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Scripture reading – Job 24
Eliphaz, the third of Job’s friends to argue Job’s troubles were like those of the wicked, evoked a response from Job that began in chapter 23 and continued to chapter 24. Having slandered Job’s character, Eliphaz accused him of some great evil and urged him to repent promising God would restore him (22:23-27).
Nevertheless, though he suffered overwhelming afflictions and felt abandoned by God, Job maintained his innocence (Job 23). He lamented, if God would give him a hearing, he would maintain his troubles were greater than his sins (23:1-7). Yet, though he was wrongly accused by his friends, Job was confident God knew he was a man of integrity, who desired to walk according to His commandments (23:8-12).
Accused of gross wrongdoing, the accusations brought against Job by his “friends” left him wondering why he suffered, when the wicked prospered and went unpunished? Job’s reflections on the sins of the wicked was recorded in Job 24:2-17.
Wrongs Committed by the Wicked (Job 24:2-17)
Tyrannical Thieves (24:2-8)
Job first considered the company of thieves, and their wiles, deceptions, and effronteries against God and humanity. (Remember, as you read verses 2-8, the setting was an agrarian society, and the perspective was rural and agricultural. Of course, thievery and robbery are the same, though the coveted objects of the thief change with the culture). Times have changed, but the nature of man is as wicked as ever!
Before making an application to 21st century society, let’s consider Job’s observations. The first were land thieves who removed “landmarks,” essentially physical stakes, that designated the boundaries of a family’s lands (24:2a). Not surprising, but the same criminal activity continues in our day. (Note – Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:17; Proverbs 23:10-11). There were thieves who would seize a neighbor’s sheep, and move them to graze in his pastures, thus robbing a man of his livelihood (24:2b).
Tragically, the wicked have always preyed upon the most vulnerable of a society, the poor and the weak (24:3-8). In Job’s day, evil men would steal the donkey of an orphan (24:3a), and demand a widow’s ox for surety or collateral (24:3b). They would abuse the poor, and mislead them (24:4), and leave them to forage for food and shelter like wild beasts (24:5-8).
Cruel Oppressors of the Weak and Defenseless (24:9-17)
Job described children taken from their mothers (24:9) as collateral for debt (tragically, the 21st century has revived this abuse with “human trafficking,” and the mass movement of humanity across international borders). The wicked would take the robes of the poor (a symbol of the bare necessities for life) as collateral for debt (24:10). Such is the way of the wicked. While a farmer would reward an ox with the grain he treads, the wicked would leave the poor destitute, hungry, and thirsty (24:11-12; Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18).
Murderers and Adulterers (24:14-17)
The rise of violent crimes and murder in 21st century society is akin to the observations of Job. He observed murderers who plotted and preyed upon the poor and needy (24:14). Numbered among the wicked were adulterers who disguised their faces to avoid recognition (24:15). Rounding out the society of the wicked were thieves who marked houses in the day, and enjoyed the guise of darkness to break into them and steal at night (24:16-17).
The Character and Fate of the Wicked (24:18-25)
Having considered the character and sins of the wicked, Job agreed with his friends, for the wicked will not go unpunished. The wicked are swift to steal the fruits of other men’s labor, because they are unwilling to toil in their own vineyards (24:18). Nevertheless, the end of the wicked is akin to “drought and heat [that consumes] the snow;” they will go the way of all sinners, to “the grave” (24:19).
Closing thoughts (24:20-25) – Describing the fate and destiny of the wicked, Job graphically detailed his end, writing: “20The womb shall forget him; the worm shall feed sweetly on him; He shall be no more remembered; And wickedness shall be broken as a tree” (24:20).
Rich or poor, famous or infamous, powerful or weak, the bodies of the dead eventually become the diet of worms. While the most stately of trees will eventually be broken and fall, the bodies of the powerful will inevitably decay in their graves. We might ponder with Job, why the LORD is patient with the wicked, and his pernicious ways; however, we are assured, “His eyes are upon their ways” (24:23).
Warning: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, Beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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