These verses describe another sort of sinners who therefore go unpunished, because they go undiscovered. They rebel against the light, Job 24:13. Some understand it figuratively: they sin against the light of nature, the light of God’s law, and that of their own consciences; they profess to know God, but they rebel against the knowledge they have of him, and will not be guided and governed, commanded and controlled, by it. Others understand it literally: they have the day-light and choose the night as the most advantageous season for their wickedness. Sinful works are therefore called works of darkness, because he that does evil hates the light (John 3:20), knows not the ways thereof, that is, keeps out of the way of it, or, if he happen to be seen, abides not where he thinks he is known. So that he here describes the worst of sinners,—those that sin wilfully, and against the convictions of their own consciences, whereby they add rebellion to their sin,—those that sin deliberately, and with a great deal of plot and contrivance, using a thousand arts to conceal their villanies, fondly imagining that, if they can but hide them from the eye of men, they are safe, but forgetting that there is no darkness or shadow of death in which the workers of iniquity can hide themselves from God’s eye, Job 34:22. In this paragraph Job specifies three sorts of sinners that shun the light:—1. Murderers, Job 24:14. They rise with the light, as soon as ever the day breaks, to kill the poor travellers that are up early and abroad about their business, going to market with a little money or goods; and though it is so little that they are really to be called poor and needy, who with much ado get a sorry livelihood by their marketings, yet, to get it, the murderer will both take his neighbour’s life and venture his own, will rather play at such small game than not play at all; nay, he kills for killing sake, thirsting more for blood than for booty. See what care and pains wicked men take to compass their wicked designs, and let the sight shame us out of our negligence and slothfulness in doing good.
Ut jugulent homines, surgunt de nocte latrones, Tuque ut te serves non expergisceris?—Rogues nightly rise to murder men for pelf; Will you not rouse you to preserve yourself? 2. Adulterers. The eyes that are full of adultery (2 Pet. 2:14), the unclean and wanton eyes, wait for the twilight, Job 24:15. The eye of the adulteress did so, Prov. 7:9. Adultery hides its head for shame. The sinners themselves, even the most impudent, do what they can to hide their sin: si non caste, tamen caute—if not chastely, yet cautiously; and after all the wretched endeavours of the factors for hell to take away the reproach of it, it is and ever will be a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret, Eph. 5:12. It hides its head also for fear, knowing that jealousy is the rage of a husband, who will not spare in the day of vengeance, Prov. 6:24, 25. See what pains those take that make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts of it, pains to compass, and then to conceal, that provision which, after all, will be death and hell at last. Less pains would serve to mortify and crucify the flesh, which would be life and heaven at last. Let the sinner change his heart, and then he needs not disguise his face, but may lift it up without spot. 3. House-breakers, Job 24:16. These mark houses in the day-time, mark the avenues of a house, and on which side they can most easily force their entrance, and then, in the night, dig through them, either to kill, or steal, or commit adultery. The night favours the assault, and makes the defence the more difficult; for the good man of the house knows not what hour the thief will come and therefore is asleep (Luke 12:39) and he and his lie exposed. For this reason our law makes burglary, which is the breaking and entering of a dwelling-house in the night time with a felonious intent, to be felony without benefit of clergy.
And, lastly, Job observes (and perhaps observes it as part of the present, though secret, punishment of such sinners as these) that they are in a continual terror for fear of being discovered (Job 24:17): The morning is to them even as the shadow of death. The light of the day, which is welcome to honest people, is a terror to bad people. They curse the sun, not as the Moors, because it scorches them, but because it discovers them. If one know them, their consciences fly in their faces, and they are ready to become their own accusers; for they are in the terrors of the shadow of death. Shame came in with sin, and everlasting shame is at the end of it. See the misery of sinners—they are exposed to continual frights; and yet see their folly—they are afraid of coming under the eye of men, but have no dread of God’s eye, which is always upon them: they are not afraid of doing that which yet they are so terribly afraid of being known to do.
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