Job 34:20
In a moment shall they die, and the people shall be troubled at midnight, and pass away: and the mighty shall be taken away without hand.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) In a moment shall they diei.e., “they all alike die, rich and poor together; the hour of death is not hastened for the poor nor delayed for the rich. They all alike die.”

Even at midnight the people are troubled. . . .—It is hard to think that the writer did not know of Exodus 12:29. It is better to read these statements as habitual presents and not as futures: “In a moment they die, even at midnight—the people are shaken and pass away,” &c.

Job 34:20-21. In a moment shall they die — Whensoever God doth but give the word, and send his summons for them. The rich and the prince, no less than the poor, must submit to the law of death, which God hath imposed upon all men without exception. And the people shall be troubled — Hebrew, יגעשׁו, jegognashu, concutientur, tremiscent, shall be shaken, shall tremble, at the approach of death, or through the calamities which God will bring upon them. Whole nations, or people, are no less subject to God’s power than any particular persons: their number cannot secure them from his hand. At midnight — Suddenly or unexpectedly, when they are most secure. And the mighty shall be taken away — From their place or power, or out of this life; without hand — Without any hand or instrumentality of man; by some secret act or judgment of God, which he often inflicts upon those who are out of the reach of men. For his eyes are upon the ways of man — “There is no one passage of man’s life but God is acquainted with it, and therefore cannot be suspected, through ignorance of their actions, (any more than through fear of their persons,) to overlook their crimes, or to do them any injustice.” — Patrick. God doth not destroy either prince or people unjustly, no, nor out of his mere pleasure, but for their sins, which he sees exactly, although they use all possible arts to hide them.34:16-30 Elihu appeals directly to Job himself. Could he suppose that God was like those earthly princes, who hate right, who are unfit to rule, and prove the scourges of mankind? It is daring presumption to condemn God's proceedings, as Job had done by his discontents. Elihu suggests divers considerations to Job, to produce in him high thoughts of God, and so to persuade him to submit. Job had often wished to plead his cause before God. Elihu asks, To what purpose? All is well that God does, and will be found so. What can make those uneasy, whose souls dwell at ease in God? The smiles of all the world cannot quiet those on whom God frowns.In a moment shall they die - That is, the rich and the great. They pass suddenly off the stage of action. They have no power to compel God to favor them, and they have no permanency of existence here which can constitute a claim on his special favor. Soon they will lie undistinguished in the dust. All are in his hand; and when he wills it, they must lie down in the dust together. He exempts none from death; spares none on account of beauty, rank, wealth, talent, or learning, but consigns all indiscriminately to the grave-showing that he is disposed to treat them all alike. This is urged by Elihu as a proof that God has no partiality, but treats all people as being on the same level - and there is no more striking illustration of this than is furnished by death. All die. None are spared on account of title, wealth, rank, beauty, age, or wisdom. All die in a manner that shows that he has no favoritism. The rich man may die with a malady as painful and protracted as the poor man; the beautiful and accomplished with a disease as foul and loathsome as the beggar. The sad change that the body undergoes in the tomb is as repulsive in the one case as in the other; and amidst all the splendor of rank, and the magnificence of dress and equipage, God intends to keep the great truth before the minds of people, that they are really on a level, and that all must share at his hand alike.

And the people shall be troubled - They shall be shaken, agitated, alarmed. They dread impending danger, or the prospect of sudden destruction.

At midnight - The image here is probably taken from an earthquake, or from a sudden onset made by a band of robbers on a village at night. The essential thought is that of the suddenness with which God can take away the mighty and the mean together. Nothing can resist him, and as he has this absolute control over people, and deals with all alike, there is great impropriety in complaining of his government.

And the mighty - Margin, "They shall take away the mighty." The idea is, that the great shall be removed - to wit, by sudden death or by overwhelming calamiiy. The argueat of Elihu in this passage Job 34:18-20 is, that it would be esteemed great presumption to arraign the conduct of a prince or king, and it must be much more so to call in question the doings of him who is so superior to princes and kings that he shows them no partiality on account of their rank, but sweeps them away by sudden calamity as he does the most humble of mankind.

Without hand - That is, without any human instrumentality, or without the use of any visible means. It is by a word - by an expression of his will - by power where the agency is not seen. The design is, to show that God can do it with infinite ease.

20. they—"the rich" and "princes" who offend God.

the people—namely, of the guilty princes: guilty also themselves.

at midnight—image from a night attack of an enemy on a camp, which becomes an easy prey (Ex 12:29, 30).

without hand—without visible agency, by the mere word of God (so Job 20:26; Zec 4:6; Da 2:34).

In a moment; whensoever God doth but give the word, and send his summons for them.

Shall they, i. e. the rich and the prince, no less than the poor, must submit to the law of death, which God hath imposed upon all men, without exception, and they cannot charge God with injury therein.

The people; whole nations or people are no less subject to God’s power than any particular persons; their numbers cannot secure them from God’s hand.

Troubled, i.e. disturbed and terrified with those calamities which God shall bring upon them.

At midnight; suddenly, and when they are most secure.

Pass away; either,

1. Go into captivity, or run or flee away they know not whither for their lives. Or,

2. Perish or die, as he said before, and as this word is oft used, as Job 14:20 Psalm 37:36 Ecclesiastes 1:4. So the same thing is said of the people, which in the first branch of the verse was said of the princes.

Taken away; either from their place or power, or out of this life.

Without hand; without any hand or help of man, by some secret and stupendous work and judgment of God; which he oft inflicts upon those who are out of the reach of men. In a moment shall they die,.... Princes as well as the common people, rich men as well as poor; all must and do die, great and small, high and low, kings and peasants, rich and poor men, and sometimes suddenly; are struck dead at once, and without any previous notice, that night, that hour, that moment their souls are required of them. The Targum interprets this of the men of Sodom. And Mr. Broughton, in his margin, refers to the history of them in Genesis 19:1;

and the people shall be troubled at midnight; either the common people, when their kings and governors die; or the relations and friends of persons deceased; and this circumstance "at midnight" is added, which makes the scene more melancholy, awful, and shocking, when it happens at such a time. The above Targum understands it of the Egyptians, when their firstborn were slain, which was in the middle of the night; and Mr. Broughton refers in his margin to the same instance: but it is a question whether this affair ever came to the knowledge of Job and his friends, at least not so early as this controversy;

and pass away; not into another country, being taken and carried away captive; but pass away by death into their graves, and into another world. Sephorno interprets it of the destroying angel's passing over the tents of the Israelites, and not entering into them to smite them when they smote the firstborn of Egypt. But the former sense is best, see Psalm 37:36;

and the mighty shall be taken away without hand: without the hand of men, but by the immediate hand of God; not falling in battle, or in a common natural way by diseases, but by some judgment of God upon them: and the whole verse seems to be understood not of a natural death, or in the common way, but of sudden death in a way of judgment, from the immediate hand of God, and that upon the mighty and great men of the earth; which shows that he is no respecter of princes, see Daniel 8:25.

In a moment shall they die, {o} and the people shall be troubled at midnight, {p} and pass away: and the mighty shall be taken away without hand.

(o) When they look not for it.

(p) The messengers of visitation that God will send.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. Display of God’s just rule over people and princes. According to the punctuation the verse is thus divided,

In a moment they die and at midnight;

The people are shaken and pass away,

And the mighty are taken away without hand.

The phrase at midnight means suddenly and without anticipation, comp. Job 34:25; Psalm 119:62. Without hand, i. e. through no human agency, by an unseen power, the ruling hand of God; comp. ch. Job 20:26; Daniel 2:34-35; Zechariah 4:6. The mighty are the princes, opposed to “the people” in the second clause.

20–28. God’s strict justice may be seen in His government of the peoples and their princes alike. His justice is unerring, for it is guided by omniscient insight. Punishing oppression, it avenges the cause of the poor and afflicted.Verse 20. - In a moment shall they die. All lie under the same law of death -

"Pallida Mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas
Regumque turres."


(Horace,'Od.,' 1:4, 11. 13, 14.) In a moment, whenever God wills, they pass from life and disappear, the rich equally with the needy, the powerful prince as much as the outcast and the beggar. And the people shall be troubled at midnight, and pass away. (comp. Exodus 12:29; 2 Kings 19:35). Such sudden catastrophes are infrequent; but it is within the power of God to produce them at any time. When they occur, they strikingly exemplify the equality of his dealings with all classes of men, since none escape (Exodus 11:5; Exodus 12:29). And the mighty shall be taken away without hand; i.e. without human agency (comp. Daniel 2:34). 12 Yea verily God acteth not wickedly,

And the Almighty perverteth not the right.

13 Who hath given the earth in charge to Him?

And who hath disposed the whole globe?

14 If He only set His heart upon Himself,

If He took back His breath and His inspiration to Himself:

15 All flesh would expire together,

And man would return to dust.

With אף אמנם (Yea verily, as Job 19:4, "and really") the counter-assertion of Job 34:11 is repeated, but negatively expressed (comp. Job 8:3). הרשׁיע signifies sometimes to act as רשׁע, and at others to be set forth and condemned as a רשׁע; here, as the connection requires, it is the former. Job 34:13 begins the proof. Ewald's interpretation: who searcheth, and Hahn's: who careth for the earth beside Him, are hazardous and unnecessary. פּקד with על of the person and the acc. of the thing signifies: to enjoin anything as a duty on any one, to entrust anything to any one, Job 36:23; Numbers 4:27; 2 Chronicles 36:23; therefore: who has made the earth, i.e., the care of it, a duty to Him? ארצה (Milel) is not to be refined into the meaning "to the earth" (as here by Schultens and a few others, Isaiah 9:1 by Luzzatto: he hath smitten down, better: dishonoured, to the earth with a light stroke), but is poetically equivalent to ארץ, as לילה (comp. modern Greek ἡ νύχθα) is in prose equivalent to ליל. Job 34:13 is by no means, with Ew. and Hahn, to be translated: who observes (considers) the whole globe, שׂים as Job 34:23; Job 4:20; Job 24:12 - the expression would be too contracted to affirm that no one but God bestowed providential attention upon the earth; and if we have understood Job 34:13 correctly, the thought is also inappropriate. A more appropriate thought is gained, if עליו is supplied from Job 34:13: who has enjoined upon Him the whole circle of the earth (Saad., Gecat., Hirz., Schlottm.); but this continued force of the עליו into the second independent question is improbable in connection with the repetition of מי. Therefore: who has appointed, i.e., established (שׂם as Job 38:5; Isaiah 44:7), - a still somewhat more suitable thought, going logically further, since the one giving the charge ought to be the lord of him who receives the commission, and therefore the Creator of the world. This is just God alone, by whose רוּח and נשׁמה the animal world as well as the world of men (vid., Job 32:8; Job 33:4) has its life, Job 34:14 : if He should direct His heart, i.e., His attention (שׂים לב אל, as Job 2:3), to Himself (emphatic: Himself alone), draw in (אסף as Psalm 104:29; comp. for the matter Ecclesiastes 12:7, Psychol. S. 406) to Himself His inspiration and breath (which emanated from Him or was effected by Him), all flesh would sink together, i.e., die off at once (this, as it appears, has reference to the taking back of the animal life, רוח), and man would return (this has reference to the taking back of the human spirit, נשׁמה) to dust (על instead of אל, perhaps with reference to the usual use of the על־עפר, Job 17:16; Job 20:11; Job 21:26).

Only a few modern expositors refer אליו, as Targ. Jer. and Syr., to man instead of reflexively to God; the majority rightly decide in favour of the idea which even Grotius perceived: si sibi ipsi tantum bonus esse (sui unius curam habere) vellet. אם followed by the fut. signifies either si velit (lxx ει ̓ βούλοιτο), as here, or as more frequently, si vellet, Psalm 50:12; Psalm 139:8, Obadiah 1:4, Isaiah 10:22; Amos 9:2-4. It is worthy of remark that, according to Norzi's statement, the Babylonian texts presented ישׁיב, Job 34:14, as Chethb, ישׂים as Ker (like our Palestine text, Daniel 11:18), which a MS of De Rossi, with a Persian translation, confirms; the reading gives a fine idea: that God's heart is turned towards the world, and is unclosed; its ethical condition of life would then be like its physical ground of life, that God's spirit dwells in it; the drawing back of the heart, and the taking back to Himself of the spirit, would be equivalent to the exclusion of the world from God's love and life. However, ישׂים implies the same; for a reference of God's thinking and willing to Himself, with the exclusion of the world, would be just a removal of His love. Elihu's proof is this: God does not act wrongly, for the government of the world is not a duty imposed upon Him from without, but a relation entered into freely by Him: the world is not the property of another, but of His free creative appointment; and how unselfishly, how devoid of self-seeking He governs it, is clear from the fact, that by the impartation of His living creative breath He sustains every living thing, and does not, as He easily might, allow them to fall away into nothingness. There is therefore a divine love which has called the world into being and keeps it in being; and this love, as the perfect opposite of sovereign caprice, is a pledge for the absolute righteousness of the divine rule.

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