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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(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.

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). Job 24:2018 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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