Job 24:5
Behold, as wild asses in the desert, go they forth to their work; rising betimes for a prey: the wilderness yields food for them and for their children.
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Job 24:5. Behold, as wild asses — Which are lawless and fierce, and greedy of prey; in the desert — Which is the proper habitation of wild asses, Jeremiah 2:24 : they go forth to their work — These oppressors go forth to spoil and rob, which is their constant work and trade: rising betimes for the prey — Beginning their work of plunder before the poor go to their daily labour. The wilderness yieldeth food for them — They are so diligent and industrious in their wicked work, that they fetch food for themselves and families even out of desert places, in which the owners can with difficulty subsist.24:1-12 Job discourses further about the prosperity of the wicked. That many live at ease who are ungodly and profane, he had showed, ch. xxi. Here he shows that many who live in open defiance of all the laws of justice, succeed in wicked practices; and we do not see them reckoned with in this world. He notices those that do wrong under pretence of law and authority; and robbers, those that do wrong by force. He says, God layeth not folly to them; that is, he does not at once send his judgments, nor make them examples, and so manifest their folly to all the world. But he that gets riches, and not by right, at his end shall be a fool, Jer 17:11.Behold, as wild asses in the desert - In regard to the wild ass, see the notes at Job 6:5. Schultens, Good, Noyes, and Wemyss, understand this, not as referring to the haughty tyrants themselves, but to the oppressed and needy wretches whom they had driven from society, and compelled to seek a precarious subsistence, like the wild ass, in the desert. They suppose that the meaning is, that these outcasts go to their daily toil seeking roots and vegetables in the desert for a subsistence, like wild animals. But it seems to me that the reference is rather to another class of wicked people: to the wandering tribes that live by plunder - who roam through the deserts, and live an unrestrained and a lawless life, like wild animals. The wild ass is distinguished for its fleetness, and the comparison here turns principally on this fact. These marauders move rapidly from place to place, make their assault suddenly and unexpectedly, and, having plundered the traveler, or the caravan, as suddenly disappear. They have no home, cultivate no land, and keep no flocks. The only objection to this interpretation is, that the wild ass is not a beast of prey. But, in reply to this, it may be said, that the comparison does not depend on that, but on the fact that they resemble those animals in their lawless habits of life; see Job 11:12, note; Job 39:5, note.

Go they forth to their work - To their employment - to wit, plunder.

Rising betimes - Rising early. It is a custom of the Orientals everywhere to rise by break of day. In journeys, they usually rise long before day, and travel much in the night, and during the heat of the day they rest. As caravans often traveled early, plunderers would rise early, also, to meet them.

For a prey - For plunder - the business of their lives.

The wilderness - The desert, for so the word wilderness is used in the Scriptures; see Isaiah 35:1, note; Matthew 3:1, note.

Yieldeth food - To wit, by plunder. They obtain subsistence for themselves and their families by plundering the caravans of the desert. The idea of Job is, that they are seen by God, and yet that they are suffered to roam at large.

5. wild asses—(Job 11:12). So Ishmael is called a "wild ass-man"; Hebrew (Ge 16:12). These Bedouin robbers, with the unbridled wildness of the ass of the desert, go forth thither. Robbery is their lawless "work." The desert, which yields no food to other men, yields food for the robber and his children by the plunder of caravans.

rising betimes—In the East travelling is begun very early, before the heat comes on.

As wild asses; which are wild, and lawless, and unteachable, and fierce, and greedy of prey, or food, which they snatch out of the goods or labours of the husbandman; in all which they are fit emblems of these men. Or, these wild men; for so this word signifies, Genesis 16:12, as elsewhere wild asses. The particle as is not in the Hebrew. In the desert, which is the proper habitation of wild asses, Jeremiah 2:24. If this be understood of the wild men, he placeth them in the desert and wilderness, either because they by their spoils and violences have destroyed or driven away the people, as is intimated, Job 24:4, and thereby turned populous places into deserts; or because such places as have but few houses and inhabitants (which are oft so called, as Genesis 21:20,21 Jos 15:61,62 1 Kings 2:34 9:15 Isaiah 42:11 Matthew 3:1) are most fit for their robberies.

Go they; either,

1. The poor, whom they spoiled and drove away from their own former habitations into deserts, where they hid themselves, and wrought hard for a subsistence. Or rather,

2. The oppressors, who are more fitly compared to wild asses, and more truly said to seek for prey, than those poor oppressed persons mentioned Job 24:4, and of whom he speaks both in the foregoing and following verses.

To their work, i.e. to spoil and rob, which is their constant work and trade.

The wilderness yieldeth food for them; they are so diligent and industrious in that work, that they will fetch food for them and theirs even out of desert places, in which the owners can very hardly subsist.

For their children, or servants; for the word signifies both children and servants, even the whole family. Behold, as wild asses in the desert,.... The word "as" is a supplement, and may be omitted, and the words be interpreted literally of wild asses, as they are by Sephorno, whose proper place is in the wilderness, to which they are used, and where their food is provided for them, and which they diligently seek for, for them and their young; and so the words may be descriptive of the place where the poor hide themselves, and of the company they are obliged to keep; but the Targum supplies the note of similitude as we do; and others (i) observe it to be wanting, and so it may respect wicked men before described, who may be compared to the wild asses of the wilderness for their folly and stupidity, man being born like a wild ass's colt, Job 11:12; and for their lust and wantonness, and for their rebellion against God and his laws, and their unteachableness. Perhaps some regard may be had to the wild Arabs that were in Job's neighbourhood, the descendants of Ishmael, called the wild man, as he is in Genesis 16:12; who lived by plunder and robbery, as these here:

they go forth to their work: of thieving and stealing, robbing and plundering, as their trade, and business, and occupation of life, and as naturally and constantly as men go to their lawful employment, and as if it was one:

rising betimes for a prey; getting up early in a morning to meet the industrious traveller on the road, and make a prey of him, rob him of what he has about him; for they cannot sleep unless they do mischief:

the wilderness yieldeth food for them, and for their children; though they are lurking in a wilderness where no sustenance is to be had, yet, by robbing everyone that passes by, they get enough for them and their families: though some understand all this of the poor, who are obliged to hide themselves from their oppressors, and go into the wilderness in droves like wild asses, and as timorous and as swift as they in fleeing; and are forced to hard service, and to rise early to earn their bread, and get sustenance for their families; and who in the main are obliged to live on berries and roots, and what a wild desert will afford; but the, word "prey" is not applicable to the pains and labours of such industrious people, wherefore the former sense is best; and besides, there seems to be one continued account of wicked men.

(i) Aben Ezra, Ben Gersom, Bar Tzemach.

Behold, as wild asses in the desert, go they forth to their work; {d} rising betimes for a prey: the wilderness {e} yieldeth food for them and for their children.

(d) That is, spares diligence.

(e) He and his live by robbing and murdering.

5. The comparison to wild asses expresses their herding together, their flight far from the dwellings of men, and that they find their home and sustenance in the wilderness.

go forth to their work; rising betimes for a prey] Rather, they go forth to their work, seeking diligently for food. Their “work” is explained by “seeking for food.”

for them and for their children] Rather, food unto them for their children. The roots and herbage of the desert are the only nourishment they can find for their children; comp. ch. Job 30:3-4.

5–8. Job now directs his attention to a particular class of outcasts, giving a pathetic description of their flight from the abodes of men and their herding together like wild asses in the wilderness; their destitution, and the miseries they endure from cold and want, having only the rocks and caves to cover them, and only the roots and garbage of the desert to sustain them. The class of miserables here referred to are, no doubt, as Ewald first pointed out, the aboriginal races of the regions east of the Jordan, whose land and homes had been seized by more powerful tribes, and who had fled from the bitter oppressions to which they were subjected by their conquerors. Another detailed reference is made to them in ch. 30.Verse 5. - Behold, as wild asses in the desert, go they forth to their work. Plundering bands of wicked marauders scour the desert, like troops of wild asses, going forth early to their work, and late taking rest - rising betimes for a prey, and generally finding it, since the wilderness yieldeth food for them and for their children. They are sure to find some plunder or other ere the day is over. 14 For He accomplisheth that which is appointed for me,

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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