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In which there is a brief explanation given of the twentieth and twenty-first chapter of the Book of Job.


THAT the friends of blessed Job could never have been bad men, the words of Zophar the Naamathite bear witness, who on hearing from his lips the terribleness of the Judgment to come, adds directly;

Ver. 1.  Therefore do my thoughts changefully succeed one another, and my mind is transported diverse ways.


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1.  As though he said in plain words; ‘Because I see the terribleness of the last Judgment, therefore I am confounded in a state of consternation by the tumults of my thoughts.’  For the mind spreads itself wider in its range of thought, the more it considers how dreadful that is which threatens it.  And ‘the mind is transported diverse ways,’ when with anxious alarm she weighs and considers, one while the evil she has done, at another time the good she has left undone, now all the blameable practices that she remains in, and now the right habits that she sees to be lacking to her.  But though the friends of blessed Job, instructed by habituation to his life, knew how to live well, yet, being uninstructed to form an exact estimate of God’s judgments, that anyone of the righteous can be susceptible of ills here below, they did not believe possible.  And hence they imagined that holy man to be wicked, whom they saw scourged, and, in consequence of this suspicion, it came to pass that they slipt aside into the upbraiding of him as well, whereunto nevertheless they do not descend, save under the guise of a kind of respect.  Hence Zophar adds in these words;

Ver. 3.  The lesson whereby thou dost reproach me I will hear; and the spirit of my understanding wilt answer me.




2.  As though he said in plain words; ‘Thy words indeed I hear, but whether they were delivered aright, I discern by the spirit of my understanding.’  For they that disregard the words of the teacher, employ his teaching not for an assistance but for an occasion of contention, rather that they may criticise the things heard than to follow them.  This then being premised with a sort of restraint, he now springs out into the open reviling of the blessed man, when he adds;

Ver. 4, 5.  I know this of old, since man was placed upon earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment.




3.  Now it is clear to be seen that being puffed up with the spirit of his understanding, he warps the sentences, which he pronounces against the ungodly, to the reproving of blessed Job.  For in him whom he first saw following right ways, and afterwards undergoing punishment, he reckons all that he saw to have been but hypocrisy, in that he did not believe it possible for a just servant to be put to distress by a just God.  But those same sentences, which, being right, he did not pronounce in a right way, let us go through, weighing them with earnest intentness of mind; and setting at nought what he says untrue against blessed Job, let us consider how true are the things he speaks, if he were speaking them against the ungodly.  I know this of old, since man was placed upon earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short.  Going to tell the shortness of the present life, he carried back the eye of the interior to the outset of the commencement, in order to collect from the past how nothing all things are, that while they continue to be, seem to be something.  For if we carry the eyes of our imagination from the very commencement of the human race up to the present time in which we now are, we see how short all was that was of a nature to come to an end.  Let us imagine a man to have lived from the first day of the world’s creation to this present day, yet on this day to end the life, which he seemed to have continued to so great a length, lo, the end is come, the things past are already become nought, in that every thing has passed away.  For the future in this world is nought, in that not a moment, or the very shortest particle of time remains to our life.  Where then is that long time, which, comprehended between the beginning and the end, is so wasted in substance, just as if it had not ever been even short in duration?


4.  Therefore because the wicked have their heart centered in this life, surely they set themselves up therein and seek to win applause.  They are lifted up by the flattery of the lips, having no desire to be good, but only to be called so.  Which praise they think is of a great length while they receive it, but understand to have been brief when they lose it.  Whence it is well said against these wicked persons, This I know of old, since man was placed upon earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short; and it is well added, And the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment.  It often happens that while the hypocrite passes himself off for holy, without a fear of letting himself appear wicked, he is honoured of all men, and the high credit of holiness is awarded to him, by those who can make out the outside, but have no eyes to look into the interior of things.  Whence it happens, that he triumphs in having the first seat, is overjoyed in getting the first couch, filled with pride at receiving the first invitation, elevated at the respectful address of his followers, swoln in the pride of his heart at the observance of his dependents, as is said of such by the voice of Truth Himself.  But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. [Matt. 23, 5]  But all this joy of theirs, compared with eternity, what will become of it, when, the crisis of death being upon them, it perishes, as though it had never been?  Of which same joy the mirth is all gone, the punishment remains, and when the thing is lost, the guilt [causa, aitia?] endures.  And it is well said; The joy of the hypocrite like a point.  For in making a point the style is lifted up as soon as set down, and there is no lingering, that it may be drawn along a line to be described.  And so the joy of the hypocrite ‘is like a point,’ in that it appears for a moment, and is gone for ever; and just as the style, in the case of a point, while set down is lifted up in one, so the hypocrite, whilst he touches, parts with the joys of the present life.  Concerning whom it is also added;

Ver. 6, 7.  Though his pride mount up unto the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds: Yet he shall perish at last like the dunghill.




5.  The pride of the hypocrite is said to ‘mount up unto the heavens,’ when his high-mindedness has the appearance of leading a heavenly life; and his ‘head as it were reaches unto the clouds,’ when the leading part, i.e. his intellect, is thought to equal the merits of the Saints that have gone before.  Yet he ‘perishes at last like the dunghill,’ because at his death, when he is led to torments, being full of the dung of evil habits, he is trodden under foot of evil spirits.  For the joys of the present life, which the unrighteous account great good, righteous men look upon as dung.  Whence it is written; A slothful man is stoned with the dung of oxen. [Ecclus. 22, 2]  Thus he that will not follow God is made slothful in the love of the life everlasting.  And as often as he is stricken with the loss of temporal goods, he is surely troubled on the score of those things, which the righteous look down upon as ‘dung:’ what else is it with him, then, that is bruised with the buffeting of things earthly, than that he ‘is stoned with the dung of oxen’  And the hypocrite is justly described like a dunghill, in that while he aims to obtain temporal glory, at one time in the imagination of his heart he swells within himself, at another time he grudges that same glory to some, and laughs at others having it really.  For all the evil qualities then that he is full of, his breast as it were is defiled with so much dung, in the eye of the Eternal Judge.  Therefore it may be said, Though his pride mount up unto the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds, yet he shall perish at last like the dunghill.  Which same, though he feign to lead a heavenly life, though he shew his view of truth to accord with the true preachers, yet he ‘perishes like a dunghill in the end,’ in that his soul is damned for the stench of his evil qualities.  It goes on;

They which had seen him shall say, Where is he?




6.  It generally happens that the life of the hypocrite is even by all men discovered at the end to be damnable, for it to be made appear by plainer marks now what sort they were of.  They then that saw him elate at this present time shall say of him when dead, Where is he?  For neither is he seen here where he was elated, nor yet in the rest of eternity, which he was supposed to be of.  Concerning the shortness of whose life it is yet further added with fitness;

Ver. 8.  He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found: yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night.




7.  What else is the life of the hypocrite but the vision of a phantom, which exhibits that in semblance which it does not possess in truth?  Whence too it is justly likened to ‘a dream,’ in that all praise and glory is, as it were, gone from him whilst it is being held.  For oftentimes in a ‘vision of the night,’ some that are poor are full of wonder that they are made rich, they see honours awarded to them, they behold heaps of riches, a multitude of attendants, the most beautiful garments, abundance of food presented to them.  They are delighted to have escaped poverty, which they bore with a grieved spirit; but on a sudden, when they wake, they find how false all the joy was which they felt, and they are sad that they have awoke, in that real want gripes them awake.  Thus the minds of hypocrites, whilst what they do is one thing, and what they exhibit to men another, win applause by the mere exhibiting of holy living; in the esteem of men they are set before numbers that are better, and whilst they are highminded with the secret thought within, they exhibit themselves without as humble.  And whereas they are excessively commended by men; they imagine that in the eyes of God also they are such, as they delight to make themselves known to be to their fellow-creatures.  Hence it comes to pass that they assume that they will likewise obtain the rewards of eternal life, and they who triumph here below, upon the commendations of their fellow-creatures, doubt not for a moment that they will have rest there; but in the midst of this the secret hour of their call creeps upon them, and while they shut the eyes of the flesh they open those of the spirit, and so soon as they have gotten eternal punishments, they there see, that they were rich in the repute for virtues only in sleep.  Well then is it said of such a hypocrite, Yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night.  For this, that he sees himself for a brief space rich in man’s esteem, is of the show of a phantasm, not of the substance of virtue [al. of reality].  For when his soul wakes up at the dissolution of the flesh, it learns, assuredly, that it was in a sleeping state that it saw the partial regards of men about it.  It goes on;

Ver. 9.  The eye also which saw him shall see him no more: neither shall his place any more behold him.




8.  What is the ‘place’ of the hypocrite, saving the heart of his flatterers?  For there he rests, where he finds partialities towards him.  Therefore ‘the eye that saw him shall see him no more,’ because being removed by death, he is hidden from his foolish lovers, who were wont to behold him, admiring him.  ‘Neither shall his place any more behold him,’ because the tongues of his flatterers do not follow him with their partialities to the Judgment.  Yet so long as he lives he does not cease to teach his followers likewise the things that he practises himself; and through the frowardness of his erring way he begets others also in a likeness to that false pretension which he shews forth.  Concerning whom it is fitly added in this place,

Ver. 10.  His children shall be wasted with poverty.




9.  It is written, For into a malicious soul wisdom shall not enter [Wisd. 1, 4]; and it is declared by the Psalmist, The rich have lacked and been a hungred [Ps. 34, 10].  For if their want and hunger were spoken of outward starving, then surely they would be any thing but rich, who were in want of the bread of the body.  But forasmuch as whilst they are increased without, they are rendered void within, they are described as rich and needy at one and the same time, in that they never entitle themselves to be filled with the bread of wisdom.  And so the children of this hypocrite are ‘worn down with want,’ because they that are born in hypocrisy in mimicry of him, whilst they do not hold the substance of truth, are brought to nought in the penury of the heart.

And his hands shall repay him his own grief.




10.  What is denoted by ‘hands,’ saving works?  Thus ‘his hands will repay him grief,’ because he will reap just damnation from his wicked course of life.  Now it is well said, not ‘give,’ but ‘repay,’ in that his froward deeds shall pay him back eternal punishment like a kind of debt.  But before he is brought to eternal punishment, let him add more fully the sort of character that he shews himself here.  It goes on,

His bones shall be full of the sin of his youth, and shall sleep with him in the dust.


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11.  The origin of a bad beginning by preoccupying further multiplies the causes of sin.  For when a man has begun to do evil, by custom he now grows to a worse height in that which he had begun.  What then is the ‘youth’ of this hypocrite, but the beginning of wickedness, since in youth passion now begins to kindle?  And the hypocrite then has youth, when he begins to long for and to embrace the passion for glory.  Which same, whilst the soft salves of flatterers redouble it, they give strength to, and as it were turn it into bones.  For what he begins badly, he is daily strengthening for the worse by custom.  Therefore let it be said; His bones shall be full of the sin of his youth; in that the rigid habits of evil practices in him are taken from the sin of an ill beginning.  Hence it is written in the Proverbs, The young man according to his own way, when he is old, will never depart therefrom. [Prov. 22, 6]  Which same ‘bones’ truly ‘will sleep with him in the dust,’ for so long do evil practices endure in him, until they drag him to the dust of death.  Since for his ‘bones,’ or evil habits, to ‘sleep with him in the dust’ is for these never to quit him even to the very dust, that is, never to cease from sin even until death.  Therefore bad habits, which are once begun, keep hold of him, and daily become more hardened.  And they ‘sleep with him in the dust,’ because they are never ended but with his life.  But this may be taken in another sense also.


12.  For the hypocrite occasionally has something in practice that is strong and vigorous, but whilst he makes believe to have many good points that he is without, he loses even these which he has.  Whence it is well said now; His bones shall be full of the sin of his youth.  For whereas in his levity and fickleness he does many things like a child, even in strong ones which he may do he is enervated in sin.  Which same ‘bones shall sleep with him in the dust,’ because as all that hypocrisy which he carries on is dust, so too whatever he has in him that is strong is robbed of all its solidity, so that by pretension to virtue he loses that also which there might have been in him of a virtuous nature.  And so for ‘his bones’ to ‘sleep with him in the dust’ is even if there be things done well, for them to come to nought together with his evil deeds.  It proceeds;

Ver. 12.  For when wickedness shall be sweet in his mouth, he will hide it under his tongue.




13.  ‘Wickedness is sweet in the mouth’ of the hypocrite, in that evil tastes sweet to him in the thought.  For ‘the mouth’ of the heart is the thought, whereof it is written; Deceitful lips spake evil in a double heart. [Ps. 12, 2]  Now the evil that is thus sweet in the mouth of the hypocrite is hidden under the tongue, in that the harshness of an evil disposition, which lies hidden in the mind, is concealed under the cloak of a mild address.  For the evil would be on the tongue and not under it, if the hypocrite in speaking disclosed the mischievousness of his froward heart.  But as is the case with most of the righteous, when they see any persons acting badly, who deserve to be visited with severe rebukes, they put harshness on the tongue, but under the tongue cover the kindness of their feelings; (whence too it is said to Holy Church by the voice of the Spouse; Honey and milk are under Thy tongue. [Cant. 4, 11]  For they that shrink from disclosing the sweetness of their inward feeling to the weak, and so in speaking strike them with a degree of harshness, and yet amongst their harsh words secretly as it were let drop a sprinkling of sweetness, these persons clearly have sweetness not on the tongue, but under the tongue, in that amidst the hard words which they utter, they give out some that are sweet and softened, whereby the wounded mind may be cheered and refreshed by kindness;) so with the wicked severally, because they have evil not upon the tongue, but under the tongue, in the words of their mouth they hold out sweet things, and in the thoughts of their heart are plotting mischiefs.  For it is hence that Joab held the beard of Amasa with his right hand, whilst secretly putting his left hand to his sword, he shed out his bowels. [2 Sam. 20, 9]  For to hold the chin with the right hand is to caress as if in kindness.  But he puts his left hand to his sword, who in secret strikes in malice.  Hence too it is written concerning their head himself; Under his tongue is mischief and pain. [Ps. 10, 7]  For he that doth not display openly the ill that he designs, does not put forth on the tongue the mischief and pain of those, whose destruction he aims at, but keeps them close under the tongue.  Now it is rightly added of this hypocrite,

Ver. 13.  He will spare it, and forsake it not, but keep it still within his throat.


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14.  For the evil that he delights in he ‘spares,’ because he does not, by practising penance, hunt it down in himself.  Whence too it is added; and forsake it not.  For if he had the mind to ‘forsake,’ he would not ‘spare’ it, but would pursue it closely.  Now he ‘keeps it within his throat;’ because he so retains it in thought, that he never utters it in speech.  It goes on;

Ver. 14.  His bread in his belly shall be turned into the gall of asps within him.




15.  What bread is in the belly, the same is fulness of earthly gratification in the mind.  So let the hypocrite now be filled to the full with the praises tendered him, let him revel in honours, ‘his bread in his belly is turned into the gall of asps,’ because the fulness of transitory enjoyment, in the final Retribution, will be turned to bitterness, in that what here passed for the praise of greatness is discovered to have been ‘the gall of asps,’ i.e. the prompting of evil spirits.  For the wicked then perceive that they are infected with the venom of the old serpent, when, being delivered over to avenging flames, they are tormented along with that prompter of theirs.  And so this ‘bread’ has one sort of taste in the mouth, and another in the belly, in that the joy of transitory pleasure is sweet, while it is tasted here by a chewing of teeth, as it were, but it turns bitter in the belly, because when the joy is past it is swallowed to his ruing.


16.  Or indeed forasmuch as bread is not unsuitably taken for the sense of the Holy Scriptures, which refreshes the mind and furnishes it with the sinews of right practice, and the hypocrite generally makes it his object to be well instructed in the mysteries of Holy Writ, not that he may live by them, but that it may appear to the rest of the world how learned he is, his ‘bread in his bowels is turned into the gall of asps,’ in that whilst he boasts of the knowledge of the Sacred Law, he converts the draught of life into a cup of poison to himself, and dies in a state of reprobation from the same cause, whence he appeared to derive instruction unto life.  Nor is this again unfitly taken to be the meaning, that while the hypocrite sometimes applies himself to the word of instruction for display, being blinded by God’s judgment, he takes in a wrong sense that very word which he seeks in a wrong spirit.  But when he falls into heretical error, it is his fate, that as by the ‘gall of asps,’ so the unhappy wretch perishes by ‘bread;’ and in his own self instruction he finds death, because in the words of life he never sought life.  But it often happens that the sentences of divine warning, even if they be understood rightly by the hypocrite, forasmuch as he neglects to observe them in practice, are lost to him even before the course of the present life is at an end, so that it is taken from him to know, what while he knew he refused to practise.  Hence it is added;

Ver. 15.  The riches he hath swallowed down, he shall vomit up, and God shall cast them out of his belly.




17.  The hypocrite desires to know the revelations of God, yet not to practise them.  He would speak sagely, but not live so.  For this reason, then, that he does not do what he knows, even that which he knows he loses, that forasmuch as he does not unite pure practice with his knowledge, contemning purity of right practice he loses the knowledge also.  Therefore the ‘riches’ of the Sacred Law, which he ‘swallowed’ in reading, he vomits in forgetting, and God ‘casts them out of his belly,’ in that what he would not observe to do, by a righteous judgment He roots out of his recollection, that at all events he should not keep the precepts of God in the tongue, which he kept not in his life.  Whence it is said by the Prophet; But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, and that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? [Ps. 50, 16]  Which words of instruction if it ever at any time chance that the hypocrite should seem to retain in his mouth until the end, he will be condemned the more on the very grounds, whereon not even a bad man is ever deprived of the good gift of God.  For it is written; To those that remember His commandments to do them. [Ps. 103, 18]  He then that keeps His commandments in mind, but never does them, such an one holds in the words of instruction the sentences whereby he is condemned.


18.  For hence it is written in Zechariah; What seest thou, Zechariah?  And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits.  This said he to me; This is the curse that goeth over the face of the whole earth.  For everyone that stealeth shall be judged as on this side according to it. [Zech. 5, 2. 3.]  For what is a ‘flying roll’ saving Holy Writ, which whilst it tells us of heavenly themes, lifts up the bent of the mind to things on high; for while we see that it is above us, we leave minding, i.e. desiring things below.  And it is described as having ‘a breadth of ten cubits’ and a ‘length of twenty cubits,’ in that the breadth of our practice is single, and the long expectance of hope is extended to double, since in return for our good practice both here there is peace of mind, and there eternal joys in store for us, as Truth bears witness, Who saith; And everyone that hath forsaken houses or lands, &c. shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. [Matt. 19, 29]  For the number one hundred is completed by the number ten multiplied ten times.  Thus he gets back an hundredfold [perhaps ‘an hundredfold here.’  (reading Hic.)], who, though he has nothing, by the mere perfection of his mind alone, no longer seeks to possess any thing in this world.  And in this way, since by this same we have a double measure paid back to us for a single one, that roll is justly drawn out through twenty cubits in length, which is carried out in breadth through ten.  But because these very sacred oracles stand for eternal condemnation to those who either will not acquaint themselves with them, or in any wise when made acquainted with them set them at nought, it is rightly said of this roll, This is the curse, which goeth forth over the face of the whole earth.  And wherefore it is called a curse is added; For everyone that is a thief, as it is therein written, shall be judged.  Therefore the hypocrite, as he cares not to live after the words of the law which he knows, and seeks golden opinions by store of instruction, will be ‘a thief to be judged,’ since by this, that he speaks just words, he usurps to himself the praise of the just man’s life.  Concerning whom it is still farther added rightly,

Ver.16.  He shall suck the head of asps: the viper’s tongue shall slay him.




19.  The ‘asp’ is a small serpent, but the ‘viper’ hath more length of body.  And asps produce eggs, and their young are hatched from the eggs.  But when vipers have conceived, their ‘young ravin in their womb, which bursting the parents’ sides issue out of their bellies.  Hence too it is called the ‘viper,’ because it is a ‘parent [vi parit.] by violence.’  Thus the viper is so produced that it comes forth by violence, and is brought into the world by the killing of the mother.  What then is represented by the little asps, saving the hidden suggestions of impure spirits, who steal upon [Ben. ‘surripiunt,’ Steal from, both others ‘surrepunt.’] the hearts of men by slight prompting at first, and what by the ‘viper’s tongue’ save the violent temptation of the devil?  For at first he steals upon them gently, but afterwards he drags them even by force.  And so he ‘sucks the poison of asps,’ in that the little beginning of secret suggestion is first produced in the heart, but ‘the viper’s tongue slayeth him,’ in that afterwards the captive soul is killed by the venom of violent temptation.  In the first case unclean spirits speak to the heart of man with their crafty counsels, and these, while they persuade with gentleness, as it were infuse the poison of asps.  Whence it is written, They break asps eggs, and weave the spider’s web; He that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is hatched breaketh out into a basilisk. [Is. 59, 5]  Since to ‘break asps’ eggs,’ to wicked men is, to manifest by evil deeds the counsels of evil spirits, which lurk in their hearts.  Moreover, to ‘weave spiders’ webs’ is, on account of the lust of this world, to be busied in any temporal employments.  Which, whilst they are established with no stedfastness, assuredly are carried off by the wind of a mortal life.  And it is well added; He that eateth of their eggs dieth.  In that he that admits the counsels of impure spirits kills the life of his soul in him.  ‘And that which is hatched, breaketh out into a basilisk,’ in that the suggestion of the bad spirit which is covered up in the heart, is nursed unto full iniquity.  For ‘basilisk’ [‘Regulus,’ which is a translation of the Greek Basiliscov. see Plin. viii. 21.] means the king of serpents, and who is the head of the sons of perdition, save Antichrist?  Therefore ‘that, which is hatched, will break out into a basilisk,’ in that he who harbours in himself the counsel of the ‘asp’ to nourish them to life, being made a member of the wicked head, is engrafted into the body of Antichrist.  Of which hypocrite it is said, He shall suck the head of asps, and the viper’s tongue shall slay him, in that when he gladly welcomes the evil suggestion of our old enemy, afterwards he surrenders himself vanquished to his forcible temptations.  Hence too in Paradise, to man when he was standing, he brought in words of soft suggestion, but him whom he once caught away to the act of consent, now henceforth he forces on even resisting him, and conquered by the gratifications of his corrupt state of being, kills him well nigh by dint of violence.  But perhaps we may be able to make out the meaning of these same sentences by a contrary mode of interpretation.  Thus because the ‘asp’ kills quickly by its venom, but the ‘viper’ more slowly, by the ‘asp’ we have denoted a violent and instantaneous temptation, but by the ‘viper’ a gentle and prolonged one.  And hence to the one death is said to lie in the ‘sucking of the head,’ but to the viper ‘in the tongue,’ in that a sudden temptation often as soon as it arises kills the soul off its guard, but a lengthened temptation, because it is longer recommending evil things by the suggesting of them, kills as does a viper with its tongue.  And because every hypocrite, being penetrated with the suggestion of evil spirits, as with the poison of serpents, never considers what are the gifts from above of the Holy Spirit, while he spreads abroad the bent of the heart in golden opinions without, it is rightly added;

Ver. 17.  He shall not see the streamlets of the torrent river of honey and butter.




20.  The Lord saith in the Gospel; He that believeth in Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. [John 7, 38. 39.]  Where the Evangelist subjoins, saying, But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive.  And so ‘the streamlets of the river’ are the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Charity is ‘a streamlet of the river,’ faith is ‘a streamlet of the river,’ hope is ‘a streamlet of the river.’  But because no hypocrite ever loves either God or his neighbour, when he makes the transitory glory of the world his aim, he does not see the streamlets of the river, in that he is not watered with the overflowing of charity.  Whereas the hypocrite goes after present gains, he disregards future blessings, and not having faith, he sees not in the mind ‘the streamlet of the river,’ inasmuch as faith is the evidence of things not seen. [Heb. 11, 1]  And while the hypocrite clings to the things that are seen, he makes light of those, which are not seen, therefore he does not see the ‘streamlets of the river’ in desire, in that he is taken up with visible things alone.  And it is written, For what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? [Rom. 8, 24]  He then would have seen ‘streamlets of the river’ if he had shut his eyes to the glory of this world, and opened them to the love of the heavenly country.  And observe that he does not say ‘streams,’ but ‘streamlets.’  For the ‘streamlets of the river’ may be taken for those spiritual gifts, which trickle in such fine streams from heavenly sources into the soul of him that loveth, that they can never be compassed by the mouth of the flesh.  For it is often the case that the spirit of him that loves is filled with such a mighty gift of contemplation, that it has power to see what it has not power to utter.  Now the ‘torrent river’ is the inundation of the Holy Spirit itself, which in exuberant outpouring is gathered in the soul of him in contemplation, when his mind is full beyond what he is able to comprehend.  And it is necessary to be known, that when the grace of the Holy Spirit bathes us, it fills us with ‘honey and butter’ equally.  For ‘honey’ falls from above, but ‘butter’ is drawn from the milk of animals, and so ‘honey’ is from the air, ‘butter’ from the flesh.  But the Only-begotten Son of the Most High Father, while He is God above all things, was made Man one among all things.  Who when he replenished us with the sweetness of His Divine Nature and the mystery of His Incarnation, satisfied us with ‘honey and butter’ at once.  And so seeing that the Holy Spirit rejoices the soul It has filled, at once with the sweetness of His divinity and the belief of His Incarnation, these are described as ‘the streamlets of the torrent river of honey and butter’ together, in that they both refresh the soul with sweetness by the exalted knowledge of God, and anoint it with the mystery of the Benefit [Charismatis] by the grace of the Incarnation.  But whereas this hypocrite, being dissipated in outward regards, does not taste these interior gifts, he adjoins to what after punishments he is tending, in that it is added;

Ver. 18.  He shall pay for all the things that he hath done, nor yet shall he be consumed.


[xvii]                                         [LITERAL INTERPRETATION]


21.  For he ‘pays’ in torment for those desires, which he retained here contrary to right, and being consigned to avenging flames, he is always dying, in that he is always kept alive in death.  For he is never consumed in death, in that if his life in dying were consumed, his punishment likewise would be brought to an end together with his life; but that he may be tormented without end, he is forced to live on without end in punishment, that he whose life here was dead in sin, may have his death there living in punishment.  Let him say then; He shall pay for all the things that he hath done, nor yet shall he be consumed, forasmuch as he is tormented, and not put out, he dies and lives, he is falling away and holding on, always finishing, without being finished.  These things are very terrible in the healing of the ear only, how infinitely more terrible in the enduring of them!  Now because the multiplicity of his wickedness demands that he should never be without punishment, it is fitly added;

According to the multitude of his inventions shall he also suffer.




22.  For whereas he found out many things in order to sin, he is tormented with new inventions in punishment.  Since what he could not have suspected here, he is made sensible of there, when he is given over to vengeance.  For as the Elect in exercising themselves in good works, sometimes set themselves to do more than the Lord thought fit to bid them, (for virginity of the flesh is no where commanded, but only commended; since if it were commanded, then it would follow that wedlock must henceforth be deemed sin, and yet there are many strong in the virtue of virginity, so as to render more in service than they received in command,) so very commonly the wicked are each practised in bad ways, so that they find out in evil doing more for them to do than by the practice of the lost they received examples of wickedness.  And hence they are stricken with the torments of an ampler retribution, in that they too of their own heads invented practices on an ampler scale, which they deserve to be stricken for.  And so it is well said, According to the multitude of his inventions shall he also suffer.  For he would not find out new wickedness, except he also sought it; and he would not seek it, except he was eager to do it of set purpose.  Therefore in his tormenting the excessiveness of evil devising is taken into account, and he receives the pain of a worthy recompense.  And although the woe of all the damned is infinite, yet they have worse torments inflicted upon them, who invented many things in wicked ways by their desires as well.  Now since Zophar has brought in the punishment of this hypocrite, he immediately adds his sin, nor does he describe anyone in particular, but that from which all sins have their origin.  For it is written, Covetousness is the root of all evil. [1 Tim. 6, 10]  He then, whom covetousness is described as having dominion over, surely is proved to be subject to all evil propensities.  Thus he subjoins,

Ver. 19, 20.  Because he hath broken down and laid bare the house of the poor, because he hath violently taken it away and not builded it, neither is he satisfied in his belly.




23.  He ‘breaks in pieces and lays bare the house of the poor,’ who is not ashamed as well to rob out of avarice him whom he crushes by power.  ‘He violently taketh it away and doth not build it.’  As if it were expressed in plain words; ‘He that ought to have builded it, he over and above takes it away.’  For the Lord Who is to come in judgment, shall say to the reprobate, For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in; naked, and ye covered Me not, &c. [Matt. 25, 42. 43.] as the consequence of which sin it is added, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.  If then he is sentenced to so great a penalty, who is convicted merely of not having given away his own, with what punishment does not that man deserve to be stricken, who is proved to have taken the things of others also?  And so he ‘took it away and did not build it up,’ in that he not only never gave any thing of his own, but also took away what was another’s.  Now it is well added; Surely his belly shall not be satisfied.  For the ‘belly’ of the wicked man is avarice, in that there is collected together in it whatsoever is swallowed with wrong desire.  But it is plain that avarice is not extinguished, but increased by the objects desired.  For like fire, when it has got fuel to feed on, it increases; and from the same cause that the flame appears to be restrained for a moment, it is seen a little while after to spread itself out.  And it often happens that when Almighty God is greatly wroth with the covetous soul, He first lets all things accrue to it according to its wish, and afterwards takes it away in vengeance, that it may undergo eternal punishments on account of them.  And hence it is added;

And when he shall have that which he desired, he shall not be able to possess it.




24.  For it is a mark of greater indignation, when that thing is given which is desired amiss, and therefrom there ensues sudden retribution, because he got that likewise, which he went after when God was wroth the while.  And hence it is said by the Psalmist, where the people are described as having lusted after flesh for food in a wrong way; But while their meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them, and slew the most of them. [Ps. 78, 30. 31]  For the judgments of God are used to be slower in appearing, when wrong wishes are hindered that they should not be put in execution.  For the quicker that a bad wish is suffered to be fulfilled, it is usually punished the more speedily in proportion.  And so by the very act, whereby the hypocrite is aggrandized in haste to become powerful, it is brought to pass with proportionate rapidity, that he should not be.  For the trees too that grow slower, last to number many years, and those which make way in a short space of time, wither the sooner, and in a manner, whilst they are hasting to be, they are going the way not to be.  It goes on;

Ver. 21.  There shall none of his meat be left.




25.  ‘His meat’ is all that he coveted with wrong desire; but when the hypocrite is struck, ‘there is none of his meat left,’ in that when he is himself carried to eternal punishments, he is parted from all the good things that he had gotten here.  And hence it is yet further added;

Therefore shall nought remain from his goods.


For if ‘aught did remain of his goods,’ he would take along with him the things that he had possession of.  But because while going after every thing, he would not fear the Judge, upon being removed out of this life, he goes naked to the Judge.  To which same wicked man, it is but little for his recompensing that he is tormented in after punishment, if only in this life he is let to go free.  But there is no liberty in sin, seeing that it is written; where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty; [2 Cor. 3, 17] and to the wicked soul usually its very own sin becomes its own punishment.  And hence it is rightly added;

In the fulness of his sufficiency, he shall be in straits.




26.  For first from avarice he pants to heap together things he covets, and when he has gathered together a great multitude as it were in a kind of belly of avarice, ‘in the fulness of his sufficiency, he is in straits,’ in that whilst he is full of anxiety how he may keep the things he has gotten, his own fulness itself straitens him.  For the field of a certain rich man had brought abundant fruits, but because he had not where to lay up such stores, he said, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits.  And he said, This will I do; I will pull down my barns, and build greater. [Luke 12, 17. 18.]  He then who from being straitened by his abundance said, What shall I do?  was in a fever as if oppressed with a quantity of food.  Let us consider with what longings he desired his land might produce abundant crops.  Behold now his wishes are completed, seeing that the land did bring him abundant fruits.  But forasmuch as there are not places enough to stow it away, the rich man being greatly aggrandized knows not what he should do.  O straitness caused by ‘fulness of sufficiency!’  By the abundance of his land the mind of the covetous man is straitened.  For when he says, What shall I do? he clearly shews that, surcharged with the engrossments of his desires, he went heavily under a kind of bundle of stores; and so it is well said, In the fulness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits.  Since the mind of the covetous man, which had before looked for rest from plenty, was afterwards put to worse trouble for the keeping thereof.  And hence it is also yet further added;

He shall burn with heat, and every woe shall come down upon him.




27.  For first he had sorrow in the mere wearying of his own concupiscence how to snatch hold of the things coveted, how to secure one sort by arts of flattery, another sort by means of threats; but after that having possessed himself of the gifts of fortune he has attained his desire, another annoyance wears him down, viz. that it is with fear and anxiety he keeps safe that which he remembers it cost him infinite trouble to acquire.  On every side he dreads conspirators, and fears to be himself subjected to the very thing that he has done to others.  One more powerful he is afraid of, lest he be exposed to violence from him; a poor man, when he sees one, he looks on as a thief.  The things themselves which he has hoarded up, he is at great pains about, lest by the failure of their own inherent nature they be consumed by neglect.  In all these particulars then, because fear by itself is punishment, the unhappy wretch suffers things as great as he fears to suffer.  And after this he is yet further brought to hell, and given over to eternal torments.  Therefore ‘every woe cometh down upon him,’ who is at once consumed first here by the punishment of coveting, afterwards by the trouble of safe keeping, and there at some future time by the punishment of retributive wrath.


28.  But it is wonderful security of the heart, not to seek what does not belong to us, but to rest content with each day’s sustenance day by day.  From which same security it is that the Rest everlasting also arises, seeing that from a good and quiet frame we pass to eternal delights.  Contrariwise lost sinners are at once worn down here in desires, and there in torments.  And from the labour of taking thought there arises to them the labour of pain, in that by the fever of avarice they are drawn into the fire of hell.  And because, as we have already often said, it often happens that the wicked man, the sooner he attains his object, is the more easily carried off to torment, it is added in the form of a wish.

Ver. 23.  Would that his belly might be filled, that God might cast the fury of His wrath upon him, and rain His war upon him.




29.  The Lord ‘rains His war’ upon this hypocrite, when he smites his deeds with the swords of His judgments.  Thus for God to ‘rain war,’ is His pressing hard to destruction the life of the wicked man by His strict sentences from on high.  God ‘raining war’ is His smiting the hearts that are lifted up against Himself, and His wounding the blasted soul with the darts of His judgments, as with a kind of thickening drops of rain, that when he is now carried off to judgment, one while he should remind himself how he coveted wickedly, and more wickedly set himself to heap together the things he coveted, at another time grieve that he is parted from the things thus heaped together, and one day feel the very fire of retribution, which, that he might not live well, he was too indifferent to foresee.  It goes on;

Ver. 24.  He shall flee from the iron weapons; and rush upon the bow of brass.




30.  We ought to know, that avarice sometimes steals upon men from pride, and sometimes from apprehension.  Thus there are some who whilst they aim to appear with greater power, are kindled to the going after the things of others; and there are some, who while they are afraid lest the necessaries of the aids of life should be wanting to them, freely give their minds to covetousness, and go after the things of others when they fancy that their own may not be enough for them.  Now all necessity is not unaptly termed ‘iron,’ in that it pains the life of him that wants with the wound of grief, as it is likewise expressed concerning the necessities of him, who, being sold by his brethren, led an afflicted life; The iron entered into his soul. [Ps. 105, 18]  What then are ‘the iron weapons’ but necessities of the present life, which press hard upon, and push to extremity, the life of the needy?  Since iron is consumed by rust, but brass is naturally more difficult to be consumed by it.  Therefore by ‘iron’ there is represented present necessity which is transient, but by ‘brass’ the eternal doom.  And whereas the judgment Above is not heeded by the mind of the wicked man, it is justly likened to a ‘bow,’ since it strikes as it were out of ambush, whilst the person that is struck does not observe it.  And thus, He shall flee from the iron weapons, and rush upon the bow of brass; in that whilst from dreading present necessities, he seizes things without number, through maliciousness he is exposing himself before the severe strokes of the final judgment; and, while he ‘fleeth the weapons of iron,’ he is encountered by the arrows from the bow of brass, in that, while foolishly providing against the ills of time, he is struck by eternal doom.  For whosoever with guilt fleeth the hardness of need here, meets there an everlasting duration of just retribution.  But before the time that he is hurried off to judgment, what are the things which this wicked man is busied in here, he yet further informs us.  It goes on;

Ver. 25.  He is drawn and cometh out of his sheath, yea, lightening in his bitterness.




31.  This wicked man lays plots in arts of robbery on his neighbours.  And whilst he is plotting mischief in the thoughts of his heart, it is as if ‘the sword were still in its sheath;’ but when he wickedly executes the mischief, which he has contrived, he ‘cometh out of his sheath,’ in that he is brought out to view, from the secresy of his thoughts, in the wickedness of evil doing.  He is shewn to light in the deed, such as he was, hidden from view, in the thought.  And observe that he says, drawn and cometh out; i.e. ‘drawn’ by the deceiver, but ‘coming out’ by the act of his own free will.  For he that is ‘drawn’ unquestionably follows one that draws him.  But he that ‘cometh forth,’ seems to act according to his own will.  That man, then, who is at once drawn to the several wicked practices by our old enemy, and yet fast bound in the desire of them by his own free will, is described as ‘drawn and coming forth from his sheath,’ since this thing, that he issues forth from the bad thought to the worst enacting, belongs at once to the wickedness of that spirit that prompted, and of him that consented by an act of his own will.


32.  The terribleness of whose power is further shewn, where it is immediately added, Yea, lightening in his bitterness.  For when the lightning comes suddenly from above, when it shines with terribleness before our eyes, it displays shining brightness, and strikes the object  before it.  Thus, thus is it with the wicked man, when he has secured to himself the glory of the present life: by the same cause by which he is shewn to view bright by power in the present world, it is brought to pass that he is blasted at the last.  For the wicked man’s as it were ‘lightening,’ is his shining in this life’s honour; but whereas the splendour of that glory is consigned to the eternal woes of hell, it is rightly said in this place, ‘Yea, lightening in his bitterness.’  For he that now seems as though he took delight in striking by terribleness and brightness, for this cause afterwards undergoes punishments for everlasting.  And indeed it is written of a certain rich man that he ‘fared splendidly’ every day.  Now it is one thing to shew ‘splendidly,’ and another to ‘lighten;’ for sometimes there is splendour without striking, but splendour with striking is described by the title of ‘lightning.’  He then who being placed in power does injury to others, is not unaptly entitled ‘lightening,’ in that from the same means whereby he is himself exalted against the good, as it were by the light of glory, the life of the good is made to feel torture.  It goes on;

Terrible ones shall come and go over him.




33.  Who are here called ‘terrible ones’ except evil spirits, who are to be feared and avoided by godly minds?  And whereas those same evil spirits are to be believed to attach themselves severally to certain particular vices, when this wicked man seems to quit for a moment one set of faults, and begins to commit another, then surely ‘the terrible ones come and go over him,’ in that the soul of the bad man though one set of bad habits abandons, yet another takes possession of it.  For you may often see the bad man, who is set in earthly power, agitated with furious passion, and executing all that his rage suggests; and when his fury is gone, then directly lust ravages his soul; when lust is stopped for a time, self-exaltation as on the ground of continency is immediately made to take its place in his heart, and that he may be feared by others, he aims to shew himself as an object of terror.  But when the occasion requires that he should say any thing with double-dealing, laying aside in a certain sort the terribleness of pride, he flatters with an easy address, and when he ceases to shew himself proud, he does not dread to turn double-dealing.  And so it is rightly said of him, in whose mind one vice continually takes the place of another, Terrible ones come and go upon him; since for all the evil habits that he is borne down with departing and taking each other’s place, his soul is as it were overrun by as many evil spirits going and returning.  But it is these things which he does in act, that issue outwardly by parts and pieces, for on his soul he has all things bad tied fast at once and together.  Hence it is added;

Ver.  26.  All darkness is hid in his secret places.




34.  For though the hypocrite exhibits good actions on the surface, yet a certain ‘darkness’ of evil deeds appears in him; yet it less comes forth in act, than lies buried in his secret thought.  For he who does not fulfil all things at once in execution, does in his heart in silence hold all things that may do mischief.  Thus ‘all darkness’ is said to be ‘hid in his secret places,’ in that though he does not exhibit to view all things evil in himself, yet he aims to bring down all upon his fellow-creatures.  Now let him add the retribution, which this soul so reprobate shall be visited with.  It goes on;

A fire that is not kindled shall consume him.




35.  Most wonderfully in these few words is the fire of hell set forth!  For bodily fire, in order to become fire, stands in need of bodily fuel; and when it is necessary for it to be preserved, as we well know, it is nourished by wood heaped upon it, neither can it be, except by being kindled, nor live, save by being cherished.  But contrarily the fire of hell, whilst it is a bodily fire, and bodily consumes the children of perdition that are cast into it, is neither kindled by human effort, nor kept alive by wood, but being once made to be, it lasts unextinguishable: at one and the same time it needs no kindling, and lacks not heat.  And so it is well said of this wicked one; A fire not kindled shall consume him; in that the justice of the Almighty, foreseeing future events, did from the very beginning of the world create the fire of hell, which should once begin in the punishment of the wicked, but never end its heat even without fuel.  But it is necessary to know, that all the children of perdition, as they sinned in Spirit and flesh conjointly, are there tormented in spirit and flesh alike.  Hence it is said by the Psalmist, Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of Thine anger. [Ps. 21, 9]  The Lord shall confound them in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them.  For an ‘oven’ is heated within; but he who is ‘devoured by fire’ begins to be consumed from the outside.  Thus that holy Scripture might shew that the lost burn both within and without, it testifies that they are at once ‘devoured by fire,’ and ‘made as a fiery oven,’ that by fire they should be tormented in the body, and by grief burn in spirit.  Hence in this place too, when it is declared of the ungodly man that a fire that is not kindled shall consume him, it is forthwith added concerning his spirit;

Being left in his tabernacle, it shall go ill with him.




36.  The ‘tabernacle’ of the wicked man is his flesh, in that he inhabits it in joyfulness, and, if it were possible, wishes he might never quit it.  But the righteous, as they place their delight in the prospect of heavenly rewards, and have their conversation in heaven, while they are still in the flesh are as if they were no longer in the flesh, in that they are not fed with any gratification of the flesh.  And hence it is said to some persons; But ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit [Rom. 8, 9]: not that they were not in the flesh, who by the epistles of their master received charges of exhortation; but it is in a manner to be no longer ‘in the flesh,’ not to own aught connected with the love of fleshly objects.  But on the other hand this wicked man, because he set all his delight in a fleshly life, ‘dwelt in the tabernacle’ of the flesh.  Which very flesh when he shall receive back in the resurrection, he shall burn along with it delivered over to the fires of hell.  Then be longs to be brought out of it; then he seeks, if he might be able, to escape from his torments; then be begins to wish he could get quit of that which he loved: but because he preferred that flesh to God, it is brought to pass by the judgment of God, that by it he is more fully tormented in the fire.  Here then he has no mind to leave it, and yet is severed from it, and there he wishes to leave it and yet is kept in it for punishments.  And so for the increase of his torments, he is at once both removed out of the body here against his will, and held fast in the body there when he would not.  Therefore because his spirit in torment longs [So A.B.C.D.—Ben. ‘shall long.’  lewpetrian Sept.] to get rid of the flesh, which it set before itself in loving amiss, and has not the power, it is lightly said here, being left in his tabernacle it shall go ill with him.  Of whose accusing it is directly said;

Ver. 27.  The heavens shall reveal his iniquity; and the earth shall rise up against him.




37.  What do we understand by ‘the heavens,’ but the righteous, and what by ‘the earth,’ but sinners?  And hence in the Lord’s prayer we pray; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven, meaning this, that the will of our Creator, in the same way as it is accomplished in all the righteous, may also be fulfilled in all sinners as well.  Moreover of the righteous it is said, The heavens declare the glory of God [Ps. 19, 1].  And to man when he sinned the sentence is pronounced, Earth thou art, and unto earth thou shalt return.  And so of this ungodly man, when dragged to that awful judgment; ‘the heavens reveal his iniquity, and the earth rises up against him,’ that that man, who here never spared either the good or the bad, should in that tremendous inquest have the life of the righteous and of sinners alike accusing him.  And of the two indeed it is worse if a man injure the good rather than sinners; and hence it is said by the Prophet, For her blood is in the midst of her: she poured it upon the smoothest rock [super limpidissimam petram V.];  she poured it not upon the ground to cover it with dust: [Ez. 24, 7] by ‘the ground’ and ‘the dust’ indeed denoting sinners, but by the ‘very smooth rock,’ the righteous man, who is not made rough by the hard grazes of sins; and so ‘the blood is poured upon the very smooth rock,’ when the wickedness of a bloodthirsty mind rages in the afflicting of the righteous soul.  While then it is worse unjustly to distress the righteous than the unrighteous, yet it is much worse to hurt the righteous and unrighteous together; and therefore whereas the wicked have injured both the good and the bad alike, in the accusing to damnation, ‘the heavens shall reveal his iniquity, and the earth shall rise up against him, because he at one and the same time set himself against those who savoured the things of heaven, and oppressed those who savoured of things below.  But it may be that by ‘the earth’ we have denoted not the sinful and reprobate, but those that being busied in earthly courses, by the help of alms and of tears attain to eternal life.  Concerning whom it is said by the Psalmist, when the Lord is proclaimed as coming to Judgment, He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth that He may Judge His people. [Ps. 50. 4]  For He ‘calls the heavens from above,’ when they, who, leaving all that they had, held on the tenour of the heavenly life, are called to sit with Him in judgment, and come with Him as judges; but ‘the earth is called from above,’ when they who were tied down to earthly courses of action, yet sought therein for heavenly more than for earthly profit and advantage, to which persons it is said, I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed Me.  So ‘the heaven reveals the wickedness’ of the hypocrite, and ‘the earth rises up against him,’ in that both they who come in company with God as judges, and they who through the ordeal of the Judgment are set free, become the witnesses of his iniquity.  Thus nought of the things he has committed is hidden from sight in the time of condemnation, and if indeed many of his deeds are now concealed from his fellow-creatures by double-dealing, yet in the day of condemnation; whatever there was that lay hidden within him, it is brought to light.  Hence it is fitly added;

Ver. 28.  The shoot of his house shall be disclosed, and he shall be taken away in the day of God’s wrath.




38.  ‘The shoot of his house is disclosed,’ when every thing bad that sprung up in his consciousness is shewn to view.  For now the ‘shoot of the hypocrite’s house’ remains hidden from sight, in that though his practice appears good in the delineation, yet the intent lies hidden.  Since it is one thing what he does, and another thing what he has in view.  But when, at the coming of the Judge, each man’s conscience shall be brought forward for its testimony, (whence it is written, Their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another, [Rom. 2, 15]) then the ‘shoot of the hypocrite’s house is herein disclosed,’ because the evil design is laid bare in his heart.  ‘And he shall be taken away in the day of God’s wrath,’ in that when the indignation of the Judge is revealed, being given to avenging fires, he is parted from His sight.  For he that, whilst he lived, would not take thought of the highest things, being forced down by the weight of his sins, shall fall from the face of the Judge into the depths of punishment.  But now the Judge both sees and bears with the sinner in his sins, and because it is the day of forbearance and not as yet the day of fury, He waits for each one for his conversion.  Now in this day of forbearance the hypocrite as it were remains unmoved, whilst he both commits many evil deeds, and is chastised by no scourges; but ‘in the day of fury he shall be taken away,’ in that being carried off to punishment in the season of vengeance he is cut off from the countenance of the eternal Judge.  It goes on;

Ver. 29.  This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage of his words from the Lord.




39.  For if, while placed in this life, he had been minded to act rightly, he would have had for his ‘portion’ with the Lord fellowship in the kingdom of heaven; but because he chose to be subjected to bad desires, his ‘portion from the Lord’ he found in torment, because he did not seek to obtain a share in the grace of that Lord.  But it is well said, And the heritage of his words from the Lord.  For he that is immersed in punishment for enormous deeds of wickedness perchance it was thought would never be judged for the words which he had spoken amiss.  But when the strict justice of Almighty God exacts punishment from lost sinners for their froward deeds, it renders evil things to them even to the recompensing of their words, that they who are debtors for great transgressions, being consigned to punishment, may pay even the very last farthing.  For they are spared the least misdemeanours, who rigorously lamented the greater evils in themselves.  And those whom great sins weigh down even the very least alike put to pain in hell.  Now holy men desire not to receive a portion from the Lord, but to have the Lord Himself for their portion.  Hence the Prophet prays, saying, God is my portion forever [Ps. 73, 26]: but the wicked man, because he sought not to have the Lord Himself for his ‘portion,’ found fire for his ‘portion’ without the Lord, that being shut out from His face, because he did not seek to find joy in Him, he might be tormented beneath Him.  These things Zophar brought forward in such a way, that by what he spoke against the hypocrite, he might strike a blow against the life of blessed Job, thinking that he who was stricken by the Lord, had not done with a simple heart all the good things which he had done.  For him, whom he saw beneath the rod, he supposed to have displeased God.  But the friends of blessed Job likewise maintain a likeness of heretics in this particular, in that whilst they see, in Holy Church, some, that live aright, groaning beneath the rod, they reckon that they have not good merit in good deeds, and set them down as bad men, whom they see afflicted with the scourge of God; not knowing, that is to say, that Many are the afflictions of the righteous [Ps. 43, 19], and that He scourgeth every man whom He receiveth. [Heb. 12, 6]  But blessed Job, after the manner of the Holy and Universal Church, which bears with patience the darts of words at the hands of the froward, and, when she hears the sayings of the proud, never leaves the pathway of her humility, made answer with great humility of heart, saying,

C.  xxi.  Ver. 2.  Hear I pray you my speech, and practise penitence.




40.  For he that when he said Hear, added, I pray you, shews how humbly he speaks, whilst he entreats persons, swelling with pride against him, to bring back their thought to the teaching of saving truth.  But whereas holy men, within the pale of the Universal Church, are not only ready to teach what is right, but also to undergo things that are done against them, they do not dread being laughed at.  Hence it is added;

Suffer me that I may speak; and after my words, if it shall seem so, laugh.




41.  For when good men speak, there are two points, which they regard in their discourse, viz. that they should be of use to themselves and their hearers, or to themselves alone, if they are unable to be of use to their hearers.  For when the good things they deliver are heard to good purpose, they benefit both themselves and their hearers; but when they are turned to ridicule by the hearer, doubtless they were of use to themselves, whom they made quit of the sin of silence.  And so let blessed Job, that he might serve both himself and his hearers, speak the words; Hear I pray you my speech, and practise repentance.  But that he may discharge himself of the obligation which he owes, even if he is unable to avail his hearers, he adds, Suffer me that I speak; and after my words, if it shall seem so, laugh.  I observe that whereas he added, and practise repentance, he first premised, Hear, but when he added the words, and after my words, if it shall seem so, laugh, he premised, Suffer me that I may speak; for ‘hearing’ is of one who acts of free will, but ‘bearing’ of one who acts against his own inclination.  And so if his friends desire to be taught, let them ‘hear,’ but if they are ready to mock, let them ‘suffer’ the things that are said; seeing that to a proud mind, instruction in humility is a grievous and onerous weight.  It goes on;

Ver. 4.  As for me, is my dispute against man, that I should not be justly sad?




42.  Whosoever in pleasing God displeases man, has no grounds for sadness.  But he, who in pleasing man displeases God, or thinks that he displeases both God and man together, if sadness does not come upon him, proves a stranger to the excellency of wisdom.  Now blessed Job believed that he had displeased God in the midst of his strokes, and therefore he called back his mind to sadness, in that He was not to be disregarded, Whom he was afraid that he had displeased.  Now, if he had been pleading against man concerning the merits of his life, he would have had no occasion to feel sadness, but seeing that by his present strokes he was made doubtful of his past life, he justly sought for sadness under the scourge.  Hence too it is added;

Ver. 5.  Mark me, and be astonished.




43.  i.e. Consider what I have done, and be astonished at the things that I undergo under this infliction of the rod.  And he yet further rightly introduces the words;

And lay your finger upon your mouth.


As if he had said in plain speech; ‘Knowing the good things that I have done and seeing the ills that I am subjected to, your own selves keep even from offence in words, and in my strokes dread your own hurts.’  Or indeed seeing that by our fingers we distinguish things severally, discretion is not unfitly represented by the fingers; and hence it is said by the Psalmist, Blessed be the Lord my God, Which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight [Ps. 144, 1]; i.e. by the ‘hands’ denoting practice, and by the ‘fingers,’ discretion.  And so the finger is laid to the mouth, when the tongue is bridled by discretion, that by what it utters, it may not fall into the sin of foolishness.  And therefore he says, Lay your finger upon your mouth; i.e. ‘join the virtue of discretion to your speech, that in those things which ye say light against the hypocrite, ye may see to what persons they are proper to be said.’  It goes on;

Ver. 6.  Even when I remember I am afraid, and trembling taketh hold of my flesh.




44.  That blessed Job was not forgetful of his deeds, the last utterance of his lips proves.  Wherefore this which he now says to his friends, Even when I remember I am afraid, and trembling taketh hold of my flesh, must clearly be said in mockery.  As if it were in plain words; ‘If I remember that I have had any thing of the hypocrite in me, directly I tremble in tears of penitence.’  And ‘if he remembered, his flesh was shaken with trembling’ he declares, i.e. that the weakness of practice was disheartened by the dread of vengeance.  But as Zophar said many things about the sudden condemnation of the wicked man, whereby he snapped at the powerful estate of blessed Job, the holy man subjoins in answer to his words, saying,

Ver. 7.  Wherefore do the wicked live, are lifted up, and strengthened by riches?




45.  For except the patience of God bore with them, they would never live long in their sins.  For they are ‘lifted up by riches,’ when they first begin to be powerful, but they are ‘strengthened,’ when they are permitted to continue long in this life.  Since those whose substance uplifts them, length of days strengthens in the pride of their power.  Or surely they are said to be lifted up and strengthened, in that they are ‘lifted up’ by honours, ‘strengthened’ by substance.  But there are very many, who while they are both ‘lifted up’ by honours and ‘strengthened’ by riches, are vouchsafed the things which they covet in this life, but deprived of the succession of children.  To these their very power is punishment, when they see themselves possessed of a large inheritance, but not possessed of heirs to whom they may leave it.  What good then, if every thing be forthcoming, but children be wanting who may become their heirs?  It proceeds;

Ver. 8.  Their seed is established in their sight with them.




46.  For the increase of exceeding happiness, together with a large patrimony, they have heirs too given them; and that no unavoidable temporal circumstance either may remove from their eyes those in whom their soul delights, it is said of this seed of theirs, Their seed is established in their sight.  But what if children are vouchsafed, yet the children themselves stricken with barrenness?  The family is made extinct in them, in like sort as it was feared it would be made extinct by the barrenness of their parents.  It goes on;

And a crowd of kinfolk and grandchildren before their eyes.


Observe, life is theirs, honours and riches are theirs, children are theirs, grandchildren are theirs.  What if any secret fancy gall the mind, and domestic discord pierce the joys of their security?  What is the prosperity of this world, if it be not joyful?  It goes on;

Ver. 9.  Their houses are secure and at peace, neither is the rod of God upon them.




47.  Their ‘houses are secure and at peace,’ in that they live on committing sin, they do things to be mourned over, and they never leave their joys.  And the ‘rod’ of discipline from Above ‘does not smite them,’ and they go on the more unrestrainedly in sin, in proportion as they are punished less for sin.  But as we have heard the things, which go prosperously within, what prosperity smiles on them in the field too, let us see.  It goes on;

Ver. 10.  Their ox conceiveth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and loseth not her calf:


It is the usage of common talk to call ‘ox [bos]’ masculine, and ‘cow’ feminine, but literary phraseology designates ‘ox’ of the common gender.  Hence it is now said, Their ox conceiveth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and loseth not her calf.  For to the owner of flocks, the first good fortune is that the flocks being free from barrenness conceive, next that the conception come to the birth, and the third that the thing which is produced be by nourishment reared to a growth.  And so in order to shew that the wicked had them all together, blessed Job declares that ‘their flocks had conceived and not miscarried, that they had brought forth and were not deprived of their own offspring.’  But it is inferior good fortune, if whilst the flocks increase, the keepers of them do not thrive at the same time.  And hence to the fruitfulness of the flocks we have the fruitfulness of their household [familiae] made to succeed immediately.  For it is said, 

Ver. 11.  Their little ones go forth like flocks, and their children revel in sports. 




48.  That as there are greater stores bestowed on them to have the possession of, so great numbers may spring up to keep them safe.  But whereas he said, revel in sports, lest we should imagine that the mere sport of the children in the house of the wicked by itself was too mean and poor, he adds, saying; 

Ver. 12.  They take the timbrel, and harp, and rejoice at the noise of the organ.


As if he said in plain speech; ‘Whilst the masters swell with honours and substance, the dependants rejoice in festive sports.’  But, O blessed man, wherefore dost thou tell us all these many things of the delights of the wicked?  It is now a long time that thou runnest on in the description of them; after much said, in one word point out what thou thinkest.  It goes on; 

Ver. 13.  They spend their days in wealth, and in a point of time go down to the lower parts. 




49. Yes, O blessed man, thou hadst for long dilated on their joys, how dost thou now declare that ‘in a point of time they go down to the lower parts,’ saving that all length of time of the present life is then known to be but a ‘point,’ when it is cut short by the end?  For when a person is brought to the last end, he no longer keeps aught of the past, seeing that all the periods of time have elapsed, he has nought in the future, in that there remain not to him the moments of a single hour.  So the life, which could be thus narrowed, was but a ‘point’ of time.  For as we have before said, we set down the style in a point, and lift it up; and so he as it were touched life by a point who received and lost it.  By a ‘point’ it is possible that this also may be understood, that it often happens that they that were long borne with in wickedness, are seized by sudden death, that it should not even be granted them to bewail before death the things they have done wrong, but seeing that occasionally the life of the righteous also is cut short by a sudden end, we shall understand it better, if we take the words of their temporal life, in that whatever was capable of passing away was sudden.  But the friends of blessed Job, who believed him to be unrighteous on this account that they saw him afflicted with scourges, rightly have the truth shewn them by the voice of that holy man concerning the blooming and ruin of the wicked, in that prosperity in the present life is no witness to innocency, since many are brought back to everlasting life by scourges, and very many die without a scourge to be dragged to infinite woes.  Of whom it is yet further added;

Ver. 14.  Who say unto God, Depart from us.




50.  To say this in words even foolish men have not the boldness, yet all wicked persons say to God, not by their words but by their ways, Depart from us.  For they that do those things which Almighty God forbids, what else are they doing but shutting up their soul against the Almighty.  For just as to think of His precepts, is to introduce Him into one’s self, so to resist His commandments is to keep Him away from the dwelling-place of the heart.  And so they say, Depart from us, who refuse to yield Him an approach to them; and assail Him with wicked deeds, even if they seem to praise Him in words.  Moreover they say;

For we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.




51.  And that by this alone, that they are too indifferent to acquire the knowledge of Him.  For there be some who from this that ‘Truth’ saith; And that servant, which knoweth not his Lord’s will, and doth things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with fewBut he that knoweth his Lord’s will, and did not according to it, shall be beaten with many [Luke 12, 47. 48.]; choose not to know what they should do, and reckon as if they will be beaten less, if they are ignorant of what they ought to have put in practice.  Yet it is one thing not to have known, and another thing not to have chosen to know.  For he knoweth not, who is willing to make the acquisition, but is not able.  But he who, that he may not know, turns away his ear from the voice of truth, such a person is brought in, not one in ignorance, but a despiser.  Now ‘the way’ of God is peace, ‘the way’ of God is humility, ‘the way’ of God is patience.  But whilst the wicked disregard all these, they say, We desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.  For whilst they are big with pride in this life, whilst they are swollen with honours, whilst, even if they have not, they covet, they slight ‘the ways’ of God in the thoughts of their hearts.  For because God’s way in this world was humility, this very Lord and God, the Redeemer of us men, came to reproaches, to mockery, to the Passion; and He underwent the adverse treatment of this world with patience, resolutely eschewed its good fortune, that He might both teach the prosperity of the eternal life to be aimed at, and the adversities of the present life not to be dreaded.  But because the wicked covet the glory of the present life, and eschew disgrace, they are described as saying, We desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.  For they are unwilling to know, what they scorn to do.  Whose words are further continued, where it is said;

Ver. 15.  Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him?




52.  For the mind of man being miserably discharged without, is so dissipated in things corporeal, as neither to return to itself within, nor to be able to think of Him, Who is invisible.  Thus carnal men setting at nought spiritual commands, because they do not see God with bodily sight, one time or another come to this pass, that they even imagine Him not to be.  Hence it is written, The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.  Whence also it is said now, Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? [Ps. 14, 1]  For it very often happens that men make it more their aim to serve their fellow-creatures, whom they see with bodily sight, than to serve God, Whom they do not see.  For in all that they do, they stretch towards the reach of their eyes, and because they cannot stretch the eyes of the body to God, they either scorn to pay Him homage, or if they begin they grow wearied.  For, as has been said, they do not believe Him to be, Whom they do not behold with bodily sight.  These, did they but seek God the Author of all things in a spirit of humility, would in themselves experience that a thing which is not seen is better than an object which is seen.  For they themselves subsist in being by virtue of an invisible soul and a visible body; but if that which is not seen be withdrawn from them, at once that perishes which is seen.  And the eyes of the body indeed are open, but they cannot see or perceive any thing.  For the sense of sight is gone, because the indweller has quitted, and the house of the flesh remains empty, since that invisible spirit has departed which was wont to look through its windows.  Therefore that invisible things are better than visible ones, all carnal persons ought severally to conclude from themselves, and by this ladder of reflection (so to speak) to mount towards God, seeing that He is even herein that He continues invisible, and continues supreme in proportion as He can never be comprehended.  But there are some, who do not doubt either that God is, or that He is incomprehensible, who notwithstanding seek from Him not Himself, but His external gifts.  And when they see that these are wanting to those that obey Him, they scorn to obey Him themselves.  In relation to whose words it is further added;

And what profit should we have, if we pray unto Him?




53.  When, in praying, God is not the object we seek, the mind is soon wearied in praying, in that when a man asks those things, which it may be that God of His secret counsel refuses to bestow, He is Himself brought into loathing, Who will not give the thing which is loved.  Now the Lord desires that He may be loved Himself, more than the things which He has made, and that things eternal should be rather prayed for than temporal ones; as it is written, Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. [Matt. 6, 33]  For in that He saith not, ‘shall be given,’ but shall be added unto you he plainly shews that what is given as principal is one thing, and what is added over and above, another.  For whereas to us the eternal world ought to be in the thought and intent, but the world of time in the use, both the one is ‘given’ and the other ‘added’ over and above in superabundance.  And yet it very often happens, that when men pray for temporal good things, but do not look for eternal rewards, they seek the thing that is added, and do not want that whereunto it should be added.  Nor do they reckon it to be the worth of their prayer, if here they be poor in things temporal, and there live for everlasting rich in blessedness; but having their eyes fixed on visible things alone, as has been said, they refuse to purchase for themselves the invisible by the labour of beseeching it.  Who if they but sought objects above, would ply their labour already with fruit, in that when the mind, employed in prayers, pants after the form and fashion [speciem] of its Maker, burning with divine longings, it is united to that which is above, disjoined from that below, opens itself in the affection of its fervent passion, that it may take in, and while taking in kindles itself: merely to love things above is already to mount on high; and whilst with longing desire, the soul is agape after heavenly objects, in a marvellous way it tastes the very thing it longs to get.  It goes on;

Ver. 16.  But because their good things are not in their hand, may their counsel be far from me.




54.  He ‘holds his good things in his hand,’ who in despising temporal things, forces them under the dominion of the mind.  For whoever loves them over much, subjects himself more to them, than them to himself.  For many of the righteous were rich in this world; sustained by their substance, and by their honour, they seemed to possess many things; yet forasmuch as their mind was not possessed by the excessive enjoyment of these things, which were theirs, ‘their good things were in their hand,’ because they were held subordinate to the authority of the soul.  But on the other hand the wicked so discharge themselves with all their hearts in aims at outward things, that they do not themselves so much hold the things possessed, but are holden with minds in bondage by the things they possess.  Therefore because ‘their good things are not in their hand,’ it is rightly added, let their counsel be far from me.  For what is ‘the counsel of the wicked,’ saving to seek earthly and neglect eternal glory, to aim at temporal well-being at the cost of interior detriment, and to change away transitory sorrows for eternal woes?  Let the holy man, then, regarding these aims of the wicked, turn from them and say, Let their counsel be far from me.  Because he sees it to be good beyond comparison, as it is, he had rather for a brief space groan here beneath the rod, than undergo the woes of eternal vengeance.  But not even in this life do they, that are bent to make their way prosperous therein, enjoy an uninterrupted course of prosperity.  But many times their joys are broken off by groans arising.  Whence it is added;

Ver. 17.  How often shall their candle be put out?  and how oft shall a flood come over them, and shall He divide sorrows in His fury?




55.  It often happens that the wicked man reckons the life of his children as a ‘candle,’ but when the son, that is loved overmuch, is taken away, what seemed the ‘light’ of the wicked is ‘put out.’  Often the wicked man reckons the credit of present honour his ‘candle,’ but, whilst, his dignity gone, he is cast down from his height, his candle is extinguished, which shone for him according to his desire.  Often the wicked man thinks that the resources of earthly substance are his, like a great candle for light, but when upon ruin falling on him, he loses the riches which he loved more than himself, what else with this man but that he has lost the candle, in the light of which he was rejoicing?  And so he that has no wish to rest his joy on the things of Eternity, neither here, where he is minded to establish himself, can he rejoice uninterruptedly.  For as often as the ‘candle of the wicked is put out,’ at once there ‘cometh a flood upon them, and God divideth sorrows in His fury.’  ‘A flood cometh’ upon the wicked when they undergo the waves of sorrow from adversity of some kind.  For Almighty God, when He sees Himself contemned, and that delight is taken in earthly concupiscence, smites that with woes which He sees is preferred before Himself in the thoughts of the wicked man.  Now it is well said, And divideth sorrows in His fury.  For He that reserves eternal woes for the wicked man in retribution, and sometimes smites through his soul even here with temporal woe, because both here and there too He smites, ‘divideth sorrows in His fury’ upon the head of the ungodly.  For neither does present punishment, which does not turn the mind of the wicked man from his bad desires, set him free from eternal chastisements.  And hence it is said by the Psalmist, Upon the wicked He shall rain snares, fire, and brimstone, and blasts of storms; this shall be a portion of their cup. [Ps. 11, 6]  In mentioning ‘snares, fire, and brimstone, and blasts of storms,’ he introduced indeed a multitude of woes; but because the sinner that is not amended by them is called to eternal punishments, he consequently called these woes no more his whole cup, but ‘a portion of his cup,’ seeing that their suffering is begun indeed here in woes, but is consummated in everlasting vengeance.  Concerning whose end it is yet further added;

Ver. 18.  They shall be as chaff before the wind, and as ashes that the storm scattereth.




56.  When the wicked man is seen in power, when he is utterly without check or restraint in his acts of oppression and violence, by the imaginations of the weak he is accounted too well ballasted, and as rooted in this world.  But when the sentence of the strict Judge cometh, ‘all the wicked shall be as chaff before the wind,’ because, if I may say so, all they are by the sudden blast of wrath lifted and carried to the fire, whom here once in their hasty judgments the tears of the distressed were as unable to move as a superincumbent mass of a stubborn weight.  And to the hands of griping Judgment those are light, who by injustice were heavy upon their neighbours.  And as ashes that the storm scattereth.  Before the eyes of Almighty God, the life of the wicked man is ashes, in that though he appear green for a moment, yet is he already seen consumed by His judgment, seeing that he is set aside for everlasting burning.  These ashes the storm disperses, in that, God shall come in state, even our God, and shall not keep silence.  A fire shall devour before Him, and there shall be a mighty tempest round about Him. [Ps. 50, 3]  For by the furiousness of this tempest the wicked are carried away from the sight of the eternal Judge.  And those that here had set their mind firm with evil desire, will then appear but ‘chaff’ and ‘ashes,’ because those persons the storm seizes and transports to eternal punishment.  It goes on;

Ver. 19.  God shall lay up for his children the grief of their father.  And when He repayeth, then he shall know it.




57.  We know that it is written; Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children unto the third and fourth generation. [Ex. 34, 7]  And again it is written, What mean ye that ye make this a proverb among you concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?  As I live, saith the Lord, ye shall not have this for a proverb any more in Israel.  Behold all souls are Mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is Mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. [Ezek. 18, 2-4]  Thus in these two sentences whereas there is found a dissimilar meaning, the mind of the hearer is instructed, that it should search out with minute care the way of discernment.  Since original sin we derive from our parents, and, except by the grace of Baptism we be loosed from it, we bear with us the sins of our very parents, seeing that surely we are still one with them.  And so ‘He visiteth the iniquity of the fathers upon the children,’ when on account of the guilt of the parent, the soul of the offspring is polluted by original sin.  And again He does not ‘visit the sins of the fathers upon the children,’ in that when we are freed from original guilt by Baptism, we no longer own the sins of our fathers, but those which we have ourselves been guilty of.  Which however may be understood in another way as well, in that whosoever imitates the wicked ways of a bad father, is bound in his sins also.  But whosoever does not follow the wickedness of his parent, is never burthened by his offence.  And hence it comes to pass that the bad son of a bad father not only pays for his own sins, which he has added; but the sins of his father as well; seeing that to the evil practices of his father, which he is not ignorant that the Lord is angry with, he is not afraid to add yet further his own wickedness too.  And it is meet that he who being liable to a strict Judge does not fear to follow the ways of a wicked parent, should be compelled in this present life to pay for even his parent’s misdeeds.  And hence it is there said, The soul of the father is Mine, and the soul of the son is Mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die, because in the flesh by the sin of the father the sons too are sometimes ruined.  But now that original sin has been done away, they are not bound in the soul by the parent’s wickedness.  For how is it that little children are very often seized by devils, saving that the flesh of the son is mulcted in punishment of the father?  For the bad father is stricken in his own person, and is too stubborn to feel the force of the blow.  Very often he is stricken in his children, so as to be more sharply stung, and the sorrow of the father is rendered to the flesh of the children, to the end that the evil heart of the parent may be chastened by inflictions on the children.  But when not little children, but such as are now more advanced in years, are stricken by the parent’s sin, what else are we given clearly to understand, but that they likewise pay the penalties of those whose deeds they have imitated?  And hence it is rightly said, Even unto the third and fourth generation.  For whereas it is possible that ‘even to the third and fourth generation,’ children may witness the life of their father, which they copy, vengeance extends even to them, who witnessed what they might mischievously imitate.


58.  And because sin shuts the eyes of the ungodly, but punishment opens them wide at the last, it is rightly subjoined; And when He repayeth, then he shall know it.  For the ungodly man knows not the evil things he has done, except when he has already begun to be punished for those same evil deeds.  Hence it is said by the Prophet; And the vexation alone shall give understanding to the hearing.  For he then ‘understands’ what he has heard, when he now grieves that he is ‘vexed’ for the neglect of it.  Hence it is said by Balaam concerning himself; the man whose eye is shut hath said: He hath said which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, which shall fail, and so his eyes shall be opened. [Num. 24, 3. 4.]  For he gave counsel against the children of Israel, but he saw afterwards in punishment what it was he had been guilty of before in sin.  Now the Elect, forasmuch as they see beforehand so that they should not sin, the eyes of these surely are open before their fall.  But the wicked man opens his eyes after his fall, because after his sin he now in his own punishment sees that he ought to have avoided that ill which he did.  Concerning the knowledge of which man, at that time useless from henceforth, the words are next introduced;

Ver. 20.  His eyes shall see his destruction, and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty.




59.  This man, if whilst placed in this life he had been willing to open his eyes to his sin, would not hereafter ‘drink of the wrath of the Almighty.’  But he that here turns away his eyes from the sight of his guilt, cannot there avoid the sentence of condemnation.  But often those that do not fear eternal punishments, at all events on account of temporal chastening are afraid to do what is bad.  But there are some that have become so hardened in wickedness that they do not fear to be stricken even in the very things that they love, if only they can accomplish what they have iniquitously planned.  Hence it is here added concerning the obduracy of the wicked man,

Ver. 21.  For what doth it concern him about his house after him?  or if the number of his months be halved?




60.  Not that we ought so to understand it as that this wicked one, after he is condemned to everlasting punishment, shall never think of ‘his house,’ i.e. of his relations, whom he has left; since ‘Truth’ tells us by His own lips, that the rich man, who was buried in hell, even in the midst of punishment had care and concern touching his five brethren, whom he had left. [Luke 16, 28]  For every sinner will turn wise in punishment, who continued foolish in sin, because being now wrung with anguish there, he opens his eyes to reason, which here being devoted to pleasure he kept shut; and under the torturing of punishment it is forced from him to learn wisdom, who here by pride blinding him made himself foolish.  Which person, however, his wisdom will then no longer avail, in that here, where he ought to have acted after the dictates of wisdom, he lost the opportunity.  For he covets as the sovereign good here to have progeny of his race, to fill his house with servants and with substance, and to live long in this corrupt condition of the flesh.  But if perchance any thing has come into his wishes, which however he cannot obtain except with the offending of his Creator, his mind is disturbed for a while, and he considers that, if he does aught here to incur his Creator’s being offended, he is smitten in his house, children, life.  But prompted by his pride, he directly hardens himself, and whatever infliction he may feel in his house, or whatever infliction in his life, he minds it nothing, so long as he can accomplish the things he has projected, and whilst he lives, he never ceases to compass his pleasures.  For see, his house is struck on account of sin; but what does it concern him about his house after him?  See, for the avenging of his evil doing, the length of life, which he might have had, is shortened; but what does it concern him of the number of his months be cut off in the midst?  Even in that thing therefore the sinner sets himself stiffly against God, in which Almighty God breaks in pieces his stiffness; and not even the smiting inflicted brings down the mind, which stubbornness on deliberation hardens in resistance to God.  And observe how heavy the heinousness of the sin, at once to set before the mind punishment for sin, and yet not even from fear of torment to bend the neck of the heart beneath the yoke of our Maker!  But see, when we hear these things said, the question occurs to our mind, why the Almighty and Merciful God permitted the faculty of reason in the human mind to fall into such blindness?  But lest anyone presume to sift beyond what he ought the hidden judgments of God, it is rightly added;

Ver. 22.  Shall any teach God knowledge?  seeing that He judgeth those that are high.




61.  When in the things, which are done concerning us, we have doubts, we ought to look at others, which are well known to us, and to pacify that murmuring of the thought, which had arisen to us in consequence of our uncertainty.  For see, whereas scourges recover the Elect to life, and not even scourges keep the wicked from bad deeds, Almighty God’s judgments upon us are very secret and are not unjust.  But if we stretch the eye of our mind to the things above, we see by those that touching ourselves we have nought to complain of with justice.  For Almighty God discerning the merits of Angels, ordained some to abide in eternal light without falling, others, fallen of free will from the standing of their loftiness, He laid low in the vengeance of eternal damnation.  By us, then, He doth nothing unjustly, Who judged justly even a nature more refined than ours.  So let him say; Shall any teach God knowledge?  seeing that He judgeth those that are high.  For He that doeth wonderful things above our level, it is surely plain that touching ourselves He ordereth all things with knowledge.  This then being set first, he adds, where it is the mind of man is wearied in making research.  For it is added;

Ver. 23-25.  One dieth in his full strength, being rich and prosperous.  His inwards are full of fatness, and his bowels are moistened with marrow.  And another dieth in the bitterness of his soul, and hath never any wealth.




62.  These things being so, who may investigate the secrets of Almighty God, to find out wherefore He permits them so to be?  Now to the Elect and the Lost, their life indeed is unlike, but the corruption of the flesh in death is no way unlike.  Hence it is added;

Ver. 26.  And yet they shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them.


What wonder then if those persons for a moment run a course unlike in the prosperity and adversity of this world, who through the corruption of the flesh return alike to the earth?  So that life alone is to be thought on, wherein together with the resurrection of the flesh there is the arrival at an unlike end of recompensing.  For what is ‘strength and ease’ to the wicked, what ‘marrow and riches,’ seeing that all is left here in a moment, and There that retribution, which may never be left, is found?  For as the mirth of this wicked one passes on to woe, so the woe of the innocent soul in affliction passes on to joy.  So neither ought riches to lift up the soul, nor poverty to disturb it.  Hence blessed Job in the midst of hurts in substance receives to the mind no hurts in thoughts; but to them that despise him under the infliction of the rod, he adds rebuking them, saying,

Ver. 27, 28.  Behold I know your thoughts, and the devices that ye wrongfully imagine against me.  For ye say, Where is the house of the prince?  and where are the dwellings of the wicked?




63.  For they had imagined him a wicked man, whom they saw, his substance gone, in a temporal way ruined.  But the holy man judges them with a lofty review in proportion as amidst the losses which he had met with, he was standing with undiminished uprightness.  For how had his losses of substance without hurt him, who had not lost That Being, Whom he loved within?




64.  But this that is said, They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them, if anyone wish to take in the way of allegory, we may shortly accomplish [see cap. xvi. of this Book.] it, if what has been already said concerning this bad rich man, we repeat again.  Thus it is said, His inwards are full of fatness, and his bones are moistened with marrow. [v. 30.]  For as ‘fat’ arises from much food, so does pride from abundance of goods, which fattens his mind in his riches, while his spirit is lifted up in his proud behaving.  For the pride of the heart is like a kind of richness of fat.  Whence, because very many commit sins from abundance, it is said by the Prophet, Their iniquity has come out as it were from fatness. [Ps. 73, 7]  It follows, And his bones are moistened with marrow.  The lovers of this life have ‘bones’ as it were, when in this world they possess the strong stay of dignities.  But if in the outward dignity there lack earthly private wealth, as to their judgment they have ‘bones’ indeed, but ‘marrow’ in the bones they have not.  Whereas then that lover of this world is so stayed up by outward power that he is likewise at the same time stuffed to the full with the inward abundance of his earthly house, it is said, And his bones are moistened with marrow.  Or otherwise the ‘bones’ of the rich man are bad and stubborn practices, but the ‘marrow in the bones’ are the mere desires of bad living alone, which not even in the satisfying of wickedness are filled to the full.  Which marrow as it were moistens the bones, when bad desires keep on their evil habits in the gratification of pleasures.


65.  And there are some that in this world have not riches, but long to have, and seek to be exalted, though in this world they are unable to get the thing they desire, and whilst they have no substance or dignity to support them, yet by bad desires conscience declares them guilty in the sight of the interior Judge.  For every such person is very often in this accounted distressed, because he cannot be rich and carry himself proudly.  Concerning whom it is also added, And another dieth in the bitterness of his soul, and without any wealth.  Observe from the same cause whence the rich man emptily rejoices with a proud heart, another that is poor more emptily sorrows with a proud heart.  Now it is rightly added concerning both, And yet they shall lie down together in the dust, and the worms shall cover them.  For to ‘lie down in the dust’ is to close the eyes of the mind in earthly desires; hence it is said to every individual living in sin, and lying asleep in his wickedness, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. [Ep. 5, 14]  But the ‘worms’ that spring from the flesh cover them alike, in that carnal cares overlay the mind whether of the rich man or of the poor man carrying himself proudly.  For in the things of earth the poor and the rich children of perdition, though they be not sustained by a like share of prosperity, are yet troubled by a like degree of solicitude, in that what the one already possesses with alarm the other longs for with anxiety, and because he is unable to get it he is grieved.  So let it be said; They shall lie down together in the dust, and the worms shall cover them.  In that though they be not alike lifted up by temporal good things, yet in care of temporal good things they are both alike lulled asleep by insensibility of mind.  And the worms cover them together, because whether this one, that he may possess what is coveted, or that one, that he may not lose what is possessed, carnal thoughts overlay both.




66.  But blessed Job, who neither when he had substance was elated, nor when it was taken from him sought it with anxiety, as he was devoured by no thoughts of outward loss, had no worms of the heart covering him;’ and because he had not sunk his mind in earthly care, he did not ‘lie asleep in the dust.’  It goes on; Behold I know your thoughts, and your wrongful sentences against me. [1 Cor. 2, 11]  As it is written, For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? on what principle is it said here, Behold I know your thoughts?  But the spirit of a man is then unknown to another, when it is not shewn forth either by words or deeds.  For whereas it is written, Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them; [Matt. 7, 20] it is by the thing that is done outwardly that whatever lies concealed within is brought to sight.  Whence too it is rightly said by Solomon, As in water the faces of beholders shine bright, so the hearts of men are plain to the wise. [Prov. 27, 19]  Again blessed Job, when he declared that he knew the thoughts of his friends who were talking with him, thereupon added, and your unjust sentences against me: that by a thing open to view he might shew he had found out that which lay concealed in them.  Hence he adds their very wicked sentences themselves as well, saying, For ye say, Where is the house of the prince? and where are the dwelling-places of the wicked?


67.  The weak, that desire to thrive in this world’s fortune, and as evils of great magnitude so dread scourges, in the case of those, whom they see smitten, measure offence by the punishment; for those, whom they see struck with the rod, they suppose have displeased God.  Hence blessed Job’s friends were persuaded that he, whom they be held under the rod, had been ungodly, i.e. as reckoning that if he had not been ungodly, his ‘dwelling-places would have remained:’ but no man thinks so, saving he who still travails with the weariness of infirmity, who sets fast the footstep of his thoughts in the gratification of the present life, who is not taught to pass on with perfect desires to the eternal land.  Hence it is well added;

Ver. 29, 30.  Ask everyone of them that go by the way; and ye will know that he understands this same.  Because the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction, and he is brought to the day of wrath.


[lvii]                                            [MORAL INTERPRETATION]


68.  For often the patience of God bears for long with those, whom it already condemns to punishments foreknown; it suffers those to go on thriving, whom it sees still committing worse things.  For whereas He sees to what pit of condemnation they are going on, He esteems to be as nothing to them, that the wicked multiply here things which must be abandoned.  But he that is wedded to the glory of the present life, counts it great happiness to thrive here according to his wish, though he be driven hereafter to undergo eternal punishment.  Therefore that man only sees it to be nothing for the wicked man to thrive, who has already removed the step of his heart from the love of the present world.  Hence, in speaking of the after condemnation of the wicked man, it is rightly premised, Ask anyone of the wayfarers, and ye shall "now that he understandeth these same things.  For he is called a ‘wayfarer,’ who minds that the present life is to him a way and not a native land, who thinks it beneath him to fix his heart on the love of this passing state of being, who longs, not to continue in a transitory scene of things, but to reach the eternal world.  For he that does not aim to be a wayfarer in this world, is far from setting at nought this world’s good fortune, and when he sees those things which he himself covets abounding to others, he wonders.  Hence the Prophet David, as he had already passed in heart from the love of the present world, in describing the glory of the wicked man, said; I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading like a green bay tree. [Ps. 37, 35. 36.]  But because he did not submit his heart to this world, he justly looked down upon him, saying; I passed on, but, lo, he was not.  For the wicked man would have been something in his esteem, if he had not himself passed on in the bent of his mind from this present scene.  But this man, who [Oxf. Mss. read ‘qui’] to one not ‘passing by’ would have been something great, to one ‘passing by’ in mind, how little he was, was shewn; in that whilst everlasting retribution is thought on, it is seen how little present glory is.  Hence Moses, when he was seeking the glory of heavenly contemplation, said, I will now pass on, and see this great sight. [Ex. 3, 3]  For except he had withdrawn the footstep of the heart from the love of the world, he would never have been able to understand things above.  Hence Jeremiah entreating for the sorrow of his heart to be taken thought on, saith, All ye that pass by, Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow! [Lam. 1, 12]  For they who do not pass through the present life like a way, but think on it as their country, are unskilled to take in with the mind’s eye the sorrow of heart of the Elect.  These persons therefore the Prophet looks out, that they may view his sorrow, whose it was not to have set fast their mind in this world.  Hence it is said by Solomon, Open thy mouth for the dumb, and in the cause of all such as are passing by.  For those are called ‘the dumb,’ who never set themselves against the Preacher’s words by gainsaying them; who are also persons ‘passing by,’ in that they disdain to fix the bent of their mind in the love of the present life.  Therefore that the bad man is being ‘reserved for the day of perdition,’ and ‘brought to the day of fury,’ this thing there is none but he who is ‘a wayfarer’ that understandeth, in that he that has set his heart in the present scene of things does not find out the punishments that follow the wicked man.  Of whom it is still further added;

Ver. 31.  Who shall reprove his way to his face?  and who shall repay him what he hath done?




69.  Often that wrath of God, which the wicked man is to suffer for ever, even while placed in this life too he is made to experience, whilst he loses the good fortune that he loves, and meets with the adversity that he dreads.  And though even in prosperity he may be rebuked for his wickednesses by the tongue of the righteous, yet we know that it is when his evil deeds bring the bad man to the earth, that the reproof of the righteous gains force.  But in what sense is it now said, Who shall reprove his way to his face?  seeing that the righteous even holding their peace this too is well known, that so often is ‘the way of the wicked man reproved to his face’ here, as often as his prosperity is disturbed by adversity intervening.  But blessed Job, while he was speaking of the body of all the wicked, suddenly turns his words to the head of all the wicked. 




For he saw that at the end of the world Satan entering into the man, whom Holy Scripture calls Antichrist, is lifted up with such exaltation, lords it with such power, is exalted with such wonderful signs and marvels in the exhibiting of holiness, that his deeds cannot be charged home to him by man, in that with the power of terribleness he likewise unites the signs of holiness which is exhibited, and he says, Who shall reprove his way to his face?  ‘Who,’ that is to say, ‘of mankind may dare to rebuke him?  whose face does he dread to endure [or, ‘the sight of whom he dreads’]?  Yet not only Elijah and Enoch who are brought forward for the rebuking of him, but even all the Elect ‘reprove his way to his face,’ whilst they shew contempt, and whilst by excellence of mind they oppose his wickedness.  But because this they do by divine grace and not by their own powers, it is rightly said now, Who shall reprove his way before his face?  For ‘who’ is there save God, by whose aid the Elect are supported to have power to withstand him?  For sometimes in Holy Scripture, when in asking a question the word ‘who’ is put, the Almighty is denoted.  Hence it is written, Who shall raise him up? [Gen. 49. 9]  Of Whom it is said by Paul, Whom God raised from the dead. [Gal. 1, 1]  In respect then that holy men oppose themselves to his wickedness, it is not themselves, that ‘reprove his way,’ but it is He, by Whose grace they are strengthened, and whereas his presence, wherewith he will come in man, will be much more dreadful in persecution than it is now, when he is not seen at all, in that he is not as yet preeminently borne by that special vessel of his, it is well said, before his face.  For there are many now who judge and rebuke the ways of Antichrist, but this they do as it were in his absence, in that they rebuke him whom they do not as yet in a special manner see.  But when he shall come in that damned man, whoever withstands his presence, ‘reproves his way before his face,’ the powers of whom he at once sees and sets at nought.  Or surely, to ‘reprove his way before his face’ is to disturb the prosperity of his course by the interrupting of eternal punishment.  Which thing because the Lord alone is to do by His own might, of Whom it is written, Whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming, [2 Thess. 2, 8] it is rightly said, Who shall reprove his way before his face?  And hence the words follow, And who shall repay him what he hath done?  Who, truly, save the Lord, Who alone shall ‘repay that lost man what he hath done,’ when by His coming He shall dash in pieces his exceeding mighty power with eternal damnation?  But what this exalted prince of the wicked is about, as long as he is in this life, let us hear.  It goes on;

Ver. 32.  He shall be brought to the graves, and in the heap of the dead bodies he shall watch.




70.  Whereas graves cover dead bodies, what else is denoted by ‘the graves’ but the lost, in whom their souls extinct of the life of blessedness lie as in graves?  Thus this wicked one shall be ‘brought to the graves,’ in that he shall be admitted in the hearts of the wicked, in that they only admit him, in whom are found souls dead to God, concerning whom it is rightly said by the Prophet likewise where his punishments are described, His graves are about him, all the slain, and those that felt by the sword.  For they in hell ‘are about him,’ in whom that evil spirit lies dead, which same fell, having been slain by the sword of his wickedness.  Whence it is written, Who hast delivered David Thy servant from the hurtful sword.  And it is rightly said, in the heap of the dead bodies he shall watch, in that now in the assembly of sinners he puts forth the artifices of his cunning.  And on this account, that in the world there is a scarcity of good men, and a multitude of bad, it is rightly called ‘the heap of dead bodies,’ that the very multitude of the wicked might be denoted.  For broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat. [Matt. 7, 13]  So Satan’s ‘keeping watch in the heap of dead bodies,’ is his exercising the wiles of his wickedness in the hearts of the children of perdition.  Of whom it is yet further added;

Ver. 33.  He was sweet to the pebbles of Cocytus.




71.  ‘Cocytus’ in the Greek tongue is the term for ‘lamentation,’ which is used to be taken for the lamentation of women, or any persons going weakly.  Now the wise of this world being shut out from the light of truth, endeavoured by making search to hold a kind of shadows of truth.  Hence they thought that the river Cocytus ran amongst the dead below, clearly denoting that they that commit deeds worthy of painful inflictions, run to an end into hell unto lamentation.  But for ourselves let us make little of the shadow of carnal wisdom, who now hold the light relating to the truth, and let us see that in the utterance of the holy man ‘Cocytus’ means the lamentation of the weak sort.  For it is written, Be of good courage, and let your heart be strengthened. [Ps. 31, 24]  For they who refuse to be ‘strengthened’ in God, are going the way to lamentation through weakness of the mind.  Now we are used to call by the name of pebbles the little stones of rivers, which the water in running away carries along with it.  What then is denoted by the pebbles of Cocytus, but the lost, who, being devoted to their gratifications, are as it were ever being dragged by the river down to the lowest depth.  For they that refuse to stand strong and stedfast against the pleasures of this life, become ‘pebbles of Cocytus,’ who by their slippings day by day are going the way to lamentation, that they may hereafter mourn for everlasting, who now indulgently give themselves a loose in their pleasures.  And whereas our old enemy, having entered into his vessel, that son of perdition, whilst he bestows gifts on the wicked, whilst he exalts them with honours in this world, whilst he exhibits marvels to their eyes, has all drifting souls admiring and following him in his marvels, it is said well of him here, He was sweet to the pebbles of Cocytus.  For whilst the Elect despise him, whilst they spurn him with the foot of the mind, those love while they follow him, who are as it were drawn by the water of pleasure to everlasting lamentation, who from earthly concupiscence roll down to the lowest depth like gravel, by slippings day by day.  For to some he proffers the taste of his sweetness through pride, to others through avarice; to one set by envy, to another by deceitfulness, and to another by lust, and for all the kinds of evil that he forces men to, he presents to them so many draughts of his sweetness.  For when he prompts any thing proud in the heart, the thing becomes sweet that he says, because the wicked man longs to appear advanced above the rest of the world.  Whilst he strives to infuse avarice into the mind, that which he speaks in secret becomes sweet, because by abundance need is avoided.  When he suggests any thing to do with envy, what he says is rendered sweet, in that when the froward mind sees another go off, it exults in not appearing at all inferior to him.  When it prompts any thing to do with deceitfulness, what it says is made sweet, seeing that by this alone, that it deceives the rest of the world, it appears to itself to be wise.  When it speaks lust to the seduced soul, what it recommends is rendered sweet, in that it dissolves the soul in pleasure.  Therefore, for all the evil propensities that it insinuates into the hearts of carnal men, it as it were holds out to them so many draughts of its sweetness; which same sweetness, however, as I have before said, none receive save they, who being devoted to present gratifications, are drawn to everlasting lamentation.  And so it is well said, He was sweet to the pebbles of Cocytus; seeing that he is bitter to the Elect and sweet to the lost.  For them only does he feed with his delights, whom by daily slippings he is urging to lamentations, It goes on;

Ver. 33.  And he draweth every man after him, as there are innumerable before him.




72.  In this place by ‘man’ is meant one whose taste is for things human.  But whereas ‘everyone’ is more than an ‘innumerable’ quantity, we have to enquire, wherefore he is said before him to draw an ‘innumerable’ quantity, and after him ‘every man’ saving that our old enemy, having then entered into the man of perdition, drags under the yoke of his sovereignty all the carnal ones that he finds; who even now before his appearing ‘draws an innumerable quantity’ indeed, yet not ‘everyone’ of the carnal, in that there are many that are daily recalled to life from carnal practice, and some by a short, others by a long course of penitence return to the state of righteousness.  And now he seizes on an ‘innumerable quantity,’ when he does not exhibit the miracles of his falseness for men to marvel at.  But when he performs his prodigies before the eyes of the carnal for them to wonder at, he then draws after him not an ‘innumerable quantity,’ but ‘everyone,’ in that they who delight themselves in present good things, submit themselves to his power without repeal.  But as we before said, because it is more to ‘draw every man’ than an ‘innumerable quantity,’ wherefore is it first said that he draws every man, and afterwards in augmentation an innumerable quantity is added?  For reason requires that first what is least should be spoken of, and afterwards in augmentation that which is more.  Now we are to know that in this passage it was more to say, ‘an innumerable quantity’ than ‘every man.’  For he after him ‘draws every man,’ in that in three years and a half all that he may find busied in the pursuits of a carnal life he binds fast to the yoke of his dominion; but before him he draws an innumerable quantity, in that during the successive stages of five thousand years and more, though he could never succeed in drawing all the carnal, yet in so long a period the innumerable quantity whom he carries away before him, are many more in number than ‘all’ whom he finds to carry off in that so short time.  And so it is well said, And he draweth every man after him, also innumerable before him; in that he both takes away less then, when he takes away ‘every man,’ and he gets a bigger booty now, when he assails the hearts of an ‘innumerable quantity.’  Whereas blessed Job then delivered these things excellently against the prince of the wicked, who is permitted to be exalted in this life, but will be destroyed in the coming of the Lord,




touching himself he plainly shews that he received the scourges of the Lord not by his offending, since if the bad man is permitted to prosper ‘in this life, it is necessary that the elect of God should be held fast under the reins of the scourge.  From which circumstance he reproves his friends, saying,

How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing your answer is shewn to be against Truth?




73.  The friends of blessed Job could not console him, in whom they gainsaid the truth by their discourse, and when they called him a hypocrite or ungodly, hereby that they themselves by lying were guilty of sin, assuredly they augmented the chastisement of the righteous man chastened with wounds.  For the minds of the Saints, because they love the truth, even the sin of another’s deceit wrings.  For in proportion as they see the guilt of falsehood to be grievous, they hate it not only in themselves, but in others also.