moving noiselessly along, and as taking every precaution that the utmost silence should be preserved. So Macbeth, when about to commit murder, soliloquizes:

Now o'er the one half world

Nature seems dead -

And withered murder,

Alarm'd by his sentinel, the wolf,

Who's howl'd his watch, thus with his stealthy pace,

With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design

Moves like a ghost.

Thou sure and firm-set earth,

Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear

The very stones prate of my whereabout.

I do not know, however, that this comparison of a thief, with a light object on the waters, is to be found any where else, but it is one of great beauty. The word rendered "swift" (קל qal) may denote either that which is swift, or that which is light. In Isaiah 30:16, it is applied to a fleet horse. Here it may be rendered, "He is as a light thing upon the face of the waters."

Their portion is cursed in the earth - That is, their manner of life, their way of obtaining a livelihood, is deserving of execration. The result of humble toil and honest labor may be said to be blessed; but not the property which they acquire. Rosenmuller and Noyes, however, suppose that the word "portion" here refers to their habitation, and that the idea is, they have their dwelling in wild and uncultivated places; they live in places that are cursed by sterility and barrenness. The Hebrew will bear either construction. The word lot, as it is commonly understood by us, may perhaps embrace both ideas. "Theirs is a cursed lot on earth."

He beholdeth not the way of the vineyards - That is, they do not spend their lives in cultivating them, nor do they derive a subsistence from them. They live by plunder, and their abodes are in wild retreats, far away from quiet and civilised society. The object seems to be to describe marauders, who make a sudden descent at night on the possessions of others, and who have their dwellings far away from fields that are covered with the fruits of cultivation.

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."

In these words he describes either,

1. The wicked man’s disposition and deportment, that such persons are light and frothy in their spirits, or swift or hasty to do evil, or unstable in their ways as the waters, or upon the face of the waters, i.e. like the foam, or froth, or any other light thing which swims upon the top of the waters. Or rather,

2. His miserable condition, of which he manifestly speaks in the next words, and in the two next verses. For though Job constantly affirms and maintains it against his friends, that many ungodly men do prosper and escape punishment in this life; yet withal he observes and asserts that God will certainly sooner or later punish them, and that he sometimes doth it here, cutting them off by cruel and untimely deaths, or otherwise inflicting some notable judgment upon them; of which he also speaks Job 21:17, &c. So the sense is,

He is swift, i.e. he quickly putteth away with all his glory,

as the waters, which never stay in one place, but are always hasting and running away; or like a ship, or any other thing which swimmeth upon the face of the waters: though he seems to stand as firm and unmovable as a rock, and to have taken deep rooting in the earth, yet he is suddenly and unexpectedly removed and pulled up by the roots. Their; or, his; for he still speaks of the same person, though with a change of the number, which is most familiar in this book, and elsewhere in Scripture.

Portion, or part, i.e. his habitation and estate which he left behind him.

Is cursed in the earth; is really accursed by God, and is by all men who live near it, or observe it, pronounced accursed, because of the remarkable judgments of God upon it, and upon his posterity or family to which he left it, and from whom it is strangely and suddenly alienated.

He beholdeth not the way of the vineyard, i.e. he shall never more see or enjoy his vineyards, or other pleasant places and things, which seem to be comprehended under this particular.

He is swift as the waters,.... Or "upon the face of the waters" (y); which some interpret of another set and sort of wicked men, guilty of like crimes, not on land, but upon the mighty waters; pirates, such that commit robberies upon the high seas; who generally choose the swiftest vessels to run from place to place for their prey, and to carry off their booty when pursued; whose manner of life is detestable to other persons; and especially they are cursed by those on land, who suffer by robbing the ships of their goods they send abroad; but these men best like such a manner of life, and prefer it to any thing by land, to agriculture or cultivation of vineyards, which they have no regard unto, as is supposed to be intimated by the following clauses; but it is greatly to be questioned whether there were any such persons, or that such practices obtained so early as the time of Job. Schultens thinks Sodomites are meant, who are most profuse to lust, and flow in it like water, plough the accursed field, by going after strange flesh, and have no regard to lawful marriage, or honest wives, comparable to vines and vineyards; but I should rather think those guilty of the sin of Onan are meant, who have no regard to the propagation of posterity. Others, as Ben Gersom are of opinion that this refers to the above persons, murderers, adulterers, and thieves, Job 24:14; who, being conscious of their crimes and due deserts, and in danger of being taken up, and brought to just punishment, flee to the sea with all the haste they can, take shipping, and go abroad into foreign parts; where they dwell in desolate and uncultivated places of the earth, which are cursed, or nigh unto cursing, and never more see pleasant fields, gardens, orchards, and vineyards: though others suppose that these words describe the temper and disposition of such wicked persons, who are unstable as water, carried about as any light thing upon the water with every wind of temptation, run swiftly into evil, and make haste to commit sin; though it seems best of all to interpret the words as respecting the state of wicked men at death, who then pass away swiftly and suddenly as gliding waters, and are "lighter" or swifter "than the waters", as Mr. Broughton renders the words:

their portion is cursed in the earth; that part and portion of the good things of this world they have is with a curse; their very blessings are cursed, and what they leave behind has a curse entailed on it, and in process of time is blasted, and comes to nothing; for, the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked, Proverbs 3:33;

he beholdeth not the way of the vineyards; as in their lifetime they had no regard to the way of good and righteous men, of whom Jarchi in a mystical sense, interprets the vineyards; so at death they are taken away from all their worldly enjoyments they set their hearts upon; their places know them no more, and they no more see their fields, and vineyards, and oliveyards, and take no more walks unto them nor in them.

(y) "super faciem aquarum", Mercerus, Bolducius, Beza, Drusius, Schultens.

He is swift as the {r} waters; their {s} portion is cursed in the earth: he beholdeth not the way of the vineyards.

(r) He flees to the waters for his succour.

(s) They think that all the world is bent against them and dare not go by the highway.

18. He is swift as the waters] Rather, he is swift upon the face of the waters. The person spoken of is the wicked man, especially such a tyrannical, proud oppressor as is alluded to in Job 24:2-4; and what is said of him is, that he is like a waif or spray on the surface of the water, swept rapidly away, and disappearing in a moment from the eyes of men in destruction; comp. ch. Job 20:28, Hosea 10:7, “As for Samaria, her king is cut off like foam (or, a twig) upon the face of the waters.”

their portion] i. e. their fields and possessions. A curse is pronounced over the estates of such men by those who behold their downfall; comp. ch. Job 5:3.

he beholdeth not] Or, he turneth not unto the way of the vineyards—he shall no more return unto the smiling vineyards in which he delighted. The joys of his luxurious life shall no more be his, misery and destruction have overtaken him. The general meaning of the phrase is the converse of that expressed by “sitting under his vine and figtree,” 1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4.

18–21. The popular creed regarding the fate of the wicked in God’s government of the world.

18–24. This detailed and graphic picture of the enormities of wicked men (Job 24:2-17) suggests the question, What then is the fate of such men? Are they seized by the sudden judgments of God and delivered into the hand of their own transgression (ch. Job 8:4)? or, are they prolonged in the possession of their power, protected in their wickedness, and brought to a natural and peaceful end at last like men in general? The following passage gives both answers, one in Job 24:18-21, and the other in Job 24:22-24. The former answer is that of Job’s friends, and perhaps of the common mind, a passage or fragments from a poetical expression of whose creed Job seems to cite. This answer is only introduced ironically and in order to supply the background to the true picture which Job himself draws of the history of these violent and wicked men. And this picture is a very different one.

Verse 18. - He is swift as the waters. "Locus obscurissimus" (Schulteus). Scarcely any two commentators agree even as to the subject on which Job proceeds to speak. Some regard him as giving his own judgment on the ultimate fate of the wicked; others, as anticipating what his opponents will say on the point. One recent expositor takes the passage as referring to the efforts made by the malefactors of vers. 14-16 to escape from justice, and to the discredit and difficulty in which they involve themselves. Another suggests that Job here calls attention to a fresh class of oppressors, viz. water-thieves (see Strabo, 16:18), who, starting in light boats from some island in a lake or river, plundered the neighbouring lands, making the portions of the landholders worthless, and causing them to neglect the cultivation, even of their vineyards. If we accept this view, the proper translation of the present verse will be, Swift is he (i.e. the water-thief) upon the face of the waters: then is the portion of them who dwell in the land worthless; no one turneth his face toward his vine. yards (see Professor Lee's 'Book of Job,' pp. 153, 378, 379). Job 24:1818 For he is light upon the surface of the water;

Their heritage is cursed upon the earth;

He turneth no more in the way of the vineyard.

19 Drought, also heat, snatch away snow water -

So doth Shel those who have sinned.

20 The womb forgetteth him, worms shall feast on him,

He is no more remembered;

So the desire of the wicked is broken as a tree -

21 He who hath plundered the barren that bare not,

And did no good to the widow.

The point of comparison in Job 24:18 is the swiftness of the disappearing: he is carried swiftly past, as any light substance on the surface of the water is hurried along by the swiftness of the current, and can scarcely be seen; comp. Job 9:26 : "My days shoot by as ships of reeds, as an eagle which dasheth upon its prey," and Hosea 10:7, "Samaria's king is destroyed like a bundle of brushwood (lxx, Theod., φρύγανον) on the face of the water," which is quickly drawn into the whirlpool, or buried by the approaching wave.

(Note: The translation: like foam (spuma or bulla), is also very suitable here. Thus Targ., Symm., Jerome, and others; but the signification to foam cannot be etymologically proved, whereas קצף in the signification confringere is established by קצפה, breaking, Joel 1:7, and Arab. qṣf; so that consequently קצף, as synon. of אף, signifies properly the breaking forth, and is then allied to אברה.)

But here the idea is not that of being swallowed up by the waters, as in the passage in Hosea, but, on the contrary, of vanishing from sight, by being carried rapidly past by the rush of the waters. If, then, the evil-doer dies a quick, easy death, his heritage (חלקה, from חלק, to divide) is cursed by men, since no one will dwell in it or use it, because it is appointed by God to desolation on account of the sin which is connected with it (vid., on Job 15:28); even he, the evil-doer, no more turns the way of the vineyard (פּנה, with דּרך, not an acc. of the obj., but as indicating the direction equals אל־דּרך; comp. 1 Samuel 13:18 with 1 Samuel 13:17 of the same chapter), proudly to inspect his wide extended domain, and overlook the labourers. The curse therefore does not come upon him, nor can one any longer lie in wait for him to take vengeance on him; it is useless to think of venting upon him the rage which his conduct during life provoked; he is long since out of reach in Shel.

That which Job says figuratively in Job 24:18, and in Job 21:13 without a figure: "in a moment they go down to Shel," he expresses in Job 24:19 under a new figure, and, moreover, in the form of an emblematic proverb (vid., Herzog's Real-Encyklopdie, xiv. 696), according to the peculiarity of which, not כּן, but either only the copulative Waw (Proverbs 25:25) or nothing whatever (Proverbs 11:22), is to be supplied before שׁאול חטאו. חטאוּ is virtually an object: eos qui peccarunt. Job 24:19 is a model-example of extreme brevity of expression, Ges. 155, 4, b. Sandy ground (ציּה, arid land, without natural moisture), added to it (גּם, not: likewise) the heat of the sun - these two, working simultaneously from beneath and above, snatch away (גּזלוּ, cogn. גּזר, root גז, to cut, cut away, tear away; Arab. jzr, fut. i, used of sinking, decreasing water) מימי שׁלג, water of (melted) snow (which is fed from no fountain, and therefore is quickly absorbed), and Shel snatches away those who have sinned ( equals גּזלה את־אשׁר חטאוּ). The two incidents are alike: the death of those whose life has been a life of sin, follows as a consequence easily and unobserved, without any painful and protracted struggle. The sinner disappears suddenly; the womb, i.e., the mother that bare him, forgets him (רחם, matrix equals mater; according to Ralbag: friendship, from רחם, to love tenderly; others: relationship, in which sense Arab. raḥimun equals רחם is used), worms suck at him (מתקו for מתקתּוּ, according to Ges. 147, a, sugit eum, from which primary notion of sucking comes the signification to be sweet, Job 21:33 : Syriac, metkat ennun remto; Ar. imtasahum, from the synonymous Arab. maṣṣa equals מצץ, מצה, מזה), he is no more thought of, and thus then is mischief (abstr. pro concr. as Job 5:16) broken like a tree (not: a staff, which עץ never, not even in Hosea 4:12, directly, like the Arabic ‛asa, ‛asât, signifies). Since עולה is used personally, רעה וגו, Job 24:21, can be connected with it as an appositional permutative. His want of compassion (as is still too often seen in the present day in connection with the tyrannical conduct of the executive in Syria and Palestine, especially on the part of those who collected the taxes) goes the length of eating up, i.e., entirely plundering, the barren, childless (Genesis 11:30; Isaiah 54:1), and therefore helpless woman, who has no sons to protect and defend her, and never showing favour to the widow, but, on the contrary, thrusting her away from him. There is as little need for regarding the verb רעה here, with Rosenm. after the Targ., in the signification confringere, as cognate with רעע, רצץ, as conversely to change תּרעם, Psalm 2:9, into תּרעם; it signifies depascere, as in Job 20:26, here in the sense of depopulari. On the form ייטיב for יימיב, vid., Ges. 70, 2, rem.; and on the transition from the part. to the v. fin., vid., Ges. 134, rem. 2. Certainly the memory of such an one is not affectionately cherished; this is equally true with what Job maintains in Job 21:32, that the memory of the evil-doer is immortalized by monuments. Here the allusion is to the remembrance of a mother's love and sympathetic feeling. The fundamental thought of the strophe is this, that neither in life nor in death had he suffered the punishment of his evil-doing. The figure of the broken tree (broken in its full vigour) also corresponds to this thought; comp. on the other hand what Bildad says, Job 18:16 : "his roots dry up beneath, and above his branch is lopped off" (or: withered). The severity of his oppression is not manifest till after his death.


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