In chapter 24, Job nearly accuses God of acting wickedly by upholding evil men in their doings.
Chapter 24 (For Previous Chapter Click Here)
There is a difference between acknowledging God’s ultimate responsibility over the existence of evil and accusing God of wickedness. Job has come perilously close to doing the latter, especially in this chapter.
In the first verse, Job lays out how we are supposed to interpret the whole chapter. He sets out to show that the wicked do not have “times” of judgment “stored up by the Almighty” in this lifetime. Further, “those who know Him,” or the Godly, do not “see His days” of deliverance and blessing. The latter claim, though of course temporarily true in the course of our lives, certainly contradicts the idea that ultimately God works all things for good.
The wicked steal property (Job 24:2, see discussion on Job 5:23 in chapter 5), especially from the widows and orphans (Job 24:3-4). They forage for food like the wild donkey (Job 24:5; in Job 39:5-9 it is made clear the God cares for and provides for the wild donkey, see also Ps 14:15). In a cruel twist of fate, the meek work for the wicked, making them all the more wealthy. However, they have to hold onto rocks in the evening to feel warm because of lack of shelter (Job 24:6-8). Job’s description of the oppressed is very dark indeed and it is meant to put God’s ordaining of the evil that befalls them in the worst possible light.
In all of this, Job never explicitly accuses God of being the author of evil, nor calls God wicked. However, he knows that God does not stop it when it is fully in his power to do so, something that Elihu later interprets Job’s tone to be an accusation of God being unjust.
Further, in light of verse one, it appears that the oppressed are indeed the Godly, “those who know him” in Job’s wording. We know that the “poor” are “blessed” because “theirs is the Kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). God, according to Job, does not appear to sympathize with their plight. Instead, “the souls of the wounded cry out, yet God does not pay attention to folly” (Job 24:12).
It should be noted that being “poor” back then, as it is today in many parts of the world, is grinding poverty. Being poor is not only not having a home, or proper clothing on one’s back, but also not even knowing where one’s next meal was coming from. There is a reason why the crowds were captivated by Christ merely feeding them. Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow, because today has enough worries of its own (Matt 6:34), because even the birds are given just enough food and the lilies clothing, how much more will God provide for men (Matt 6:30-31)?
The poor are not only oppressed, but the wicked benefit from it. All the while God does nothing. The wicked “snatch the orphan from the breast and against the poor take a pledge” (Job 24:9), which appears to be a description of the rich taking poor people’s children as slaves as payment for debt. The Law obviously banned such pledges, even not allowing the taking of garments as a pledge (Deut 24:17), let alone impressing children into slavery.
Nonetheless, because the wicked take children as pledge from the poor, it stands to reason they also take the clothes off their backs and withhold wages (Job 24:10). As James warns, “The pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you” (James 5:4). Likewise, the poor here produce oil and other merchandise and cry out for deliverance, but God does not act (Job 24:11-12). One may infer that Job is saying, “Isn’t God responsible for this injustice?”
Job 24:13-17 then describes how the wicked operate without God stopping them, until the time they die (Job 24:19). The “others” who “have been with those who rebel against the light” (Job 24:13) appear to be the same set of wicked men who, hating the light (John 3:20), withhold wages and oppress the poor. These especially wicked men “do not want to know its [the Light’s] ways nor abide in its paths” (Job 24:13).
Hence, they are not just greedy, but rather especially evil. They murder, commit sexually immoral acts, and steal (Job 24:14-16). The wicked man “is familiar with the terrors of deep darkness” (Job 24:17). The world of sin and chaos that God put an end to by slaying Leviathan is more fitting for these men. They cannot comprehend light (John 1:5), because the wicked are totally depraved and have no faith in God. Therefore, they are still dead in their sins for it is their very nature (Col 2:13).
Remember Romans 1. Those who did not know God had purposely turned away from Him. Their hearts were “darkened” (Rom 1:21) and it elsewhere speaks of how unbelievers have their “conscience seared” (1 Tim 4:2) to the point where they are not sensitive to the things of God. It is fitting that these men commit their sin at night, where they can be hidden in darkness, for they hate the light. Hating the light means hating the truth, which is in Jesus Christ. God does not stop these men from living this way, nor prevent them from wronging the righteous.
What is the end of the wicked? Job speaks of their death. “Drought and heat consume the snow waters, so does Sheol those who have sinned” (Job 24:19). From an eternal perspective their loot gained by piracy on the sea and stealing from the fields is “insignificant” (Job 24:18). Their memory one day will fade away (Job 24:20). Yet, they can continue in their oppression of the oppressed (Job 24:21) and in some ways God permitting this “provides them with security” (Job 24:23).
We must not read in Job’s response here a contradiction (God punishes the evil on one hand and does not punish them on the other.) Job is making some true, though very negative, observations. The end of the wicked is the same as the righteous, death.
What are the implications of this? Perhaps, Job is speculating of God in an “Open Theist” sense. God does not anticipate the evil and can only recompense their wickedness when it is too late or, if the wicked die first, gets even with them in Sheol. However, this speculation is not likely. Instead, Job appears to think that God is inconsistent in His willing to stop wickedness:
He drags off the valiant by His power. He rises, but no one has assurance of life. He provides them with security, and they are supported and His eyes are on their ways. They are exalted a little while, then they are gone…like the heads of grain they are cut off (Job 24:22-24).
God’s eyes are on the ways of the wicked, so He knows what they are doing. He certainly has the strength to stop them as He can drag off the valiant (wicked). He gives no assurance of life to them, cutting the wicked off when He wills. Yet, He also provides them with security, supports them, and clearly His eyes are on their ways. In light of this, why is God inconsistent in dispensing justice? In this, Job is essentially charging God with perverting justice (see Elihu’s response in Job 34:12). It is with this in mind that Job ends his response asking, “Now if it is not so, who can prove me a liar and make my speech worthless” (Job 24:25)?