Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and weeds instead of barley. The words of Job are ended.
All Commentaries on Job 31:40 Go To Job 31
Gregory The Dialogist
55. As though he said in plain words; ‘If I have done aught unjust towards those under me, if I have exacted the debts due to me, and have not myself paid what I owed, if I have envied others the executing of good practice, for the good things which refresh for ever and ever, may evil things that sting be repaid me in the Judgment.’ Since ‘instead of the wheat there springs up the thistle, and instead of barley the thorn,’ when in the final Retribution, wherefrom the recompensing of our labour is looked for, the piercing of pain is met with. And observe, that as barley is different from wheat, though both regale, so the thorn differs from the thistle, though either be a thing that pricks, because the thistle is softer, and the thorn always the harder as to pricking. Thus he says, Let the thistle grow instead of wheat, and the thorn instead of barley. As if he said plainly and openly; ‘I know indeed that I have both done great good acts and lesser ones; and if it is not so, may lesser evils match me for my great good acts, and the greater evils for the lesser good ones.’ Though this may also be understood in another sense. For in ‘wheat’ there is denoted in spiritual action which regales the mind, but in ‘barley’ the disposal of earthly things. Wherein while we are often forced to serve the weak and carnal, we as it were prepare their food for the beasts of burthen, and the very practice of our deeds after the manner of barley has somewhat of a mixture of chaff. And it very often happens, that the ruler who is set at the head, while he enforces what is unjust against those under his charge, while he cheers not the good with any soothing, whilst, that which is more grievous, all those acting rightly he distresses out of envy, still some good things he sometimes does, as if he sowed corn, and mixed in the disposing of earthly things at times not in the passion of avarice, but for the use of the carnal, and so looks for the fruit of that labour as a crop of barley. But the several persons under his charge, in consideration of this, that they are borne hard upon in the chief things, cannot feel joy in his lesser good things; because neither is this practice well pleasing in the sight of God, which is defiled by the injustice of other practice, nor yet is the very disposal of earthly things believed to be undertaken for the service of those under his charge, when he who is over them is seen to pant with avarice. Whence it happens that even in answer to the few good things themselves, which they see to be done in the midst of a multitude of evil ones, they give back not praises but groans, and that those that go weakly murmur, while they take thought that that which they see is not a thing of pure practice. And so he says, If my land cry against me, or that the furrows likewise thereof complain; if I have eaten the fruits thereof without money, or have afflicted the soul of the tillers thereof: let the thistle grow instead of wheat, and the thorn instead of barley. As if he said plainly, ‘If the great things which I owed I have not needfully performed, may I receive the prickings of murmuring from those under me, even with reference to the good that I have done. If I have omitted to set forth what might cheer, may their tongue springing forth into complaint with justice pierce me.’
56. Wherein it requires always to be minded with heedful consideration, that neither they that are set at the head offer examples of bad practice to those under them, and kill the life of those by the sword of their evil doing, nor they that are subject to the control of another presume to judge lightly the deeds of their rulers, and from this, that they utter murmurs touching those who are placed over them, set themselves not against a human appointment but against that Divine Appointment, which disposes all things. For to those it is said, And as for My flock they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet: they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet. [Ez. 34, 19] For ‘the sheep drink what is fouled with the feet,’ when those under charge for example of living seek after things, which the persons over them severally corrupt by bad practice. But on the other hand these persons hear from those in command; And what are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord. [Ex. 16, 8] For he that murmurs against power established over him, it is plain reproves Him Who gave that power to man.
At length, God vouchsafing it, we have explored those sentences of blessed Job, full of mystical force, in which he made answer to the words of his friends. Now it remains that we come to the words of Elihu, which are to be weighed with so much the graver caution, in proportion as they are also put forward through the boldness of youth with a hotter spirit.