Job 21 Commentary

Job’s reply to Zophar (21:1-34)

There are two main reasons for Job’s impatient speech. One is the frustration of arguing with a person whom he cannot see or hear. The other is the constant pain that torments him. If the friends can understand this and stop their mockery for a moment, Job will answer Zophar’s statement calmly (21:1- 6). The wicked are not always swiftly destroyed as Zophar claims. Many enjoy long lives of peace, prosperity and happiness (7-13). The wicked fight against God yet prosper; Job hates wickedness yet suffers (14-16).

How often, asks Job, do the wicked suffer all the terrible judgments that the three friends have detailed (17-18)? The friends may reply that the children will reap the fruits of the parents’ sins. If this is so, says Job, it still means that the wicked themselves are not punished. They do not worry about what happens to others after they die (19-21). It is wrong to try to make God’s actions fit human theories, especially when those theories are contradicted by the plain realities of life (22). The fact is that all people, good and bad alike, suffer the unwelcome fate of death. This shows that sufferings and misfortunes are not an indication of a person’s goodness or wickedness (23-26).

The friends say that calamity will come upon the house of the wicked (27-28), but anyone who observes events around him knows this is not always true (29-31). Some of the wicked have impressive funerals, where crowds of people attend to pay them honour (32-33). The friends are not being honest when they quote those examples that support their theories but ignore others (34).

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