Job – Chapter 24

Tread Water

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Job continues:

“Why does G-d have to know our lifespans so that He can be sure to afflict us before we die? There are all sorts of evil people in this world. They move boundary markers to steal their neighbors’ property. They take the property of widows and orphans; the needy get off the roads to avoid encountering them. They’re like wild animals stalking their prey. People work hard on their fields and vineyards, only to have their produce seized by these evil ones.”

“The evil people make the poor lie outside at night, cold and wet, because they’ve taken away their clothing and shelter. All over town, people moan from the actions of these oppressors and the souls of those they have murdered cry out, but still G-d does not punish them. They rebelled against Him because they lacked no good thing. They refused to recognize G-d or follow in His ways. They just kill by day and mug people by night. The adulterers wait until evening to sneak around. The ones who are too weak to overpower others break into houses by night, then lock themselves in safely by day, since they’re scared of the morning light.”

According to Rashi, Job has been speaking of the generation of the flood. He interprets verse 18, which appears at this juncture, accordingly. Job says that the evil people are “light upon the face of the water.” Rashi says that this means that when Noah would rebuke them for their evil ways, warning of the impending flood, they would laugh at him and respond that they would merely float upon the surface of the waters.The following verse (19), which says that the wicked have stolen heat and snow, is a reference to the seasons being suspended during the year of the flood. Job acknowledges that many evil people did indeed perish in the great flood, but many more lived full, albeit evil, lives and died without any rebuke whatsoever.

Job concludes:

“The evil people of this generation would have two wives. One was for having a good time and the husband treated her quite well; the other was for bearing children and she lived like a widow.” (Verse 21 here is consistent with Rashi’s comment on Genesis 4:19.) “G-d grants these evildoers safety their whole lives, then they are destroyed in one fell swoop, without having to suffer leading up to it. If this isn’t true, let one of you prove me a liar.”

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