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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Job 21

Verses 1-34

Job 21:7 ; Job 21:9

'Napoleon,' observes Lord Rosebery, 'is often only thinking aloud in the bitterness of his heart,' in his conversation on religion, 'as when he says that he cannot believe in a just God punishing and rewarding, for good people are always unfortunate and scoundrels are always lucky: "look at Talleyrand, he is sure to die in his bed".'

Quoting this and similar passages from Job in the fourth chapter of his Service of Man, Mr. Cotter Morison adds: 'Probably few religious persons have escaped the bitterness of feeling that they were unjustly chastened, that the rod of God was upon them and not upon the wicked. They no doubt repelled the thought with an apage Satana! regarding it as a snare of the tempter. But because the thought was banished from the mind, was the load removed from the heart? This is a trial which theologians must admit is all their own a clear addition to the weary weight "of all this unintelligible world". Agnostics, at least, when smitten by the sharp arrows of fate, by disease, poverty, bereavement, do not complicate their misery by anxious misgivings and painful wonder why they are thus treated by the God of their salvation. The pitiless brazen heavens overarch them and believers alike; they bear their trials, or their hearts break, according to their strength. But one pang is spared them, the mystery of God's wrath that He should visit them so sorely.'

Job 21:14

'There is a story,' says Mr. C. H. Pearson in his National Life and Character (p. 283), 'that an Ultramontane speaker in an Austrian Parliament addressed the House with the interrogation: "I suppose we all believe in the Church?" and was met with a shout from the left, "We believe in Darwin". What is apprehended is that the whole world may come to be divided in the same way, and that the disciples of Darwin or of Darwin's successor will be the more numerous.'

References. XXI. 15. A. F. Forrest, Christian World Pulpit, No. 12, 1890. XXI. 29-31. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii. No. 410.

Job 21:34

'Once more,' in this chapter, says Mark Rutherford, 'Job takes his stand on actual eyesight. He relies, too, on the testimony of those who have travelled. He prays his friends to turn away from tradition, from the idle and dead ecclesiastical reiteration of what had long ago ceased to be true, and to look abroad over the world, to hear what those have to say who have been outside the narrow valleys of Uz. Job demands of his opponents that they should come out into the open universe.... Herein lies the whole contention of the philosophers against the preachers. The philosophers ask nothing more than that the conception of God should be wide enough to cover what we see ; that it shall not be arbitrarily framed to serve certain ends.'

Vain Comfort

Job 21:34

The gloomiest of all Job's utterances.

I. He no longer cries, My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? There is that within him that would forbid even this sacred cry to pass his lips. If He who rules the world habitually leaves it to misrule, if it is a world in which favour is lavished on the bad, and the tide of misery flows at random on His best servants, what avails the complaint, the prayer, the appeal, the cry?

II. The righteous must hold on his way, in gloom and darkness. He must do what he can, bear what he can of his burden of sorrow or of doubt. For clouds and darkness are around him, and his eye cannot pierce to the sky that lies behind.

III. He knew not that, as his earlier submissiveness and resignation had won the attention of the dwellers in other spheres than earth, so his wild complaints could win the sympathy and touch the heart of far distant ages. He knew not, but he was soon to be taught, that his Heavenly Father looked gently on His erring child; on his wild perplexity and despairing words; and that the spark of faith, which would not be extinguished, was infinitely dear in that Father's sight.

G. G. Bradley, Lectures on the Book of Job, p. 156.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Job 21". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/job-21.html. 1910.