That the triumphing - The word “triumphing” here (רננה renânâh ),” shouting, rejoicing” - such a shouting as people make after a victory, or such as occurred at the close of harvesting. Here it means that the occasion which the wicked had for rejoicing would be brief. It would be but for a moment, and he then would be overwhelmed with calamity or cut off by death.
Short - Margin, as in Hebrew “from near.” That is, it would be soon over.
And the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment? - This probably means, as used by Zophar, that the happiness of a hypocrite would be brief - referring to the happiness arising from the possession of health, life, property, friends, reputation. Soon God would take away all these, and leave him to sorrow. This, he said, was the regular course of events as they had been observed from the earliest times. But the “language” conveys most important truths in reference to the spiritual joys of the hypocrite at all times, though it is not certain that Zophar used it in this sense. The truths are these.
(1) There is a kind of joy which a hypocrite may have - the counterfeit of that which a true Christian possesses. The word “hypocrite” may be used in a large sense to denote the man who is a professor of religion, but who has none, as well as him who intentionally imposes on others, and who makes pretensions to piety which he knows he has not. Such a man may have joy. He supposes that his sins are forgiven, and that he has a well-founded hope of eternal life. He may have been greatly distressed in view of his sin and danger, and when he supposes that his heart is changed, and that the danger is passed, from the nature of the case he will have a species of enjoyment. A man is confined in a dungeon under sentence of death. A forged instrument of pardon is brought to him. He does not know that it is forged, and supposes the danger is past, and his joy will be as real as though the pardon were genuine. So with the man who “supposes” that his sins are forgiven.
(2) The joy of the self-deceiver or the hypocrite will be short. There is no genuine religion to sustain it, and it soon dies away. It may be at first very elevated, just as the joy of the man who supposed that he was pardoned would fill him with exultation. But in the case of the hypocrite it soon dies away. He has no true love to God; he has never been truly reconciled to him; he has no real faith in Christ; he has no sincere love of prayer, of the Bible, or of Christians and soon the temporary excitement dies away, and he lives without comfort or peace. He may be a professor of religion, but with him it is a matter of form, and he has neither love nor zeal in the cause of his professed Master. Motives of pride, or the desire of a reputation for piety, or some other selfish aim may keep him in the church, and he lives to shed blighting on all around him. Or if, under the illusion, he should be enabled to keep up some emotions of happiness in his bosom, they must soon cease, for to the hypocrite death will soon end it all. How much does it become us, therefore, to inquire whether the peace which we seek and which we may possess in religion, is the genuine happiness which results from true reconciliation to God and a well founded hope of salvation. Sad will be the disappointment of him who has cherished a hope of heaven through life, should he at last sink down to hell! Deep the condemnation of him who has professed to be a friend of God, and who has been at heart his bitter foe; who has endeavored to keep up the forms of religion, but who has been a stranger through life to the true peace which religion produces!