Reading through the Bible together
Job wishes to take his three friends to the heart of the problem with this world. The evidence is right before their eyes. If they focus on the crimes of the wicked, and what happens when the wicked die, what are the results? This world and its events will not last forever for heaven is not supposed to be erected here. Those rescued from here will move somewhere else, but not on this earth. The wicked will be destroyed in the last days even if they are successful. This is the general overview.
Job begins the chapter by asking “are the times hidden from the Almighty?” Periodical trends of faith and reason have upswings and downswings throughout the centuries but they are not hidden to Him. Why? Job asks (v. 1). God does not have a blind eye to history. Why shouldn’t those who know God not see in their own days [of suffering] some meaning? Why do they have to see it? (v. 1). If they do, it will strengthen their faith in God.
Then Job identifies the wicked. His list is extensive and very particular: They remove borders [landgrabbers] (v. 2); they steal flocks and take over ownership (v. 2); the donkey of the orphan is led away (v. 3); a widow has to give her only ox for a pledge (v. 3); the poor have to turn off the road [when the violent are coming] to seek safety and go into hiding (v. 4). Next Job lists the places where the wicked are operative: In the sparse places like wild donkeys looking for bread (v. 5); in the field they take produce and what the vineyards yield (v. 6); their victims are made to lie naked without clothes and have to hide in the mountains (vv. 7-8); the wicked are baby-stealers “they rob from a breast an orphan” (v. 9); they take from a poor man a pledge and [when he does not pay back] they make him naked (v. 10); they take the sheaves from the hungry and work the stolen winepresses (vv. 10-11). Job says that with conditions like this the people in towns and villages are groaning, and “the soul of the slain are crying out” (v. 12).
Moses could identify with Job’s accusation against the wicked and the suffering of the faithful, especially when he thinks back to Egypt and his Hebrew relatives, friends and their families where they suffered for over 430 years since the death of Joseph. The actions and vices of the wicked were just as real in Job’s day.
There is no spiritual dimension in the lives of the wicked. “They rebel against the light” and do not recognize God’s ways (v. 13). They steal, murder in broad daylight, and kill the poor (v. 14). The adulterer uses the cover of the night to cover his sins (v. 15). They break into houses (v. 16); and they love the shadows (v. 17). “Their portion in the earth is cursed” (v. 18). As the heat consumes the snow so shall the grave consume the wicked (v. 19). His mother will forget him and he will not be remembered (v. 20). His wife turns into a widow (v. 21). He became famous and popular but did not believe in the (shortness) of his life (v. 22). They rely on the security God gives them but the eyes of God are “on their ways” (v. 23). The end result is that despite God’s current sustaining grace “they are taken away in a second and are no more (v. 24). “They are crushed just like all they have and like the tip of the ear of grain they will be cut off and taken out of the way (v. 24).
Job is not only thinking of death of the wicked in this present world but the eternal death of the wicked at the end of the millennium. He finishes his identification of the wicked and their current frailty by saying that if anyone thinks he is a liar, let him prove his wrong (v. 25).
We also live in this hostile environment surrounded by all kinds of wickedness. Protect us this day with your sustaining Grace we pray. Amen.
Koot van Wyk
Kyungpook National University
Sangju, South Korea