Job 21

Job’s Sixth Response[a]

Chapter 21

The Very Thought of My Plight Fills Me with Horror.[b] 1 Job then answered with these words:

2 “Listen carefully to my words;
at the very least, grant me this consolation.
3 Bear with me while I speak;
once I have finished, you may jeer.
4 “Is my complaint limited to my fellow men?
Do I not have good reason to be impatient?
5 If you consider my plight carefully,
you will have good reason to be appalled
and to place your hand over your mouth.
6 The very thought of it fills me with horror,
and my entire body shudders.

Why Do the Wicked Continue To Survive?[c]

7 “Why do the wicked continue to survive,
achieving old age and increasing in power?
8 They behold their children established around them
and their descendants continuing to flourish.
9 Their households are secure, with no cause for fear;
the rod of God does not descend upon them.
10 Their bulls breed without fail;
their cows give birth without miscarriage.
11 “The wicked send forth children as a flock;
their little ones dance and frolic.
12 They sing to the sound of the tambourine and the harp
and rejoice at the playing of the flute.
13 They spend their days in prosperity
and go down to the netherworld in peace.

They Say to God, “Leave Us Alone!”

14 “Despite this, these people say to God,
‘Leave us alone!
We do not want to learn your ways.
15 Who is the Almighty that we should serve him?
And what would we gain by praying to him?’
16 Is not the prosperity of the wicked
the result of their own efforts,
since they have never sought God’s help?

How Often?[d]

17 “Yet, how often is the lamp of the wicked extinguished?
How often does calamity befall them
as God in his anger uses his retribution to repay them?
18 How often are they like straw blown away by the wind
or like chaff that the storm carries off?

What Concern Will He Have for His Family?[e]

19 “According to you, God stores up punishment for a man’s children,
but the wicked should be the ones punished and requited for their evil.
20 Let his own eyes witness the destruction of God
that his sins have earned,
and let him quaff the wrath[f] of the Almighty!
21 For what concern will he have for his family
once his allotted number of months has been completed?

All Are Consigned To Lie Down in the Earth

22 “Who can offer wisdom to God
when God judges those who are on high?
23 One man passes away while enjoying vigorous health,
blessed with security and contentment;
24 his loins are full of vigor
and his bones are rich in marrow.
25 Another dies in bitterness of soul,
never having tasted happiness.
26 Both are consigned to lie down in the earth
and worms soon cover them.

Have You Never Questioned Travelers?

27 “Believe me, I know what your thoughts are,
as well as the arguments you will use to counter me.
28 You will say, ‘Where now is the great lord’s house?
Where is the tent in which the wicked man dwelled?’
29 Have you never questioned travelers?
Do you ever listen to the evidence they proffer?
30 They testify that the wicked man is saved from disaster
and is rescued before the day of wrath.
31 “Who will reproach him for his conduct
and repay him for the evil he has done?
32 When he is carried to the grave,
a watch is maintained over his tomb.
33 The clods of the valley are sweet to him;[g]
the remainder of mankind will follow him,
and those who preceded him are beyond counting.
34 How then can you possibly offer me any comfort
when your words lack any semblance of truth?”


  1. Job 21:1 Looking beyond his own experience, Job thinks of the human condition as a whole. He is aware of how serious his claim is: he raises the problem of evil, and it is the very justice of God that seems to be in the wrong.
  2. Job 21:1 This new consciousness of the problem of evil overwhelms the author himself.
  3. Job 21:7 Job paints a picture of the scandalous success of the wicked: peace, riches, children, pleasures—nothing is lacking to this happiness that accompanies evildoers to their grave (see Jer 12:1-2).
  4. Job 21:17 People say that the happiness of the wicked is fragile and ephemeral. Job skeptically asks how often this is really the case.
  5. Job 21:19 The ancient principle of collective retribution said that children are punished for their parents’ sins (Job 5:4; 20:10; Deut 5:9). Job no longer accepts this explanation. Job demands that each person be repaid according to his or her deeds.
  6. Job 21:20 Let him quaff the wrath: an allusion to the cup containing the wine of the divine wrath (see Isa 51:17; Jer 25:15; Rev 16:19).
  7. Job 21:33 The clods of the valley are sweet to him: this line recalls the ancient wish spoken to those who were buried: “May the earth rest lightly upon you” (Sit tibi terra levis).

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