Job 9:24
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked: he covers the faces of the judges thereof; if not, where, and who is he?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Job 9:24. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked — Hebrew, רשׁע, rashang, of the wicked man. The possession and dominion of a large portion of it are frequently given, by the great Lord and Proprietor of all, in the course of his providence, into the power of a wicked man. He covereth the faces of the judges thereof — The wicked man, by his power, or by gifts, corrupts the officers of justice, and thereby blinds their eyes, that they cannot discern between truth and falsehood, justice and unrighteousness. Thus Bishop Patrick: “So false is your discourse,” (the discourse of Job’s friends,) “that we see the government of the earth given into the hands of a wicked prince, who blinds the eyes of his judges.” The bishop conjectures Job meant some noted tyrant then living in those parts, whose great wickedness and great prosperity were well known, both to Job and his friends. Many commentators, however, think, that Job’s words are not to be considered as referring to any particular man, but as asserting this general truth, that as good men are often scourged, (Job 9:23,) so the wicked are often advanced to great riches and power in the world. And they understand the next clause, He covereth the faces of the judges thereof, as intended of God’s blinding the eyes of the rulers and magistrates, that is, suffering them to be blinded, by withdrawing abused light and grace, and means of information, in which only sense can God be ever said to blind the minds of any. Indeed, as a learned writer justly observes, this expression, He covereth the faces, &c, means the same in Scripture phrase, as, The faces of the judges are covered, which, indeed, is the literal version of both the Syriac and Arabic interpreters. Thus, την ψυχην σου απαιτουσιν, (Luke 12:20,) which is literally, They shall require thy soul of thee, is properly rendered, Thy soul shall be required, &c. The meaning, however, of the phrase of covering the faces of the judges, is understood by many, not of blinding their eyes, but of concealing their persons in obscurity. Thus Henry interprets the passage: “God, in his providence, advanceth wicked men, while he covers the faces of those who are fit to be judges, who are wise and good, and qualified for government, and buries them alive in obscurity; perhaps suffers them to be run down and condemned, and to have their faces covered as criminals, by those wicked ones, into whose hands the earth is given. We daily see this done; if it be not God that doth it, where, and who is he that doth it? To whom can it be ascribed, but to him that rules in the kingdoms of men, and gives them to whom he will?” Daniel 4:32.9:22-24 Job touches briefly upon the main point now in dispute. His friends maintained that those who are righteous and good, always prosper in this world, and that none but the wicked are in misery and distress: he said, on the contrary, that it is a common thing for the wicked to prosper, and the righteous to be greatly afflicted. Yet there is too much passion in what Job here says, for God doth not afflict willingly. When the spirit is heated with dispute or with discontent, we have need to set a watch before our lips.The earth is given into the hand of the wicked - This is evidently designed as an illustration of the sentiment that Job was maintaining - that there was not a distribution of rewards and punishments in this life according to character. In illustration of this, he says that the wicked are raised to places of trust and power. They exercise a wide dominion over the earth, and the world is under their control. Of the truth of this there can be no doubt. Rulers have been, in general, eminent for wickedness, and the affairs of nations have thus far been almost always under the control of those who are strangers to God. At the present time there is scarcely a pious man on any throne in the world, and the rulers of even Christian nations are in general eminent for anything rather than for personal religion.

He covereth the faces of the judges thereof - There has been considerable variety in the exposition of this expression. Some suppose that it refers to the wicked, meaning that they cover the faces of the judges under them so that they connive at and tolerate crime. Others, that it means that God blinds the eyes of wicked rulers, so that they connive at crime, and are partial and unjust in their decisions. Others, that it means that God covers the faces of the judges of the earth with shame and confusion, that though he admits them to prosperity and honor for a time, yet that he overwhelms them at length with calamities and sorrows. Dr. Good supposes it to mean that the earth is given over into the hands of injustice, and that this hoodwinks the faces of the judges. The phrase properly means, to hoodwink, to blind, to conceal the face. It seems to me that the true sense is not expressed by either of the views above. The parallelism requires us to understand it as meaning that while the wicked had dominion over the earth, the righteous were in obscurity, or were not advanced to honor and power. The word "judges," therefore, I think, is to be understood of the righteous judges, of those who are qualified to administer justice. Their face is covered. They are kept in concealment. The wicked have the sway, and they are doomed to shame, obscurity, and dishonor. This interpretation accords with the tenor of the argument, and may be sustained by the Hebrew, though I have not found it in any of the commentaries which I have consulted.

If not, where, and who is he - If this is not a just view, who is God? What are his dealings? Where is he to be seen, and how is he to be known? Or, it may mean, "if it is not God who does these strange things, who is it that does them?" Rosenmuller. But I prefer the former interpretation. "Tell me who and what God is, if this is not a fair and just account of him. These things in fact are done, and if the agency of God is not employed in them, who is God? And where is his agency seen?

24. Referring to righteous "judges," in antithesis to "the wicked" in the parallel first clause, whereas the wicked oppressor often has the earth given into his hand, the righteous judges are led to execution—culprits had their faces covered preparatory to execution (Es 7:8). Thus the contrast of the wicked and righteous here answers to that in Job 9:23.

if not, where and who?—If God be not the cause of these anomalies, where is the cause to be found, and who is he?

The earth, i.e. the possession and dominion of men and things on earth.

Is given, to wit, by God, the great Lord and Disposer of it, by his providence.

Into the hand of the wicked; into their power. As good men are scourged, Job 9:23, so the wicked are advanced and prospered, in this world.

He covereth the faces of the judges thereof, i.e. he blinds their eyes, that they cannot discern between truth and falsehood, justice and unrighteousness. He. Who? Either,

1. The wicked last mentioned, who either by power or by gifts corrupts the officers of justice. Or rather,

2. God, whom the pronoun he designed all along this chapter; who is oft said to blind the minds of men, which he doth not positively, by making them blind, but privatively, by withdrawing his own light, and leaving them to their own mistakes and lusts. Or by judges he may hear mean those who are worthy of that name, and duly administer that office; whose faces God may be said to cover, because he removeth them from their high places into obscurity, and covers them with contempt, and in a manner passeth a sentence of condemnation and destruction upon them; covering of the face being the usual posture of condemned persons, and of men in great misery; of which see Esther 7:8 Psalm 44:15 Isaiah 22:17 Jeremiah 14:4. So the sense of this verse is, God commonly advanceth wicked men into power and honour, and casteth down men of true worth and virtue from their seats. If not; if it be not as I say, if God do not these things. Where, and who is he? either,

1. Who will confute me by solid arguments? Or,

2. Who doth these things? Who but God doth dispose of the world in this manner? The earth is given into the hands of the wicked,.... Either the wicked one, Satan, as Jarchi and Bar Tzemach, who is the god of this world; or some wicked tyrant, as Nimrod, or some other known by Job in his time, to whom he may have respect; or wicked men in general, who for the most part have the greatest share of the earth, and earthly things, and of power, dominion, and authority in it; and this they have of God, the powers that be are ordained by him, and therefore to be obeyed; and what any have of the earth, and the fulness of it, they have it from him, whose it is, and who has a right to dispose of it, and therefore being given by him, they have a proper right unto it; but then it is only the things of this world which are given them; they have their portion here, and that is their all; wherefore, as the giving of these is no proof of a man's goodness, so the taking of them away is no evidence of his wickedness; love or hatred are not to be known by these things; this is Job's scope and drift in this and Job 9:23,

he covereth the face of the judges thereof; not Satan, who blinds the minds of such, that they should not understand justice, and do it, as the above Jewish writers interpret it; nor the wicked man that is possessed of riches and wealth, power and authority, who by his substance bribes the judges, and blinds their eyes, or by his power and authority awes them, keeps them from executing true judgment, or discourages persons fit for such an office, and will not advance them, but lets them lie in, and covers them with, obscurity; or such who are honest and faithful, and are not to be bribed and browbeaten, these he either removes from their post, and covers their faces with shame, or takes them away by death, condemns and executes them as malefactors; it being usual in former times, as well as in ours, to cover the faces of such as are executed: but rather this is to be understood of God, who delivers the earth into the hands of the wicked, suffers them to have the rule over it, and permits such things to be done, as already observed; and besides, gives up the judges of the earth to judicial blindness, so that they cannot discern what is right and just, and do it, see Isaiah 29:10,

if not, where and who is he? if it is not so as I say, where is the man, and who is he, that can disprove me, and make me a liar? as Aben Ezra; let him come forth and appear, and confute me, and teach me otherwise if he can; or name the place of his abode, and say who he is; or if God does not do this, give the earth into the hands of wicked men, and cover the faces of the judges of it, and suffer wicked men to prevail, and the causes of good men to be subverted, the one to flourish, and the other to be crushed; who does do it? where is the man that has done or can do it? certain it is, that it is done; and who but that God that superintends all things, sits in the heavens, and does whatsoever he pleases, can do such things as these? or could they be done without his will and permission? by such mediums Job proves his assertion, that God destroys the perfect and the wicked; and therefore, by the face of things in providence, no judgment is to be had of a man's character, good or bad, and then instances in himself in the following verses.

The earth is given into the hand of the wicked: {s} he covereth the faces of the judges thereof; if not, where, and who {t} is he?

(s) That they cannot see to do justice.

(t) That can show the contrary?

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
24. The same illustrated on the widest scale. Job 9:23 spoke of particular calamities afflicting portions of the earth. At the despair of the innocent under these God mocks, distant and indifferent. Now Job makes the sweeping statement that the earth is one scene of injustice. The wicked prevail in it, it is given into their hand, to rule and dominate within it. Comp. ch. 24.

covereth the faces of the judges] that they cannot see the right, to give the innocent justice. It is God who covereth their faces; He not only does not hinder wrong, He ensures that it prevail and have the upper hand.

if not, where, and who is he] Rather, if not He, who then is it—who does all this (Job 9:24), if it is not He? Others besides Job have asked such questions.

In this passage Job’s spirit reaches the lowest abyss of its alienation from God. From this time onwards his mind is calmer and the moral idea of God begins to reassert its place in his thoughts. Here God appears to him as a mere omnipotent power, with a bias, if He have one, to evil and cruelty, and he speaks of Him distantly as “he” (cf. ch. Job 3:20). His conception is but the reflection of his own case, as he conceived it, flung over the world, though his conception of his own case was false. To a Shemitic mind who had no conception of second causes or of general laws or of a scheme of providence, but regarded God as the immediate author of every single occurrence, the danger must always have been imminent of being driven to conclude that God was the author of the misery and wrong and cruel hardship under which men groaned.

In these verses Job traverses directly the maxim of his friends in regard to the discriminating righteousness of God, and the examples which he cites he might have used to demolish their theory. But he is little concerned with their theory here; later he does use his examples to drive them from the field. But here he is occupied with himself, with the impossibility of making his innocence which he is conscious of to appear and be admitted; for, of course, to himself and to all others his afflictions were the testimony of God to his guilt. And thus, though in the last verses his view extends to the world in general, he comes back in Job 9:25 to himself.Verse 24. - The earth is given into the hand of the wicked. As a further proof of God's indifference to the sufferings of the innocent, Job adduces the fact that, in the high places of the earth, are mostly set wicked persons, who oppress and persecute the righteous. This has probably been true, in the East at any rate, at all times. He covereth the faces of the judges thereof. God covers up the eyes of those who have to judge between the oppressors and the oppressed, so that they pervert judgment, and side with the oppressors. He does this, since he permits it to be done. Corrupt judges are among the perennial curses of the East. If not, where, and who is he? rather, If it be not he who then is it? (see the Revised Version). Job argues that the established condition of things in human society must be ascribed to God, since (at least) he allows it. There is no one else to whom it can be ascribed. 16 If when I called He really answered,

I could not believe that He would hearken to me;

17 He would rather crush me in a tempest,

And only multiply my wounds without cause;

18 He would not suffer me to take my breath,

But would fill me with bitter things.

19 If it is a question of the strength of the strong - : "Behold here!"

And if of right - : "Who will challenge me?"

20 Where I in the right, my mouth must condemn me;

Were I innocent, He would declare me guilty.

The answer of God when called upon, i.e., summoned, is represented in Job 9:16 as an actual result (praet. followed by fut. consec.), therefore Job 9:16 cannot be intended to express: I could not believe that He answers me, but: I could not believe that He, the answerer, would hearken to me; His infinite exaltation would not permit such condescension. The אשׁר which follows, Job 9:17, signifies either quippe qui or quoniam; both shades of meaning are after all blended, as in Job 9:15. The question arises here whether שׁוף signifies conterere, or as cognate form with שׁאף, inhiare, - a question also of importance in the exposition of the Protevangelium. There are in all only three passages in which it occurs: here, Genesis 3:15, and Psalm 139:11. In Psalm 139:11 the meaning conterere is unsuitable, but even the signification inhiare can only be adopted for want of a better: perhaps it may be explained by comparison with צעף, in the sense of obvelare, or as a denominative from נשׁף (the verb of which, נשׁף, is kindred to נשׁב, נשׁם, flare) in the signification obtenebrare. In Genesis 3:15, if regarded superficially, the meaning inhiare and conterere are alike suitable, but the meaning inhiare deprives that utterance of God of its prophetic character, which has been recognised from the beginning; and the meaning conterere, contundere, is strongly supported by the translations. We decide in favour of this meaning also in the present passage, with the ancient translations (lxx ἐκτρίψῃ, Targ. מדקדּק, comminuens). Moreover, it is the meaning most generally supported by a comparison with the dialects, whereas the signification inhiare can only be sustained by comparison with שׁאף and the Arabic sâfa (to sniff, track by scent, to smell); besides, "to assail angrily" (Hirz., Ewald) is an inadmissible contortion of inhiare, which signifies in a hostile sense "to seize abruptly" (Schlottm.), properly to snatch, to desire to seize.

Translate therefore: He would crush me in a tempest and multiply (multiplicaret), etc., would not let me take breath (respirare), but (כּי, Ges. 155, 1, e. a.) fill me (ישׂבּיענּי, with Pathach with Rebia mugrasch) with bitter things (ממּררים, with Dag. dirimens, which gives the word a more pathetic expression). The meaning of Job 9:19 is that God stifles the attempt to maintain one's right in the very beginning by His being superior to the creature in strength, and not entering into a dispute with him concerning the right. הנּה (for הנּני as איּה, Job 15:23, for איּו): see, here I am, ready for the contest, is the word of God, similar to quis citare possit me (in Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44), which sounds as an echo of this passage. The creature must always be in the wrong, - a thought true in itself, in connection with which Job forgets that God's right in opposition to the creature is also always the true objective right. פּי, with suffix, accented to indicate its logical connection, as Job 15:6 : my own mouth.

(Note: Olshausen's conjecture, פּיו, lessens the difficulty in Isaiah 34:16, but here it destroys the strong expression of the violence done to the moral consciousness.)

In ויּעקשׁני the Chirek of the Hiphil is shortened to a Sheva, as 1 Samuel 17:25; vid., Ges. 53, rem. 4. The subject is God, not "my mouth" (Schlottm.): supposing that I were innocent, He would put me down as one morally wrong and to be rejected.

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