The Pulpit Commentary

Job 24:1-25 (Job 24:1-25)

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Job 24:2 (Job 24:2)

Some remove the landmarks . (On this form of wickedness, see Deuteronomy 19:14 ; Deuteronomy 27:17 ; Proverbs 22:28 ; Proverbs 23:10 ; Hosea 5:10 .) Where neighbouring properties are not divided by fences of any kind, as in the East generally, the only way of distinguishing between one man's land and another's is by termini, or "landmarks," which are generally low stone metes or bourns, placed at intervals on the boundary-line. An easy form of robbery was to displace these bourns, putting them further back on one's neighbour's land. They violently take away flocks . Others openly drive off their neighbours' flocks from their pastures, mix them with their own flocks, and say that they are theirs (comp. Job 1:15-17 ). And feed thereof; rather, and feed them ; i.e. pasture them.

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Job 24:1-12 (Job 24:1-12)

Job to Eliphaz: 4. An answer wanted to a great question'

I. AS IMPORTANT PROPOSITION STATED . That the Almighty does not call wicked men before his tribunal on earth. "Why are not times," i.e. of reckoning or punishment, "reserved," or kept in store, "by the Almighty, and why do they who know him see not his days?" i.e. his doomsdays, or days of judicial visitation on the wicked (verse 1).

1 . A caution. The language does not imply either that there should not be, or that there do not exist, such times of reckoning with the ungodly, and indeed with all men. On the contrary, it tacitly assumes that God both ought to have, and in point of fact does have, days of retribution which are appropriately described as "his." That men ought to be judged for their characters and lives, the moral instincts of humanity proclaim; that men will be arraigned before Shaddai's impartial tribunal, is explicitly asserted in Scripture ( Job 21:30 ; Job 34:11 ; Ecclesiastes 12:14 ; Psalms 98:9 ; Daniel 7:10 ; Matthew 25:32 ; 2 Corinthians 5:10 ; 2 Timothy 4:1 ; Hebrews 9:27 ).

2 . An explanation. What the language asserts is that such court-days are not kept by the Almighty on earth, or at least that his people do not see them; in other words, that the godlessness of men is permitted to stalk forth on earth unchallenged and unavenged, without let or hindrance, pretty much as if there were no such tribunal in existence. And this fact, which Job so strenuously affirms, in addition to having been observed by Asaph ( Psalms 73:5 ), David ( Psalms 1:1-6 :21), the Preacher ( Ecclesiastes 8:11 ), Jeremiah 12:1 , Habakkuk 1:15 , Habakkuk 1:16 , and others, is likewise recognized in Scripture generally as correct.

II. A CONVINCING DEMONSTRATION OFFERED . That the Almighty does not hold a regular assize on earth established by two patent facts.

1 . The most execrable wickedness is suffered to rage without either punishment or restraint. The special form of ungodliness depicted is that of ruthless oppression of the helpless and defenceless, exemplified in such crimes as:

2 . The most extreme misery is allowed to go unnoticed and unrelieved. In three affecting pictures, according to one view of the poet's meaning, he sketches the calamitous fate of the unhappy victims of those remorseless destroyers. The first (verses 5-8) depicts the melancholy fortunes of the poor of the land (perhaps the aboriginal inhabitants), who being cast forth from their ancient possessions are obliged to "hide themselves together" (verse 4), or to slink away out of sight, disappearing, as inferior races have since done, because unable to stand before the violence of their invaders.

III. AN URGENT QUESTION ASKED . Why does not God call wicked men to account?

1 . Not for want of power. Otherwise he would not be Shaddai, the Almighty, the all-powerful and all-sufficient Deity, whose ability to perform his counsel Job has just commented on ( Job 23:13 ).

2 . Not for lack of knowledge. Job's atheistical contemporaries supposed that mundane affairs were concealed from the gaze of him who walked upon the circuit of the heavens, and whose feet were wrapped about with clouds ( Job 22:13 ); but Job and his friends alike admitted that times, i.e. at any rate the main events and circumstances of terrestrial history, were not hidden from Shaddai's omniscient glance (verse 1, Authorized Version).

3 . Not for want of right. Both parties in the present controversy recognize that such appalling wickedness should not be suffered to go for ever unchallenged and unpunished, that such detestable criminals as above described ought to be arrested and brought before the tribunal of Heaven. Nay, on the theory of the friends, these workers of iniquity ought at once to be called to account. Yet notoriously, says Job, they are not. Hence it can only be:

4 . For lack of will . It is not God's intention to hold a circuit court here on earth, and try men for their misdeeds. In other words, the Divine government is not, so far as this world is concerned, as the friends contended, strictly retributive.

Learn:

1 . The impunity of sinners on earth is no proof that they shall enjoy like impunity hereafter.

2 . That God's people do not now discern his judgment throne is no argument that such a throne does not exist.

3 . Little faults are as really sins, and as certain to be punished, as great offences.

4 . Criminals who start with stealthy and minute acts of transgression are in danger of proceeding to large as well as open works of wickedness.

5 . "Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn."

6 . Mighty despots may deprive the poor of their estates by either fair means or foul; but God regards the deed as spoliation and robbery.

7 . It is a wiser policy to prevent pauperism from being developed in a state than to provide for it after it has been developed.

8 . Town and country are much the same in their moral characteristics.

9 . It is a mistake to infer from God's silence that he neither sees nor cares for the wickedness and misery of man.

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Job 24:1-12 (Job 24:1-12)

Examples of God's incomprehensible dealings.

I. DEEDS OF VIOLENCE AND FRAUD . ( Job 24:1-4 .) "Why are not times laid up," i.e. reserved, determined by the Almighty, "and why do those who know him ( i.e. his friends) not see his days?"—the days when he arises to judgment, days of revelation, days of the Son of man ( Ezekiel 30:3 ; Luke 17:22 ). Then comes a series of acts of violence, oppression, persecution, permitted by God the removal of landmarks ( Deuteronomy 19:14 ; Deuteronomy 27:17 ; Proverbs 22:28 ; Proverbs 23:10 ); the plunder of herds ( Job 20:19 ); the taking of the property of the helpless in pledge ( Exodus 22:26 ; Deuteronomy 24:6 ); the thrusting of the poor from the way into pathless spots, so that the miserable of the land are compelled to hide themselves from the intolerable oppression.

II. THE MISERY OF THE PERSECUTED . ( Job 24:5-8 ) Job 24:5 is an apt description of the beggarly vagabond way of life of these Troglodytes, the types of the present Hottentots or Bushmen in South Africa: "As wild asses in the desert they go forth in their daily work, looking out for booty; the steppe gives them food for their children. On the field they reap the fodder of the cattle, and glean the vineyard of the wicked," thievishly not labouring in his service. Naked, cold, shelterless, exposed to the rain amidst the mountains, they cower for shelter among the rocks (verses- 7, 8).

III. FURTHER DESCRIPTIONS OF TYRANNY . ( Job 24:9-12 .) The orphan is torn from the mother's breast by cruel creditors, who intend to repay themselves by bringing up the child as a slave. The property of the poor is seized in pledge (comp. Amos 2:8 ; Micah 2:9 ). Then follows another picture of the victims of oppression, not now as wanderers of the steppe, but as the wretched denizens of inhabited cities ( Job 24:10-12 ). In nakedness and hunger, they carry sheaves for the supply of the rich man's table, while they themselves are starving. And thus the cry of those whose wages have been kept back by fraud goes up to Heaven ( Deuteronomy 25:4 ; 1 Timothy 5:18 ; James 5:4 ). We have a picture of ancient labour in the olive- and vine-growing East. While they press the olive or tread the wine-press they suffer cruelly from thirst. The groans of dying men fill the air, "and yet God never speaks a word!" "He heeds not the folly" with which these impious tyrants disregard and trample upon the moral order.—J.

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Job 24:1-22 (Job 24:1-22)

Apparent anomalies in the Divine judgment.

Job again points to the anomalous conditions of human life—goodness, which has its approval in every breast, and on which, by universal consent of belief, a Divine blessing rests, is nevertheless often overcast with the shadow of calamity; and, on the other hand, evil-doing, which merits only judgment, affliction, and correction, is often found to prosper. To it outward events seem to be favourable. Men sin without let or hindrance. Apparently, "God layeth not folly to them." This aspect of human affairs is much dwelt upon in the Book of Job; it seems to be one of the central themes of the book. It finds its exemplification in the case of Job himself. The principal idea of the book is the unravelling of this mysterious confusion. Punishment may follow evil-doing, but it does not always immediately accompany it. Therefore some explanation is needed. It is evident—

I. THAT A TRUE ESTIMATE OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENT MUST NOT BE BASED ON MERE INCIDENTS . Incidents do not always explain themselves. There are hidden springs of events. We know but little of every incident. We cannot trace its rise or its end. Other considerations must be taken into view besides the mere events on which judgment is to be passed.

II. THE ESTIMATE OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENT MUST NOT BE BASED ON A PARTIAL VIEW . All the materials needed to enable one to form a just estimate of God's dealings in any single instance are not always immediately to hand. Much is hidden. Many purposes are to be served as much by the Divine inaction as by the Divine work. Men expect judgment upon an evil work to be presently executed. The Divine hand is withheld for many purposes which are not apparent. All judgment, to be true, must take all things into account. A wide range of vision needed for this. Few have opportunity of making it; therefore judgment must be suspended.

III. THE ESTIMATE OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENT CAN ONLY BE TRULY FORMED WHEN THE WHOLE PURPOSES OF GOD ARE MADE KNOWN . The one purpose most vital to S correct estimate may be withheld. It may be beyond the power of the human mind to grasp all. Certainly it is not possible to see all the bearings of the conduct of men. God alone can see the end from the beginning. In patience then must men wait for the end. A final judgment is needed to clear up the apparent anomalies of the present. Judgment upon the wicked is mercifully suspended that men may repent; chastisement falls upon the righteous for the perfecting of character. In due time the chastened, sorrowful, but good man shall receive an ample reward. These latter truths are especially illustrated in the history of Job.—R.G.

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Job 24:2 (Job 24:2)

Removing the landmarks.

This was an old offence under the Jewish Law ( Deuteronomy 19:14 ). Here it appears first in a list of unjust actions. It introduces us to questions concerning the ethics of property.

I. PRIVATE PROPERTY IS RECOGNIZED BY SCRIPTURE . We cannot say that this indubitable fact is a complete answer to the proposals of the socialist, because it is not the function of revelation to determine social systems. It comes in to regulate our conduct under existing arrangements. Still, the recognition of private property shows that it is not in itself an evil thing. It may be urged that similar arguments would apply to polygamy and slavery, both of which are recognized and regulated in the Bible. There is this difference, however, that an enlightened Christian conscience perceives that the last-named practices are evil, and could only have been tolerated for a time to prevent greater evils; but the Christian conscience does not repudiate the idea of private property. Socialism may be fairly presented and argued about on grounds of expediency; but it cannot claim Christian teaching as favouring it rather than a wise and brotherly exercise of the rights of property. The short, temporary experiment at Jerusalem, when the disciples held all things in common, whatever this was (and it was far short of socialism), soon broke down. It was never urged on apostolic authority; it cannot be quoted as the model for all Church life.

II. PRIVATE PROPERTY NEEDS CLEAR DEFINITION . There must be landmarks, or there will be trespassing, springing from misunderstanding, leading to quarrelling. Wars between nations arise often out of disputes about boundaries, and private differences most frequently originate in a want of common agreement in the definition of rights. This is true of abstract as well as concrete rights. Nothing is more necessary for the maintenance of social order than that each individual in the state should know the limits that the just claims of others put upon his liberty. Absolute freedom is only possible on the prairie, or for a Robinson Crusoe on his solitary island. Directly we come to live in society we have to study mutual harmony, and to adjust the claims of neighbours. The perfect state becomes a sort of mosaic in which each individual has his place without overlapping that of his neighbour.

III. ONLY CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLE WILL PREVENT THE ABUSE OF PRIVATE PROPERTY . Each man is tempted to enlarge upon his rights. Without considering himself a thief, he is urged to remove the landmarks to his own advantage. State justice and the strong arm of the law prevent this wrong as far as possible. But real justice between man and man can never be perfectly established by government. There are innumerable ways in which the strong can oppress the weak, and the cunning impose upon the unwary, without any interference by the law. We must have a spirit of justice in the people to prevent these evils. Now, it is the glory of the Old Testament that it constantly impresses on us the duty of justice and the sin of injustice. This grand lesson is not the less imperative because we live in New Testament times. The grace of Christ is the inspiration of all goodness. No one can be a true Christian who is not upright in business, and straightforward in his dealings with his neighbours. Christian charity does not dispense with the primitive duty of justice.—W.F.A.

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