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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Job 21

Verses 1-34


The Second Series of Speeches (Job 15-21)

The rejection by Job of the opinions and advice of the friends, his sturdy maintenance of his innocence, and the fearlessness with which in his anguish he has arraigned the divine government of the world, have all alike deepened their conviction of his guilt. Without actually charging Job with definite sin, for which indeed they have no ground, they now administer stern rebukes, and draw terrible pictures of the certain misery which awaits the godless, and this evidently with an eye to the sufferer. They no longer encourage him to repentance, or predict consequent prosperity.

Job, for his part, laments their harshness, and rejects anew their doctrine of retribution as contrary to experience, and as not applicable to his case. He feels himself to be abandoned by God and man; he cries out for pity; he reasserts his innocence, and is still troubled by the problem of evil. Yet in the very midst of his trouble he makes some advance towards the solution of the mystery. Already he has had dim visions of a mediator between himself and GVod (Job 9:32.), and of the possibility of a restoration to the divine favour (Job 14:13-15). These were only momentary glimpses of a brighter day amidst the gloom, but now they develop into a stronger conviction that God must in the end restore the light of His countenance to His servant, and vindicate his innocence to the world, though it can only be after his death: see Job 16:19; Job 19:25-27. It is, however, no longer an umpire between himself and God that he desires. The conviction has come to him that since there is no umpire who can force his decision on God, God Himself will be the umpire to vindicate the righteousness of Job against the stigma of unrighteousness which He had Himself seemed to fasten upon him by his affliction.

Verses 1-34


Job’s Sixth Speech

Zophar, like the other friends, had insisted on the certain retribution for sin which befalls the wicked in this life. Now at length these views draw from Job a direct contradiction. It is his manner to wait till the three friends have spoken before he demolishes their case.

1-21. Job declares that as a matter of common observation bad men often go prosperously through life without any sign of God’s displeasure.

4. To man] RM ’of man.’ It is of God that Job complains. And if, etc.] RV ’And why should I not be impatient?’

6. Job trembles at the thought of the bold arraignment of God’s government which he is about to make, or possibly at the remembrance of how unrighteous that government seems to him.

8. Unlike Job, who had lost all his children at a stroke.

12. Timbrel] a small drum still used in Palestine. Organ] RV ’pipe.’

13. In a moment] without prolonged illness or pain, such as that from which he himself suffers.

14. Therefore] better, ’though’ or ’yet.’

16. Lo, their good, etc.] It may mean, They cannot control their fortunes: it must be God who has prospered them. Is far] rather, ’be far.’ Job repudiates the devices of sinners. Possibly the whole v. is an objection uttered by the friends.

17, 18. The vv. should be read as questions, the words ’How oft’ being prefixed to each sentence. The answer implied is ’very seldom.’

19. RV ’Ye say, God layeth up his iniquity for his children. Let him recompense it unto himself that he may know it.’ The friends may argue that retribution may, at all events, fall upon the wicked man’s children. To which Job replies that the sinner ought to suffer personally. Possibly, however, we should read in the first line, ’Let him not lay up iniquity for his children.’

21. Pleasure] better, ’interest.’

22-26. It is presumptuous for the friends to settle what are the rules by which God decides the fate of men, God who judges even the angels.

24. Breasts] mg. ’milk-pails.’

And his bones, etc.] RV ’And the marrow of his bones is moistened’: he is strengthened and refreshed.

27-34. Job says he knows that the friends’ remarks are aimed at him. He is to take warning from the sure doom of the sinner. But experience does not justify their conclusions.

28. Prince] here probably means ’tyrant.’

29, 30. The meaning is: Have you not asked the traveller who has seen the world what are his conclusions on the subject? Are you not familiar with the examples he quotes? He would tell you that the wicked is spared in the day of destruction, and led away (safely) in the day of wrath.

31. Who boldly rebukes or punishes the tyrant?

32. RM ’He is borne to the grave and keepeth watch over the tomb’; i.e. he is buried with honours. Perhaps we should read, ’they keep watch.’

33. After his life of happiness he rests in the sweet-smelling earth. His career of successful wickedness draws many to imitate him, as indeed he had himself many to anticipate him.

34. Job concludes that the arguments of the friends are worthless, since he has shown that the wicked do not get their deserts.

So ends the second cycle of debate, the main theme of which is the assertion denied by Job, that trouble overtakes the evildoer. Job does not deal with this in his first and second speeches, which centre about his own calamities, and rise to the conviction that after his death God will reverse the verdict upon him, and that in Sheol he shall himself know of this vindication. In his third speech he asserts against the friends the prosperity of the wicked.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Job 21". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/job-21.html. 1909.