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JOB 24


Job Says God Seems to Ignore Wrongs Job Complains Of Violence on the Earth Reply of Job
God Is Far Off, and Evil Triumphant
(puts vv. 18-24 after 27:24)

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.



A. In Job 23, Job again asks to go to court and lay out his case for vindication before God.


B. In Job 24, Job accuses God of failing to hold court (i.e., "times," Job 24:1a).


C. Many scholars (see notes in Oxford Annotation Bible, NRSV, p. 651) have questioned if Job 24:18-25 reflects Job's thoughts.

1. Some attribute them to one of the three comforters. The RSV and NET Bible add "you say" to Job 24:18.

2. NJB completely reorders several chapters in Job to try to fix the broken cycle of the three comforters and Job's response to each.

3. Some think it was added by a traditional Jewish scribe to make Job more orthodox (NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 239; vol. 2, p. 629).

4. NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 629, suggests Job 24:18-24 is a series of imprecations spoken by Job against the wicked.



 1"Why are times not stored up by the Almighty,
 And why do those who know Him not see His days?
 2Some remove the landmarks;
 They seize and devour flocks.
 3They drive away the donkeys of the orphans;
 They take the widow's ox for a pledge.
 4They push the needy aside from the road;
 The poor of the land are made to hide themselves altogether.
 5Behold, as wild donkeys in the wilderness
 They go forth seeking food in their activity,
 As bread for their children in the desert.
 6They harvest their fodder in the field
 And glean the vineyard of the wicked.
 7They spend the night naked, without clothing,
 And have no covering against the cold.
 8They are wet with the mountain rains
 And hug the rock for want of a shelter.
 9Others snatch the orphan from the breast,
 And against the poor they take a pledge.
 10They cause the poor to go about naked without clothing,
 And the take away the sheaves from the hungry.
 11Within the walls they produce oil;
 They tread wine presses but thirst.
 12From the city men groan,
 And the souls of the wounded cry out;
 Yet God does not pay attention to folly."

24:1 "Why. . ." The NEB removes the Hebrew term "why." This seems to put Job 24 in line with 23:14. There are three cycles of speeches by the three comforters of Job and his response to them. However, in the third cycle, Zophar's speech is missing. Many commentators believe that Job 24 is not the words of Job but the words of Zophar. If not the whole chapter, some believe that at least Job 24:18-21 contain words from Zophar (cf. Jerusalem Bible is one example of this).

▣ "the Almighty" See Special Topic: Shaddai.

▣ "And why do those who know Him not see his days" Job is asking why God doesn't have regular court days to deal with evil people. The ancient belief was that God would have to set things straight in his life (i.e., "the two ways"). When that is not the case, the afterlife becomes a necessity for the moral justice of God (cf. Psalm 63), but this concept is not part of Job's theology.

The Hebrew word "know" (see Special Topic: Know) has several connotations but here it refers to innocent, righteous followers of God who know Him and His ways.

24:2-12 This is a series of violent crimes against the poor that God has not dealt with. Job 24:13-19 contains another list of violent crimes that God has not dealt with. Job wants to know where the justice of God is. Why does He not regularly hold court?

Here is a list of the violations of God's ways related to the poor and powerless in society.

1. steal land by changing the boundary stones, Job 24:2a (cf. Deut. 19:14; 27:17; Pro. 22:28; 23:10)

2. steal livestock, Job 24:2b (specific examples in 24:3b)

a. steal the donkeys of orphans

b. steal the oxen from widows (cf. Exod. 22:22; Deut. 24:17)

3. exploit the poor, Job 24:4-8,10-11

a. drive them out

b. steal their crops

c. cause them to beg

d. make them homeless and in need

4. steal the children as slaves for money due, Job 24:9 (cf. Deut. 24:7,10-13,17)


24:3 "donkey. . .ox" These are imagery for possessions in general. The wicked take everything from the powerless and weak of society.

24:4 "They pushed the needy aside from the road" This is a Hebrew idiom (cf. Amos 2:7). The poor and powerless are robbed of their rights as citizens. No justice for them!

24:4b "made to hide themselves" The figures of speech are difficult to understand, but Job 24:4b-8,10-11 describes the plight of the displaced poor who are seeking food, shelter, and warmth.



This is a rare word (BDB 545, KB 536), which may mean "to despoil" or "to gather late growth." The poor and powerless have been driven from their land and homes. Now they must find their meager food wherever they can.

The LXX translates this verse as "They reaped a field not their own before its time."

24:7 This is powerful imagery. It is not meant to denote a total "nakedness" but ill equipped clothing.

24:9 This verse seems to be out of place. RSV puts it in parenthesis.


NASB"within the walls"
NKJV"within their walls"
NRSV"between their terraces"
NJB"two little walls"
JPSOA"between rows (of olive trees)"
REB"where two walls meet"

The term (BDB 1004) is an Arabic root (found only here and possibly in Jer. 5:10) which is best translated something like JPSOA. This is the suggestion of the UBS Text Project (p. 76). The poor work hard for others but are themselves hungry and thirsty. This is the continuing exploitation of the poor and powerless!

▣ "they produce oil" This verb (BDB 844, KB 1008, Hiphil imperfect) has two possible origins.

1. to press out oil

2. from a noun for "midday" or "noon"

The NJB translates it as "their shelter at high noon," but most English translations relate it to "winepress."

24:12 "the souls of the wounded cry out" This is the Hebrew term nephesh (BDB 659), which denotes a person. The poor cry out as a person wounded in battle!

▣ "Yet God does not pay attention to folly" This is the key thought of Job's argument, that a just God is simply not paying attention to His business (cf. Job 9:13-24; Ps. 73:2-14; Mal. 3:15)! There is no justice! How can "the two ways" be the only explanation of God's ways with humans?

 13"Others have been with those who rebel against the light;
 They do not want to know its ways
 Nor abide in its paths.
 14The murderer arises at dawn;
 He kills the poor and the needy,
 And at night he is as a thief.
 15The eye of the adulterer waits for the twilight,
 Saying, ‘No eye will see me.'
 And he disguises his face.
 16In the dark they dig into houses,
 They shut themselves up by day;
 They do not know the light.
 17For the morning is the same to him as thick darkness,
 For he is familiar with the terrors of thick darkness."

24:13-17 This is another list of the acts of evil people who God apparently ignores.

1. they rebel against God's way, Job 24:13

2. they murder and steal from the poor and helpless, Job 24:14

3. they commit adultery, Job 24:15 (they think God does not or will not see and respond!)

4. they break into homes and businesses by night and flee the light of day, Job 24:16 (again, God does not respond, Job 24:17)

Where is the God of Justice? Where is the reality of "the two ways" (cf. Deut. 30:15,19; Psalm 1). God's inactivity mocks God's word and promises!

24:13 "those who rebel" This is a Qal active participle (BDB 597, KB 632). It denotes those who openly and flagrantly flaunt God's ways (cf. Num. 14:9; Jos. 22:16,18,19; Ezek. 2:3; 20:38; Dan. 9:5,9). Only here in Job is it used of rebellion against "light" (which is an idiom for Deity). This is open-eyed disregard for God and His ways (cf. Job 24:13b,c)!

▣ "ways. . .paths" These are in a synonymous parallel relationship. A godly life was viewed as a clear, straight, unobstructed path. There are numerous allusions to this imagery in the OT (i.e., Ps. 25:4; 27:11; 86:11; 119:35,105; Isa. 40:14).

God's way is not hidden from His people but is clearly revealed (i.e., Mosaic covenant). Our daily task is to walk in it and bring honor to Him. How much of God's revelation was available to Edomites (or for that matter, Salemites, cf. Genesis 14; Ninevites, cf. Jonah) is uncertain.

24:14-15 These two verses could be literal or figurative. They address the problem of humans treating other humans as objects for personal gratification or aggrandizement! God loves people! People are the only permanent aspect of this creation. God's ways are meant to benefit all humans!

24:16 "They do not know the light" This is imagery. Evil people act in secrecy/darkness to conceal their selfish acts (cf. John 3:19-21). The word "light" (BDB 21) is used three times in this paragraph (Job 24:13,14,16). Obviously in 24:13 it refers to God, which is the thrust of Job 24:16c.

It is used literally in Job 24:14 for "the dawn" (another word for the same time period is used in Job 24:17a).

24:17 "For the morning is the same to him as thick darkness" This verse seems to refer to God's complete knowledge of all things. It is connected to Job 24:13,16c, which is a reference to God as "the light." Evil seeks darkness, Job 24:14,15,16a,b, but God knows (cf. Ps. 139:11-12).

The implication is that the God who knows (opposite of Job 24:14a,b) will eventually bring the evil ones to justice (i.e., Job 24:18-20).

 18"They are insignificant on the surface of the water;
 Their portion is cursed on the earth.
 They do not turn toward the vineyards.
 19Drought and heat consume the snow waters,
 So does Sheol those who have sinned.
 20A mother will forget him;
 The worm feeds sweetly till he is no longer remembered.
 And wickedness will be broken like a tree.
 21He wrongs the barren woman
 And does no good for the widow.
 22But He drags off the valiant by His power;
 He rises, but no one has assurance of life.
 23He provides them with security, and they are supported;
 And His eyes are on their ways.
 24They are exalted a little while, then they are gone;
 Moreover, they are brought low and like everything gathered up;
 Even like the heads of grain they are cut off.
 25Now if it is not so, who can prove me a liar,
 And make my speech worthless?"

24:18-25 The last cycle of Job's three comforters' speeches and Job's response is not complete. The reasons for this are uncertain.

1. they give up because they cannot get Job to admit his sin

2. the MT has been damaged in transmission

Many scholars see Job 24:18-25 as part of #2. These verses seem more appropriate for Job's three comforters than Job himself. It is not that Job denies "the two ways," he just asserts it does not fit his situation.

It is difficult to follow the imagery of this paragraph. It is also difficult to identify the acts of the evil humans and the acts of God.

1. "they," "their," "them" – Job 24:18,23,24

2. "he" (i.e., God) – Job 24:21-23

The JPSOA has a footnote at Job 24:18-25 which says, "From here to the end of the chapter the translation is largely conjectural." This paragraph is difficult to translate and comprehend.

24:19 "Sheol" See Special Topic: Sheol.

As heat takes away snow, so Sheol takes away sinners. Job 24:19 implies they die quickly; Job 24:20 implies they are forgotten in death.

24:20 "worm feeds sweetly" Worms (BDB 942) are a euphemism for death and decay (cf. Job 17:14; 21:26).

24:21-22 The interpretive question is, "does the ‘he' refer to God or 'the affluent sinner'"?

1. God – NASB (hard to tell with capitalized "He's"), NKJV, RSV, TEV

2. wealthy, powerful sinner – LXX, Peshitta, Rotherham's Emphasized Bible

3. mixed – JPSOA (mostly sinner), REB, NET Bible

Is Job claiming not only God's indifference (Job 24:12c) but also His active help for the wicked (Job 24:23)? It seems so. The unfairness of life is a major theological issue for Job. Is God the God of justice?

It seems to me that Job 24:21 and 22 refer to the powerful, wealthy sinner ("he" does not refer to God) but 24:23 refers to God ("he" does refer to Deity, cf. Job 12:6).

24:24 The wicked may prosper for a season but in time they will reap what they have sown! This is a statement of the rigid validity of "the two ways" that Job has several times rejected!

The OT often uses agricultural imagery. Here of the destruction of God's judgment (i.e., Job 14:2; 18:16; Ps. 37:2; 92:7).

24:25 Job emphatically says "show me if I am incorrect"! Life is unfair. The wicked do prosper. The righteous do suffer. Where is the God of promise and justice? He seems not to care (cf. Job 24:12c). This is the theological issue of the book of Job!


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