King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Job 21

Job entreats attention. (1-6) The prosperity of the wicked. (7-16) The dealings of God’s providence. (17-26) The judgement of the wicked is in the world to come. (27-34)

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Job entreats attention

1 But Job answered and said,

2 Hear diligently my speech, and let this be your consolations.

3 Suffer me that I may speak; and after that I have spoken, mock on.

4 As for me, is my complaint to man? and if it were so, why should not my spirit be troubled?

5 Mark me, and be astonished, and lay your hand upon your mouth.

6 Even when I remember I am afraid, and trembling taketh hold on my flesh.

The prosperity of the wicked

7 Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?

8 Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes.

9 Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.

10 Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf.

11 They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance.

12 They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ.

13 They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.

14 Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.

15 What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?

16 Lo, their good is not in their hand: the counsel of the wicked is far from me.

The dealings of God’s providence

17 How oft is the candle of the wicked put out! and how oft cometh their destruction upon them! God distributeth sorrows in his anger.

18 They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away.

19 God layeth up his iniquity for his children: he rewardeth him, and he shall know it.

20 His eyes shall see his destruction, and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty.

21 For what pleasure hath he in his house after him, when the number of his months is cut off in the midst?

22 Shall any teach God knowledge? seeing he judgeth those that are high.

23 One dieth in his full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet.

24 His breasts are full of milk, and his bones are moistened with marrow.

25 And another dieth in the bitterness of his soul, and never eateth with pleasure.

26 They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them.

The judgement of the wicked is in the world to come

27 Behold, I know your thoughts, and the devices which ye wrongfully imagine against me.

28 For ye say, Where is the house of the prince? and where are the dwelling places of the wicked?

29 Have ye not asked them that go by the way? and do ye not know their tokens,

30 That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath.

31 Who shall declare his way to his face? and who shall repay him what he hath done?

32 Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb.

33 The clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him, and every man shall draw after him, as there are innumerable before him.

34 How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood?

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 2. Do. “After your opinion.” M. — Sym. “hear.” Sept. “may this be for your consolation,” (Heb.) which I shall receive from you, or which you may make use of, if you should be afflicted (C.) as I am. H. — Job undertakes to show that the wicked are sometimes suffered to enjoy a long prosperity.

Ver. 4. Troubled. Heb. “Why is not my spirit shortened” by death, if your assertion be true? (H.) or why may I not be “troubled,” since I have to deal, not with an enlightened judge, but with men who are under the greatest prejudices? C. — I seem to you to dispute against God. Have I not then reason to tremble? v. 6. H. — Though he disputed with men, it was concerning Providence and eternal things. W.

Ver. 5. Hearken to. Lit. “look steadfastly on me.” H. — Compare my present with my former condition, and do not pretend to fathom God’s judgments; which fall me also with astonishment, when I consider why the virtuous are distressed, and the wicked prosper, v. 7. — Mouth be silent. Harpocrates, the god of silence, was represented in this posture; and Virgil says, Intentique ora tenebant. Æneid ii. — Sept. “upon the cheek,” like men in deep consideration. C.

Ver. 7. Riches. This is what fills me with great anxiety. Yet it quite destroys the force of your argument, (C.) since you pretend that the prosperity of the wicked is never of long duration. We see them, however, live to an advanced old age, (H.) continually offending God, and annoying their neighbours. C. — Sept. “yea, they grow old in riches.”

Ver. 8. Sight. The Jews esteemed this as the greatest blessing and mark of God’s favour. Yet it was also equivocal, as it was often possessed by the wicked. C.

Ver. 9. Rod. Divine judgments. M. Ps. lxxii. 5.

Ver. 10. Cattle. Lit. “ox,” bos. Prot. “their bull gendereth, and faileth not.” H. — But Bochart explains it of the cows’ bringing forth every year. C. — Ox is used in the same sense, both by sacred and profane authors. H. — A great part of the riches of these nations consisted in cattle. Ps. cxliii. 14. Zac. viii. 5.

Ver. 11. Their. Sept. “They continue like eternal sheep, as if they and their flocks would never die. C. — And play, is to shew the nature of the dance. It is not in Heb. H. — The children are healthy and sportive. M. — Sept. “they play before them.” H.

Ver. 13. Moment. Sept. “in the rest of the lower region, adou, they shall be laid,” (H.) in the grave. M. — A sudden death, without agony or sickness, (H.) was the choice of Julius Cæsar, the night before he was slain. Repentinum inopinatumque prætulerat. Sueton. — But the enlightened servant of God would rather desire time to do penance, and to prepare for death. For who shall presume that he has that charity which banisheth fear? C. — Hell. The same term is used for the place where the damned are tormented, as for that where the souls of the just waited (C. vii. and xvii.) for their Redeemer’s coming. But here Job is speaking of the apparent happiness of the wicked; (H.) and only alludes to the grave, (C. M.) or comfortable death and burial of the reprobate: though, at the same time, he may declare that their souls are buried in hell. H.

Ver. 14. Ways. The too common effect of riches. Prov. xxx. 8. Eccli. v. 2.

Ver. 16. Because, is not in Heb. “Lo, their good is not.” They are not possessed of true riches, or of good sense. Alex. Sept. “For good things were in their hands: but the works of the impious are not pure.” No: the more they possess, the greater is their perversity. Grabe substitutes oukathora, for kathara; God “does not behold” the works, &c. which is more conformable to the other editions; and thus the blasphemies of the impious are continued. H. — When we are not sensible of our wants and dependance, we think less on God. C. — Hand, or power, they are only the gifts of God; far be then such sentiments from me. C.

Ver. 17. How often. When do we witness the downfall of the wicked? Mercer. — Or, in a contrary sense, how often are they miserable as well as the just? Such things are, therefore, a very equivocal argument, to prove either side of the question. Those who are afflicted, and cling closer to God, must be accounted virtuous and happy; while that prosperity is fatal which is an occasion of our neglecting his service. C. — Job answers his own questions, v. 7. If the wicked be happy for a time, their future state is deplorable, and often they forfeit even their temporal advantages. M.

Ver. 19. The sorrow. Prot. “his iniquity.” Marg. “that is the punishment.“ H. — The children shall share in his punishment, (C.) when they have been partakers, or imitators of his injustice. H. — Know his offence, and whether there be a God (C.) and Providence. M.

Ver. 21. And if. Heb. “when” he is cut off in the midst of his days: he does not regard the happiness or misery of those whom he leaves behind. H. — The children are rather taken away for his punishment, while he is living, as their misery would not touch him in the grave. M.

Ver. 23. Hale, or healthy. Heb. “in perfect strength.” H. — Sept. “simplicity, or folly.” S. Aug. reads with the old Vulg. “in the strength of his simplicity, (C.) or innocence. H. — These outward appearances prove nothing for interior piety or wickedness. C.

Ver. 24. Bowels. Prot. “breasts” (Marg. “milk-pails”) are full of milk. But the Sept. Bochart, &c. agree with the Vulgate. Job describes a corpulent man (C.) living in luxury, like the glutton. H.

Ver. 25. Any. Heb. “ever having eaten with pleasure.” H.

Ver. 27. Me. I perceive you are not convinced; and what you say respecting the wicked, is pointed at me. M.

Ver. 28. Prince. Job, (M.) or rather the tyrant, whose lot we know is miserable, as he falls a victim of God’s justice. C. xx. 7.

Ver. 29. Way. Travellers, who have seen foreign countries, (Vatab.) or any one that may be passing, (Sanchez) will answer this objection (H.) in my favour. M. — They will all agree in testifying that the wicked prosper, even for a long time. C.

Ver. 30. To the. He will be requited indeed, at last; or rather, when others are in the utmost danger, he will be protected as it were by God. Sept. (C.) or Theodotion, “the wicked is kept on high,” chouphizetai. All from v. 28 to 33 inclusively, is marked as an addition to the Sept. by Grabe, who has supplied many similar omissions, of which Origen and S. Jerom complained. H.

Ver. 31. Done. Man is afraid, and God defers to take cognizance. C.

Ver. 32. Dead. Heb. “the sheaves,” being quite ripe for harvest, and even in the tomb, the tyrant retains some sore of pre-eminence, as he is buried with honour, an set like a more elevated sheaf, to inspect the rest. C. — Godiss, is rendered by Prot. “tomb,” (margin) “heap.” But (C. v. 26.) where only the word occurs again, we find “a shock of corn,” and this comparison seems very suitable here. The damned shall watch, alas, when it will be to no purpose, among the heap of fellow-sufferers, who would not think while they had time to repent. After millions of night spent thus without sleep or ease, we may imagine we hear their mournful lamentations from the depth of the abyss. Always misery! and never any hope of ease! H. — “Eternity,” says Bridayne, (ser. in Maury’s Eloq.) “is a pendulum, the vibration of which sounds continually, Always! Never! In the mean while, a reprobate cries out: What o’clock is it? And the same voice answers, Eternity!” Thus at last the wicked shal awake from the sleep in which they have spent their days; (H.) and their watching, restless, and immortal souls (S. Thom.) will bitterly lament their past folly. What profit will they derive from the honours paid to their corpse by surviving friends, (H.) even though they be embalmed, and seem to live in marble statues? Pineda.

Ver. 33. Acceptable to the gravel of Cocytus. The Hebrew word, which S. Jerom has here rendered by the name Cocytus, (which the poets represent as a river in hell) signifies a valley or a torrent: and in this place, is taken for the low region of death, and hell: which willingly, as it were, receives the wicked at their death: who are ushered in by innumerable others that have gone before them; and are followed by multitudes above number. Ch. — Isaias (xiv. 9.) and Ezechiel (xxxii. 21.) describe the splendid reception in hell of the kings of Babylon and of Egypt, nearly in the same manner as Job does that of any sinner who has lived in prosperity. C. xxxviii. 17. He gives life to the whole creation, in the true spirit of poetry. C. — The rich man is represented as tenderly embraced by his mother earth; (C. i. 21. H.) the very stones and turf press lightly upon him; as the ancients prayed, Sit tibi terra levis. Heb. “the stones or clods of the torrent (C.) shall be sweet to him, and he,” &c. H. — S. Jerom has chosen to mention a particular river, instead of the general term nel, “a torrent or vale,” to intimate that Job is speaking of the state after death. — Cocytus is a branch of the Styx, a river of Arcadia, of a noxious quality, which the poets have place in hell. Pineda. — Sept. “The pebbles of the torrent became sweet to him, and in his train every man shall come, and unnumbered men before him.” Alex. MS. has “men of number;” the two first letters of anarithmetoi being omitted. H. — The Church reads in her office for S. Stephen, Lapides torrentis illi dulces fuerunt: ipsum sequuntur omnes animæ justæ. Many explain this passage of Job as a menace. The wicked have carried their insolence so far as to (C.) give orders to (H.) be buried with the utmost pomp: but in the other world, they shall be thrown ignominiously among the other dead. S. Greg. &c. C. — They were little moved with the thought of death, as it was common to all. But what will they think of eternal misery? H.

Ver. 34. Vain. These arguments shew that your assertions are destitute of proof, and afford me no comfort. C.