Job 24:20
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) The womb shall forget him.—Some understand this verse as expressing what ought rather to be the doom of the wicked. “His own mother should forget him; the worm should feed sweetly on him; he should be no more remembered; and then unrighteousness would be broken as a tree.”

Job 24:20. The womb shall forget him — His mother that bare him, and much more the rest of his friends, shall seldom or never mention or remember him, but shall rather be ashamed to own their relation to one that lived such a vile and wretched life, and died such an accursed death. This portion he shall have, instead of that honour and renown which he thirsted and laboured for, and expected should perfume his name and memory. The worm shall feed sweetly on him — This proud and insolent tyrant, that preyed upon all his neighbours, shall himself become a prey to the contemptible worms; he shall be no more remembered — Namely, with honour, or so as to be desired; but his name shall rot, and scarcely ever be mentioned but with infamy. And wickedness shall be broken — The wicked man shall be broken to pieces, or violently broken down, as the word תשׁבר, tishaber, signifies; shall be utterly and irrecoverably destroyed; as a tree — Which being once broken never groweth again.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.The womb shall forget him - His mother who bare him shall forget him. The idea here seems to be, that he shall fade out of the memory, just as other persons do. He shall not be overtaken with any disgraceful punishment, thus giving occasion to remember him by a death of ignominy. At first view it would seem to be a calamity to be soon forgotten by a mother; but if the above interpretation be correct, then it means that the condition of his death would be such that there would be no occasion for a mother to remember him with sorrow and shame, as she would one who was ignominiously executed for his crimes. This interpretation was proposed by Mercer, and has been adopted by Rosenmuller, Noyes, and others. It accords with the general scope of the passage, and is probably correct. Various other interpretations, however, have been proposed, which may be seen in Good, and in the Critici Sacri.

The worm shall feed sweetly on him - As on others. He shall die and be buried in the usual manner. He shall lie quietly in the grave, and there return to his native dust. He shall not be suspended on a gibbet, or torn and devoured by wild beasts; but his death and burial shall be peaceful and calm; see Job 21:26, note; Job 19:26, note.

He shall be no more remembered - As having been a man of eminent guilt, or as ignominiously punished. The meaning is, that there is nothing marked and distinguishing in his death. There is no special manifestation of the divine displeasure. There is some truth in this, that the wicked cease to be remembered. People hasten to forget them; and having done no good that makes them the objects of grateful reminiscence, their memory fades away. This, so far from being a calamity and a curse, Job regards as a favor. It would be a calamity to be remembered as a bad man, and as having died an ignominious death.

And wickedness shall be broken as a tree - Evil here or wickedness (עולה ‛avlâh) means an evil or wicked man. The idea seems to be, that such a man would die as a tree that is stripped of its leaves and branches is broken down. He is not like a green tree that is violently torn up by the roots in a storm, or twisted off in a tempest, but like a dry tree that begins to decay, and that falls down gently by its own weight. It lives to be old, and then quietly sinks on the ground and dies. So Job says it is with the wicked. They are not swept away by the divine judgments, as the trees of the forest are torn up by the roots or twisted off by the tornado.

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).

His mother that bare him in her womb, and much more the rest of his friends, shall seldom or never remember or mention him, to wit, with honour and comfort, but shall rather be afraid and ashamed to own their relation to one that lived such a vile and wretched life, and died such an accursed death. This he shall have instead of all that honour and renown which he thirsted and laboured for, and expected should perfume his name and memory. This proud and insolent tyrant that preyed upon all his neighbours, Job 24:2,3, &c., shall himself become a prey and a sweet morsel to the contemptible worms.

He shall be no more remembered, to wit, with honour, or so as he desired and hoped; but his name shall rot, and scarce ever be mentioned but with infamy and execration.

Wickedness, i.e. the wicked man, of whom he is here treating; the abstract being put for the concrete, of which many instances have been formerly given;

shall be broken to pieces, or violently broken down, as the word signifies. He shall be utterly and irrecoverably destroyed. And this expression plainly showeth first the former clauses are not to be understood of the sinner’s happiness in an easy and comfortable death, but of his cursed and miserable end.

As a tree; which being once broken, either by its own weight, or by some violent wind, or by the hand of man, never groweth again. The womb shall forget him,.... His mother that bore him; or his wife, by whom he had many children; or his friend, as Gersom, who had a tender and affectionate respect for him; these all, and each of them, either because of his wicked life and infamous death, care not to speak of him, but bury him in oblivion; or because of his quiet and easy death, are not distressed with it, but soon forget him; unless this is to be understood of the womb of the earth, in which being buried, he lies forgotten, to which the next clause agrees; though some interpret it of God himself the word having the signification of mercy (b); who, though mercy itself, is rich and abundant in it, yet has no mercy for, nor shows any favour to, such men; but they lie in the grave among those whom he remembers no more in a way of grace and favour, Psalm 85:5;

the worm shall feed sweetly on him; for being brought to the grave at once, without any wasting distemper, is a fine repast for worms, his breasts being full of milk, and his bones moistened with marrow, and full of flesh; or "the worm is sweet unto him" (c); he feels no pain by its feeding on him, and so the sense is just the same with that expression, "the clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him", Job 21:33;

he shall be no more remembered; with any mark of honour and respect; his memory shall rot with him, while the righteous are had in everlasting remembrance; or rather dying a common death, and not made a public example of:

and wickedness shall be broken as a tree; that is, wicked men, who are wickedness itself, extremely wicked, and are like to a tree, sometimes flourishing in external prosperity, having an affluence of the things of this world, and always like barren and unfruitful trees, with respect to grace and good works; these, when the axe of death is laid to the root of them, they are cut down, and their substance comes to nothing, and their families are destroyed, and so they become like trees struck with thunder and lightning, and broken into ten thousand shivers; or as the trees in Egypt were broken to pieces by the plague of hail, Exodus 9:25.

(b) "misericordia", V. L. "miseratio", Montanus, Bolducius; so Tigurine version, Grotius. (c) "dulcescit ei", Beza, Piscator; "suavis", Cocceius; so Michaelis, Schultens.

{u} 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.

(u) Though God tolerates the wicked for a time, yet their end will be vile destruction, and in this point Job commits to himself and shows his confidence.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. Even she whose womb bore the sinner shall forget him; none shall find pleasure in him but the worm, to whose taste he shall be sweet.Verse 20. - The womb shall forget him: Some regard this as equivalent to "Earth shall forget him;" but most suppose "the womb" to mean "his own mother." The worm shall feed sweetly on him (comp. Job 17:14). He shall be no more remembered. Oblivion shall fall upon him and his doings. And wickedness shall be broken as a tree. As a strong wind suddenly snaps off a tree at the root, so wickedness, in the person of the wicked man - the abstract for the concrete - shall be overtaken by death, and perish in a moment (comp. ver. 24). 13 Others are those that rebel against the light,

They will know nothing of its ways,

And abide not in its paths.

14 The murderer riseth up at dawn,

He slayeth the sufferer and the poor,

And in the night he acteth like a thief.

15 And the eye of the adulterer watcheth for the twilight;

He thinks: "no eye shall recognise me,"

And he putteth a veil before his face.

With המּה begins a new turn in the description of the moral confusion which has escaped God's observation; it is to be translated neither as retrospective, "since they" (Ewald), nor as distinctive, "they even" (Bttch.), i.e., the powerful in distinction from the oppressed, but "those" (for המה corresponds to our use of "those," אלּה to "these"), by which Job passes on to another class of evil-disposed and wicked men. Their general characteristic is, that they shun the light. Those who are described in Job 24:14 are described according to their general characteristic in Job 24:13; accordingly it is not to be interpreted: those belong to the enemies of the light, but: those are, according to their very nature, enemies of the light. The Beth is the so-called Beth essent.; היוּ (comp. Proverbs 3:26) affirms what they are become by their own inclination, or as what they are fashioned, viz., as ἀποστάται φωτός (Symm.); מרד (on the root מר, vid., on Job 23:2) signifies properly to push one's self against anything, to lean upon, to rebel; מרד therefore signifies one who strives against another, one who is obstinate (like the Arabic mârid, merı̂d, comp. mumâri, not conformable to the will of another). The improvement מרדי אור (not with Makkeph, but with Mahpach of mercha mahpach. placed between the two words, vid., Br's Psalterium, p. x.) assumes the possibility of the construction with the acc., which occurs at least once, Joshua 22:19. They are hostile to the light, they have no familiarity with its ways (הכּיר, as Joshua 22:17, Psalm 142:5; Ruth 2:19, to take knowledge of anything, to interest one's self in its favour), and do not dwell (ישׁבוּ, Jer. reversi sunt, according to the false reading ישׁבוּ) in its paths, i.e., they neither make nor feel themselves at home there, they have no peace therein. The light is the light of day, which, however, stands in deeper, closer relation to the higher light, for the vicious man hateth τὸ φῶς, John 3:20, in every sense; and the works which are concealed in the darkness of the night are also ἔργα τοῦ σκότους, Romans 13:12 (comp. Isaiah 29:15), in the sense in which light and darkness are two opposite principles of the spiritual world. It need not seem strange that the more minute description of the conduct of these enemies of the light now begins with לאור. It is impossible that this should mean: still in the darkness of the night (Stick.), prop. towards the light, when it is not yet light. Moreover, in biblical Hebrew, אור does not signify evening, in which sense it occurs in Talmudic Hebrew (Pesachim 1a, Seder olam rabba, c. 5, אור שׁביעי, vespera septima), like אורתּא ( equals נשׁף) in Talmudic Aramaic. The meaning, on the contrary, is that towards daybreak (comp. הבקר אור, Genesis 44:3), therefore with early morning, the murderer rises up, to go about his work, which veils itself in darkness (Psalm 10:8-10) by day, viz., to slay (comp. on יקטל...יקוּם, Ges. 142, 3, c) the unfortunate and the poor, who pass by defenceless and alone. One has to supply the idea of the ambush in which the waylayer lies in wait; and it is certainly inconvenient that it is not expressed.

The antithesis וּבלּילה, Job 24:14, shows that nothing but primo mane is meant by לאור. He who in the day-time goes forth to murder and plunder, at night commits petty thefts, where no one whom he could attack passes by. Stickel translates: to slay the poor and wretched, and in the night to play the thief; but then the subjunctivus ויהי ought to precede (vid., e.g., Job 13:5), and in general it cannot be proved without straining it, that the voluntative form of the future everywhere has a modal signification. Moreover, here יהי does not differ from Job 18:12; Job 20:23, but is only a poetic shorter form for יהיה: in the night he is like a thief, i.e., plays the part of the thief. And the adulterer's eye observes the darkness of evening (vid., Proverbs 7:9), i.e., watches closely for its coming on (שׁמר, in the usual signification observare, to be on the watch, to take care, observe anxiously), since he hopes to render himself invisible; and that he may not be recognised even if seen, he puts on a mask. סתר פּנים is something by which his countenance is rendered unrecognisable (lxx ἀποκρυβὴ προσώπου), like the Arab. sitr, sitâreh, a curtain, veil, therefore a veil for the face, or, as we say in one word borrowed from the Arabic mascharat, a farce (masquerade): the mask, but not in the proper sense.

(Note: The mask was perhaps never known in Palestine and Syria; סתר פנים is the mendı̂l or women's veil, which in the present day (in Hauran exclusively) is called sitr, and is worn over the face by all married women in the towns, while in the country it is worn hanging down the back, and is only drawn over the face in the presence of a stranger. If this explanation is correct the poet means to say that the adulterer, in order to remain undiscovered, wears women's clothes comp. Deuteronomy 22:5; and, in fact, in the Syrian towns (the figure is taken from town-life) women's clothing is always chosen for that kind of forbidden nocturnal undertaking, i.e., the man disguises himself in an ı̂zâr, which covers him from head to foot, takes the mendı̂l, and goes with a lantern (without which at night every person is seized by the street watchman as a suspicious person) unhindered into a strange house. - Wetzst.)

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