In-Depth Edition

II. The Manifestation of God’s Judgment


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Chapter 10  Part II

The Manifestation of God’s Judgment

See also:

The topic of God’s judgment – particularly its manifestation – is often avoided, as it contains much that is anything but “nice”. However it contains some of the most awe-inspiring teaching, and even reason for hope for God’s people.

Means of God’s Judicial Retribution


See also:

1Chr 21:15a  And God sent the angel to Jerusalem to destroy it, but as he was about to destroy it, the Lord saw, and he relented from the calamity. And he said to the angel who was working destruction, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” ▤ 

Ps 78:49  He let loose on them his burning anger, wrath, indignation, and distress, a company of destroying angels. ▤ 

This is referring to the last of the ten Egyptians plagues – the death of every firstborn male – carried out by angels.

Zec 6:1-8  Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four chariots came out from between two mountains. And the mountains were mountains of bronze. 2The first chariot had red horses, the second black horses, 3the third white horses, and the fourth chariot dappled horses—all of them strong.a 4Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” 5And the angel answered and said to me, “These are going out to the four winds of heaven, after presenting themselves before the Lord of all the earth. 6The chariot with the black horses goes toward the north country, the white ones go after them, and the dappled ones go toward the south country.” 7When the strong horses came out, they were impatient to go and patrol the earth. And he said, “Go, patrol the earth.” So they patrolled the earth. 8Then he cried to me, “Behold, those who go toward the north country have set my Spirit at rest in the north country.” ▤ 

a Or and the fourth chariot strong dappled horses

The “chariots” are angelic spirits (v. 5) sent throughout the earth by the angel speaking in the vision (v. 7), to carry out God’s judgment. Note that v. 8 suggests that the works of judgment in the north appeased God’s wrath (cf. GNT, NASB, NLT).

Matt 13:40-42  Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. ▤ 

1Cor 10:10  … nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. ▤ 

The “Destroyer” is likely an angel who carried out God’s judgment during the exodus.

Acts 12:23  Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. ▤ 

Rev 8:5  Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings,b flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. ▤ 

b Or voices, or sounds

Note that judgments spoken of in Revelation (cf. Rev 14:19-20 ; Rev 15:5-16:4 ) are generally from apocalyptic visions, much of which is symbolic.

Rev 14:19-20  So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.c ▤ 

c About 184 miles; a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters

For comment, see Rev 14:18-20 – under Horrific consequences . . ..

Rev 15:5-816:1-4  After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tentd of witness in heaven was opened, 6and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. 7And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, 8and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished. ▤  16 :1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” 2So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. 3The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea. 4The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. ▤ 

d Or tabernacle

The judgments enacted by the other four of the seven angels are contained in vv. 8-21. Further examples of angels carrying out God’s judgments are contained elsewhere in Revelation.


See also:

Gen 3:17-18  And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. ▤ 

Gen 7:4, 11-12, 20-21  For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thinge that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” ▤ 11In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. ▤ 20The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubitsf deep. 21And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. ▤ 

e Hebrew all existence; also verse 23

f A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters

Ps 105:28-35  He sent darkness, and made the land [of Egypt] dark; they did not rebelg against his words. 29He turned their waters into blood and caused their fish to die. 30Their land swarmed with frogs, even in the chambers of their kings. 31He spoke, and there came swarms of flies, and gnats throughout their country. 32He gave them hail for rain, and fiery lightning bolts through their land. 33He struck down their vines and fig trees, and shattered the trees of their country. 34He spoke, and the locusts came, young locusts without number, 35which devoured all the vegetation in their land and ate up the fruit of their ground. ▤ 

g Septuagint, Syriac omit not

Num 16:30-33  But if the Lord creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the Lord.” 31And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. ▤ 

Deut 28:22-24  The Lord will strike you with wasting disease and with fever, inflammation and fiery heat, and with droughth and with blight and with mildew. They shall pursue you until you perish. 23And the heavens over your head shall be bronze, and the earth under you shall be iron. 24The Lord will make the rain of your land powder. From heaven dust shall come down on you until you are destroyed. ▤ 

h Or sword

Jer 8:17  For behold, I am sending among you serpents, adders that cannot be charmed, and they shall bite you,” declares the Lord. ▤ 

Ezek 38:22  With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him, and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples who are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur. ▤ 

Joel 1:4  What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten. ▤ 

Luke 21:11  There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. ▤ 

Note that judgment is not necessarily the primary aim of all these events.

  • The judgment inflicted on Sodom and Gomorrah:

Gen 19:24-25  Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. 25And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. ▤ 

Rulers . . .

See also:

Rom 13:3-4  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. ▤ 

1Chr 5:26  So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, the spirit of Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and he took them into exile, namely, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan, to this day. ▤ 

Isa 7:20  In that day the Lord will shave with a razor that is hired beyond the River—with the king of Assyria—the head and the hair of the feet, and it will sweep away the beard also. ▤ 

The shaving imagery may be metaphorical, alluding to the humiliation of such shaving of the body, while actually referring to the removing or destroying of such things as their crops, livestock and the people themselves (cf. NLT).

Ezek 29:18, 20  Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made his army labor hard against Tyre. Every head was made bald, and every shoulder was rubbed bare, yet neither he nor his army got anything from Tyre to pay for the labor that he had performed against her. ▤ 20I have given him the land of Egypt as his payment for which he labored, because they worked for me, declares the Lord God. ▤ 

Jer 51:11  Sharpen the arrows! Take up the shields! The Lord has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because his purpose concerning Babylon is to destroy it, for that is the vengeance of the Lord, the vengeance for his temple. ▤ 

. . . and nations

Hab 1:6, 12b  [God:] For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. ▤ 12… [Habakkuk:] O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof. ▤ 

2Ki 24:2  And the Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldeans and bands of the Syrians and bands of the Moabites and bands of the Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by his servants the prophets. ▤ 

2Chr 24:24  Though the army of the Syrians had come with few men, the Lord delivered into their hand a very great army, because Judahi had forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers. Thus they executed judgment on Joash. ▤ 

i Hebrew they

Isa 9:11-12  But the Lord raises the adversaries of Rezin against him, and stirs up his enemies. 12The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. ▤ 

Note that Rezin (v. 11) was king of Aram, at this point allied with the northern kingdom of Israel.

Jer 5:15-17  Behold, I am bringing against you a nation from afar, O house of Israel, declares the Lord. It is an enduring nation; it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language you do not know, nor can you understand what they say. 16Their quiver is like an open tomb; they are all mighty warriors. 17They shall eat up your harvest and your food; they shall eat up your sons and your daughters; they shall eat up your flocks and your herds; they shall eat up your vines and your fig trees; your fortified cities in which you trust they shall beat down with the sword. ▤ 

Jer 25:9  … behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the Lord, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. ▤ 

Jer 50:9  For behold, I am stirring up and bringing against Babylon a gathering of great nations, from the north country. And they shall array themselves against her. From there she shall be taken. Their arrows are like a skilled warrior who does not return empty-handed. ▤ 

Jer 51:27-29  Set up a standard on the earth; blow the trumpet among the nations; prepare the nations for war against her; summon against her the kingdoms, Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz; appoint a marshal against her; bring up horses like bristling locusts. 28Prepare the nations for war against her, the kings of the Medes, with their governors and deputies, and every land under their dominion. 29The land trembles and writhes in pain, for the Lord’s purposes against Babylon stand, to make the land of Babylon a desolation, without inhabitant. ▤ 

God’s own people

Josh 7:25  And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. ▤ 

Josh 11:16-20  So Joshua took all that land, the hill country and all the Negeb and all the land of Goshen and the lowland and the Arabah and the hill country of Israel and its lowland 17from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, as far as Baal-gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. And he captured all their kings and struck them and put them to death. 18Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. 19There was not a city that made peace with the people of Israel except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon. They took them all in battle. 20For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Lord commanded Moses. ▤ 

God used the Israelites to bring his judgment on the inhabitants of Canaan once their sin was “complete” (cf. Gen 15:16).

Ps 149:6-9  Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, 7to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples, 8to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, 9to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the Lord! ▤ 

This presumably has in view judgment on the previous nations of Canaan or later enemies of Israel.

Ezek 25:14  And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel, and they shall do in Edom according to my anger and according to my wrath, and they shall know my vengeance, declares the Lord God. ▤ 

2Ki 5:26-27  But he [the prophet Elisha] said to him, “Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants? 27Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow. ▤ 

This and the following two references from Acts are examples of God’s people pronouncing God’s immediate judgment. As such they are in a sense at least the means of God’s judicial retribution – or part thereof.

Acts 5:9-10  But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. ▤ 

Acts 13:8-11  But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

Characteristics of God’s Judicial Retribution

Note that not all instances of God’s judicial retribution display all of the following characteristics – certainly not to the extent of which they are spoken of here. Much of the judgment spoken of in this section is conclusive in its purpose, bringing the finality of death – as opposed to, for example, God’s disciplinary judgment.

Awesome power . . .

See also:

Ex 6:6  Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. ▤ 

Such “great acts of judgment” involve “mighty power” (CEV, NLT).

Isa 5:26-30  He will raise a signal for nations far away, and whistle for them from the ends of the earth; and behold, quickly, speedily they come! 27None is weary, none stumbles, none slumbers or sleeps, not a waistband is loose, not a sandal strap broken; 28their arrows are sharp, all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs seem like flint, and their wheels like the whirlwind. 29Their roaring is like a lion, like young lions they roar; they growl and seize their prey; they carry it off, and none can rescue. 30They will growl over it on that day, like the growling of the sea. And if one looks to the land, behold, darkness and distress; and the light is darkened by its clouds. ▤ 

As with some of the following passages, this speaks of God using powerful foreign armies to execute his judgment.

Isa 10:17-18, 33  The light of Israel will become a fire, and his Holy One a flame, and it will burn and devour his [the Assyrian king’s] thorns and briers in one day. 18The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land the Lord will destroy, both soul and body, and it will be as when a sick man wastes away. ▤ 33Behold, the Lord God of hosts will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the great in height will be hewn down, and the lofty will be brought low. ▤ 

The thorns, briers (v. 17), forests, fields (v. 18), boughs (v. 33) refer primarily to the Assyrian troops – although quite possibly the “glory of his forest and of his fruitful land” allude to the splendor of the Assyrian empire itself. Such is the “terrifying power” (v. 33) of God’s judicial retribution, God would completely destroy the Assyrian forces in a single day (v. 17).

Isa 13:4-5  The sound of a tumult is on the mountains as of a great multitude! The sound of an uproar of kingdoms, of nations gathering together! The Lord of hosts is mustering a host for battle. 5They come from a distant land, from the end of the heavens, the Lord and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land.j ▤ 

j Or earth; also verse 9

Isa 27:1  In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea. ▤ 

Leviathan is taken from Canaanite mythology. There are differing ideas as to what it represents here. Possibilities include wicked nations, evil powers and even Satan.

Isa 29:5-7  But the multitude of your foreign foes shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the ruthless like passing chaff. And in an instant, suddenly, 6you will be visited by the Lord of hosts with thunder and with earthquake and great noise, with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire. 7And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, all that fight against her and her stronghold and distress her, shall be like a dream, a vision of the night. ▤ 

“Ariel” (v. 7) refers to Jerusalem. The Lord would come to her aid with awesome power and effect.

Jer 25:30-32  You, therefore, shall prophesy against them all these words, and say to them: “‘The Lord will roar from on high, and from his holy habitation utter his voice; he will roar mightily against his fold, and shout, like those who tread grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. 31The clamor will resound to the ends of the earth, for the Lord has an indictment against the nations; he is entering into judgment with all flesh, and the wicked he will put to the sword, declares the Lord.’ 32“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Behold, disaster is going forth from nation to nation, and a great tempest is stirring from the farthest parts of the earth! ▤ 

The “great tempest” (v. 32) denotes a very powerful force – the Babylonians – and/or its destructive effects.

Ezek 14:21  For thus says the Lord God: How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous acts of judgment, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast! ▤ 

The awesome power of these four “severe judgments” (NASB, NKJV) would be felt by Jerusalem, with them causing devastating consequences.

Joel 2:1-2  Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near, 2a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations. ▤ 

This speaks of an immense locust plague that God used for inflicting his judgment, utterly devastating the land.

Rev 18:8  For this reason her plagues will come in a single day, death and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her. ▤ 

. . . and irresistible

See also:

Num 24:21-23  And he looked on the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said, “Enduring is your dwelling place, and your nest is set in the rock. 22Nevertheless, Kain shall be burned when Asshur takes you away captive.” 23And he took up his discourse and said, “Alas, who shall live when God does this? ▤ 

The rhetorical question (v. 23) implies that no one can resist or endure God’s judgment.

Joel 2:11  The Lord utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it? ▤ 

Mal 3:2  But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. ▤ 

This seems to be speaking of God judging his people through Jesus Christ on his return, in which he will purify them and take action against the evil among them (cf. vv. 2b-5). God and Jesus Christ are also both in view in Revelation 6:17 immediately below.

Rev 6:16b-17  “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” ▤ 

Isa 47:11  But evil shall come upon you, which you will not know how to charm away; disaster shall fall upon you, for which you will not be able to atone; and ruin shall come upon you suddenly, of which you know nothing. ▤ 

Jer 51:53, 58  Though Babylon should mount up to heaven, and though she should fortify her strong height, yet destroyers would come from me against her, declares the Lord. ▤ 58“Thus says the Lord of hosts: The broad wall of Babylon shall be leveled to the ground, and her high gates shall be burned with fire. The peoples labor for nothing, and the nations weary themselves only for fire.” ▤ 

The last part of v. 58 refers to peoples of the nations used as slaves by Babylon in building its defenses. All their efforts will be for nothing in the face of God’s overwhelming judgment.

Amos 2:13-15  Behold, I will press you down in your place, as a cart full of sheaves presses down. 14Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not retain his strength, nor shall the mighty save his life; 15he who handles the bow shall not stand, and he who is swift of foot shall not save himself, nor shall he who rides the horse save his life; … ▤ 

Amos 5:6  Seek the Lord and live, lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel, … ▤ 

Mic 2:3  Therefore thus says the Lord: behold, against this family I am devising disaster,k from which you cannot remove your necks, and you shall not walk haughtily, for it will be a time of disaster. ▤ 

k The same Hebrew word can mean evil or disaster, depending on the context

  • The effects of God’s judgment on his people would be incurable:

Jer 30:12-13, 15  For thus says the Lord: Your hurt is incurable, and your wound is grievous. 13There is none to uphold your cause, no medicine for your wound, no healing for you. ▤ 15Why do you cry out over your hurt? Your pain is incurable. Because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant, I have done these things to you. ▤ 

Jeremiah figuratively illustrates that no one or nothing (apart from God himself) could cure the people’s plight resulting from God’s judgment. He makes the same point with similar imagery in 8:22 and 14:19.


See also:

Job 11:20  But the eyes of the wicked will fail; all way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last. ▤ 

Jer 11:11  Therefore, thus says the Lord, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them. ▤ 

Jer 25:34-35  Wail, you shepherds, and cry out, and roll in ashes, you lords of the flock, for the days of your slaughter and dispersion have come, and you shall fall like a choice vessel. 35No refuge will remain for the shepherds, nor escape for the lords of the flock. ▤ 

Jer 46:5b-6  Their warriors are beaten down and have fled in haste; they look not back— terror on every side! declares the Lord. 6“The swift cannot flee away, nor the warrior escape; in the north by the river Euphrates they have stumbled and fallen. ▤ 

Lam 2:22  You summoned as if to a festival day my terrors on every side, and on the day of the anger of the Lord no one escaped or survived; those whom I held and raised my enemy destroyed. ▤ 

Joel 2:3  Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them. ▤ 

Amos 9:1-4  I saw the Lord standing besidel the altar, and he said: “Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake, and shatter them on the heads of all the people;m and those who are left of them I will kill with the sword; not one of them shall flee away; not one of them shall escape. 2“If they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them; if they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down. 3If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, from there I will search them out and take them; and if they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them. 4And if they go into captivity before their enemies, there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them; and I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.” ▤ 

l Or on

m Hebrew all of them

Matt 23:33  You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? ▤ 

Rom 2:3  Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? ▤ 

1Thes 5:1-3  Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers,n you have no need to have anything written to you. 2For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. ▤ 

n Or brothers and sisters; also verses 4, 12, 14, 25, 26, 27

Heb 2:2-3a  For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? ▤ 

Heb 12:25  See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. ▤ 

Amos 5:18-20  Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light, 19as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. 20Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? ▤ 

The two scenes in v. 19 illustrate how inescapable judgment will be on “the day of the Lord” (vv. 18, 20), showing that while fleeing one danger people would be beset by another. Isaiah 24:18a has a similar illustration: “He who flees at the sound of the terror shall fall into the pit, and he who climbs out of the pit shall be caught in the snare.”

  • All people for whom God’s judgment is intended will succumb to it:

Ezek 6:12  He who is far off shall die of pestilence, and he who is near shall fall by the sword, and he who is left and is preserved shall die of famine. Thus I will spend my fury upon them. ▤ 

Terrifying . . .

See also:

Deut 32:25  Outdoors the sword shall bereave, and indoors terror, for young man and woman alike, the nursing child with the man of gray hairs. ▤ 

Isa 2:19  And people shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground,o from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth. ▤ 

o Hebrew dust

Isa 19:1, 16-17  An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them. ▤ 16In that day the Egyptians will be like women, and tremble with fear before the hand that the Lord of hosts shakes over them. 17And the land of Judah will become a terror to the Egyptians. Everyone to whom it is mentioned will fear because of the purpose that the Lord of hosts has purposed against them. ▤ 

Note that the last clause refers to what God is planning against Egypt.

Isa 21:2-4  A stern vision is told to me; the traitor betrays, and the destroyer destroys. Go up, O Elam; lay siege, O Media; all the sighing she has caused I bring to an end. 3Therefore my loins are filled with anguish; pangs have seized me, like the pangs of a woman in labor; I am bowed down so that I cannot hear; I am dismayed so that I cannot see. 4My heart staggers; horror has appalled me; the twilight I longed for has been turned for me into trembling. ▤ 

In vv. 3-4, either: Babylon is portrayed as speaking; or Isaiah is speaking – staggering and trembling because the vision of Babylon’s downfall (v. 2) is so dire and terrifying. Note that v. 3a probably portrays anguish more than terror, and as such is more pertinent to the following subsection.

Isa 28:18-19  Then your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, you will be beaten down by it. 19As often as it passes through it will take you; for morning by morning it will pass through, by day and by night; and it will be sheer terror to understand the message. ▤ 

Jer 4:9  “In that day, declares the Lord, courage shall fail both king and officials. The priests shall be appalled and the prophets astounded.” ▤ 

Such would be God’s judgment that the priests and the prophets would be “shocked and terrified” (CEV).

Ezek 22:14  Can your courage endure, or can your hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with you? I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it. ▤ 

This implies that no one’s courage would endure nor would anyone remain strong in the face of God’s awesome and terrifying judgment.

Ezek 32:10  I will make many peoples appalled at you, and the hair of their kings shall bristle with horror because of you, when I brandish my sword before them. They shall tremble every moment, every one for his own life, on the day of your downfall. ▤ 

God’s judgment on Egypt would be so staggering that the surrounding nations would be terrified by it.

Jer 46:5b  They are dismayed and have turned backward. Their warriors are beaten down and have fled in haste; they look not back— terror on every side! declares the Lord. ▤ 

Ezek 21:7  And when they say to you, ‘Why do you groan?’ you shall say, ‘Because of the news that it is coming. Every heart will melt, and all hands will be feeble; every spirit will faint, and all knees will be weak as water. Behold, it is coming, and it will be fulfilled,’” declares the Lord God. ▤ 

Nah 2:10  Desolate! Desolation and ruin! Hearts melt and knees tremble; anguish is in all loins; all faces grow pale! ▤ 

Heb 10:26-27, 30-31  For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. ▤ 30For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. ▤ 

. . . causing great grief and anguish

See also:

Ex 12:30  And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. ▤ 

Isa 8:22  And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness. ▤ 

Isa 13:6-8  Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almightyp it will come! 7Therefore all hands will be feeble, and every human heart will melt. 8They will be dismayed: pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at one another; their faces will be aflame. ▤ 

p The Hebrew words for destruction and almighty sound alike

Isa 50:11b  This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment. ▤ 

Jer 4:8, 19, 31  For this put on sackcloth, lament and wail, for the fierce anger of the Lord has not turned back from us.” ▤ 19My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent, for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. ▤ 31For I heard a cry as of a woman in labor, anguish as of one giving birth to her first child, the cry of the daughter of Zion gasping for breath, stretching out her hands, “Woe is me! I am fainting before murderers.” ▤ 

Jer 46:12  The nations have heard of your shame, and the earth is full of your cry; for warrior has stumbled against warrior; they have both fallen together. ▤ 

Jer 48:4-5, 20, 37  Moab is destroyed; her little ones have made a cry. 5For at the ascent of Luhith they go up weeping;q for at the descent of Horonaim they have heard the distressed cryr of destruction. ▤ 20Moab is put to shame, for it is broken; wail and cry! Tell it beside the Arnon, that Moab is laid waste. ▤ 37“For every head is shaved and every beard cut off. On all the hands are gashes, and around the waist is sackcloth. ▤ 

q Hebrew weeping goes up with weeping

r Septuagint (compare Isaiah 15:5) heard the cry

Luhith and Horonaim were likely towns or places in Moab. The references to “the ascent of Luhith” and “the descent of Horonaim” appear to speak of God’s retribution encompassing all of Moab, i.e. the heights and depths of Moab.

Jer 49:23-24  Concerning Damascus: “Hamath and Arpad are confounded, for they have heard bad news; they melt in fear, they are troubled like the sea that cannot be quiet. 24Damascus has become feeble, she turned to flee, and panic seized her; anguish and sorrows have taken hold of her, as of a woman in labor. ▤ 

Ezek 4:16  Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, behold, I will break the supplys of bread in Jerusalem. They shall eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and they shall drink water by measure and in dismay. ▤ 

s Hebrew staff

The references to “weight” and “measure” speak of rationing due to siege (cf. vv. 1-8).

Ezek 21:6, 12  As for you, son of man, groan; with breaking heart and bitter grief, groan before their eyes. ▤ 12Cry out and wail, son of man, for it is against my people. It is against all the princes of Israel. They are delivered over to the sword with my people. Strike therefore upon your thigh. ▤ 

The striking of the thigh (v. 12b) was indicative of lament.

Ezek 30:16  And I will set fire to Egypt; Pelusium shall be in great agony; Thebes shall be breached, and Memphis shall face enemiest by day. ▤ 

t Or distress

Amos 8:10  I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day. ▤ 

Matt 13:42  … and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. ▤ 

  • Prophecies of God’s judgment can be so grave as to be unbelievable:

Hab 1:5-6  Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. 6For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. ▤ 

Horrific consequences . . .

See also:

Ex 12:29  At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. ▤ 

Isa 5:14  Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure, and the nobility of Jerusalemu and her multitude will go down, her revelers and he who exults in her. ▤ 

u Hebrew her nobility

Jer 9:21-22  For death has come up into our windows; it has entered our palaces, cutting off the children from the streets and the young men from the squares. 22Speak, “Thus declares the Lord: ‘The dead bodies of men shall fall like dung upon the open field, like sheaves after the reaper, and none shall gather them.’” ▤ 

Jer 13:14  And I will dash them one against another, fathers and sons together, declares the Lord. I will not pity or spare or have compassion, that I should not destroy them. ▤ 

Jer 19:7-9  And in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth. 8And I will make this city a horror, a thing to be hissed at. Everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its wounds. 9And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his neighbor in the siege and in the distress, with which their enemies and those who seek their life afflict them. ▤ 

The references to hissing (v. 8) appear to speak of contempt or of condemnation.

Jer 25:33  And those pierced by the Lord on that day shall extend from one end of the earth to the other. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall be dung on the surface of the ground. ▤ 

Ezek 7:5-7  Thus says the Lord God: Disaster after disaster!v Behold, it comes. 6An end has come; the end has come; it has awakened against you. Behold, it comes. 7Your doomw has come to you, O inhabitant of the land. The time has come; the day is near, a day of tumult, and not of joyful shouting on the mountains. ▤ 

v Some Hebrew manuscripts (compare Syriac, Targum); most Hebrew manuscripts Disaster! A unique disaster!

w The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain; also verse 10

Ezek 32:4-6  And I will cast you on the ground; on the open field I will fling you, and will cause all the birds of the heavens to settle on you, and I will gorge the beasts of the whole earth with you. 5I will strew your flesh upon the mountains and fill the valleys with your carcass.x 6I will drench the land even to the mountains with your flowing blood, and the ravines will be full of you. ▤ 

x Hebrew your height

Amos 8:2-3  And he said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, “The endy has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass by them. 3The songs of the templez shall become wailingsa in that day,” declares the Lord God. “So many dead bodies!” “They are thrown everywhere!” “Silence!” ▤ 

y The Hebrew words for end and summer fruit sound alike

z Or palace

a Or The singing women of the palace shall wail

Nah 3:3  Horsemen charging, flashing sword and glittering spear, hosts of slain, heaps of corpses, dead bodies without end— they stumble over the bodies! ▤ 

1Cor 10:8  We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. ▤ 

Rev 9:5-6  They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. 6And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them. ▤ 

Rev 14:18-20  And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 19So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.b ▤ 

b About 184 miles; a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters

This is probably speaking of the final judgment, although some suggest that it may have in view the judgments of the end times. The trampling of grapes in a winepress was an OT symbol of God’s wrath and judgment on people (cf. Isa 63:3). The amount of shed blood is likely hyperbole, symbolizing incredible slaughter.

. . . even complete devastation

See also:

Gen 7:20-23  The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubitsc deep. 21And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. 22Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. ▤ 

c A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters

Deut 32:22  For a fire is kindled by my anger, and it burns to the depths of Sheol, devours the earth and its increase, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. ▤ 

This portrays judgment on Israel for breaking the covenant. It illustrates that there are no limitations to God’s wrath and the effects that it can have.

Isa 30:13-14  … therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant; 14and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern. ▤ 

This most likely means that the figurative wall of their sin would collapse, bringing their destruction – destruction so complete that nothing of value will be left (cf. GNT, NCV, NLT).

Jer 4:20, 23-26  Crash follows hard on crash; the whole land is laid waste. Suddenly my tents are laid waste, my curtains in a moment. ▤ 23I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. 24I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. 25I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled. 26I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger. ▤ 

This portrays the complete devastation of Judah.

Jer 12:11-12, 17  They have made it a desolation; desolate, it mourns to me. The whole land is made desolate, but no man lays it to heart. 12Upon all the bare heights in the desert destroyers have come, for the sword of the Lord devours from one end of the land to the other; no flesh has peace. ▤ 17But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, declares the Lord. ▤ 

Jer 19:10-11  Then you shall break the flask in the sight of the men who go with you, 11and shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: So will I break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, so that it can never be mended. Men shall bury in Topheth because there will be no place else to bury. ▤ 

Jer 50:26  Come against her from every quarter; open her granaries; pile her up like heaps of grain, and devote her to destruction; let nothing be left of her. ▤ 

Jer 51:26, 37  No stone shall be taken from you for a corner and no stone for a foundation, but you shall be a perpetual waste, declares the Lord. ▤ 37and Babylon shall become a heap of ruins, the haunt of jackals, a horror and a hissing, without inhabitant. ▤ 

Ezek 7:11b  None of them shall remain, nor their abundance, nor their wealth; neither shall there be preeminence among them.d ▤ 

d The meaning of this last Hebrew sentence is uncertain

Ezek 28:18-19  By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you. 19All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever. ▤ 

This speaks of the king of Tyre. Similarly 26:21 says of Tyre itself: “I will bring you to a horrible end and you will be no more. You will be sought, but you will never again be found, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

Ezek 32:15  When I make the land of Egypt desolate, and when the land is desolate of all that fills it, when I strike down all who dwell in it, then they will know that I am the Lord. ▤ 

Obad 1:5-6, 9, 18  If thieves came to you, if plunderers came by night— how you have been destroyed!— would they not steal only enough for themselves? If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleanings? 6How Esau has been pillaged, his treasures sought out! ▤ 9And your mighty men shall be dismayed, O Teman, so that every man from Mount Esau will be cut off by slaughter. ▤ 18The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau stubble; they shall burn them and consume them, and there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau, for the Lord has spoken. ▤ 

Unlike the aftermath of robbery or grape picking (v. 5), there would be nothing left of value in what was Edom (v. 6).

Zeph 3:6  I have cut off nations; their battlements are in ruins; I have laid waste their streets so that no one walks in them; their cities have been made desolate, without a man, without an inhabitant. ▤ 

  • God fully carries out his judgments:

Rom 9:28  … for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

The Wicked and God’s Pending Judgment

The wicked often prosper

Job 21:7-13, 16-18, 29-30  Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power? 8Their offspring are established in their presence, and their descendants before their eyes. 9Their houses are safe from fear, and no rod of God is upon them. 10Their bull breeds without fail; their cow calves and does not miscarry. 11They send out their little boys like a flock, and their children dance. 12They sing to the tambourine and the lyre and rejoice to the sound of the pipe. 13They spend their days in prosperity, and in peace they go down to Sheol. ▤ 16Behold, is not their prosperity in their hand? The counsel of the wicked is far from me. 17“How often is it that the lamp of the wicked is put out? That their calamity comes upon them? That Gode distributes pains in his anger? 18That they are like straw before the wind, and like chaff that the storm carries away? ▤ 29Have you not asked those who travel the roads, and do you not accept their testimony 30that the evil man is spared in the day of calamity, that he is rescued in the day of wrath? ▤ 

e Hebrew he

The implication of the rhetorical questions in vv 17-18 is that such things do not happen very often at all.

Ps 10:5-6  His ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for all his foes, he puffs at them. 6He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.” ▤ 

Ps 73:3-5, 12  For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. 5They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. ▤ 12Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. ▤ 

Eccl 7:15  In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. ▤ 

Here and below in 8:14 the writer is not necessarily saying that this is generally the case, but the implication is that the fact that it happens at all seems quite unjust.

Eccl 8:14  There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. ▤ 

Mal 3:15  And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape. ▤ 

God shows goodness to the wicked – even their prosperity ultimately comes from him

Isa 26:10  If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the Lord. ▤ 

The verse suggests that at times such “favor” is shown to the wicked. This “favor” more than likely refers to God’s merciful continuing provision, providing such things as rain for crops (cf. Matt 5:44-45 ), vital to the prosperity of the wicked.

Matt 5:44-45  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. ▤ 

Luke 6:35  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. ▤ 

Job 12:6-9  The tents of robbers are at peace, and those who provoke God are secure, who bring their god in their hand.f 7“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; 8or the bushes of the earth,g and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. 9Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? ▤ 

f The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain

g Or speak to the earth

The meaning of the Hebrew for the last clause of v. 6 is unclear. It may be speaking of God’s provision for them (cf. AMP, NASB, NIV text note, NKJV, NRSV text note), pointing to the concept that the prosperity of the wicked comes from God. Verse 9 affirms this concept, referring to people’s circumstances being given them by God’s “hand” – including that of the wicked who prosper, and righteous Job’s miserable lot.

Job 22:18  Yet he filled their houses with good things— but the counsel of the wicked is far from me. ▤ 

Job 24:21-23  They wrong the barren, childless woman, and do no good to the widow. 22Yet Godh prolongs the life of the mighty by his power; they rise up when they despair of life. 23He gives them security, and they are supported, and his eyes are upon their ways. ▤ 

h Hebrew he

Ps 17:13b-14  Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword, 14from men by your hand, O Lord, from men of the world whose portion is in this life.i You fill their womb with treasure;j they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants. ▤ 

i Or from men whose portion in life is of the world

j Or As for your treasured ones, you fill their womb

Jer 12:2  You plant them, and they take root; they grow and produce fruit; you are near in their mouth and far from their heart. ▤ 

  • God is good to everyone:

Ps 145:9  The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. ▤ 

Matthew 5:44-45 and Luke 6:35b above also speak of this.

Questioning of God’s apparent lack of judgment regarding the wicked

Jer 12:1  Righteous are you, O Lord, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? ▤ 

Hab 1:3-4, 13  Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. 4So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted. ▤ 13You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? ▤ 

Verses 3-4 are part of Habakkuk’s first complaint about God allowing the wicked and injustice to prevail in Judah. After hearing God’s reply that he has appointed the ruthless Babylonians to execute judgment on Judah (cf. vv. 5-11), Habakkuk then questions why these people who are even more wicked should be allowed to swallow up the people of Judah (v. 13).

Job 24:1, 12  Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty, and why do those who know him never see his days? ▤ 12From out of the city the dying groan, and the soul of the wounded cries for help; yet God charges no one with wrong. ▤ 

In v. 1, “his days” refers to days of God’s judgment.

Ps 10:1-2  Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? 2In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised. ▤ 

Ps 94:3  O Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult? ▤ 

Mal 2:17  You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” ▤ 

This verse serves as a warning that we should be wary of questioning God – or at least of how we question him.

  • A somewhat frustrated wish that God would destroy the wicked:

Ps 139:19a  Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! ▤ 

However, the situation of the wicked is precarious

Job 8:14-15  His confidence is severed, and his trust is a spider’s web.k 15He leans against his house, but it does not stand; he lays hold of it, but it does not endure. ▤ 

k Hebrew house

This speaks of the fragility of both the prosperity and security of the wicked.

Job 24:24  They are exalted a little while, and then are gone; they are brought low and gathered up like all others; they are cut off like the heads of grain. ▤ 

Job 20:4-5, 22  Do you not know this from of old, since man was placed on earth, 5that the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment? ▤ 22In the fullness of his sufficiency he will be in distress; the hand of everyone in misery will come against him. ▤ 

Verse 5 speaks of the relative brevity of the happiness of the wicked.

Ps 37:35-36  I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree.l 36But he passed away,m and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found. ▤ 

l The identity of this tree is uncertain

m Or But one passed by

Ps 92:6-7  The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this: 7that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever; … ▤ 

The psalmist probably is referring to the wicked being destroyed in their life on earth, with their destruction being forever. Obviously his words are very applicable to the fate that awaits the wicked on judgment day.

Isa 26:11  O Lord, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them. ▤ 

Although the wicked are not aware of it, God’s judgment looms.

God does not leave the guilty unpunished

See also:

Ex 34:6-7  The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7keeping steadfast love for thousands,n forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” ▤ 

n Or to the thousandth generation

The latter part of v. 7 appears to speak of the ongoing effects of severe punishment still being felt by future generations. Some commentators think that it alludes to the sin itself filtering through to later generations, and so being accompanied by appropriate punishment – although this would not apply to repentant children.

Nah 1:3  The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. ▤ 

Job 10:14  If I sin, you watch me and do not acquit me of my iniquity. ▤ 

Mic 6:10-13  Can I forget any longer the treasureso of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is accursed? 11Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales and with a bag of deceitful weights? 12Yourp rich men are full of violence; your inhabitants speak lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth. 13Therefore I strike you with a grievous blow, making you desolate because of your sins. ▤ 

o Or Are there still treasures

p Hebrew whose

Col 3:25  For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. ▤ 

Josh 24:19  But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. ▤ 

God does not forgive unrepentant people of their sins.

  • God is well aware of the deeds of the wicked:

Ps 94:7, 9-10a  … and they [the wicked] say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.” ▤ 9He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? 10He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? ▤ 

In due time God does take action . . .

Deut 32:34-35  ‘Is not this laid up in store with me, sealed up in my treasuries? 35Vengeance is mine, and recompense,q for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.’ ▤ 

q Septuagint and I will repay

That which God has “laid up in store” and sealed in his “treasuries” (v. 34) refers either to: the injustices of Israel’s enemies against her (cf. CEV) – implying he will not forget them; or God’s sure plans to take revenge on these enemies, as referred to in v. 35.

Ps 37:12-13  The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, 13but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming. ▤ 

Note that God’s laughter and contempt for the wicked is also mentioned elsewhere in Scripture (cf. Job 12:21; Ps 2:4; 59:8; Prov 1:26; Nah 3:6).

Ps 75:2  At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity. ▤ 

God sets an appointed time to exact judgment on the wicked (cf. vv. 4-5).

Prov 16:4  The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. ▤ 

The “day of trouble” is that of God’s punishment of the wicked.

Eccl 3:17  I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. ▤ 

Just as God has set a time for every activity and deed, so he has set a time in which he will bring to judgment the wicked (and the righteous).

Isa 13:22  Hyenasr will cry in its towers, and jackals in the pleasant palaces; its time is close at hand and its days will not be prolonged. ▤ 

r Or foxes

The reference is to Babylon.

Jer 51:6, 13, 33  “Flee from the midst of Babylon; let every one save his life! Be not cut off in her punishment, for this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance, the repayment he is rendering her. ▤ 13O you who dwell by many waters, rich in treasures, your end has come; the thread of your life is cut. ▤ 33For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: The daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor at the time when it is trodden; yet a little while and the time of her harvest will come.” ▤ 

Verse 33 speaks of the approaching time of Babylon’s judgment, in which she will be thrashed, the product of her deeds.

Ezek 21:28-29  And you, son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus says the Lord God concerning the Ammonites and concerning their reproach; say, A sword, a sword is drawn for the slaughter. It is polished to consume and to flash like lightning29while they see for you false visions, while they divine lies for you—to place you on the necks of the profane wicked, whose day has come, the time of their final punishment. ▤ 

Ezek 24:14  I am the Lord. I have spoken; it shall come to pass; I will do it. I will not go back; I will not spare; I will not relent; according to your ways and your deeds you will be judged, declares the Lord God. ▤ 

Mic 7:4  The best of them is like a brier, the most upright of them a thorn hedge. The day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come; now their confusion is at hand. ▤ 

The “watchmen” are the prophets, who had warned of a coming day of God’s judgment – a day now at hand.

Matt 13:24-30  He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weedss among the wheat and went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27And the servantst of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” ▤ 

s Probably darnel, a wheat-like weed

t Greek bondservants; also verse 28

The “weeds” referred to were quite possibly darnel (cf. text note), which in the early stages of growth looks like wheat, but can easily be distinguished later. God delays final consummate judgment of “the sons of the evil one” (cf. v. 38) until the time of the end of the age. Verse 29 implies that this is in part at least to avoid undue harm to his own, who are in the midst of these “weeds”.

Acts 7:6-7  And God spoke to this effect—that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years. 7‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ ▤ 

The Israelites suffered at the hands of the Egyptians for four hundred years before God’s appointed time for judgment on the Egyptians eventuated.

Rev 6:9-11  When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servantsu and their brothersv should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. ▤ 

u Greek fellow bondservants

v Or brothers and sisters. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, the plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters

. . . God’s silence in the face of wickedness is followed by his judgment

Ps 50:21  These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that Iw was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. ▤ 

w Or that the I AM

Isa 42:13-14  The Lord goes out like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his zeal; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes. 14For a long time I have held my peace; I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor; I will gasp and pant. ▤ 

The final statement (v. 14b) is alluding to God’s zeal in executing judgment on his enemies (v. 13) and/or in bringing forth his people out of exile (cf. v. 16).

Isa 57:11-13a  Whom did you dread and fear, so that you lied, and did not remember me, did not lay it to heart? Have I not held my peace, even for a long time, and you do not fear me? 12I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, but they will not profit you. 13When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you! ▤ 

God had kept silent for some time and the people’s wickedness had grown (v. 11). But the time had come – or was approaching – for God to intervene (v. 12). Note that in v. 12 “righteousness” is used with irony. The people either wrongly saw themselves as righteous, or pretended to be so.

Isa 65:6-7  Behold, it is written before me: “I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into their bosom 7both your iniquities and your fathers’ iniquities together, says the Lord; because they made offerings on the mountains and insulted me on the hills, I will measure into their bosom payment for their former deeds.”x ▤ 

x Or I will first measure their payment into their bosom

Job 34:26, 29  He strikes them for their wickedness in a place for all to see, ▤ 29When he is quiet, who can condemn? When he hides his face, who can behold him, whether it be a nation or a man?— ▤ 

Elihu asserts that God does punish the wicked (v. 26), while acknowledging that God does have the right to remain silent (v. 29a) when he sees fit.

  • Despite the smugness of the wicked, the psalmist confidently looked to God to act:

Ps 10:11-15  He [the wicked man] says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.” [The psalmist:] 12Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted. 13Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”? 14But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless. 15Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none. ▤ 

God destroys the wicked

1Sam 2:9  He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail. ▤ 

Ps 9:5, 17  You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish; you have blotted out their name forever and ever. ▤ 17The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God. ▤ 

Ps 52:1a, 5  Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man? ▤ 5But God will break you down forever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah ▤ 

Ps 73:16-20  But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 18Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. 19How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! 20Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. ▤ 

In v. 16 the psalmist is referring to trying to understand the prosperity of the wicked, which he found oppressive – till he understood their final destiny (vv. 17-19).

Ps 75:8  For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs. ▤ 

As noted earlier, the “cup with foaming wine” signifies God’s potent judgment. The wicked will have no choice but to suffer all of it, drinking it down to the last drop.

Ps 94:23  He will bring back on them their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; the Lord our God will wipe them out. ▤ 

Ps 119:119  All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies. ▤ 

Ps 145:20  The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. ▤ 

Prov 21:12  The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked; he throws the wicked down to ruin. ▤ 

Isa 3:11  Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him. ▤ 

Jer 30:23  Behold the storm of the Lord! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. ▤ 

2Pet 2:4-6, 9  For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into helly and committed them to chainsz of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;a ▤ 9then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials,b and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, … ▤ 

y Greek Tartarus

z Some manuscripts pits

a Some manuscripts an example to those who were to be ungodly

b Or temptations

Verse 9b could be meaning that God persistently punishes the ungodly even prior to judgment day. Alternatively it may be speaking of them being kept for their ultimate punishment to be pronounced on judgment day.

  • The wicked do experience the wrath of God in this life:

Rom 1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. ▤ 

While the wrath of God spoken of here may also anticipate that of the final judgment, it appears to be speaking of the present. Paul may have in mind God giving people over to the natural consequences of sin (cf. vv. 24, 26, 28) and/or particular acts of judgment.

The destruction of the wicked is often sudden

See also:

Deut 32:35  Vengeance is mine, and recompense,c for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly. ▤ 

c Septuagint and I will repay

Ps 64:7  But God shoots his arrow at them; they are wounded suddenly. ▤ 

Prov 6:15  … therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing. ▤ 

Prov 24:21-22  My son, fear the Lord and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise, 22for disaster will arise suddenly from them, and who knows the ruin that will come from them both? ▤ 

Prov 28:18  Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall. ▤ 

Isa 30:13  … therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant; … ▤ 

Isa 47:11  But evil shall come upon you, which you will not know how to charm away; disaster shall fall upon you, for which you will not be able to atone; and ruin shall come upon you suddenly, of which you know nothing. ▤ 

Jer 48:16  The calamity of Moab is near at hand, and his affliction hastens swiftly. ▤ 

1Thes 5:3  While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. ▤ 

Rev 18:10  They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.” ▤ 

  • Be assured that the wicked will not go unpunished:

Prov 11:21, 31  Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished, but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered. ▤ 31If the righteous is repaid on earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner! ▤ 

Opinions differ on whether the first clause in v. 31 is referring to the righteous being rewarded for their goodness, or to even them receiving some punishment for their sin. Either way it makes the point that the ungodly and sinners will certainly receive their due punishment.

Note: “The day of the Lord” will bring God’s judgment, with its destruction of the wicked

See also:

Passages referring to “the day of the Lord” largely speak of a time of God’s intervention and judgment – usually in what was then the near future or at the end of the age, or with links to both. It is generally understood by Christians that prophecies of “the day of the Lord” – or of such a “day” of God’s reckoning – will be consummately fulfilled at the end of the age.

Isa 13:6, 9-13  Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almightyd it will come! ▤ 9Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. 10For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light. 11I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless. 12I will make people more rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir. 13Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the Lord of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. ▤ 

d The Hebrew words for destruction and almighty sound alike

Ezek 30:1-3  The word of the Lord came to me: 2“Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus says the Lord God: “Wail, ‘Alas for the day!’ 3For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near; it will be a day of clouds, a time of doom fore the nations. ▤ 

e Hebrew lacks doom for

Joel 1:15  Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almightyf it comes. ▤ 

f Destruction sounds like the Hebrew for Almighty

Joel 2:1-2a, 11, 31  Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near, 2a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! ▤ 11The Lord utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it? ▤ 31The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. ▤ 

Verses 2:1-2a, 11 speak of a day of judgment on Judah through a great locust plague. It is used to point to and reflect “the great and awesome day of the Lord” (v. 31) that will come upon all nations.

Joel 3:12-14  Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. 13Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great. 14Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. ▤ 

The Valley of Jehoshaphat (v. 12) seems to be symbolic for a location where God will implement his ultimate judgment on the nations who have oppressed his people (cf. vv. 2-6). The illustrations in v. 13 depict God implementing his judgment as him cutting down the nations – that in their wickedness are “ripe” for harvest – and trampling them in his winepress of judgment.

Amos 5:18, 20  Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light, ▤ 20Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? ▤ 

Some of the wicked in Israel longed for “the day of the Lord”, with its deliverance of God’s people. But they were unaware that it would bring judgment on their own wickedness and unfaithfulness.

Obad 1:15-16  For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head. 16For as you have drunk on my holy mountain, so all the nations shall drink continually; they shall drink and swallow, and shall be as though they had never been. ▤ 

“For as you have drunk on my holy mountain” (v. 16a) may in the context of the book of Obadiah portray the neighboring Edomites’ gloating over the destruction of Jerusalem. Alternatively, possibly the enemy nations who destroyed Jerusalem are being referred to. Irrespective of which is the case, the verses speak of a wider implication that concerns all nations. Their fete will parallel these depictions, with them having to “drink” of God’s judgment (v. 16b).

Zeph 1:7-10, 14-18  Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests. 8And on the day of the Lord’s sacrifice— “I will punish the officials and the king’s sons and all who array themselves in foreign attire. 9On that day I will punish everyone who leaps over the threshold, and those who fill their master’sg house with violence and fraud. 10“On that day,” declares the Lord, “a cry will be heard from the Fish Gate, a wail from the Second Quarter, a loud crash from the hills. ▤ 14The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. 15A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, 16a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. 17I will bring distress on mankind, so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the Lord; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. 18Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the Lord. In the fire of his jealousy, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth. ▤ 

g Or their Lord’s

In vv. 7-10, God’s judgment on Judah is in view. This was fulfilled in the Babylonian conquest of Judah, although it is not necessarily without an eschatological application. Verses 14-18 speak of God’s judgment of all nations, with a more obvious eschatological application. The phrase “all the inhabitants of the earth” (v. 18) appears to be somewhat figurative, with the ungodly presumably being in view.

2Pet 3:7, 10  But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. ▤ 10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodiesh will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.i ▤ 

h Or elements; also verse 12

i Greek found; some manuscripts will be burned up

  • Those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved:

Joel 2:32  And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls. ▤ 

The context is “the great and awesome day of the Lord” (v. 31 ).

Pray for persecuted Christians

Repayments for the Wicked and the Righteous

See also:

In the Bible, the term “the righteous” basically denotes God’s people, those who live in accordance with God’s laws and will. The OT particularly often contrasts the wicked and their circumstances with the righteous and their circumstances. Some of the following contrasting repayments for the wicked and the righteous are natural or intrinsic outcomes of their actions. Other outcomes are spoken of as being directly due to God’s intervention and judgment.

Bear in mind that OT verses often speak of what were ramifications of wickedness/disobedience and blessings of righteousness/obedience under the first covenant. Generally these have a spiritual application under the new covenant and also an application to the afterlife. Also note that verses from OT wisdom literature speaking of outcomes of wickedness and righteousness often contain what are considered to be generalizations.

The wicked reap what they sow . . .

See also:

All of the wicked face destruction in the next life. As this and the following subsections show, many also suffer consequences for their actions in this life.

Job 4:8  As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. ▤ 

Prov 22:8  Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail. ▤ 

Hos 8:7  For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; it shall yield no flour; if it were to yield, strangers would devour it. ▤ 

Israel had broken the covenant and turned to idols (cf. vv. 1-6). They had sewn the “wind”, possibly in the sense that what they had done was hollow and futile. Furthermore, it produced the “whirlwind” of God’s judgment, through Assyria. The second and third statements may be figurative – implying that their deeds would yield nothing useful and that even if something of some value was produced, it would be taken from them.

Hos 10:13a  You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. ▤ 

Here “reaped injustice” appears to refer to the injustice inflicted by oppressors (cf. AMP), with devastation by enemies prophesied against Israel (cf. vv. 13b-15).

Prov 14:14  The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways. ▤ 

Gal 6:7  Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. ▤ 

. . . The wicked are brought down by their own evil deeds

Note that the following subsection, in contrasting the outcomes of righteousness with those of wickedness, contains a number of verses that further indicate that the wicked reap what they sow and “are brought down by their own wickedness” (Prov 1:5 ).

Ps 7:15-16  He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. 16His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends. ▤ 

Verse 15 speaks, perhaps metaphorically, of a wicked man making a trap for others (cf. Ps 9:15 ).

Ps 9:15-16  The nations have sunk in the pit that they made; in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught. 16The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion.j Selah ▤ 

j Probably a musical or liturgical term

Ps 37:14-15  The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose way is upright; 15their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. ▤ 

Jesus also speaks of the ramifications for those who “draw the sword”, saying: “For all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt 26:52b).

Prov 1:18  … but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. ▤ 

Practices such as attempting to kill others will ultimately lead to one’s own death.

Prov 5:22  The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. ▤ 

Prov 21:7  The violence of the wicked will sweep them away, because they refuse to do what is just. ▤ 

Jer 2:19  Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord God of hosts. ▤ 

Joel 3:4  What are you to me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying me back for something? If you are paying me back, I will return your payment on your own head swiftly and speedily. ▤ 

Obad 1:15  For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head. ▤ 

Jude 1:10  But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. ▤ 

Following their evil instincts would destroy these people.

  • God catches the “wise” in their own craftiness:

Job 5:13  He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end. ▤ 

God traps those who are “cunning” (GNT) or “wicked” (NCV™) – “who think they are wise” (NLT) – in their own crafty schemes.

In contrast to the wicked, the righteous reap what is good

Prov 10:16  The wage of the righteous leads to life, the gain of the wicked to sin. ▤ 

“The wages of the righteous” and “the gain of the wicked” refer to the outcomes of righteousness and wickedness.

Prov 11:3-6, 18, 27, 30  The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them. 4Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. 5The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness. 6The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust. ▤ 18The wicked earns deceptive wages, but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward. ▤ 27Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor,k but evil comes to him who searches for it. ▤ 30The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise. ▤ 

k Or acceptance

The wicked man’s wages are probably described as “deceptive” (v. 18) because although they at first seem fine, they can bring trouble (cf. Prov 15:6 ) and do not last. In v. 27a “seeks good” is probably speaking of trying to do what is good and right (cf. CEV), in contrast to planning evil – which incurs harm (v. 27b).

Prov 12:13  An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous escapes from trouble. ▤ 

Prov 13:6  Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, but sin overthrows the wicked. ▤ 

Prov 14:14  The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways. ▤ 

Prov 15:6  In the house of the righteous there is much treasure, but trouble befalls the income of the wicked. ▤ 

The income of the wicked is presumably that which is gained by evil means.

Prov 14:22  Do they not go astray who devise evil? Those who devise good meetl steadfast love and faithfulness. ▤ 

l Or show

The term “go astray” in effect means to “err… and wander from the way of life” (AMP).

Prov 21:21  Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor. ▤ 

Prov 28:10  Whoever misleads the upright into an evil way will fall into his own pit, but the blameless will have a goodly inheritance. ▤ 

Prov 29:6  An evil man is ensnared in his transgression, but a righteous man sings and rejoices. ▤ 

Isa 3:10  Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds. ▤ 

Isa 32:8  But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands. ▤ 

The term “stands” likely means to “stand firm” (GNT).

Isa 32:17  And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trustm forever. ▤ 

m Or security

Hos 10:12  Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. ▤ 

The expression “break up your fallow ground” possibly speaks of preparing oneself (primarily by repentance) to be productive and/or for blessing. Doing the things listed would result in God him making his presence known, showering “righteousness” on his people. Here “righteousness” may refer to God righteously fulfilling his promises by showering blessings on his people (cf. GNT) or saving them (cf. CEV). Alternatively it may mean that God would make them righteous.

God blesses the righteous

See also:

1Ki 3:6  And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. ▤ 

1Sam 26:23  The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness, for the Lord gave you into my hand today, and I would not put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. ▤ 

Ps 5:12  For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield. ▤ 

Ps 18:24  So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight. ▤ 

Prov 3:33  The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous. ▤ 

Prov 10:6  Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. ▤ 

“Blessings” from God are presumably primarily in view.

Job 36:7  He does not withdraw his eyes from the righteous, but with kings on the throne he sets them forever, and they are exalted. ▤ 

The second half of the verse speaks metaphorically of God’s great blessing of the righteous.

Ps 97:11  Light is sownn for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. ▤ 

n Most Hebrew manuscripts; one Hebrew manuscript, Septuagint, Syriac, Jerome Light dawns

“Light” would appear to refer to the “light of his [God’s] favor” (NIrV®).

Prov 15:19  The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway. ▤ 

This implies that the path of the righteous is easy to progress along (cf. Isa 26:7 ).

Isa 26:7  The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous. ▤ 

Ps 92:12-15  The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. 14They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, 15to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. ▤ 

This largely speaks of the prosperity of the righteous, flourishing through their relationship with God. Proverbs 11:28 below uses similar imagery.

Prov 11:28  Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. ▤ 

God takes care of the righteous, in contrast to the wicked

See also:

Ps 1:6  … for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. ▤ 

The term translated as “knows” may have the sense “watches over” (NIV®, NLT).

Ps 32:10  Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. ▤ 

Ps 34:15-17, 19-20  The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. 16The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. 17When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. ▤ 19Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. 20He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. ▤ 

Ps 37:16-17, 32-33, 39-40  Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked. 17For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. ▤ 32The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death. 33The Lord will not abandon him to his power or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial. ▤ 39The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. 40The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him. ▤ 

Ps 55:22  Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. ▤ 

Ps 140:13  Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence. ▤ 

The thanks of the righteous and the assertion that the upright will live before God, both attest to God’s saving care of them (cf. v. 12).

Ps 146:9  The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. ▤ 

Prov 10:3, 29  The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked. ▤ 29The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the blameless, but destruction to evildoers. ▤ 

In v. 3, “the craving of the wicked” probably alludes to “the desire of the wicked” (AMP; cf. CEV, GNT, NCV). In v. 29, “The way of the Lord” refers either to the way God does things or the way he would have people live. With either meaning this verse attests to both: God’s protection of the righteous; and the ruin of the wicked being ultimately caused by God and/or their disregard for his commands. Hosea 14:9b makes a similar point to v. 29 – “… the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.”

Prov 11:8  The righteous is delivered from trouble, and the wicked walks into it instead. ▤ 

God may well be in view here and in 12:21 immediately below, as being behind such outcomes.

Prov 12:21  No ill befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble. ▤ 

Note that the book of Proverbs (as with the book of Job) contains many observations or insights that are generally true, i.e. generalizations. Obviously the first clause is not always the case.

Prov 15:29  The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous. ▤ 

See also Note: It is vital for prayer that we live righteously . . ..

Prov 18:10  The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. ▤ 

The righteous look to the Lord for protection and find in him a strong refuge.

Matt 6:31-33  Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ▤ 

  • The path of the righteous is like light, in contrast to the darkness of the way of the wicked:

Prov 4:18-19  But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. 19The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. ▤ 

The way of the wicked is like walking in great darkness (v. 19) – hazardous and insecure. This contrasts to the way of the righteous which is likened to light, blessed with God’s favor (cf. Ps 97:11 ). For the righteous this contrast is taken further in Psalms 112:4, which speaks of light being given to the righteous amidst darkness (i.e. in dark times): “Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.” Again God is probably in view as the ultimate source of such “light”.

The future of the righteous contrasts with the end of the wicked . . .

See also:

Ps 37:1-2, 9-10, 17-20, 28, 37-38  Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! 2For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. ▤ 9For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. 10In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. ▤ 17For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. 18The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever; 19they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance. 20But the wicked will perish; the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away. ▤ 28For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. ▤ 37Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace. 38But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off. ▤ 

In v. 9, “the land” refers primarily to the promised land of Canaan. Verse 18a speaks of God having the future of the blameless well in hand, watching over them throughout their lives (cf. NCV, NIrV).

Ps 52:6-7  The righteous shall see and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying, 7“See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction!”o ▤ 

o Or in his work of destruction

“See the man” (v. 7) presumably refers to the wicked man’s grave (cf. v. 5). The meaning given by the text note on v. 7 has support amongst other translations (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NKJV, NLT).

Ps 58:10-11  The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked. 11Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.” ▤ 

Ps 75:10  All the horns of the wicked I will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up. ▤ 

It is debatable who the speaker is here. But most likely it is either God (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NCV, NIrV, NLT) or one speaking of God. The “horns” speak of strength.

Ps 112:6-10  For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. 7He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. 8His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. 9He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor. 10The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away; the desire of the wicked will perish! ▤ 

Prov 10:7, 24-25  The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot. ▤ 24What the wicked dreads will come upon him, but the desire of the righteous will be granted. 25When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever. ▤ 

Verse 7a appears to speak of the blessing of being well remembered, as reflected by the contrasting end of “the name of the wicked” in the subsequent clause (v. 7b).

Prov 11:19  Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die. ▤ 

This speaks of a righteous person having a security of life, although it also has an application to the afterlife.

Prov 12:7  The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand. ▤ 

The “house” (cf. Prov 14:11 ) either denotes the family of the righteous in particular (cf. GNT, NCV, NLT) or the righteous and all that they have.

Prov 14:11  The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish. ▤ 

Prov 24:16  … for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity. ▤ 

Prov 28:18  Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall. ▤ 

References to the wicked falling, generally have their ruin or destruction in view.

Isa 58:8  Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. ▤ 

The clause “your righteousness shall go before you” implies that one’s righteousness leads to the security of one’s future. However note that “your righteousness” may instead here be a reference to God.

Eccl 8:12-13  Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. 13But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God. ▤ 

The apparent contradiction that a wicked person “prolongs his life” (v. 12), but “neither will he prolong his days like a shadow” (v. 13) has a few possible explanations, including: the latter may be a reference to life beyond the grave; the writer may be alternating between a notable exception (v. 12) and a generalization (v. 13); and after the first assertion the writer may be quoting a common proverb (vv. 12b-13; cf. CEV, GNT), which he does not necessarily agree with.

Ezek 18:20  The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. ▤ 

People will be rewarded according to their own deeds, with the righteous receiving the outcomes of their righteousness and the wicked receiving the outcomes of their wickedness.

. . . This will be most evident in the afterlife

See also:

Mal 3:16-18  Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. 17“They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. ▤ 

Matt 13:40-43  Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. ▤ 

Rom 2:7-10  … to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8but for those who are self-seekingp and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. ▤ 

p Or contentious

Ps 17:13b-15  Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword, 14from men by your hand, O Lord, from men of the world whose portion is in this life.q You fill their womb with treasure;r they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants. 15As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. ▤ 

q Or from men whose portion in life is of the world

r Or As for your treasured ones, you fill their womb

Verse 14a points out that what good things the wicked may obtain, are limited to this life – the afterlife holds nothing good for them. Verse 15 may well have the afterlife in view (cf. God’s people will see God). Note that similar to v. 15, Psalms 11:7 says, “…the upright shall behold his face.”

Prov 14:32  The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing, but the righteous finds refuge in his death. ▤ 

The meaning of the Hebrew of the final clause is somewhat unclear (cf. CEV text note). As translated here, it points to the righteous – in contrast to the wicked – having hope or protection in death. On a similar theme Isaiah 57:2 says of the righteous man, “he enters into peace; they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness.”

Ps 1:4-5  The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; … ▤ 

Verse 5 is saying that the wicked will be condemned on the day of judgment and so will have no place with the righteous (cf. CEV, GNT, NLT). Here “the judgment” is probably not referring primarily to God’s final judgment, but it is very much applicable to it.

2Thes 2:11-12  Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. ▤ 

  • Righteousness leads to life:

Prov 12:28  In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death. ▤ 

Here “life” probably refers to a secure and fulfilled life, rather than eternal life – although it is certainly applicable to it.

The wicked and ungodly are bereft of hope

Job 8:11-13  Can papyrus grow where there is no marsh? Can reeds flourish where there is no water? 12While yet in flower and not cut down, they wither before any other plant. 13Such are the paths of all who forget God; the hope of the godless shall perish. ▤ 

Job 11:20  But the eyes of the wicked will fail; all way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last. ▤ 

The last clause appears to mean that the only hope of the wicked will be to die.

Job 27:8  For what is the hope of the godless when God cuts him off, when God takes away his life? ▤ 

Prov 10:28  The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish. ▤ 

Note that the “expectation” of the wicked is contrasted with the “hope” of the righteous, the two terms being similar (cf. Prov 11:7 ).

Prov 11:7, 23  When the wicked dies, his hope will perish, and the expectation of wealths perishes too. ▤ 23The desire of the righteous ends only in good; the expectation of the wicked in wrath. ▤ 

s Or of his strength, or of iniquity

Prov 24:20  … for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out. ▤ 

Eph 2:12  … remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. ▤ 

1Thes 4:13  But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. ▤ 

  • What will the wicked do “when the end comes”?:

Jer 5:31  … the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes? ▤ 

The implication is that the wicked will have no recourse at the time of God’s judgment.

Discourses on perils that the wicked typically face

The first three of the following passages are extracts from discourses given by each of Job’s three friends – using often poetically heightened images. The discourse from which the fourth extract comes is attributed to Job, but some scholars attribute it to one his three friends, Zophar. The reasons for this possibility is that it would complete the cycles of speeches – Zophar otherwise having one speech less than the other two friends – and that the theology is more consistent with his than Job’s. For in the chapters following each his friends’ discourses, Job basically rejects their simplified view that the wicked always suffer as such and the righteous always have pleasant lives.

Job 15:20-30, 32-34  The wicked man writhes in pain all his days, through all the years that are laid up for the ruthless. 21Dreadful sounds are in his ears; in prosperity the destroyer will come upon him. 22He does not believe that he will return out of darkness, and he is marked for the sword. 23He wanders abroad for bread, saying, ‘Where is it?’ He knows that a day of darkness is ready at his hand; 24distress and anguish terrify him; they prevail against him, like a king ready for battle. 25Because he has stretched out his hand against God and defies the Almighty, 26running stubbornly against him with a thickly bossed shield; 27because he has covered his face with his fat and gathered fat upon his waist 28and has lived in desolate cities, in houses that none should inhabit, which were ready to become heaps of ruins; 29he will not be rich, and his wealth will not endure, nor will his possessions spread over the earth;t 30he will not depart from darkness; the flame will dry up his shoots, and by the breath of his mouth he will depart. ▤ 32It will be paid in full before his time, and his branch will not be green. 33He will shake off his unripe grape like the vine, and cast off his blossom like the olive tree. 34For the company of the godless is barren, and fire consumes the tents of bribery. ▤ 

t Or nor will his produce bend down to the earth

Job 18:5-19  Indeed, the light of the wicked is put out, and the flame of his fire does not shine. 6The light is dark in his tent, and his lamp above him is put out. 7His strong steps are shortened, and his own schemes throw him down. 8For he is cast into a net by his own feet, and he walks on its mesh. 9A trap seizes him by the heel; a snare lays hold of him. 10A rope is hidden for him in the ground, a trap for him in the path. 11Terrors frighten him on every side, and chase him at his heels. 12His strength is famished, and calamity is ready for his stumbling. 13It consumes the parts of his skin; the firstborn of death consumes his limbs. 14He is torn from the tent in which he trusted and is brought to the king of terrors. 15In his tent dwells that which is none of his; sulfur is scattered over his habitation. 16His roots dry up beneath, and his branches wither above. 17His memory perishes from the earth, and he has no name in the street. 18He is thrust from light into darkness, and driven out of the world. 19He has no posterity or progeny among his people, and no survivor where he used to live. ▤ 

The terms “light” and “lamp” (vv. 5, 6) symbolize wellbeing and life. Verse 13 may well be referring to disease (cf. AMP, GNT, NASB, NCV, NLT, NRSV), with the term “the firstborn of death” perhaps speaking of disease as death’s main weapon. The title “the king of terrors” (v. 14) most likely refers to death itself (cf. AMP, GNT, NCV).

Job 20:6-8, 14-18, 20-29  Though his height mount up to the heavens, and his head reach to the clouds, 7he will perish forever like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’ 8He will fly away like a dream and not be found; he will be chased away like a vision of the night. ▤ 14yet his food is turned in his stomach; it is the venom of cobras within him. 15He swallows down riches and vomits them up again; God casts them out of his belly. 16He will suck the poison of cobras; the tongue of a viper will kill him. 17He will not look upon the rivers, the streams flowing with honey and curds. 18He will give back the fruit of his toil and will not swallow it down; from the profit of his trading he will get no enjoyment. ▤ 20“Because he knew no contentment in his belly, he will not let anything in which he delights escape him. 21There was nothing left after he had eaten; therefore his prosperity will not endure. 22In the fullness of his sufficiency he will be in distress; the hand of everyone in misery will come against him. 23To fill his belly to the full, Godu will send his burning anger against him and rain it upon him into his body. 24He will flee from an iron weapon; a bronze arrow will strike him through. 25It is drawn forth and comes out of his body; the glittering point comes out of his gallbladder; terrors come upon him. 26Utter darkness is laid up for his treasures; a fire not fanned will devour him; what is left in his tent will be consumed. 27The heavens will reveal his iniquity, and the earth will rise up against him. 28The possessions of his house will be carried away, dragged off in the day of God’sv wrath. 29This is the wicked man’s portion from God, the heritage decreed for him by God.” ▤ 

u Hebrew he

v Hebrew his

Verses 14-16 appear to portray ill-gained riches bringing the downfall of the wicked.

Job 27:13-23  This is the portion of a wicked man with God, and the heritage that oppressors receive from the Almighty: 14If his children are multiplied, it is for the sword, and his descendants have not enough bread. 15Those who survive him the pestilence buries, and his widows do not weep. 16Though he heap up silver like dust, and pile up clothing like clay, 17he may pile it up, but the righteous will wear it, and the innocent will divide the silver. 18He builds his house like a moth’s, like a booth that a watchman makes. 19He goes to bed rich, but will do so no more; he opens his eyes, and his wealth is gone. 20Terrors overtake him like a flood; in the night a whirlwind carries him off. 21The east wind lifts him up and he is gone; it sweeps him out of his place. 22Itw hurls at him without pity; he flees from itsx power in headlong flight. 23It claps its hands at him and hisses at him from its place. ▤ 

w Or He (that is, God); also verse 23

x Or his; also verse 23

  • There is no peace for the wicked:

Isa 57:20-21  But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. 21There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” ▤ 

In the same vein, Isaiah 59:8 – quoted in Romans 3:17 – says, “The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace.”

Note: Further contrasts between the righteous and the wicked

Ps 107:42  The upright see it and are glad, and all wickedness shuts its mouth. ▤ 

God’s acts of judgment (cf. vv. 39-40) and salvation (cf. v. 41) lead the upright to rejoice, while silencing the wicked.

Prov 10:20, 32  The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth. ▤ 32The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse. ▤ 

Verse 20b means that the thoughts of the wicked are of little value.

Prov 15:28  The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. ▤ 

Prov 11:10-11  When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness. 11By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown. ▤ 

Verse 11b appears to be referring to the wicked within a city bringing it to ruin by their deceitful and malicious talk.

Prov 12:3  No one is established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved. ▤ 

Prov 12:5-6  The thoughts of the righteous are just; the counsels of the wicked are deceitful. 6The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright delivers them. ▤ 

Prov 12:26  One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor,y but the way of the wicked leads them astray. ▤ 

y Or The righteous chooses his friends carefully

Prov 21:15  When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. ▤ 

Prov 21:29  A wicked man puts on a bold face, but the upright gives thought toz his ways. ▤ 

z Or establishes

This appears to be implying that the wicked may put on a brave front in the face of what is often perilous circumstances resulting from their evil deeds, but the upright have the confidence and security that comes from giving careful, righteous thought to their ways.

Prov 28:1  The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion. ▤ 

This appears to be speaking of a wicked person’s guilt and accompanying fear of getting caught, producing persistent apprehension.

Hab 2:4  Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.a ▤ 

a Or faithfulness

This contrasts the proud Babylonians with the righteous who will live by their faith in God or faithfulness (cf. text note, AMP, GNT).

  • Through righteousness a nation becomes great – in contrast to the dishonor of sin:

Prov 14:34  Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

Epilogue: God’s Judgment of Israel – and His Mercy

See also:

Many times God called and warned his wayward people, through his prophets

2Ki 17:13  Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” ▤ 

Note that the final clause appears to be speaking of the prophets handing on or repeating God’s law to various generations of Israel (cf. CEV, GNT), subsequent to the law’s initial revelation.

2Chr 24:19  Yet he [God] sent prophets among them to bring them back to the Lord. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention. ▤ 

2Chr 36:15  The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. ▤ 

Neh 9:26, 29-30  Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. ▤ 29And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey. 30Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. ▤ 

Jer 3:12  Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, “‘Return, faithless Israel, declares the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the Lord; I will not be angry forever. ▤ 

Jer 6:8  Be warned, O Jerusalem, lest I turn from you in disgust, lest I make you a desolation, an uninhabited land. ▤ 

Jer 11:7  For I solemnly warned your fathers when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice. ▤ 

Jer 25:4-6  You have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear, although the Lord persistently sent to you all his servants the prophets, 5saying, ‘Turn now, every one of you, from his evil way and evil deeds, and dwell upon the land that the Lord has given to you and your fathers from of old and forever. 6Do not go after other gods to serve and worship them, or provoke me to anger with the work of your hands. Then I will do you no harm.’ ▤ 

Jer 26:4-6  You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, 5and to listen to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not listened, 6then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.’ ▤ 

Jer 36:3  It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin. ▤ 

  • Israel’s unsurpassed, appalling act of exchanging their glorious God for worthless idols:

Jer 2:11-13  Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. 12Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, 13for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. ▤ 

Note that in v. 13 useless idols are likened to wells or reservoirs that are cracked and therefore useless for holding water.

Eventually God determined to bring destruction on unresponsive Israel

See also:

2Ki 21:12-15  … therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disasterb that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 13And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14And I will forsake the remnant of my heritage and give them into the hand of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies, 15because they have done what is evil in my sight and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day. ▤ 

b Or evil

The “measuring line” and the “plumb line” (v. 13) symbolized God’s measures for standards used in his judgment.

Isa 65:12  I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter, because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in. ▤ 

Jer 7:24-34  But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. 25From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. 26Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers. 27“So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. 28And you shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips. 29“‘Cut off your hair and cast it away; raise a lamentation on the bare heights, for the Lord has rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath.’ 30“For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the Lord. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. 31And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. 32Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Topheth, because there is no room elsewhere. 33And the dead bodies of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the beasts of the earth, and none will frighten them away. 34And I will silence in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, for the land shall become a waste. ▤ 

Jer 13:10, 14  This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. ▤ 14And I will dash them one against another, fathers and sons together, declares the Lord. I will not pity or spare or have compassion, that I should not destroy them. ▤ 

Jer 15:6-7  You have rejected me, declares the Lord; you keep going backward, so I have stretched out my hand against you and destroyed you— I am weary of relenting. 7I have winnowed them with a winnowing fork in the gates of the land; I have bereaved them; I have destroyed my people; they did not turn from their ways. ▤ 

Mic 6:13, 16  Therefore I strike you with a grievous blow, making you desolate because of your sins. ▤ 16For you have kept the statutes of Omri,c and all the works of the house of Ahab; and you have walked in their counsels, that I may make you a desolation, and yourd inhabitants a hissing; so you shall bear the scorn of my people. ▤ 

c Hebrew For the statutes of Omri are kept

d Hebrew its

  • Israel was even more sinful than the surrounding nations – and would suffer accordingly:

Ezek 5:5-9  Thus says the Lord God: This is Jerusalem. I have set her in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. 6And she has rebelled against my rules by doing wickedness more than the nations, and against my statutes more than the countries all around her; for they have rejected my rules and have not walked in my statutes. 7Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you are more turbulent than the nations that are all around you, and have not walked in my statutes or obeyed my rules, and have note even acted according to the rules of the nations that are all around you, 8therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, even I, am against you. And I will execute judgmentsf in your midst in the sight of the nations. 9And because of all your abominations I will do with you what I have never yet done, and the like of which I will never do again. ▤ 

e Some Hebrew manuscripts and Syriac lack not

f The same Hebrew expression can mean obey rules, or execute judgments, depending on the context

Note that Daniel 9:12 in the following subsection attests to the fulfillment of the prophecy in v. 9.

The temple and Jerusalem were destroyed

2Ki 25:8-10, 13-15  In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month—that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 9And he burned the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. 10And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. ▤ 13And the pillars of bronze that were in the house of the Lord, and the stands and the bronze sea that were in the house of the Lord, the Chaldeans broke in pieces and carried the bronze to Babylon. 14And they took away the pots and the shovels and the snuffers and the dishes for incense and all the vessels of bronze used in the temple service, 15the fire pans also and the bowls. What was of gold the captain of the guard took away as gold, and what was of silver, as silver. ▤ 

2Chr 36:18-19  And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king and of his princes, all these he brought to Babylon. 19And they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem and burned all its palaces with fire and destroyed all its precious vessels. ▤ 

Ps 74:2-7  Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old, which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage! Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt. 3Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins; the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary! 4Your foes have roared in the midst of your meeting place; they set up their own signs for signs. 5They were like those who swing axes in a forest of trees.g 6And all its carved wood they broke down with hatchets and hammers. 7They set your sanctuary on fire; they profaned the dwelling place of your name, bringing it down to the ground. ▤ 

g The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain

The “sanctuary” (vv. 3, 7) was God’s temple, his “dwelling place” (v. 7).

Ps 79:1  O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins. ▤ 

Isa 64:10-11  Your holy cities have become a wilderness; Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. 11Our holy and beautifulh house, where our fathers praised you, has been burned by fire, and all our pleasant places have become ruins. ▤ 

h Or holy and glorious

Jer 44:4-6  Yet I persistently sent to you all my servants the prophets, saying, ‘Oh, do not do this abomination that I hate!’ 5But they did not listen or incline their ear, to turn from their evil and make no offerings to other gods. 6Therefore my wrath and my anger were poured out and kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, and they became a waste and a desolation, as at this day. ▤ 

Lam 2:1-8, 17  How the Lord in his anger has set the daughter of Zion under a cloud! He has cast down from heaven to earth the splendor of Israel; he has not remembered his footstool in the day of his anger. 2The Lord has swallowed up without mercy all the habitations of Jacob; in his wrath he has broken down the strongholds of the daughter of Judah; he has brought down to the ground in dishonor the kingdom and its rulers. 3He has cut down in fierce anger all the might of Israel; he has withdrawn from them his right hand in the face of the enemy; he has burned like a flaming fire in Jacob, consuming all around. 4He has bent his bow like an enemy, with his right hand set like a foe; and he has killed all who were delightful in our eyes in the tent of the daughter of Zion; he has poured out his fury like fire. 5The Lord has become like an enemy; he has swallowed up Israel; he has swallowed up all its palaces; he has laid in ruins its strongholds, and he has multiplied in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation. 6He has laid waste his booth like a garden, laid in ruins his meeting place; the Lord has made Zion forget festival and Sabbath, and in his fierce indignation has spurned king and priest. 7The Lord has scorned his altar, disowned his sanctuary; he has delivered into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces; they raised a clamor in the house of the Lord as on the day of festival. 8The Lord determined to lay in ruins the wall of the daughter of Zion; he stretched out the measuring line; he did not restrain his hand from destroying; he caused rampart and wall to lament; they languished together. ▤ 17The Lord has done what he purposed; he has carried out his word, which he commanded long ago; he has thrown down without pity; he has made the enemy rejoice over you and exalted the might of your foes. ▤ 

The terms “daughter of Zion” (vv. 1, 4, 8) and “daughter of Judah” (vv. 2, 5) signify Jerusalem and her people.

  • Nothing had ever been done like what was done to Jerusalem:

Dan 9:12  He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us,i by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. ▤ 

i Or our judges who judged us

God’s judgment on unfaithful Israel culminated in exile from the promised land

See also:

Note that the two Israelite kingdoms were conquered at different times. The northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians, who captured the main city of Samaria in 722 B.C. Later the Babylonians destroyed the southern kingdom of Judah, with the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. On both occasions the conquering nations exiled the Israelite people.

2Ki 17:5-8, 18-23  Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria, and for three years he besieged it. 6In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. 7And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods 8and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced. ▤ 18Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only. 19Judah also did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the customs that Israel had introduced. 20And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had cast them out of his sight. 21When he had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. And Jeroboam drove Israel from following the Lord and made them commit great sin. 22The people of Israel walked in all the sins that Jeroboam did. They did not depart from them, 23until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day. ▤ 

Note that v. 21a is referring to the division of Israel into two kingdoms.

2Ki 25:10-12  And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. 11And the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the multitude, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile. 12But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen. ▤ 

2Chr 36:20  He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, … ▤ 

1Chr 9:1a  And Judah was taken into exile in Babylon because of their breach of faith. ▤ 

Jer 16:12-13  … and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me. 13Therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor. ▤ 

Jer 52:27-30  And the king of Babylon struck them down, and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was taken into exile out of its land. 28This is the number of the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive: in the seventh year, 3,023 Judeans; 29in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem 832 persons; 30in the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Judeans 745 persons; all the persons were 4,600. ▤ 

The people of Judah were exiled to Babylon in three stages, with the final one following the actual destruction of Jerusalem.

Hos 9:3, 17  They shall not remain in the land of the Lord, but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean food in Assyria. ▤ 17My God will reject them because they have not listened to him; they shall be wanderers among the nations. ▤ 

The northern kingdom of Israel was sometimes referred to by the name of its leading tribe, Ephraim (v. 3).

Mic 4:10  Writhe and groan,j O daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now you shall go out from the city and dwell in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued; there the Lord will redeem you from the hand of your enemies. ▤ 

j Or push

  • The resettlement of the former northern kingdom of Israel with foreigners, with the resultant false worship:

2Ki 17:24, 28-29, 32-34  And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities. ▤ 28So one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and lived in Bethel and taught them how they should fear the Lord. 29But every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the shrines of the high places that the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities in which they lived. ▤ 32They also feared the Lord and appointed from among themselves all sorts of people as priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. 33So they feared the Lord but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away. 34To this day they do according to the former manner. They do not fear the Lord, and they do not follow the statutes or the rules or the law or the commandment that the Lord commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel. ▤ 

Foreign national groups were settled in the former northern kingdom of Israel, the whole region also being known as Samaria. They intermarried with the Israelites who had remained. These foreigners brought their pagan worship practices (vv. 29, 33-34), which were intermingled with some attempt to worship the true God (vv. 28, 33). Thus later the people of Judah, the Jews, came to look down on the people of Samaria, the Samaritans, as not being true Israelites and because of their false worship.

However, God would not completely destroy Israel . . .

Isa 65:8  Thus says the Lord: “As the new wine is found in the cluster, and they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’ so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all. ▤ 

Jer 5:10, 18  Go up through her vine rows and destroy, but make not a full end; strip away her branches, for they are not the Lord’s. ▤ 18“But even in those days, declares the Lord, I will not make a full end of you. ▤ 

Verse 10 is speaking symbolically of the nation as a whole.

Jer 30:11  For I am with you to save you, declares the Lord; I will make a full end of all the nations among whom I scattered you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished. ▤ 

Jer 31:35-37  Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord of hosts is his name: 36“If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the Lord, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” 37Thus says the Lord: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the Lord.” ▤ 

Amos 9:8  Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground, except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,” declares the Lord. ▤ 

God would destroy “the sinful kingdom” of Israel, but would not totally destroy its people.

Jer 4:27  For thus says the Lord, “The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. ▤ 

As with his people, God would ruin the land – but not completely.

. . . God promised to spare a remnant of Israel

See also:

Deut 4:27  And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you. ▤ 

2Ki 19:30-31  And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward. 31For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord will do this. ▤ 

Note that apart from the use of “the Lord of hosts” in the last statement, this promise is repeated verbatim in Isaiah 37:31-32.

Ezra 9:8, 13, 15  But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure holdk within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. ▤ 13And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, ▤ 15O Lord, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this. ▤ 

k Hebrew nail, or tent-pin

Note that v. 13b suggests that in sparing a remnant God had punished the people of Israel less than they had deserved (cf. NLT).

Isa 6:13  And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burnedl again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seedm is its stump. ▤ 

l Or purged

m Or offspring

The “holy seed” are the faithful few. They are the “stump” that would remain, from which Israel would grow again (cf. Isa 17:6 ).

Isa 8:18  Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. ▤ 

The meanings of Isaiah’s name (Yahweh saves) and his sons’ names – one of which was Shear-Jashub (a remnant will return) signified that a remnant of the people would be saved.

Isa 17:6  Gleanings will be left in it, as when an olive tree is beaten— two or three berries in the top of the highest bough, four or five on the branches of a fruit tree, declares the Lord God of Israel. ▤ 

Like an olive tree or a fruit tree would have just a few olives or pieces of fruit left after reaping, a remnant of Israel’s people would be left after God’s judgment of her.

Jer 50:20  In those days and in that time, declares the Lord, iniquity shall be sought in Israel, and there shall be none, and sin in Judah, and none shall be found, for I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant. ▤ 

Ezek 6:8a  “Yet I will leave some of you alive. ▤ 

God also promised to return people of Israel to the land

See also:

Note that there are a number of other verses in which God promises to return the people of Israel and/or Judah to his land. Many of these appear to be speaking (primarily at least) of a return to a restored Israel of the end times. Many such verses can be found in the above cross references. A number of the following passages also can be applied to this still future restoration of Israel.

Jer 23:7-8  “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 8but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where hen had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.” ▤ 

n Septuagint; Hebrew I

Isa 35:10  And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. ▤ 

Ezek 20:41-42  As a pleasing aroma I will accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered. And I will manifest my holiness among you in the sight of the nations. 42And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the country that I swore to give to your fathers. ▤ 

Ezek 34:11-13  For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. ▤ 

Jer 27:21-22  … thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels that are left in the house of the Lord, in the house of the king of Judah, and in Jerusalem: 22They shall be carried to Babylon and remain there until the day when I visit them, declares the Lord. Then I will bring them back and restore them to this place. ▤ 

This is speaking about furnishings of the temple rather than the people themselves, but it is also applicable to the people, being reflective of their circumstances.

Mic 4:10  Writhe and groan,o O daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now you shall go out from the city and dwell in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued; there the Lord will redeem you from the hand of your enemies. ▤ 

o Or push

  • God promised to bring the exiles from Judah back after seventy years in Babylon:

Jer 29:10  For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. ▤ 

Jeremiah had earlier spoken of the exile lasting seventy years in Babylon in 25:11-12 (cf. 2Chr 36:21; Dan 9:2).

Jews did return to the land – rebuilding the temple and Jerusalem’s walls

After 70 years of captivity in Babylon (cf. 2Chr 36:21; Zec 1:12; 7:5), descendants of the southern Israelite kingdom of Judah did return to the land. They were known as “Jews”, the term coming from the name “Judah”.

Ezra 1:1-8, 11  In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 2“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. 4And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” 5Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem. 6And all who were about them aided them with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, with beasts, and with costly wares, besides all that was freely offered. 7Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. 8Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. ▤ 11all the vessels of gold and of silver were 5,400. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up, when the exiles were brought up from Babylonia to Jerusalem. ▤ 

This marked the beginning of the return of exiles to Judah. Note that Sheshbazzar (vv. 8, 11) appears to have been the designated governor of Judah (cf. CEV, GNT), or at least the official who initially led or oversaw the returning exiles.

Ezra 2:1-2  Now these were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town. 2They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel: … ▤ 

The subsequent verses (cf. vv. 3-63) contain a list numbering the returning exiles in their clans.

Ezra 2:64-68, 70  The whole assembly together was 42,360, 65besides their male and female servants, of whom there were 7,337, and they had 200 male and female singers. 66Their horses were 736, their mules were 245, 67their camels were 435, and their donkeys were 6,720. 68Some of the heads of families, when they came to the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, made freewill offerings for the house of God, to erect it on its site. ▤ 70Now the priests, the Levites, some of the people, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the temple servants lived in their towns, and all the rest of Israelp in their towns. ▤ 

p Hebrew all Israel

Ezra 3:1-3  When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. 2Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. 3They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening. ▤ 

Ezra 6:14-16  And the elders of the Jews built and prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia; 15and this house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king. 16And the people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. ▤ 

This is speaking of the rebuilding of the temple. Note that this was later replaced piecemeal largely by Herod the Great, who began his work in 20-19 B.C. Herod’s temple took 46 years to complete (cf. John 2:20).

Neh 2:17-18  Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” 18And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. ▤ 

Neh 6:15-16  So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. 16And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. ▤ 

  • Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the temple:

Luke 21:5-6  And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, 6“As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” ▤ 

This prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70 when the Romans captured Jerusalem and burned the temple, the one built largely by Herod the Great.

Note: Because God remembers his covenant with Abraham, God cares for and is merciful to Israel

Ex 2:23-25  During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. ▤ 

The last phrase indicates that God took notice (cf. NASB, NKJV, NRSV) of his people’s predicament, and implies that he was concerned for them (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT). Note that God’s covenant with Abraham was confirmed with his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob.

Ex 6:2-8  God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord. 3I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty,q but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. 4I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. 5Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. 6Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’” ▤ 

q Hebrew El Shaddai

Lev 26:40-45  “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, 41so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes. 44Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God. 45But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.” ▤ 

In v. 45 and probably also in v. 44, it is God’s covenant made at Sinai with the Israelites that is primarily in view. Like the aforementioned covenant with Abraham and the other patriarchs (v. 42), because of God’s faithfulness to it he would remember it and mercifully care for the people. Note that God’s promise to remember his covenant with the rebellious Israelites was dependant on them repenting (vv. 40-41).

Deut 4:31  For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them. ▤ 

God’s covenant with Abraham and the other patriarchs is probably the one spoken of here.

2Ki 13:22-23  Now Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. 23But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion on them, and he turned toward them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, nor has he cast them from his presence until now. ▤ 

Ps 105:7-11, 42-45  He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth. 8He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, 9the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, 10which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, 11saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.” ▤ 42For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham, his servant. 43So he brought his people out with joy, his chosen ones with singing. 44And he gave them the lands of the nations, and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil, 45that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Praise the Lord! ▤ 

Luke 1:68-75  Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people 69and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 72to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us 74that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. ▤ 

  • God acted faithfully in all that happened to Israel:

Neh 9:33  Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. ▤ 

Despite Israel’s great guilt, God acted faithfully; he did not forsake them (vv. 7-32).

Pray for persecuted Christians