JOB REAFFIRMS HIS RIGHTEOUS INTEGRITY, THE VANITY OF HYPOCRISY AND THE DOOMED DESTINY OF THE WICKED
Derek Kidner: Commentators are in disagreement as to whose words recorded in chapters 25-28. Some are of the opinion that Bildad’s speech, having ended at the close of chapter 25, takes up again at 26:5-14. Some also believe that chapter 27:2-12 is Job’s reply, but that the rest of chapters 27 and 28 is not from Job at all!
Since Zophar has not intervened, Job continues to speak to all the friends in 27:1 – 28:28: the “you” in verses 11-12 is plural, so Job is not merely replying to Bildad here.
This is Job’s closing discourse to the friends. He has one more speech (like the closing argument in a trial case) addressed to God (29-31) and once this section is over, Job only has a few short sentences left to speak by way of an epilogue at the very end of the book (42:2-6).
Edward Gibson: Accepting then the arrangement of the text which has come down to us in our Hebrew Bibles as correct, and regarding xxviii. as an integral part of the original poem, the two chapters before us (xxvii., xxviii.) are here treated as Job’s first monologue. Job has now completely silenced his friends. He has appealed to facts which give the lie to the major premise of their syllogism, and establish the seeming inequality of God’s ways. He is consequently left as victor, not as having solved the problem, or offered any explanation of the mystery of pain, but simply as having demolished their ‘short and easy method’ of accounting for suffering. Whatever be the true account of it, the old doctrine of retribution has hopelessly broken down; and it appears as if this monologue was meant to point out that since the problem is insoluble by man his true wisdom is to acquiesce in his ignorance, and, leaving speculation, to devote himself to practical works of goodness: much in the same spirit as the writer of Ecclesiastes gives ‘the conclusion of the whole matter’ at the close of his dreary reflections on things in general. ‘Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man’ (Eccl. xii. 13).
John Hartley: Job sings the praises of God’s glorious might and affirms once again, with even more determination, his own uprightness. His sublime view of God impels him to continue reaching out to God as the one who will restore his honor, even though God himself appears to be the cause of his bitter affliction. His genuine faith is grounded in his conviction that God is just and merciful despite the evidence to the contrary. The other pillar that keeps his faith from being swallowed up by fear is his assurance that he is blameless. In using an oath form to assert his integrity he has come close to his final course of action, swearing an avowal of innocence (ch. 31). Then out of distress, hoping to end his agony, Job prays that the causes of his affliction, personified as an enemy, will be defeated by the mighty God who defeats all his foes.
Francis Andersen: The disagreement between Job and his friends is not over whether God is just or not; it is over how the justice of God is seen to work out in particular events, and specifically in Job’s experiences. The friends think they know the answer, and they have offered it to Job. Job knows that they are wrong, not in affirming the justice of God, but in applying it to himself. But since he does not know how the justice of God is being fulfilled in his case, he is neither able to refute the friends nor able to satisfy his own mind.
– Job protests his integrity, Job 27:1-6 ;
– and his dread of hypocrisy, Job 27:7-10 .
– Shows the miserable end of the wicked, notwithstanding their long prosperity, Job 27:11-23.
(:1) PROLOGUE – JOB’S FIRST MONOLOGUE
“Then Job continued his discourse and said,”
I. (:2-6) CONTINUING TO CLAIM RIGHTEOUS INTEGRITY
Tremper Longman: There has been no softening of Job’s position. He is as confident as ever of his righteousness and that God is unjust to let him suffer.
Elmer Smick: An oath based on the existence of God is the most extreme measure available (the last resort) in Job’s society for a condemned person to plead innocent. Either he is innocent, or he will suffer the divine sanctions; for if Job is a liar, he has blasphemed God. He is saying that his integrity (blamelessness, not sinlessness) is more important to him than life itself (v.5).
But Job does not fear death, for he has spoken the truth. He knows he can swear before God without forfeiting his life. He feels God has denied him justice but inconsistently still knows that somehow God is just; so he can swear by his life. This same incongruity applies also to his earlier fantasies, when with highly emotional words he viewed God as his enemy (9:14–31; 16:7–14; 19:7–12).
The Biblical Illustrator:
I. A solemn asseveration. “As God liveth.” (:2) The words imply a belief–
1. In the reality of the Divine existence. Whilst some deny this fact, the bulk of the race practically ignore it.
2. In the awfulness of the Divine existence. There is a sublime awfulness in the words, “As God liveth.”
3. In the severity of the Divine existence. “Who hath taken away my judgment, and the Almighty who hath vexed my soul.” As nature has winter as well as summer, so God has a severe as well as a benign aspect.
4. In the nearness of the Divine existence. “The spirit of God is in my nostrils. His breath is my life.”
II. A noble determination. “My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit. God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me; my righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go; my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.” (:4-6) What does he determine?
1. Never to swerve from rectitude. “Till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me; my righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go.” Whatever happens to me, I will not play the false, I will not be insincere. No one can rob me of my integrity.
2. Never to vindicate wickedness. Job has so many times alluded to the prosperity of the wicked that he is apprehensive he may be suspected of envying their lot, and wishing to be in their place. Great is the tendency of some men to vindicate wickedness in connection with wealth and worldly power.
III. A weighty reflection. “What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him”? (:8-10) The writer reflects here upon the wicked men of wealth, and he concludes–
1. That in death they will have no hope.
2. That in trouble they will have no answer to their prayers or delight in God.
E.S.P. Heavenor: Job again repudiates the charges insinuated or directly affirmed by his friends. (2) His affirmation is introduced by what Strahan calls “the most extraordinary form of oath in the Scriptures”. He swears by a God who has taken away his right. It is a remarkable picture of a man whose faith is abiding with him in the storm, who still can call “my God” the God he is tempted to imagine is forsaking him. (5, 6) He cannot doubt the reality of almighty God, or the fact of His government of the world; it is the mode of His government, and in particular its application to himself, which puzzles him. The present vexations cannot be explained by his sinfulness.
A. (:2-4) Integrity Confirmed by an Unwavering Oath
John Hartley: Job resolutely affirms his innocence with a complex oath. It opens with an oath formula (v. 2a, c), expanded by an accusation against God contained in a relative clause (v. 2b–2d), plus a parenthetical statement that God is the source of his life (v. 3), and then the oath proper asserting that he has not lied at all in his affirmations of innocence (v. 4).
1. (:2) Appeal to the Very God Who Has Sovereignly Afflicted Him
“As God lives, who has taken away my right,
And the Almighty, who has embittered my soul,”
Mason: The juxtaposition is jarringly ironic. Even as Job confesses his faith in the living God, he matter-of-factly accuses this God of deserting him, of leaving him in the lurch… Job does not say, ‘as I live,’ but ‘as God lives,’ even though this God has hidden His face and denied him justice.
Elmer Smick: He felt God had denied him justice but inconsistently still knew that somehow God was just; so he could swear by his life. This same incongruity applies also to his earlier fantasies, when with highly emotional words he viewed God as his enemy.
John Hartley: Daringly Job adds a complaint against God after the opening formula. He accuses the very God by whom he swears of two offenses: God has denied or set aside (hēsîr) his right, and Shaddai has made his soul bitter. Since God has refused to answer his pleas to resolve his case, he has had to cope with resentment against God welling up within himself. These words suggest that two views of God are struggling against each other in Job’s thinking: God his accuser and God the source of justice. Job is pitting God against himself in a mighty effort to compel God to answer his complaint. Both his contention and his wishful hope of resolution are with this same God.
Derek Kidner: God may ask us to pass through similar valleys to Job, and we shall need to be as patient as Job was if we are to emerge as he did. Holding on to God, even when his ways appear to make no sense, is the secret of Job’s life. Job may well have problems with seeing god’s justice in his life: “God . . . has denied me justice” (27:2); but everything in him says that to abandon God now would be suicidal. He must hold on, even when it makes no sense. In all his searching for meaning and purpose, Job is discovering that there is no one else to whom he may turn.
Albert Barnes: Who hath rejected my cause, or who has refused me justice; that is, who has treated me as though I was guilty, and withholds from me relief. The language is forensic, and the idea is, that he would make his solemn appeal to him, even though he had rejected his cause. Perhaps there is implied here more than the solemnity of an ordinary oath. A man might be supposed to be willing to make his appeal to one who had shown himself friendly or favorable to him, but he would manifest more reluctance to making his appeal in an important case to a judge who had decided against him, especially if that decision was regarded as severe, and if that judge had refused to hear what he had to say in self-defense. But Job here says, that such was his confidence in his own sincerity and truth, that he could make his appeal to God, even though he knew that he had hitherto gone against him, and treated him as if he were guilty.
2. (:3) Attribution of His Life to God’s Preservation
“For as long as life is in me,
And the breath of God is in my nostrils,”
John Hartley: Job acknowledges parenthetically that it is the living God who has given him the breath of life (cf. Gen. 2:7; Isa. 42:5). God both imparts life to the body and sustains that life. In this statement Job acknowledges his complete dependence on God. At the same time he believes that God, by reason of the fact that he is the giver of life, is obligated to judge each person justly, including Job. Job’s double confidence—in his own integrity and in God’s fidelity to justice—moves him to speak so brazenly.
David Thompson: Job believed totally and completely in the sovereignty of God. He believed that God was allowing these things to happen to him for some reason. Even though he was experiencing horrible things, he still kept his faith in God and held to some key theological realities:
(Reality #1) – God is a living God. 27:2a
Just because things had gone bad for Job, he did not take a “God is dead” view of life. That is the way many people think. They look at bad things that are happening and start questioning God or doubting God or denying God. Job never did that. He always believed that God was a living God. He could help. He could intervene. He has a plan.
(Reality #2) – God is the One who has taken rights away from Job. 27:2b
God was the One who had taken away “my right.” What Job means by that is for some reason God had determined that the right of Job to be blessed because he was faithful to God had been taken away. What was happening to Job had robbed him of his rights. Job believed all the negative things that hit him came as a result of a sovereign decree of God.
(Reality #3) – God is the One who has caused his soul to become embittered. 27:2c Job’s soul was troubled. Job was hurting outside and inside and he believed God had done this. God was the One who was causing Job to have such an emotional breakdown.
(Reality #4) – God is the One who continues to give Job life. 27:3
Job believed that the reason he had not died yet was because God continued to give him life. Job continued to believe that God was the one sustaining his life even though he was going through great suffering. God not only gives life, but He also sustains life. Job’s grasp of the sovereignty of God is amazing.
These four sovereign realities about God were things Job thought about. These are four realties we need to think about when our world caves in.
3. (:4) Avoidance of Any Impropriety or Deceit
“My lips certainly will not speak unjustly,
Nor will my tongue mutter deceit.”
B. (:5-6) Integrity Clutched Tightly until Death
“Far be it from me that I should declare you right;
Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.
6 I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go.
My heart does not reproach any of my days.”
John Hartley: The foundation of Job’s faith in God is his personal conviction that he has been blameless in his relations with God and human beings. This verse is a direct allusion to 2:3, in which God confesses Job’s integrity after his losses (cf. 2:9; 31:6). If Job would concede to the friends that he was suffering for some wrong he had committed, he would destroy the central fiber of his stalwart moral character, for he would be seeking their approval by speaking a lie.
II. (:7-12) CURSING AND COUNSELING HYPOCRITES
A. (:7-10) Cursing His Enemies
1. (:7) Imprecation
“May my enemy be as the wicked,
And my opponent as the unjust.”
Elmer Smick: Imprecatory rhetoric [v. 7] is difficult for Westerners to understand. But in the Semitic world it is still an honorable rhetorical device. The imprecation had a juridical function and was frequently a hyperbolic (cf. Ps. 109:6-15; 139 [sic 137]:7-9) means of dealing with false accusations and oppression. Legally the false accusation and the very crimes committed are called down on the perpetrator’s head. Since his counselors had falsely accused Job of being wicked, they deserved to be punished like the wicked.
Warren Wiersbe: Who were Job’s enemies? Anybody who agreed with Job’s three friends that he was guilty of sin and deserved to be punished by God. While this conversation had been going on, many people had likely gathered around the ash heap and listened to the debate; and most of them probably sided with Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz. Job could see the spectators nod their heads in agreement with his friends, and he knew that he was outnumbered.
2. (:8-10) Inconsistencies of Hypocrites Exposed – Their Hope is Vain
“For what is the hope of the godless when he is cut off,
When God requires his life?
9 Will God hear his cry, when distress comes upon him?
10 Will he take delight in the Almighty,
Will he call on God at all times?”
David Guzik: Job was accused by his friends of being a hypocrite; of clinging to hidden sin instead of confessing and repenting. Here, Job agreed that the hope of the hypocrite was vain.
John Hartley: When distress comes on the evildoer as punishment, he may cry out to God for help, but God will not hear his cry. God refuses to deliver him because such a person calls on God solely to get out of a desperate condition. That person will experience the full brunt of the misfortune designed to punish him, for he has no intention of delighting in God by doing his will. Only those with a broken spirit have a genuine hope of deliverance from God (cf. Ps. 86:1–3).
Cyril Barber: Then, as he continued with his defense of his actions, he contrasted himself with the wicked, and named five ways in which his life was distinct from theirs:
(1) He had repudiated the godless (even though this is the group in which his friends have classified him);
(2) He believed that when God takes away the life of the wicked, they have no hope;
(3) He had observed that when the wicked find themselves beset by trouble they have no communication with God, whereas Job believed that he has a mediator between himself and the Most High;
(4) Job also believed that the wicked have not delight in fellowship with God, and only call on Him in times of trouble; and,
(5) The wicked cannot teach others about God because they do not know Him, whereas Job is ready and able to teach his friends about God’s ways.
B. (:11-12) Counseling His Counselors
1. (:11) Instruction
“I will instruct you in the power of God;
What is with the Almighty I will not conceal.”
Morgan: Summoning all the strength of his faith, he declared that he would teach his opponents ‘concerning the hand of God,’ and he now practically took hold of all that they had said about God’s visitation on the wicked, and hurled it back on them as an anathema.
John MacArthur: Job had pinpointed the issue between him and his friends. They disagreed on the outworking of God’s retribution. They agreed that God was powerful, wise, and sovereign. But because Job knew there was no cherished sin in his life that would bring upon him such intense suffering, Job was forced to conclude that the simplistic notion – that all suffering comes from sin and all righteousness is rewarded – was wrong. At the outset, Job himself probably believed as the comforters still did, but he had seen that his friends’ limitation of God’s action was drastically in need of revision; in fact, it was nonsense. Job’s comments here introduced his exposition on wisdom which follows in Job 28.
2. (:12) Inconsistencies of His Counselors Exposed – Their Arguments Contradict Reality
“Behold, all of you have seen it;
Why then do you act foolishly?”
Tremper Longman: He insults them in v. 12 by suggesting that his lesson is obvious. They should know it without him telling them about it. Because of their ignorance, they have become meaningless, which probably means that their arguments lack substance. The word “meaningless” (hebel), well known from Ecclesiastes, has as a base meaning “vapor” or “bubble.” Their arguments are vaporous.
Albert Barnes: Why is it that you maintain such opinions – that you evince no more knowledge of his government and plans – that you argue so inconclusively about him and his administration! Why, since you have had an opportunity of observing the course of events, do you maintain that suffering is necessarily a proof of guilt, and that God deals with all people, in this life, according to their character? A close observation of the course of events would have taught you otherwise. Job proceeds to state what he supposes to be the exact truth on the subject, and particularly aims, in the following chapter, to show that the ways of God are inscrutable, and that we cannot be expected to comprehend them, and are not competent to pronounce upon them.
III. (:13-23) CALLING OUT THE DOOMED DESTINY OF THE WICKED
Thomas Constable: Job asserted that the wicked would experience punishment eventually. Though he believed God was not being just with him, he could not escape the conviction that God must deal justly. It was this antinomy (the apparent inconsistency between two apparently reasonable facts) that made Job so uncomfortably anxious to obtain a reply from God. He agreed with his companions that God punishes the wicked. This is what normally happens in life (vv. 13-23). Nonetheless he disagreed that this is always true in every case.
David Guzik: In this section, Job argued strongly – as strongly as any of his three friends – that judgment awaits the wicked man, and that he will not be ultimately blessed. This was an important argument for Job to make in front of his friends, because they accused him of overturning God’s moral order in the world. Job insists that he agreed (in general) with the idea that wickedness is rewarded with judgment from God (received from the Almighty).
Francis Andersen: The disagreement between Job and his friends is not over whether God is just or not; it is over how the justice of God is seen to work out in particular events, and specifically in Job’s experiences.
“This is the portion of a wicked man from God,
And the inheritance which tyrants receive from the Almighty.”
A. (:14-15) Doomed Family Destiny
1. (:14) Sons and Descendants
“Though his sons are many, they are destined for the sword;
And his descendants will not be satisfied with bread.”
2. (:15) Survivors and Their Widows
“His survivors will be buried because of the plague,
And their widows will not be able to weep.”
B. (:16-17) Doomed Material Treasures
“Though he piles up silver like dust,
And prepares garments as plentiful as the clay;
17 He may prepare it, but the just will wear it,
And the innocent will divide the silver.”
C. (:18-23) Doomed Dwellings of False Safety and Security
1. (:18-19) Rapid Reversal of Fortune
a. (:18) Temporary Nature of His Dwelling
“He has built his house like the spider’s web,
Or as a hut which the watchman has made.”
John MacArthur: temporary dwellings which illustrate that the wicked will not live long.
b. (:19) Quick Demise
“He lies down rich, but never again;
He opens his eyes, and it is no more.”
2. (:20-22) Impossibility of Escape
“Terrors overtake him like a flood; A tempest steals him away in the night. 21 The east wind carries him away, and he is gone, For it whirls him away from his place. 22 For it will hurl at him without sparing; He will surely try to flee from its power.”
3. (:23) Object of Derision
“Men will clap their hands at him,
And will hiss him from his place.”
Cf. the hissing by rival soccer fans to express their displeasure; Is God the one doing the hissing here?
Adam Clarke: It seems it was an ancient method to clap the hands against and hiss a man from any public office, who had acted improperly in it. The populace, in European countries, express their disapprobation of public characters who have not pleased them in the same manner to the present day, by hisses, groans, and the like.
Francis Andersen: The practice of Hebrew poets of using the opening and closing lines of a poem as a framework (inclusio) to enclose the rest invites us to link verse 23 with verse 13, and to identify God (not the east wind—it of RSV) as the One behind all these calamities, who claps his palms and hisses at him. While clapping can express anger (Num. 24:10), and hissing can express horror (Jer. 49:17), both can express derision (Lam. 2:15; Ezek. 27:36), which is often mentioned in the Old Testament as the best treatment for the ungodly.
Elmer Smick: The stanza has an inclusio structure; that is, the opening and closing lines answer to each other. But this can only be seen when two items in v.23 are understood. First, the verbs and pronoun should be taken as third masculine singular. The reference is to God in v.13, not to the storm in the preceding verse. Second, “his place” at the end of v.23 means “heaven,” God’s place. Both prepositions in the Hebrew text, then, make sense. The verse reads: “He claps his hands against them and hisses at them from his dwelling [heaven]”
Warren Wiersbe: Whether God or men, there is rejoicing at the destruction of the wicked.