Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Job 24:20

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

The womb shall forget him - The mother that bare him shall have no affection for him, nor be afflicted at his death. But the word רחם rechem signifies compassion, mercy. Mercy shall be unmindful of him. How dreadful such a state! When mercy itself forgets the sinner, his perdition slumbereth not. The worm shall feed sweetly on him - The Chaldee has, "The cruel, who have neglected to commiserate the poor, shall be sweet to the worms." He shall be brought into a state of the greatest degradation, and shall be no more remembered.

And wickedness shall be broken as a tree - He shall be as a rotten or decayed tree, easily broken to pieces. If it were clear that עולה avlah, here rendered wickedness, has the same sense as עלה aleh, a leaf, sucker, or shoot, then we might translate according to the ingenious version of Mr. Good; viz., But the shoot shall be broken off as a tree; which might, in this case, be supposed to refer to illicit commerce, the fruit of the womb becoming abortive.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

The womb shall forget him - His mother who bare him shall forget him. The idea here seems to be, that he shall fade out of the memory, just as other persons do. He shall not be overtaken with any disgraceful punishment, thus giving occasion to remember him by a death of ignominy. At first view it would seem to be a calamity to be soon forgotten by a mother; but if the above interpretation be correct, then it means that the condition of his death would be such that there would be no occasion for a mother to remember him with sorrow and shame, as she would one who was ignominiously executed for his crimes. This interpretation was proposed by Mercer, and has been adopted by Rosenmuller, Noyes, and others. It accords with the general scope of the passage, and is probably correct. Various other interpretations, however, have been proposed, which may be seen in Good, and in the Critici Sacri.

The worm shall feed sweetly on him - As on others. He shall die and be buried in the usual manner. He shall lie quietly in the grave, and there return to his native dust. He shall not be suspended on a gibbet, or torn and devoured by wild beasts; but his death and burial shall be peaceful and calm; see Job 21:26, note; Job 19:26, note.

He shall be no more remembered - As having been a man of eminent guilt, or as ignominiously punished. The meaning is, that there is nothing marked and distinguishing in his death. There is no special manifestation of the divine displeasure. There is some truth in this, that the wicked cease to be remembered. People hasten to forget them; and having done no good that makes them the objects of grateful reminiscence, their memory fades away. This, so far from being a calamity and a curse, Job regards as a favor. It would be a calamity to be remembered as a bad man, and as having died an ignominious death.

And wickedness shall be broken as a tree - Evil here or wickedness (עולה ‛avlâh ) means an evil or wicked man. The idea seems to be, that such a man would die as a tree that is stripped of its leaves and branches is broken down. He is not like a green tree that is violently torn up by the roots in a storm, or twisted off in a tempest, but like a dry tree that begins to decay, and that falls down gently by its own weight. It lives to be old, and then quietly sinks on the ground and dies. So Job says it is with the wicked. They are not swept away by the divine judgments, as the trees of the forest are torn up by the roots or twisted off by the tornado.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Sometimes how gradual is the decay, how quiet the departure of a wicked person, how is he honoured, and how soon are all his cruelties and oppressions forgotten! They are taken off with other men, as the harvestman gathers the ears of corn as they come to hand. There will often appear much to resemble the wrong view of Providence Job takes in this chapter. But we are taught by the word of inspiration, that these notions are formed in ignorance, from partial views. The providence of God, in the affairs of men, is in every thing a just and wise providence. Let us apply this whenever the Lord may try us. He cannot do wrong. The unequalled sorrows of the Son of God when on earth, unless looked at in this view, perplex the mind. But when we behold him, as the sinner's Surety, bearing the curse, we can explain why he should endure that wrath which was due to sin, that Divine justice might be satisfied, and his people saved.