Chapter 24

1Why were the times not hidden from the Almighty? And He Who knows him should not see his days.   אמַדּ֗וּעַ מִ֖שַּׁדַּי לֹא־נִצְפְּנ֣וּ עִתִּ֑ים וְ֜יֹֽדְעָ֗יו (כתיב וְ֜יֹדְעָ֗ו) לֹא־חָ֥זוּ יָמָֽיו:
Why were the times not hidden from the Almighty?: This is a plaint. Why were the times of man’s days not hidden from the Holy One, blessed be He, that He should not know the day of man’s death? Perhaps He would not hasten the retribution, and the day of death would precede it.  
And He Who knows him should not see his days: Of the day of man, like (Gen. 29:14), “a month of days (ימים) ,” (which is translated into Aramaic as “from time to time.”) [Another explanation is:] Why are those who are close and who love the Holy One, blessed be He, unable to see the end of His ways and His traits? This [word] ימיו, His days, denotes the way He acted in His time, like (below 27:6), “my heart will not reproach me because of my days.” [See Rashi ad loc.] Now what are the puzzling traits?  
2[There are some who] remove the landmarks; they violently take away a flock and pasture them.   בגְּבוּלֹ֥ת יַשִּׂ֑יגוּ עֵ֥דֶר גָּֽ֜זְל֗וּ וַיִּרְעֽוּ:
[There are some who] remove the landmarks: Those who habitually remove the landmarks, who purchase fields adjoining the fields of others, and at night widen their [own] borders by placing their fences at night within the territory of their neighbors. (This is the meaning of removing the landmarks, which is translated into Aramaic as מְשַׁנֶּה, changing, because they would change the boundaries.) And they violently take away a flock and pasture it.  
3They lead away the orphan's donkey; they take the widow's ox for a pledge.   גחֲמ֣וֹר יְתוֹמִ֣ים יִנְהָ֑גוּ יַ֜חְבְּל֗וּ שׁ֣וֹר אַלְמָנָֽה:
They lead away the orphan’s donkey: and commit all the evils stated in the chapter. The end of the matter is that “God does not impute it for unseemliness” (verse 12), to let them know their iniquity and to furnish them with their recompense.  
4They make the needy turn off the road; the poor of the land hide together.   דיַטּ֣וּ אֶבְיֹנִ֣ים מִדָּ֑רֶךְ יַ֥חַד חֻ֜בְּא֗וּ עֲנִיֵּי־ (כתיב עֲנִוֵּי) אָֽרֶץ:
the poor of the land hide together: because they fear them.  
5Behold, [as] wild donkeys in the desert, they go out to their work, seeking prey; the wilderness yields bread for his young men.   ההֵ֚ן פְּרָאִ֨ים | בַּֽמִּדְבָּ֗ר יָֽצְא֣וּ בְ֖פָֽעֳלָם מְשַֽׁחֲרֵ֣י לַטָּ֑רֶף עֲרָבָ֥ה ל֥וֹ לֶ֜֗חֶם לַנְּעָרִֽים:
And he says: Behold, [as] wild donkeys in the desert: who are used to the desert, to lie in wait for the passersby.  
they go out to their work: and what is the work?..  
seeking prey: They seek to prey.  
the wilderness yields bread for his young men: For the wicked man’s servants and young men, the wilderness and the desert supply food for their needs, for from there he seizes and eats and steals what they eat.  
for… young men: They are the ones who go with him to rob, as in (Gen. 14:24), “only what the young men have eaten.”  
6In the field, they reap his produce, and the wicked gather the plants of the vineyard.   ובַּשָּׂדֶה בְּלִיל֣וֹ יִקְצ֑וֹרוּ (כתיב יִקְצֹ֑ירוּ) וְכֶ֖רֶם רָשָׁ֣ע יְלַקֵּֽשׁוּ:
In the field: of others.  
his produce: Heb. בְּלִילוֹ [like] יְבוּלוּ, his produce.  
they reap: to steal it.  
and the wicked gather the plants of the vineyard: Heb. יְלַקֵּשׁוּ. And [from] the vineyards of others these wicked men take their fruit; espreinment in Old French. They take their לֶקֶש. לֶקֶש is an expression of a growth of produce, as in (Amos 7:1), at the beginning of the shooting up of the grain, which Jonathan renders. צִמוּחַ, growing. And so did Rabbi Eleazar [Hakalir] establish (in the Hoshanah “Soil from curse”): produce לֶקֶש) from locusts. (Another interpretation: and they delay the vineyard of the wicked. They delay it from destruction, because they eat up [the vineyards] of the poor and the orphans. יְלַקֵּשׁוּ is like (below 29:23), “and they opened their mouth (למלקוש) for a long time,” and like (Gen. 30:42), “and the late ones (לקישיא) were Laban’s.”  
7They make them lie all night naked without clothing and without a cover in the cold.   זעָר֣וֹם יָ֖לִינוּ מִבְּלִ֣י לְב֑וּשׁ וְאֵ֥ין כְּ֜ס֗וּת בַּקָּרָֽה:
They make them lie all night naked: They make the poor lie all night.  
without clothing and without a cover: because they took their cover.  
8From the stream of the mountains they become wet, and without shelter they embrace the rocks.   חמִזֶּ֣רֶם הָרִ֣ים יִרְטָ֑בוּ וּֽמִבְּלִ֥י מַ֜חְסֶ֗ה חִבְּקוּ־צֽוּר:
From the stream: that flows from the mountains, these naked people became wet and damp because they have no cover. They have no refuge under which to shelter themselves.  
they embrace the rocks: They hide in the crevices in the rocks, and even there the stream flows down and sprays on them, soaking them. רָטוֹב is the Aramaic for לַח wet, and whoever is not dried is called לַח, moist (moite in Old French).  
9They rob from the breast of the orphan, and they take a pledge from a poor man.   טיִגְזְלוּ מִשֹּׁ֣ד יָת֑וֹם וְֽעַל־עָנִ֥י יַחְבֹּֽלוּ:
from the breast of the orphan: The sucking of the orphan, the source of his food and sustenance, as in (Isa. 60:16), “and the breast of kings you shall suck.”  
they take a pledge: Heb. יחבלו, an expression of (Exod. 22:25), “If you take a pledge (חבל תחבל) ” ; (Ezek.18: 16), “he did not take a pledge (חבל לא חבל).”  
10They made [him] go naked without clothing and [from] the hungry they carried off the sheaves.   יעָר֣וֹם הִ֖לְּכוּ בְּלִ֣י לְב֑וּשׁ וּ֜רְעֵבִ֗ים נָ֣שְׂאוּ עֹֽמֶר:
They made go: They made him go without clothing.  
and [from] the hungry they carried off the sheaves: And from the hungry they took the sheaves of gleaning [which are left for the poor]. It may also be interpreted thus: And those who were carrying the sheaves are hungry, because they were robbed of them and so they remain hungry.  
11Between their rows they make oil; they tread the winepresses but they are thirsty.   יאבֵּין־שֽׁוּרֹתָ֥ם יַצְהִ֑ירוּ יְקָבִ֥ים דָּֽ֜רְכ֗וּ וַיִּצְמָֽאוּ:
Between their rows they make oil: The owners of the olive trees make oil.  
they tread the winepresses: The owners of the vineyards.  
but they are thirsty: after a while, because these wicked men rob them of them [the wine].  
Between their rows: It seems to me that they pile up the olives in rows in the oil press and the oil flows between them.  
12From the city people groan, and the soul of the slain cries out; yet God does not impute it for unseemliness.   יבמֵ֘עִ֚יר מְתִ֨ים | יִנְאָ֗קוּ וְנֶֽפֶשׁ־חֲלָלִ֥ים תְּשַׁוֵּ֑עַ וֶֽ֜אֱל֗וֹהַּ לֹא־יָשִׂ֥ים תִּפְלָֽה:
From the city people groan: The people and the dignitaries of the city groan because of those robbers.  
does not impute it for unseemliness: to be strict with them and to take revenge.  
13They were among those who rebelled because of rain; they did not recognize His ways, neither did they sit in His paths.   יגהֵ֚מָּה | הָיוּ֘ בְּֽמֹרְדֵ֫י־א֥וֹר לֹֽא־הִכִּ֥ירוּ דְרָכָ֑יו וְלֹ֥א יָֽ֜שְׁב֗וּ בִּנְתִיבֹתָֽיו:
They: These wicked people are the generation of the Flood, who rebelled because of אור, because of the rain; because it would ascend from the earth, they needed nothing.  
14Should one rise in daylight, he would murder, he would slay the poor and the needy, and at night he would be like a thief.   ידלָא֡וֹר יָ֘ק֚וּם רוֹצֵ֗חַ יִקְטָל־עָנִ֥י וְאֶבְי֑וֹן וּ֜בַלַּ֗יְלָה יְהִ֣י כַגַּנָּֽב:
Should one rise in daylight: If they would rise by day, they would slay the wayfarers.  
and at night he would be like a thief: to dig under houses.  
15And the eye of the adulterer awaits evening, saying, "No eye will see me," and he puts a mask on his face.   טווְעֵ֚ין נֹאֵ֨ף | שָׁ֚מְרָה נֶ֣שֶׁף לֵ֖אמֹר לֹא־תְשׁוּרֵ֣נִי עָ֑יִן וְסֵ֖תֶר פָּנִ֣ים יָשִֽׂים:
And the eye of the adulterer: And the adulterer among them would wait until evening, saying…  
a mask: And he puts a mask on his face to commit a transgression, for the generation of the Flood was suspected of all these: of robbery, for it is stated (Gen. 6:11): “and the earth was filled with violence,” and of immorality, for it is stated (ibid. verse 12): “for all flesh had corrupted [its way on the earth].”  
16In the dark, he digs under houses; by day, they lock themselves in; they know no light.   טזחָתַ֥ר בַּחֹ֗שֶׁךְ בָּ֫תִּ֥ים יוֹמָ֥ם חִתְּמוּ־לָ֗מוֹ לֹא־יָ֥דְעוּ אֽוֹר:
by day, they lock themselves in: Those who are weaker than they, too weak to commit robbery by day, would dig under houses at night; by day they were sealed and closed up in their houses.  
they know no light: They did not recognize the light because it was not [shining at] the time of their prowling.  
17For together morning is to them [as] the shadow of death, for he recognizes the terrors of the shadow of death.   יזכִּ֚י יַחְדָּ֨ו | בֹּ֣קֶר לָ֣מוֹ צַלְמָ֑וֶת כִּ֥י יַ֜כִּ֗יר בַּלְה֥וֹת צַלְמָֽוֶת:
For together morning is to them [as] the shadow of death: For by day they were locked in, and at night they would go to their tunnel, and they were not at all afraid of the demons.  
for he recognizes the terrors of the shadow of death: Everyone could recognize the terrifying demons, and he did not fear them. Our Sages, however, explained: By day, they would seal for themselves-By day they would chart the location of the cellar of the house and a rich man’s treasurehouse, for they would deposit balsamum oil with wealthy householders, knowing that he (sic) would put it in his (sic) treasurehouse, and at night they would smell and go there and dig into there.  
18He is light upon the face of the water; their portion in the earth is cursed; he does not turn by the way of the vineyards.   יחקַל־ה֚וּא | עַל־פְּנֵי־מַ֗יִם תְּקֻלַּ֣ל חֶלְקָתָ֣ם בָּאָ֑רֶץ לֹֽא־יִ֜פְנֶה דֶּ֣רֶךְ כְּרָמִֽים:
He is light upon the face of the water: When the righteous men, Noah and Methuselah, would rebuke them, they would say, “we are light [enough] to swim on the water, and we have papyrus and light materials from which to make boats and to float.”  
their portion in the earth is cursed; he does not turn by the way of the vineyards: They would curse their portion in the earth, saying that they would not turn by the way of the good, in the way of the righteous, who are lofty and dwell in the height or the world. Vineyards represent the righteous men and the leaders of the generation, as in (Hosea 2: 17), “And I will give her vineyards from there,” which Jonathan renders: her leaders. They would curse their portion in the earth, saying that they would not turn in the way of the good; they would swear that they would not turn their way. Another explanation: תקלל חלקתם בארץ Their portion in the earth was spoiled, for they would destroy their seed in vain, as in (Gen. 6:12), “for all flesh had corrupted its way.” תקלל is an expression of spoiling (קלקול) , as in (I Sam. 3:13), “for the iniquity [of the matter] that he knew that his sons were bringing disgrace (מקללים) upon them.” Another explanation: Their portion shall be cursed-the following generations will curse by them: He who requited the generation of the Flood. So I heard. (Gen. Rabbah 30:2). Another explanation:  
their portion is cursed; he does not turn by the way of the vineyards: They would not accept reproof from the good men. Another explanation: They were swift to sail in ships to kill and to plunder property, but in the way of the land that was inhabited by humans and planted with vineyards they did not care to go.  
19Dryness and heat they steal away, [also] snow water; [they descended to] the grave [because] they had sinned.   יטצִיָּ֚ה גַם־חֹ֗ם יִגְזְל֥וּ מֵֽימֵי־שֶׁ֗לֶג שְׁא֣וֹל חָטָֽאוּ:
Dryness and heat they steal away: Because of their evil, they caused for themselves that the world should change for one year from its six seasons: sowing, reaping, heat, cold, summer, and winter.  
snow water: Like: and snow water. This too they stole from the world, because they sinned so that they descended to the grave. In some words, the “vavin” are missing, like (Jer. 11:19), “And I was like a lamb, a bull,” which is interpreted as, a lamb and a bull. There are many more in Machbereth Menachem ben Saruk (p. 26).  
20The womb forgets him; he is sweet to the worms; he will no longer be remembered. Injustice was broken like a tree.   כיִשְׁכָּ֘חֵ֚הוּ רֶ֨חֶם | מְתָ֘ק֚וֹ רִמָּ֗ה ע֥וֹד לֹֽא־יִזָּכֵ֑ר וַתִּשָּׁבֵ֖ר כָּעֵ֣ץ עַוְלָֽה:
The womb forgets him: [i.e., the womb of] his mother. Rabbi Tanchum expounded that the generation of the Flood would take their children and place them underneath themselves in order to stop up the windows of the deep, and even his mother would have no mercy on him.  
he is sweet to the worms: to die, and for the worms to eat their (sic) flesh.  
he will no longer be remembered: In one year they were [to be] uprooted, but Job was complaining about the reprieve that was given them [the wicked] from the start, for many died and did not see this retribution.  
21He feeds the barren woman who will not bear, but he does not adorn the widow.   כארֹעֶ֣ה עֲ֖קָרָה לֹ֣א תֵלֵ֑ד וְ֜אַלְמָנָ֗ה לֹ֣א יְיֵטִֽיב:
He feeds the barren woman who will not bear: so was their custom: One would marry two wives, one for coitus and one for children. The one intended for coitus he would give a potion of roots to drink in order that she should never give birth, and he would feed her delicacies, bathe her, and adorn her, so that she should appear beautiful. The one intended for children he would dress in widow’s garments and starve. This is the meaning of his statement that the barren woman who will not give birth he would feed and adorn, but the “widow,” who was intended for children, he would not adorn.  
22And He draws the mighty men with His strength; he rises and does not believe in his life.   כבוּמָשַׁ֣ךְ אַבִּירִ֣ים בְּכֹח֑וֹ יָ֜ק֗וּם וְֽלֹא־יַֽאֲמִ֥ין בַּֽחַיִּֽין:
And He draws: The Holy One, blessed be He, [draws] those mighty men with His strength to retribution and to sustenance by the reprieve that He granted them.  
he rises: one day.  
and does not believe in his life: Heb. בחיין, like בחיים; (Gen. 7:11): “on that day all the fountains of the deep were torn apart etc.”  
23He grants him safety and he relies [upon it], but His eyes are on their ways.   כגיִתֶּן־ל֣וֹ לָ֖בֶטַח וְיִשָּׁעֵ֑ן וְ֜עֵינֵ֗יהוּ עַל־דַּרְכֵיהֶֽם:
He grants him safety: until the day of their catastrophe and they rely [on it].  
24They are taken away in a second and he is no more, and they are crushed; like all they are gathered in, and like the tip of an ear of grain they will be cut off.   כדר֚וֹמּוּ מְעַ֨ט | וְֽאֵינֶ֗נּוּ וְֽהֻמְּכ֗וּ כַּכֹּ֥ל יִקָּֽפְצ֑וּן וּכְרֹ֖אשׁ שִׁבֹּ֣לֶת יִמָּֽלוּ:
They are taken away in a second: They are taken away from the world in a fleeting second.  
and they are crushed: crushed and impoverished.  
like all they are gathered in: Like all things that are gathered in and taken away at the time of the harvest, vintage, and olive harvest; just as those are gathered in, so were they destroyed instantly.  
25And if it is not so, then who will prove me a liar and make my words as nought?"   כהוְאִם־לֹ֣א אֵ֖פוֹ מִ֣י יַכְזִיבֵ֑נִי וְיָשֵׂ֥ם לְ֜אַ֗ל מִלָּתִֽי:
And if it is not so, then: [If it is not] as I said, let one of you come and prove me a liar.  
and make my words as nought: [That is, my words] with which I criticize Him to know His standards, that He is slow to anger with the wicked, but He chastises those who love Him as I do, and He does not put them to death, as he complains above (23:17): “Because I was not cut off from before the darkness,” but those who remove the landmarks and commit all these [crimes] were not smitten with suffering.