Job Loses it

He knows what God "should" do.

Job 24:13-25 (NKJV)

“There are those who rebel against the light; They do not know its ways Nor abide in its paths.  The murderer rises with the light; He kills the poor and needy; And in the night he is like a thief.  The eye of the adulterer waits for the twilight, Saying, ‘No eye will see me’; And he disguises his face.  In the dark they break into houses Which they marked for themselves in the daytime; They do not know the light.  For the morning is the same to them as the shadow of death; If someone recognizes them, They are in the terrors of the shadow of death.

“They should be swift on the face of the waters, Their portion should be cursed in the earth, So that no one would turn into the way of their vineyards.  As drought and heat consume the snow waters, So the grave consumes those who have sinned.  The womb should forget him, The worm should feed sweetly on him; He should be remembered no more, And wickedness should be broken like a tree.  For he preys on the barren who do not bear, And does no good for the widow.

“But God draws the mighty away with His power; He rises up, but no man is sure of life.  He gives them security, and they rely on it; Yet His eyes are on their ways.  They are exalted for a little while, Then they are gone. They are brought low; They are taken out of the way like all others; They dry out like the heads of grain.  “Now if it is not so, who will prove me a liar, And make my speech worth nothing?”

The Hebrew in the middle paragraph is tricky. The word “should” isn’t in the text. So, the ESV begins with, “You say, ‘Swift are they on the face of the waters …’” But, “You say,” isn’t in the text either. A straight reading of the Hebrew makes this paragraph sound like something Eliphaz, Bildad or Zophar might say. It’s saying the wicked do get punished.

Since Job couldn’t possibly have said that, there must be some unknown ancient Hebrew idiom involved here. The translators can only guess what Job actually meant. So they look at the context to puzzle this out – particularly the preceding verses. In Chapter 23, Job starts to question God’s approach to dealing with evil. The first sentence of Chapter 24 is important too.

“Since times are not hidden from the Almighty, Why do those who know Him see not His days?”

In that context, it’s reasonable for the NKJV to guess that Job meant that all these things “should” happen. Of course, what “should” happen is not something Job is qualified to judge.

Job has completely lost it and has launched into a rant that’s going to get him called out by God.

This is not saying that it’s wrong to ask questions of God. The issues of how and when God judges are good topics. In fact, this book is in the Bible to address those questions. Job’s confrontational attitude will get him called out, but we are being encouraged here to consider why God withholds punishment from the wicked. Studying this book is studying these questions. That can’t be a bad thing.

This is a good time to take stock and meditate on exactly how those questions are phrased in your own mind and what you think the answers might be.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.