21:17-26 Job had described the prosperity of wicked people; in these verses he opposes this to what his friends had maintained about their certain ruin in this life. He reconciles this to the holiness and justice of God. Even while they prosper thus, they are light and worthless, of no account with God, or with wise men. In the height of their pomp and power, there is but a step between them and ruin. Job refers the difference Providence makes between one wicked man and another, into the wisdom of God. He is Judge of all the earth, and he will do right. So vast is the disproportion between time and eternity, that if hell be the lot of every sinner at last, it makes little difference if one goes singing thither, and another sighing. If one wicked man die in a palace, and another in a dungeon, the worm that dies not, and the fire that is not quenched, will be the same to them. Thus differences in this world are not worth perplexing ourselves about.
17. Job in this whole passage down to Job 21:21 quotes the assertion of the friends, as to the short continuance of the sinner's prosperity, not his own sentiments. In Job 21:22 he proceeds to refute them. "How oft is the candle" (lamp), &c., quoting Bildad's sentiment (Job 18:5, 6), in order to question its truth (compare Mt 25:8).
how oft—"God distributeth," &c. (alluding to Job 20:23, 29).
sorrows—Umbreit translates "snares," literally, "cords," which lightning in its twining motion resembles (Ps 11:6).