Resources » Matthew Henry's Commentary » Job » Chapter 27 » Verses 11–23

Verses 11–23

Job’s friends had seen a great deal of the misery and destruction that attend wicked people, especially oppressors; and Job, while the heat of disputation lasted, had said as much, and with as much assurance, of their prosperity; but now that the heat of the battle was nearly over he was willing to own how far he agreed with them, and where the difference between his opinion and theirs lay. 1. He agreed with them that wicked people are miserable people, that God will surely reckon with cruel oppressors, and one time or other, one way or other, his justice will make reprisals upon them for all the affronts they have put upon God and all the wrongs they have done to their neighbours. This truth is abundantly confirmed by the entire concurrence even of these angry disputants in it. But, 2. In this they differed—they held that these deserved judgments are presently and visibly brought upon wicked oppressors, that they travail with pain all their days, that in prosperity the destroyer comes upon them, that they shall not be rich, nor their branch green, and that their destruction shall be accomplished before their time (so Eliphaz, Job 15:20, 21, 29, 32), that the steps of their strength shall be straitened, that terrors shall make them afraid on every side (so Bildad, Job 18:7, 11), that he himself shall vomit up his riches, and that in the fulness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits, so Zophar, Job 20:15, 22. Now Job held that, in many cases, judgments do not fall upon them quickly, but are deferred for some time. That vengeance strikes slowly he had already shown (Job 21:1-34; 24:1-25); now he comes to show that it strikes surely and severely, and that reprieves are no pardons.

I. Job here undertakes to set this matter in a true light (Job 27:11, 12): I will teach you. We must not disdain to learn even from those who are sick and poor, yea, and peevish too, if they deliver what is true and good. Observe, 1. What he would teach them: “That which is with the Almighty,” that is, “the counsels and purposes of God concerning wicked people, which are hidden with him, and which you cannot hastily judge of; and the usual methods of his providence concerning them.” This, says Job, will I not conceal. What God has not concealed from us we must not conceal from those we are concerned to teach. Things revealed belong to us and our children. 2. How he would teach them: By the hand of God, that is, by his strength and assistance. Those who undertake to teach others must look to the hand of God to direct them, to open their ear (Isa. 50:4), and to open their lips. Those whom God teaches with a strong hand are best able to teach others, Isa. 8:11. 3. What reason they had to learn those things which he was about to teach them (Job 27:12), that it was confirmed by their own observation—You yourselves have seen it (but what we have heard, and seen and known, we have need to be taught, that we may be perfect in our lesson), and that it would set them to rights in their judgment concerning him—“Why then are you thus altogether vain, to condemn me for a wicked man because I am afflicted?” Truth, rightly understood and applied, would cure us of that vanity of mind which arises from our mistakes. That particularly which he offers now to lay before them is the portion of a wicked man with God, particularly of oppressors, Job 27:13. Compare Job 20:29. Their portion in the world may be wealth and preferment, but their portion with God is ruin and misery. They are above the control of any earthly power, it may be, but the Almighty can deal with them.

II. He does it, by showing that wicked people may, in some instances, prosper, but that ruin follows them in those very instances; and that is their portion, that is their heritage, that is it which they must abide by.

1. They may prosper in their children, but ruin attends them. His children perhaps are multiplied (Job 27:14) or magnified (so some); they are very numerous and are raised to honour and great estates. Worldly people are said to be full of children (Ps. 17:14), and, as it is in the margin there, their children are full. In them the parents hope to live and in their preferment to be honoured. But the more children they leave, and the greater prosperity they leave them in, the more and the fairer marks do they leave for the arrows of God’s judgments to be levelled at, his three sore judgments, sword, famine, and pestilence, 2 Sam. 24:13. (1.) Some of them shall die by the sword, the sword of war perhaps (they brought them up to live by their sword, as Esau, Gen. 27:40; and those that do so commonly die by the sword, first or last), or by the sword of justice for their crimes, or the sword of the murderer for their estates. (2.) Others of them shall die by famine (Job 27:14): His offspring shall not be satisfied with bread. He thought he had secured to them large estates, but it may happen that they may be reduced to poverty, so as not to have the necessary supports of life, at least not to live comfortably. They shall be so needy that they shall not have a competency of necessary food, and so greedy, or so discontented, that what they have they shall not be satisfied with, because not so much, or not so dainty, as what they have been used to. You eat, but you have not enough, Hag. 1:6. (3.) Those that remain shall be buried in death, that is, shall die of the plague, which is called death (Rev. 6:8), and be buried privately and in haste, as soon as they are dead, without any solemnity, buried with the burial of an ass; and even their widows shall not weep; they shall not have wherewithal to put them in mourning. Or it denotes that these wicked men, as they live undesired, so they die unlamented, and even their widows will think themselves happy that they have got rid of them.

2. They may prosper in their estates, but ruin attends them too, Job 27:16-18. (1.) We will suppose them to be rich in money and plate, in clothing and furniture. They heap up silver in abundance as the dust, and prepare raiment as the clay; they have heaps of clothes about them, as plentiful as heaps of clay. Or it intimates that they have such abundance of clothes that they are even a burden to them. They lade themselves with thick clay, Hab. 2:6. See what is the care and business of worldly people—to heap up worldly wealth. Much would have more, until the silver is cankered and the garments are moth-eaten, Jas. 5:2, 3. But what comes of it? He shall never be the better for it himself; death will strip him, death will rob him, if he be not robbed and stripped sooner, Luke 12:20. Nay, God will so order it that the just shall wear his raiment and the innocent shall divide his silver. [1.] They shall have it, and divide it among themselves. In some way or other Providence shall so order it that good men shall come honestly by that wealth which the wicked man came dishonestly by. The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just, Prov. 13:22. God disposes of men’s estates as he pleases, and often makes their wills against their wills. The just, whom he hated and persecuted, shall have rule over all his labour, and, in due time, recover with interest what was violently taken from him. The Egyptians’ jewels were the Israelites’ pay. Solomon observes (Eccl. 2:26) that God makes the sinners drudges to the righteous; for the sinner he gives travail to gather and heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. [2.] They shall do good with it. The innocent shall not hoard the silver, as he did that gathered it, but shall divide it to the poor, shall give a portion to seven and also to eight, which is laying up the best securities. Money is like manure, good for nothing if it be not spread. When God enriches good men they must remember they are but stewards and must give an account. What bad men bring a curse upon their families with the ill-getting of good men bring a blessing upon their families with the well-using of. He that by unjust gain increaseth his substance shall gather it for him that will pity the poor, Prov. 28:8. (2.) We will suppose them to have built themselves strong and stately houses; but they are like the house which the moth makes for herself in an old garment, out of which she will soon be shaken, Job 27:18. He is very secure in it, as a moth, and has no apprehension of danger; but it will prove of as short continuance as a booth which the keeper makes, which will quickly be taken down and gone, and his place shall know him no more.

3. Destruction attends their persons, though they lived long in health and at ease (Job 27:19): The rich man shall lie down to sleep, to repose himself in the abundance of his wealth (Soul, take thy ease), shall lie down in it as his strong city, and seem to others to be very happy and very easy; but he shall not be gathered, that is, he shall not have his mind composed, and settled, and gathered in, to enjoy his wealth. He does not sleep so contentedly as people think he does. He lies down, but his abundance will not suffer him to sleep, at least not so sweetly as the labouring man, Eccl. 5:12. He lies down, but he is full of tossings to and fro till the dawning of the day, and then he opens his eyes and he is not; he sees himself, and all he has, hastening away, as it were, in the twinkling of an eye. His cares increase his fears, and both together make him uneasy, so that, when we attend him to his bed, we do not find him happy there. But, in the close, we are called to attend his exit, and see how miserable he is in death and after death.

(1.) He is miserable in death. It is to him the king of terrors, Job 27:20, 21. When some mortal disease seizes him what a fright is he in! Terrors take hold of him as waters, as if he were surrounded by the flowing tides. He trembles to think of leaving this world, and much more of removing to another. This mingles sorrow and wrath with his sickness, as Solomon observes, Eccl. 5:17. These terrors put him either [1.] Into a silent and sullen despair; and then the tempest of God’s wrath, the tempest of death, may be said to steal him away in the night, when no one is aware or takes any notice of it. Or, [2.] Into an open and clamorous despair; and then he is said to be carried away, and hurled out of his place as with a storm, and with an east wind, violent, and noisy, and very dreadful. Death, to a godly man, is like a fair gale of wind to convey him to the heavenly country, but, to a wicked man, it is like an east wind, a storm, a tempest, that hurries him away in confusion and amazement, to destruction.

(2.) He is miserable after death. [1.] His soul falls under the just indignation of God, and it is the terror of that indignation which puts him into such amazement at the approach of death (Job 27:22): For God shall cast upon him and not spare. While he lived he had the benefit of sparing mercy; but now the day of God’s patience is over, and he will not spare, but pour out upon him the full vials of his wrath. What God casts down upon a man there is no flying from nor bearing up under. We read of his casting down great stones from heaven upon the Canaanites (Josh. 10:11), which made terrible execution among them; but what was that to his casting down his anger in its full weight upon the sinner’s conscience, like the talent of lead? Zech. 5:7, 8. The damned sinner, seeing the wrath of God break in upon him, would fain flee out of his hand; but he cannot: the gates of hell are locked and barred, and the great gulf fixed, and it will be in vain to call for the shelter of rocks and mountains. Those who will not be persuaded now to fly to the arms of divine grace, which are stretched out to receive them, will not be able to flee from the arms of divine wrath, which will shortly be stretched out to destroy them. [2.] His memory falls under the just indignation of all mankind (Job 27:23): Men shall clap their hands at him, that is, they shall rejoice in the judgments of God, by which he is cut off, and be well pleased in his fall. When the wicked perish there is shouting, Prov. 11:10. When God buries him men shall hiss him out of his place, and leave on his name perpetual marks of infamy. In the same place where he has been caressed and cried up he shall be laughed at (Ps. 52:7) and his ashes shall be trampled on.