They drive away the ass of the fatherless, they take the widow's ox for a pledge.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)They drive away the ass.—The ass and the ox, the fatherless and the widow presumably having no more than one. He first describes the oppression of the country, and then that of the city (Job 24:12). We seem here to catch a glimpse of the sufferings of some oppressed and subject aboriginal race, such as the Canaanites may have been to the Jews, though there is probably no allusion to them. But, at all events, the writer and the speaker seem to have been familiar with some such abject and servile race, who haunted the desert and suffered at the hands of the more powerful tribes. Man’s inhumanity to man is, unhappily, a crime of very long standing.Job 24:3-4. They drive away the ass of the fatherless — Whose helpless condition required their pity and mercy. He says, the ass, to aggravate their sin, in that they robbed him who had but one ass. They take the widow’s ox — Thereby depriving her, not only of the ox itself, but of all the benefit of its labours, by which her life was sustained; for a pledge — Contrary to God’s law, first written in men’s hearts, and afterward in the Holy Scriptures, Exodus 22:26. They turn the needy out of the way — Out of the way of piety and virtue. They engage them to take evil courses by their examples, or promises, or threatenings. Or, out of their right, of which they deprive them, by subtlety or power. Or, rather, as the word מדרךְ, middarech, more properly signifies, and as the next clause explains it, out of the highway, out of the path or place in which these oppressors walk and range. These needy persons labour to keep out of their way for fear of their further injuries and oppressions. The poor of the earth hide themselves, &c. — For fear of these wicked tyrants and persecutors.Job 22:9.
They take the widow's ox for a pledge - See the notes at Job 22:6. The widow was dependent on her ox to till the ground, and hence, the crime of taking it away in pledge for the payment of a debt.
Job 24:3.He evil-entreateth the barren that beareth not,The ass, either the asses, the singular number being used collectively. Or he saith the ass, to aggravate their sin, that they robbed him who had but one ass. Compare 1 Samuel 12:2-4.
The fatherless; whose helpless condition required their pity and mercy.
The widow’s ox; thereby depriving her not only of the ox itself, but of all the benefit of its labours, by which she sustained her life.
For a pledge; contrary to God’s law, first written in men’s hearts, and afterwards in Holy Scripture, Exodus 22:26,27 Deu 24:6,10, &c. 2 Samuel 12:3;
they take the widow's ox for a pledge; or oxen, the singular for the plural, with which her lands were ploughed, for a single ox could be but of little service: some render it "a cow" (h), by the milk of which she and her family were chiefly supported, as many poor country families are by the means of a good milch cow; and to take this, on which her livelihood depended, and retain for a pledge, was very barbarous; when the law concerning pledges took place among the Jews, in the times of Moses, which it seems was in being before with others, whatsoever was useful to persons, either to keep them warm, or by which they got their bread, were not to be taken, at least not detained for a pledge, see Exodus 22:26.They drive away the ass of the fatherless, they take the widow's ox for a pledge.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)3. By “the ass” and “the ox” is meant the single ass and ox which the fatherless and widow possess, needful for working their small field or affording them scanty nourishment. When deprived of these they are brought to complete destitution, and removed from the land.Verse 3 - They drive away the ass of the fatherless. This was another form of oppression. "Whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed?" says Samuel, on laying down his judgeship (1 Samuel 12:3). The "fatherless" were particularly liable to such ill treatment, seeing that they had lost their natural protector. They take the widow's ox for a pledge. It may be true that this was nowhere a legal offence, not even among the Hebrews (Lee); but it was a real act of oppression, and forms a fitting counterpart to the injury done to the orphan. (On the natural tendency of selfish men to bear hard on these two classes, see Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 24:17; Deuteronomy 27:19; Psalm 94:6; Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 10:2; Jeremiah 5:28; Zechariah 7:10.)
And much of a like kind is with Him.
15 Therefore I am troubled at His presence;
If I consider it, I am afraid of Him.
16 And God hath caused my heart to be dejected,
And the Almighty hath put me to confusion;
17 For I have not been destroyed before darkness,
And before my countenance, which thick darkness covereth.
Now it is the will of God, the absolute, which has all at once turned against him, the innocent (Job 23:13); for what He has decreed against him (חקּי) He also brings to a complete fulfilment (השׁלים, as e.g., Isaiah 44:26); and the same troubles as those which he already suffers, God has still more abundantly decreed for him, in order to torture him gradually, but surely, to death. Job intends Job 23:14 in reference to himself, not as a general assertion: it is, in general, God's way of acting. Hahn's objection to the other explanation, that Job's affliction, according to his own previous assertions, has already attained its highest degree, does not refute it; for Job certainly has a term of life before him, though it be but short, in which the wondrously inventive (Job 10:16) hostility of God can heap up ever new troubles for him. On the other hand, the interpretation of the expression in a general sense is opposed by the form of the expression itself, which is not that God delights to do this, but that He purposes (עמּו) to do it. It is a conclusion from the present concerning the future, such as Job is able to make with reference to himself; while he, moreover, abides by the reality in respect to the mysterious distribution of the fortunes of men. Therefore, because he is a mark for the enmity of God, without having merited it, he is confounded before His countenance, which is so angrily turned upon him (comp. פנים, Psalm 21:10; Lamentations 4:16); if he considers it (according to the sense fut. hypothet., as Job 23:9), he trembles before Him, who recompenses faithful attachment by such torturing pain. The following connection with ל and the mention of God twice at the beginning of the affirmations, is intended to mean: (I tremble before Him), and He it is who has made me faint-hearted (הרך Hiph. from the Kal, Deuteronomy 20:3, and freq., to be tender, soft, disconcerted), and has troubled me; which is then supported in Job 23:17.
His suffering which draws him on to ruin he perceives, but it is not the proper ground of his inward destruction; it is not the encircling darkness of affliction, not the mysterious form of his suffering which disconcerts him, but God's hostile conduct towards him, His angry countenance as he seems to see it, and which he is nevertheless unable to explain. Thus also Ew., Hirz., Vaih., Hlgst., and Schlottm. explain the passage. The only other explanation worthy of mention is that which finds in Job 23:17 the thought already expressed in Job 3:10 : For I was not then destroyed, in order that I might experience such mysterious suffering; and interpretation with which most of the old expositors were satisfied, and which has been revived by Rosenm., Stick., and Hahn. We translate: for I have not been destroyed before darkness (in order to be taken away from it before it came upon me), and He has not hidden darkness before my face; or as an exclamation: that I have not been destroyed! which is to be equivalent to: Had I but been ... ! Apart from this rendering of the quod non equals utinam, which cannot be supported, (1) It is doubly hazardous thus to carry the לא forward to the second line in connection with verbs of different persons. (2) The darkness in Job 23:17 appears (at least according to the usual interpret. caliginem) as that which is being covered, whereas it is naturally that which covers something else; wherefore Blumenfeld explains: and darkness has not hidden, viz., such pain as I must now endure, from my face. (3) The whole thought which is thus gained is without point, and meaningless, in this connection. On the other hand, the antithesis between מפּניו and מפּני, ממּנוּ and מפּני־חשׁך, is at once obvious; and this antithesis, which forces itself upon the attention, also furnishes the thought which might be expected from the context. It is unnecessary to take נצמת in a different signification from Job 6:17; in Arabic ṣmt signifies conticescere; the idea of the root, however, is in general a constraining depriving of free movement. חשׁך is intended as in the question of Eliphaz, Job 22:11 : "Or seest thou not the darkness?" to which it perhaps refers. It is impossible, with Schlottm., to translate Job 23:17: and before that darkness covers my face; מן is never other than a praep., not a conjunction with power over a whole clause. It must be translated: et a facie mea quam obtegit caligo. As the absolute פנים, Job 9:27, signifies the appearance of the countenance under pain, so here by it Job means his countenance distorted by pain, his deformed appearance, which, as the attributive clause affirms, is thoroughly darkened by suffering (comp. Job 30:30). But it is not this darkness which stares him in the face, and threatens to swallow him up (comp. מפני־חשׁך, Job 17:12); not this his miserable form, which the extremest darkness covers (on אפל, vid., Job 10:22), that destroys his inmost nature; but the thought that God stands forth in hostility against him, which makes his affliction so terrific, and doubly so in connection with the inalienable consciousness of his innocence. From the incomprehensible punishment which, without reason, is passing over him, he now again comes to speak of the incomprehensible connivance of God, which permits the godlessness of the world to go on unpunished.
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