So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish:
It is thought that this passage is a quotation introduced by Bildad from a fragmentary poem of more ancient date. Desirous of fortifying his own sentiments by the authority of the ancients, he introduces into the heart of his argument a stray passage which had been carried down through successive generations. The moral of this fragment is that the "hypocrite's hope shall perish." This is presented under three images.
1. That of the bulrush growing in a marshy soil. Rush and flag may represent any plant which demands a marshy soil, and imbibes a large quantity of water. When the hypocrite is compared to a rush which cannot live without mire, and the flag that cannot grow without water, we are instructed as to the weakness and unsubstantial nature, of his confidence; and when it is added that "while yet it is in greenness, it withereth before any other herb," we are reminded of the brevity and precariousness of his profession. Take the reed out of the water, and plant it in any other soil, and you will see it hang down its head and perish utterly. You have no need to tear it up by the roots, or to cut it down as by a reaping hook. All that you have tot do is draw off the watery substance on which it depends for nourishment, and which it copiously imbibes. Thus too it is with the profession and confidence of the hypocrite. To prove the worthlessness of his hope, it is enough that you abstract from him the enjoyments of his past existence — the mire and moisture from which he derived his fair show of appearances in the flesh. But for the favourable condition in which he happened to be placed, he would have never appeared religious at all, and that being changed, his declension is rapid and inevitable. "The hypocrite's hope shall perish." He is himself frail as a reed, and that which he leans upon is "unstable as water." Has then the hypocrite hope? Yes, for such is the deceitfulness of the human heart, that it can even cry peace when there is no peace. Thinking the Deity to be altogether such an one as himself, he has accustomed himself to call evil good and good evil. As the man is, so is the god that he creates for himself. And hence it is that even the hypocrite has a hope. But it is a hope which must perish.
2. That of the spider's web, swept away in a moment by the breath of the storm. The web of the spider is carefully and ingeniously constructed; but nothing is more easily brushed aside. The insect trusts to it indeed, but in a moment of time, he and it are carried away together. The hypocrite, too, has reared for himself what he supposes will be a comfortable habitation against the storm and rain. Not more slender is the thread spun by the spider than is his fancied security. Let trial or calamity come, and it will avail him nothing.
3. A plant that has no depth of earth for its roots, but which seeks even among a heap of stones for wherewithal to maintain itself. The metaphor is drawn from an object with which the observers of nature are familiar. When the roots have only a slender hold of a heap of stones, they are easily loosened, and the tree falls prostrate. Such is the attachment of the hypocrite to the place of his self-confidence. Into every crevice of his fancied merits does he push the fibres of hope. On the hard rock of an unconverted heart he flourishes awhile. Learn —
(1) Human nature is very much the same in all ages.
(2) It concerns us all to endeavour after that well-grounded hope which will stand against every storm, and give composure to us in our latter end. Hope is the grand engine that moves the world. How desirous we ought to be that our hope of heaven should be well grounded and sure. For this purpose be much in secret prayer; and study to be more conformed unto Him who is the author of your hope.
(J. L. Adamson.)
Parallel VersesKJV: So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish: