The wicked man travails with pain all his days, and the number of years is hidden to the oppressor.…
I. THE TERRIBLE TORMENTS OF THE WICKED. (Vers. 20-24.)
1. Lifelong pain. Notwithstanding all appearances of ease and prosperity, the bad man only suffers. The sword seems ever suspended above the tyrant's head. The serpent is ever busy with the tooth of remorse at his heart.
2. Dread fancies throng through every sound into his imagination; he is ever in terror of some sudden doom. He sees a darkness coming upon him from which there is no possibility of escape. In the glance of dread fancy he sees himself already singled out for the fatal sword-stroke. The gaunt shape of famine seems to haunt his steps; from his soft couch and splendid table he looks out into a dark scene, and realizes it as present; he is overcome by anguish and trouble, as a king is borne down amidst the turmoil of battle. Thus conscience makes the guilty man a coward, and the "native hue of resolution is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought." "A guilty conscience! I ask no other hell."
II. THE CAUSE OF HIS SUFFERINGS. (Vers. 25-28.)
1. Rebellion against God. This is presented under the powerful figure of a warrior, rushing against his foe, on the field, in headstrong fury. Self-will, leading to contempt of the moral order of God, and this to violent resistance to all moral restraint; here is the genesis and development of sin. See the history of Pharaoh.
2. His selfish life. He lives in luxury, pampering his body till he becomes a gross mass of flesh, full of carnal appetite. In his unsocial ambition and greed he has laid waste flourishing cities rich in men, that he may abide in them alone, as if he could not find place enough for the dwelling of his body and preferred to live alone amidst wide desolation, rather than peacefully among a multitude of the happy. So in Isaiah 5:8, "Woe to them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!" "He enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people" (Habakkuk 2:5). "He builds a town with blood, and lays its foundations in iniquity "(Habakkuk 2:12). The picture is one of grasping, insatiable greed and covetousness, which shut a man out from the sympathy of his fellows. Some, however, take ver. 28 as referring further to an act of disobedience in fixing his dwelling among ruins, cursed by God and forbidden to future habitation.
III. THE INSTABILITY OF THE WICKED. (Vers. 29-33.) His hopes are disappointed, riches elude him, his accumulations melt away. Unlike the heavy harvest of the waving corn, he is rather like the tree whose roots do not sink deeply into the earth (ver. 29), so that every outward misfortune becomes in extreme source of danger - all his blossoms and fruits are cast away before the time of gathering! Then, again, the figure of darkness returns, which he only escapes, to fall into the glowing breath of God's anger, which blasts everything that is green and fair in his prospects.
IV. THE VANITY AND FOLLY OF THE WICKED. (Vers. 34, 35.) He begins by trusting in vanity, in what is baseless, such as all absence of moral principle; and vanity, according to the moral constitution of the world, must be the end of his schemes. The time of ripeness and harvest must be that of destruction; or like the blossoms of the olive in certain years, which fall off without fruit being formed, his plans never come to maturity. The "brood" of the wicked man is unfruitful; the fire devours his tent. Or like the woman who has falsely conceived, and remains long in deception, but at last perceives with grief the nothingness of her hopes, so with the wicked man (comp. Isaiah 7:14-17; Isaiah 33:11). LESSONS.
1. Goodness alone has substance, vitality, endurance, fruitfulness.
2. Evil is emptiness; it carries with it self-delusion; its end is disappointment and failure. - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days, and the number of years is hidden to the oppressor.