Job 21

The Word Made Fresh

1Job replied, 2“Listen closely to me. That is how you can console me. 3Just bear with me while I talk, and afterwards you can make fun of me.

4“If you think my complaint is addressed to mere mortals, why shouldn’t I be impatient? 5Look at me, and be astonished, and cover your mouths with your hands. 6When I think of my situation I am very concerned, and I begin to tremble. 7Why do the wicked live on to old age and grow stronger? 8They see right before them their children and grandchildren firmly established. 9There is no fear in their homes. God’s chastening rod doesn’t bother them. 10Their bulls never fail to breed and their cows have their calves without ever miscarrying. 11They send their children out to run like a flock and watch them dance around. 12They sing to the music of the tambourine and lyre and party to the sound of the pipe. 13They spend their days wrapped in their wealth, and when they die, they are laid peacefully in the grave. 14They tell God, ‘Leave us alone! We don’t care about your rules. 15Why should we serve the Almighty? What will we get if we pray to God?’ 16They think they have earned their wealth all by themselves. I recoil from the plans of the wicked.

17“But how often are the plans of evil people challenged? How often do they really suffer? How often does an angry God afflict them with pains? 18How often have you seen the rich blown like straw before the wind, or like chaff carried away by the storm? 19You like to say that God visits their punishments on their children instead; well, let it be inflicted on them so they will be sure to understand they are the cause of it! 20Let them see their own destruction while they suffer the anger of the Almighty! 21They don’t care what happens to their family when their time has come, and they are gone. 22But can they teach God, knowing that God judges the angels?

23“One person dies rich, completely at ease and secure, 24his belly well fed and his bones moist with marrow. 25Another dies poor and disenchanted, never having experienced an easy life. 26They lie down in their graves and worms crawl over them.

27“I know what you’re thinking, trying to prove me wrong. 28You’ll just say something like, “Look what happens to the house of the richest families? Look what has become of the tent in which the wicked live?’

29“Haven’t you asked travelers on the roads? Don’t you accept what they tell you, 30that the wicked are spared any suffering, and are rescued when danger approaches? 31No one dares to accuse them to their face, and no one tries to repay them for what they have done. 32When they are buried a guard is posted at their tomb. 33The clods of the valley are soft for them. A throng of people follow, and a huge crowd goes before them. 34So, how can you comfort me with such empty talk? Nothing you have said is true.”


1-16: Job replies to Zophar: first of all, he says, I’m not complaining to you mere mortals (his complaints are levied at God). In the second place, I’m not interested in investigating the nature of evil. I’m in bad shape, don’t you see? Besides, the fact is the wicked often live to a ripe old age and their children prosper after them. They seem to get along quite well without God, and even prefer that God leaves them alone. Mind you, of course, that such a way of life turns my stomach.

17-26: But since you brought it up, where’s your evidence? In terms of statistics, fellows, exactly what is the percentage of failure for the wicked? If God punishes them, show me the facts. If their children suffer because of their wickedness, what do they care? It seems to me that some of the wicked die having never experienced a single day of need, while poor people die having never experienced a day of plenty.

27-34: The fact of the matter is that if you ask around, you’ll discover that the wicked are immune to the perils the rest of us have to face. Even when they die their graves are kept inviolable. You’re trying to “comfort” me with meaningless babble. The wicked don’t suffer, but I sure do!


Job’s argument is that bad people often get away with their schemes. Good people often suffer. We should never look at anyone who is suffering and conclude that they have brought it on themselves, and we should never assume that those who have a comfortable life should be looked upon as role models. There are other, better indicators of character, such as honesty and concern for others.