Job 21: Mystery – Peace and Prosperity of the Wicked

How then can you comfort me with empty words, Since falsehood remains in your answers?” Job 21:34

Job Asserts the Prosperity of the Wicked

Up to this point Job has agreed with the basic premise of the argument his friends have used against him. But now Job openly attacks the view of God which all have held. Job points to evidence that doesn’t fit the accepted picture. Some people who are known to be wicked do prosper. Some who appear good do suffer. Faith may insist they’ll be punished and rewarded in the end. But when? Job charges that the case the friends have built, based on their idea of God and how he acts in the world, is a tissue of lies!

→ Job’s mind is pure and therefore he could see what is obvious – many wicked people do prosper.

Job confesses his terror at the thoughts his personal tragedy has awakened (21:1-6). He contradicts Zophar, arguing that in fact many wicked do live in an almost idyllic life. Even they recognize this – and try to get around it by saying, “Well, their children will be repaid” (vv17-21). All man really knows is that death is the great equalizer: The blessed and the bitter lie side by side in the dust (vv. 22-26).

Job’s friends have taken his calamities as proof of some hidden wickedness. But that some openly evil are spared Job’s pangs shows their position is nonsense (vv. 27-34).

17  “How often is the lamp of the wicked put out? How often does their destruction come upon them, The sorrows God distributes in His anger?

→ Reality often challenges popular belief.

Personal application. God does have an answer – though perhaps not the one we expect!

7  Why do the wicked live and become old, Yes, become mighty in power? 8  Their descendants are established with them in their sight, And their offspring before their eyes. 9  Their houses are safe from fear, Neither is the rod of God upon them.

→ With a rhetorical question, Job begins exposing the loopholes in the retribution dogma – the belief that suffering always indicates God’s punishment of a person. The prosperity of the wicked is still a mystery for believers today. Other biblical writers agonized over it. But the Scriptures affirm that God is controlling everything to accomplish His good purposes (Rom 8:28).

→ In 21:9 Job reacts to Eliphaz’s argument in 15:21-24 that although the wicked live peacefully for a while, they live in terror of inevitable destruction. Job contradicts this by saying that the wicked even live in their houses safe – without fear. The wicked simply deny God’s existence, so they live without any fear of His judgment.


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