Job 24:21
He evil entreateth the barren that beareth not: and doeth not good to the widow.
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Job 24:21. He evil-entreateth the barren — Job here returns to the declaration of his further acts of wickedness, the causes of these judgments; that heareth not — Barrenness was esteemed a curse and reproach; and so it is mentioned as an instance of this man’s wickedness, that he added affliction to the afflicted, whom he should have pitied and helped; but because the barren had no children, and the widows no husbands to defend or avenge their cause, he exercised cruelty upon them.

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 evil entreateth the barren - The woman who has no children to comfort or support her. He increases her calamity by acts of cruelty and oppression. To be without children, as is well known, was regarded, in the patriarchal ages, as a great calamity.

And doeth not good to the widow - See the notes at Job 24:3. Notwithstanding all this, he is permitted to live in prosperity, and to die without any visible tokens of the divine displeasure.

Job 24:21.Job's own conduct was an illustration of the elevated and pure views of ancient piety:

When the ear heard me, then it blessed me;

And when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me;


21. The reason given by the friends why the sinner deserves such a fate.

barren—without sons, who might have protected her.

widow—without a husband to support her.

He; either,

1. God, who is oft understood, who having cut off his person, and brought him to his grave, continues his judgments upon his wife or widow, and family. Or rather,

2. The oppressor, who is the principal subject of almost all that is said in this chapter; whose great and manifold wickedness Job described from Job 24:2-18, where he proceeds to relate the judgments of God upon him for his sins; which having done, Job 24:18-20, he here returns to the declaration of his further wickednesses, the cause of these judgments.

Evil entreateth; or feedeth upon, or devoureth, or breaketh in pieces; for all these the word signifieth, and all come to one and the same thing.

The barren that beareth not: barrenness was esteemed a curse and reproach; and so he added affliction to the afflicted, whom he should have pitied and helped; but because such had no children, and the widows no husbands, to defend or avenge their cause, he exercised cruelty upon them.

Doeth not good: either,

1. He did her much wrong and harm, it being usual in Scripture under such negative expressions to contain the affirmation of the contrary; as Exodus 20:7 Proverbs 17:21 28:21. And so this branch answers to the former, of evil entreating. Or,

2. He afforded her no help, or advice, or comfort in her distresses; and so he intimateth the greatness of omission sins, and that the common neglect or contempt of plain and positive duties, whether of piety to God, or of charity to men, is to be reckoned among high and heinous crimes.

He evil entreateth the barren, that beareth not,.... Here Job returns, to give some further account of the sins of some wicked men, who prosper in this world, and go through it with impunity; and speaks of such that use their wives ill because they are barren, upbraid them with it, and are churlish to them on account of it; or use them ill that they may be barren, and bear no children, having no pleasure in them, as not in vineyards, before, Job 24:18; and some interpret this of deflowering virgins, who never bore children, and of using methods to make them abortive, when with child; the word we translate "evil entreateth" sometimes signifies joining to, or being a companion of others, as in Proverbs 13:20; hence various senses are given; some, he joins himself to a barren woman, that he may have no children, being not desirous of any; others, he, joins himself to, and is a companion of harlots, who are commonly barren: and like the prodigal, spends his substance among them. Some interpreters take this verse and Job 24:22; as expressive of the punishment of wicked men: so Mr. Broughton renders the words, "he adjoineth the barren" (d), and gives the sense of them thus; God sends after him a barren wife, that he shall have no help by children; but, though a numerous offspring has been reckoned an outward happiness, and not to have any an infelicity, yet it has been the case of many good men and women to be childless; wherefore love and hatred are not known hereby: besides, such a sense is contrary to the scope and design of Job, which is to prove that wicked men often go unpunished in this life; wherefore, rather the meaning is, that a wicked man uses ill such, who having not only lost their husbands, but having been barren, and so childless, have none to take their part, and to protect and defend them from the abuses of such men; the Targum renders the word, "he breaketh", and so some understand it (e); he breaketh the barren, tears them to pieces, ruins and destroys them, as to their outward substance, because they have no children to help them; with which agrees what follows,

and doth not good to the widow; does not make her glad and cheerful, as Job did, who made the widow's heart to sing for joy, Job 29:13; does not relieve and assist her when in distress, either by counsel and advice, or by administering to her necessities; but, on the contrary, afflicts and oppresses her; takes her ox, or her raiment, for a pledge, and plunders her house, and devours the substance of it; for more is intended than is expressed.

(d) "consociat ei sterilem", Junius & Tremellius. (e) Pagninus, Montanus, Bolducius, Piscator, Mercerus, Drusius.

He {x} evil entreateth the barren that beareth not: and doeth not good to the widow.

(x) He shows why the wicked will not be lamented, because he did not pity others.

21. This verse is closely connected with the last clause of the preceding.

And wickedness shall be broken like a tree—

Even he that devoureth the barren that beareth not,

And doeth not good unto the widow.

The “tree” is a frequent object of comparison, e.g. ch. Job 19:10, “removed or plucked up like a tree,” here “broken” like a tree. The “barren that beareth not” is she that is lonely, having no sons to uphold her right, Psalm 127:3, cf. Isaiah 51:18. Pleading for, or upholding the cause of the widow is often enjoined, as in Isaiah 1:17, and the Lord Himself is said to be her “judge,” Psalm 68:5.

The broad and somewhat exaggerated colours of the preceding picture (Job 24:18-21) indicate that it is either actually in part the work of a popular hand, or that it is a parody after the popular manner by Job himself.

Verse 21. - He evil entreateth the barren that beareth not. Oppressors of another class are perhaps here spoken of, or perhaps there is a mere return to the idea with which Job's enumeration opened (ver. 3), which was the oppression of the weaker and more defenceless classes. As barrenness in women was considered the greatest possible misfortune (1 Samuel 1:5-8; 1 Samuel 3:1-10), so oppressing one that was barren indicated extreme cruelty. And doeth not good to the widow; i.e. neglects to vindicate her cause - an admitted part of man's duty (see Job 22:9; Job 29:13; Job 31:16). Job 24:2118 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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