Here Job touches briefly upon the main point now in dispute between him and his friends. They maintained that those who are righteous and good always prosper in this world, and none but the wicked are in misery and distress; he asserted, on the contrary, that it is a common thing for the wicked to prosper and the righteous to be greatly afflicted. This is the one thing, the chief thing, wherein he and his friends differed; and they had not proved their assertion, therefore he abides by his: “I said it, and day it again, that all things come alike to all.” Now, 1. It must be owned that there is very much truth in what Job here means, that temporal judgments, when they are sent abroad, fall both upon good and bad, and the destroying angel seldom distinguishes (though once he did) between the houses of Israelites and the houses of Egyptians. In the judgment of S 430b odom indeed, which is called the vengeance of eternal fire (Jude 1:7), far be it from God to slay the righteous with the wicked, and that the righteous should be as the wicked (Gen. 18:25); but, in judgments merely temporal, the righteous have their share, and sometimes the greatest share. The sword devours one as well as another, Josiah as well as Ahab. Thus God destroys the perfect and the wicked, involves them both in the same common ruin; good and bad were sent together into Babylon, Jer. 24:5, 9. If the scourge slay suddenly, and sweep down all before it, God will be well pleased to see how the same scourge which is the perdition of the wicked is the trial of the innocent and of their faith, which will be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, 1 Pet. 1:7; Ps. 66:10.
Against the just th’ Almighty’s arrows fly, For he delights the innocent to try, To show their constant and their Godlike mind, Not by afflictions broken, but refined.—Sir R. BLACKMORE. Let this reconcile God’s children to their troubles; they are but trials, designed for their honour and benefit, and, if God be pleased with them, let not them be displeased; if he laugh at the trial of the innocent, knowing how glorious the issue of it will be, at destruction and famine let them also laugh (Job 5:22), and triumph over them, saying, O death! where is thy sting? On the other hand, the wicked are so far from being made the marks of God’s judgments that the earth is given into their hand, Job 9:24 (they enjoy large possessions and great power, have what they will and do what they will), into the hand of the wicked one (in the original, the word is singular); the devil, that wicked one, is called the god of this world, and boasts that into his hands it is delivered, Luke 4:6. Or into the hand of a wicked man, meaning (as bishop Patrick and the Assembly’s Annotations conjecture) some noted tyrant then living in those parts, whose great wickedness and great prosperity were well known both to Job and his friends. The wicked have the earth given them, but the righteous have heaven given them, and which is better—heaven without earth or earth without heaven? God, in his providence, advances wicked men, while he covers the faces of those who are fit to be judges, who are wise and good, and qualified for government, and buries them alive in obscurity, perhaps suffers them to be run down and condemned, and to have their faces covered as criminals by those wicked ones into whose hand the earth is given. We daily see that this is done; if it be not God that does it, where and who is he that does it? To whom can it be ascribed but to him that rules in the kingdoms of men, and gives them to whom he will? Dan. 4:32. Yet, 2. It must be owned that there is too much passion in what Job here says. The manner of expression is peevish. When he meant that God afflicts he ought not to have said, He destroys both the perfect and the wicked; when he meant that God pleases himself with the trial of the innocent he ought not to have said, He laughs at it, for he doth not afflict willingly. When the spirit is heated, either with dispute or with discontent, we have need to set a watch before the door of our lips, that we may observe a due decorum in speaking of divine things.