15 million Ukrainian are displaced by Russia's war.
Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Job 20


Zophar’s answer: the state and portion of the wicked, not withstanding for a time he may prosper and flourish.

Verse 2

Therefore; for this thy severe sentence and denunciation of God’s judgments against us, Job 19:29, which much more justly belongs to thyself and is actually executed upon thee; and because of thy reproaches, as it followeth, Job 20:3.

My thoughts cause me to answer: I thought to have troubled myself and thee with no further discourses, considering how exceptious and incorrigible thou art; but my thoughts or consideration of thy reproachful words force me to break silence, and to answer thee as the matter requires.

For this I make haste; I speak sooner than I intended, because I am not able to contain myself longer, and fear lest I should forget what is in my mind. Possibly he interrupted Job when he was proceeding further in his discourse; or he prevented some of his brethren who made an offer to speak.

Verse 3

I have heard from thy mouth. Or, Shall I hear, to wit, with patience, and without a reply? Who can endure it?

The check of my reproach, i.e. thy shameful and opprobrious reproofs of us, as if we and all thy friends were void of all humanity and natural affection towards them, and were haters, and cruel persecutors, and even devourers, of thee, Job 19:19,Job 19:22; and as if we were guilty of most heinous crimes, and might expect God’s vengeance upon us.

The spirit, i.e. my soul or mind.

Of my understanding, or, because of (for so the Hebrew mem oft signifies)

my understanding i.e. out of, or because of, that certain knowledge which I have of this matter from study and experience; I have not spoken, and I shall not speak, out of ignorance, or prejudice, or passion and rage against Job, as he asperseth us, but only what I evidently know, and yet hope that I can and shall convince thee of.

Causeth me to answer, i.e. forceth me to speak. Or, answereth for me, i.e. either vindicates me against thy calumnies, or suggesteth an answer to me.

Verse 4

i.e. This which I am now about to say. How canst thou,

thou, I say, who pretendest to such an exact and universal knowledge of men and things, be ignorant of so notorious a thing, which wicked men sensibly feel, and good men diligently observe, and all men are forced to acknowledge, one time or other?

Of old, i.e. from the experience of all former ages.

Since man was placed upon earth, i.e. since the world was made, and there were any men to observe God’s government of it.

Verse 5

Is short, Heb. is from near, i.e. from or for a little time; they have not long enjoyed it, and it will shortly vanish.

The joy of the hypocrite: this he adds by way of reflection upon Job, who though he did clear himself from gross wickedness, yet might be guilty of deep hyprocrisy.

Verse 6

Though he be advanced to great dignity and authority in the world.

Verse 7

Like his own dung; which men cast away with contempt and abhorrency. Compare 1 Kings 14:10; 2 Kings 9:37.

They which have seen him, with admiration at his felicity.

Where is he? i.e. he is no where to be found; he is utterly lost and gone.

Verse 8

As a dream; which for the present makes a great show and noise, and highly affects the fancy, but hath nothing solid nor permanent in it; for as soon as the man awakes all vanisheth, and the remembrance of it is quickly lost.

Shall not be found; the man will be utterly lost and gone, together with all his riches and glory.

As a vision of the night; which appears to a man in the night and in his sleep.

Verse 9

i.e. It shall not acknowledge nor contain him. A figure called prosopopaeia, as Job 7:10. Or, neither shall it (i.e. the eye last mentioned) behold him any more in his place.

Verse 10

Shall seek to please the poor; either,

1. To get some small relief from them in their extreme necessity. Or rather,

2. Lest they should revenge themselves of them for the great and many injuries which their father did them, or seek to the magistrate for reparations.

His hands shall restore their goods, by the sentence of the judge, to whom the oppressed poor will appeal, notwithstanding all their entreaties and endeavours to dissuade them from so-doing.

Verse 11

His bones, i.e. his whole body, even the strongest parts of it, which may seem most remote from danger.

Of the sin of his youth, Heb. of his youth, i.e. of his youthful pleasures and lusts, by a metonymy of the subject. And this may be understood either,

1. Of the sins themselves, that he shall persevere in his youthful lusts even in old age, and shall die without repentance. Or rather,

2. Of the punishment of his sins, of which he is speaking both in the foregoing and following verses. He shall feel the sad effects of those sins in his riper years, as riotous sinners commonly do; and, as it follows, attended him to his grave. Or, with his secret ways or sins, as others render it; whereby he possibly intimates that Job, though he appeared righteous before others, yet was guilty of some secret wickedness, for which God was now reckoning with him.

Verse 12

In his mouth, i.e. to his taste, though it greatly please him for the present.

Though he hide it under his tongue; as an epicure doth a sweet morsel, which he is loth to swallow, and therefore keeps and rolls it about his mouth that he may longer enjoy the pleasure of it: though he be highly pleased with his lusts, and cleave to them in hearty love, and resolve to hold them fast, and improve them to the greatest delight and advantage.

Verse 13

Though he spare it, i.e. will not part with it; or gratify and obey it, instead of subduing and mortifying it.

Keep it still within his mouth, to suck out all the sweetness or benefit of it, though it be very delightful to him.

Verse 14

Turned into another nature or quality, from sweet to bitter.

The gall of asps, i.e. exceeding bitter and pernicious. Gall is most bitter; the gall of serpents is full of poison, which from thence is conveyed to their mouths by veins, as Pliny observes; and the poison of asps is most dangerous, and within a few hours kills without remedy.

Verse 15

He shall vomit them up again, i.e. be forced to restore them with great shame and torment, as gluttons sometimes do loathe, and with grief and pain cast up, that meat which they have eaten and swallowed down with much greediness and delight. If no man’s hand can reach him, God shall find him out, and punish him severely.

Verse 16

That which he hath greedily and industriously sucked in as pleasant and wholesome nourishment, shall in the issue be as ungrateful and destructive to him as the

poison or head (for the Hebrew word signifies both, and the poison lies in the head)

of asps would be to one that sucketh it. The viper’s tongue, together with its teeth, in which the poison lurks, which it conveys by biting a man.

Verse 17

Not see, i.e. not enjoy, as that word is oft used as Psalms 106:5; Ecclesiastes 2:1.

The brooks of honey and butter; that abundant satisfaction and comfort, (oft signified by these or suchlike metaphors; as Psalms 36:8; Psalms 46:4; Isaiah 7:15,Isaiah 7:22; Isaiah 41:18) either which he promised to himself from that great estate which he had got by deceit and oppression, or which good men through God’s blessing may and commonly do enjoy.

Verse 18

That which he laboured for, Heb. labour, i.e. the goods which were gotten with labour; either,

1. By the labour of others; or rather,

2. By his own labour; which may relate as well to the goods of others, which he got not without pains and difficulty; or to his own goods honestly gotten by the sweat of his brows. And this is an aggravation of his misery, that he was forced to restore not only other men’s goods which were in his hands, but his own also, to make reparation for their damages.

Shall not swallow it down, to wit, so as to hold it; for otherwise he did swallow it, but withal did speedily vomit it up again, Job 20:15, which was as if he had not swallowed it. He shall not possess it long, nor to any considerable purpose.

According to his substance shall the restitution be, i.e. he shall be forced to part with all his estate to make compensation for his wrongs done to others.

He shall not rejoice therein, i.e. he shall not enjoy what he hath gotten, because it shall be taken from him.

Verse 19

By his oppression he brought men to utter poverty, and then forsook or left them in that forlorn estate, affording no mercy nor help to them. Or, some he made poor by his oppression, and others that were poor he suffered to perish for want of that relief which he should and might have afforded them; which is a crying sin in God’s sight, and one of those sins for which God destroyed Sodom, Ezekiel 16:49, and therefore fitly mentioned here as one of the sins for which God punished this wicked man. Or, he oppresseth and leaveth poor, as Broughton renders it.

An house which he built not, i.e. which was none of his. Heb. he hath violently taken away an house, and (or but) did not build (or repair, as building is oft used) it, to wit, that house for his own use, i.e. he did not build or possess that house, as he intended to do, but was cut off by God’s hand before he could enjoy the fruit of his oppressions.

Verse 20

He shall not feel quietness in his belly, i.e. he shall have no peace nor satisfaction in his mind in all his gains, partly because of his perpetual fears and expectations of the wrath of God and man, which his guilty conscience knoweth that he deserves; and partly because they shall be speedily taken away from him. He still continueth the metaphor of a glutton, whose belly is not quiet until it hath vomited up that wherewith he had oppressed it.

Of that which he desired, i.e. any part of his good and desirable things, but he shall forfeit and lose them all.

Verse 21

None of his meat be left for his own future use; but he shall be stripped of all.

Therefore shall no man look for his goods; it being publicly known and observed that he was totally ruined, none of his kindred or friends shall trouble themselves to seek for any relics of his estate, as is usually done after men’s deaths. But this verse is and may be rendered otherwise, There shall none be left for his meat, (i.e. he shall leave no heir who shall possess or enjoy his goods,) because, (for so the Hebrew particle al-chen is oft used; as Genesis 38:26; Numbers 14:13; Psalms 42:7; Jeremiah 48:36) none of his goods shall remain, either for his heir or any other; all shall be utterly lost.

Verse 22

In the fulness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits; i.e. the height of prosperity and abundance he shall be distressed and tormented, either by the horrors of an unquiet mind and guilty conscience, which makes him every moment expect Divine vengeance to fall upon his head; or rather, because of the sudden and unexpected assault of other men combining against him, and spoiling all his goods, as it follows.

Every hand of the wicked, who lives by injury and the spoiling of others, and by God’s providence are directed to fall upon him. Or, of the labourer, whose wages possibly he hath detained; or, of such as are in trouble or misery, as this word signifies, Job 3:20, who may jointly invade him, either because their necessity tempts and drives them to spoil others; or rather, because they were such as had been brought into their calamity by his oppressions, and therefore now take reparations from him.

Verse 23

When he is about to fill his belly, i.e. when he hath enough and abundance to satisfy all his appetites, and shall design to take the pleasure of all his gains, and to spend his days in epicurism and sensuality. God; who is oft understood in this book where he is not expressed; and so he is here, as appears from the following words, because there is no other person here expressed who was to inflict these evils upon him, and because they, are said to be rained down upon him; which implies their coming from Heaven, or from God. The fury of his wrath; some dreadful and destructive judgment.

Shall rain it upon him. This phrase notes both the author of his plagues, God, and the nature and quality of them, that they shall come upon him like rain, i.e. with great vehemency, and so as he cannot prevent or avoid it.

While he is eating; as it fell upon thy sons, Job 1:18,Job 1:19. Compare Psalms 78:30,Psalms 78:31.

Verse 24

From the iron weapon, i.e. from the sword or spear; and so shall think himself out of danger.

The bow; an arrow shot out of a bow. A distant, place and unknown hand shall unexpectedly fall upon him; so that he shall only go from one danger to another.

Of steel; which is of great strength, and therefore sendeth forth the arrow with greater force. Compare Psalms 18:34. Or, of brass, as the word properly signifies; which the ancients did so temper and harden, that their bows were commonly made of it.

Shall strike him through, i.e. mortally wound him.

Verse 25

It is drawn; either,

1. A sword, which may be understood out of this Hebrew verb, which is for the most part used of that weapon, as Numbers 22:23,Numbers 22:31; Judges 8:20, &c., and out of the following branch of the verse. Or,

2. The arrow last mentioned, which had entered into his body, and now was drawn out of it either by himself, or by some other person, as is frequent in that case, if peradventure he might be cured.

Out of the body; or, out of his body, i.e. the body of the wounded man; as appears both by the next clause of the verse, which is added to explain the former; where it is

out of his gall; and from the use of this Hebrew word, which signifies a man’s body or carcass, as Judges 14:8; 1 Samuel 31:12; Isaiah 5:25; Nahum 3:3.

The glittering sword: the word properly signifies lightning, and thence a glittering weapon, the bright sword or spear, as Deuteronomy 32:41; Ezekiel 21:10,Ezekiel 21:15; Nahum 3:3; Habakkuk 3:11; whereby it is implied that he was doubly wounded; first, by the arrow, and then, to make more sure work, with the sword or spear thrust into him. But the word may as well signify the bright and sharp point of an arrow, of which he spoke hitherto; and having in the general said that it came out of his body, now he determines the part of the body, the gall; which showeth that the wound was both deep and deadly, as they are in that part. It is probable he mentions this in reference to the like expression of Job, Job 16:13.

Cometh out of his gall; into which it had entered, and wherewith it was coloured.

Terrors are upon him, to wit, the terrors of death, because he perceived by the tincture of his gall upon the weapon that his wound was incurable; or horrors of conscience, because he cannot live, and dare not die.

Verse 26

All darkness, i.e. all sorts of miseries, both of soul, and body, and estate.

Shall be hid, or, is hid, or laid up, to wit, by God for him. This phrase may note, that though it be not actually upon him, yet it is reserved and treasured up for him, and is kept as in a sure place, and shall infallibly overtake him.

In his secret places; either,

1. In his hid treasures, as this very word signifies, Psalms 17:14. He treasures up wealth, and with God’s wrath and curse. Or,

2. In those places where he confidently hopes to hide and secure himself from all evils and enemies; yet even there God shall find him out. Or, for, or instead of, (or with, for both ways the prefix lamed is oft used,) his hid treasures.

A fire not blown, to wit, by man, but kindled by God himself, as that was, Job 1:16. He thinks by his might and violence to secure himself from men, but God by his own immediate hand, or in some unknown and unexpected manner, will find him out. Some understand it of hell-fire; of which see Isaiah 30:33.

With him that is left in his tabernacle, i.e. with his posterity or family, who shall inherit his curse as well as his estate.

Verse 27

The heaven shall reveal his iniquity, i.e. God shall be a swift witness against him by some extraordinary judgments: still he reflects upon Job’s case, and the fire from heaven, Job 1:0.

The earth i.e. all creatures upon earth shall conspire with God to destroy him.

Verse 28

The increase of his house; either,

1. His posterity; or rather,

2. His estate, got by the labour, and employed for the use, of his family.

Shall depart; shall be lost or taken away from him. See 2 Kings 20:17.

His goods shall flow away like waters, to wit, swiftly and strongly, and so as to return no more.

The day of his wrath, i. e. of God’s wrath, when God shall come to execute judgment upon him.

Verse 29

From God; who like a wise master of a feast gives to every man his proper portion, and as a just judge distributes to him according to his deserts.

The heritage appointed unto him by God, Heb. the heritage (i.e. the portion, as before; called here a heritage; partly to note the stability and assurance of it, that it is as firm as an inheritance to the right heir; and partly in opposition to that inheritance which he had gotten by fraud and violence) of his word; either,

1. Of God’s word, i.e. which is allotted to him by the word or sentence of God. Or,

2. Of the wicked man’s word, the reward of his speeches; which, like his actions, are and may well be presumed to be wicked and blasphemous, and many ways offensive to God: and he instanceth in his speeches rather than his actions, to meet with Job, who, though he had made some colourable excuses for his actions, yet was manifestly guilty of hard and sinful speeches against God, which he would hereby intimate that they were not such harmless and excusable things as Job pretended, as appeared by these severe judgments which they brought upon wicked men.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Job 20". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.