Resources » Matthew Henry's Commentary » Job » Chapter 20 » Verses 23–29

Verses 23–29

Zophar, having described the many embarrassments and vexations which commonly attend the wicked practices of oppressors and cruel men, here comes to show their utter ruin at last.

I. Their ruin will take its rise from God’s wrath and vengeance, Job 20:23. The hand of the wicked was upon him (Job 20:22), every hand of the wicked. His hand was against every one, and therefore every man’s hand will be against him. Yet, in grappling with these, he might go near to make his part good; but his heart cannot endure, nor his hands be strong, when God shall deal with him (Ezek. 22:14), when God shall cast the fury of his wrath upon him and rain it upon him. Every word here speaks terror. It is not only the justice of God that is engaged against him, but his wrath, the deep resentment of provocations given to himself; it is the fury of his wrath, incensed to the highest degree; it is cast upon him with force and fierceness; it is rained upon him in abundance; it comes on his head like the fire and brimstone upon Sodom, to which the psalmist also refers, Ps. 11:6. On the wicked God shall rain fire and brimstone. There is no fence against this, but in Christ, who is the only covert from the storm and tempest, Isa. 32:2. This wrath shall be cast upon him when he is about to fill his belly, just going to glut himself with what he has gotten and promising himself abundant satisfaction in it. Then, when he is eating, shall this tempest surprise him, when he is secure and easy, and in apprehension of no danger; as the ruin of the old world and Sodom came when they were in the depth of their security and the height of their sensuality, as Christ observes, Luke 17:26-31 Perhaps Zophar here reflects on the death of Job’s children when they were eating and drinking.

II. Their ruin will be inevitable, and there will be no possibility of escaping it (Job 20:24): He shall flee from the iron weapon. Flight argues guilt. He will not humble himself under the judgments of God, nor seek means to make his peace with him. All his care is to escape the vengeance that pursues him, but in vain: if he escape the sword, yet the bow of steel shall strike him through. God has weapons of all sorts; he has both whet his sword and bent his bow (Ps. 7:12, 13); he can deal with his enemies cominus vel eminus—at hand or afar off. He has a sword for those that think to fight it out with him by their strength, and a bow for those that think to avoid him by their craft. See Isa. 24:17, 18; Jer. 48:43, 44. He that is marked for ruin, though he may escape one judgment, will find another ready for him.

III. It will be a total terrible ruin. When the dart that has struck him through (for when God shoots he is sure to hit his mark, when he strikes he strikes home) comes to be drawn out of his body, when the glittering sword (the lightning, so the word is), the flaming sword, the sword that is bathed in heaven (Isa. 34:5), comes out of his gall, O what terrors are upon him! How strong are the convulsions, how violent are the dying agonies! How terrible are the arrests of death to a wicked man!

IV. Sometimes it is a ruin that comes upon him insensibly, Job 20:26. 1. The darkness he is wrapped up in is a hidden darkness: it is all darkness, utter darkness, without the least mixture of light, and it is hid in his secret place, whither he has retreated and where he hopes to shelter himself; he never retires into his own conscience but he finds himself in the dark and utterly at a loss. 2. The fire he is consumed by is a fire not blown, kindled without noise, a consumption which every body sees the effect of, but nobody sees the cause of. It is plain that the gourd is withered, but the worm at the root, that causes it to wither, is out of sight. He is wasted by a soft gentle fire—surely, but very slowly. When the fuel is very combustible, the fire needs no blowing, and that is his case; he is ripe for ruin. The proud, and those that do wickedly, shall be stubble, 4:1. An unquenchable fire shall consume him (so some read it), and that is certainly true of hell-fire.

V. It is a ruin, not only to himself, but to his family: It shall go ill with him that is left in his tabernacle, for the curse shall reach him, and he shall be cut off perhaps by the same grievous disease. There is an entail of wrath upon the family, which will destroy both his heirs and his inheritance, Job 20:28. 1. His posterity will be rooted out: The increase of his house shall depart, shall either be cut off by untimely deaths or forced to run their country. Numerous and growing families, if wicked and vile, are soon reduced, dispersed, and extirpated, by the judgments of God. 2. His estate will be sunk. His goods shall flow away from his family as fast as ever they flowed into it, when the day of God’s wrath comes, for which, all the while his estate was in the getting by fraud and oppression, he was treasuring up wrath.

VI. It is a ruin which will manifestly appear to be just and righteous, and what he has brought upon himself by his own wickedness; for (Job 20:27) the heaven shall reveal his iniquity, that is, the God of heaven, who sees all the secret wickedness of the wicked, will, by some means or other, let all the world know what a base man he has been, that they may own the justice of God in all that is brought upon him. The earth also shall rise up against him, both to discover his wickedness and to avenge it. The earth shall disclose her blood, Isa. 26:21. The earth will rise up against him (as the stomach rises against that which is loathsome), and will no longer keep him. The heaven reveals his iniquity, and therefore will not receive him. Whither then must he go but to hell? If the God of heaven and earth be his enemy, neither heaven nor earth will show him any kindness, but all the hosts of both are and will be at war with him.

VII. Zophar concludes like an orator (Job 20:29): This is the portion of a wicked man from God; it is allotted him, it is designed him, as his portion. He will have it at last, as a child has his portion, and he will have it for a perpetuity; it is what he must abide by: This is the heritage of his decree from God; it is the settled rule of his judgment, and fair warning is given of it. O wicked man! thou shalt surely die, Ezek. 33:8. Though impenitent sinners do not always fall under such temporal judgments as are here described (therein Zophar was mistaken), yet the wrath of God abides upon them, and they are made miserable by spiritual judgments, which are much worse, their consciences being either, on the one hand, a terror to them, and then they are in continual amazement, or, on the other hand, seared and silenced, and then they are given up to a reprobate sense and bound over to eternal ruin. Never was any doctrine better explained, or worse applied, than this by Zophar, who intended by all this to prove Job a hypocrite. Let us receive the good explication, and make a better application, for warning to ourselves to stand in awe and not to sin.