JOB CHAPTER 12
Job’s Reply to Zophar.
THE STRANGE GOOD FORTUNE OF THE GODLESS. — If Zophar’s arguments had been valid and Job’s suffering was to be regarded as the direct punishment for a specific sin, then his faith in the justice of God would have been severely shaken. For that reason Job answers in a tone of great severity. V. 1. And Job answered and said, in a tone and with words of bitter sarcasm, v. 2. No doubt but ye are the people, that is, the right kind, the representative men, and wisdom shall die with you, since, by their own statements, they possessed it all, and no one dared to differ with them. V. 3. But I have understanding as well as you, he was in no wise lacking in the understanding of which they thought they had the monopoly; I am not inferior to you, he was not meaner in wisdom than they and therefore did not have to give way one inch; yea, who knoweth not such things as these? What they had brought forward was a matter of common knowledge, by no means unusual; they had no reason to take special pride in their remarks. V. 4. I am as one mocked of his neighbor, he had become a laughing-stock to his own friends, who calleth upon God, and He answereth him, that is, I who called to God and found a hearing, who had made the worship of God the rule of my life. The just, upright man is laughed to scorn, a target for the mockery of those who called themselves his friends. V. 5. He that is ready to slip with his feet is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease, literally, “For misfortune scorn, according to the opinion of the prosperous, ready for those whose foot wavers,” that is, fortunate and successful people ordinarily have nothing but scorn and contempt for the unfortunate, for such as are overtaken with misfortune. V. 6. The tabernacles of robbers prosper, powerful tyrants, men who make it a practise to spoil others, live in safety, and they that provoke God are secure, Ps. 73, 12; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly, rather, “he who has God enter into his hand,” trusting in the weapon which he wields with his right hand. The strange good fortune of the godless has often puzzled believing children of God, but the solution of the question is found Ps. 73.
GOD’S GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD. — V. 7. But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee, every man can learn from them what Job very well knew, the majesty of God in the government of the world; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee; v. 8, or speak to the earth, addressing it for information, and it shall teach thee, and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. All nature unites in declaring the greatness of God. V. 9. Who knoweth not in all these, gaining his understanding from observing them, that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? The entire visible universe proclaims the creation of Jehovah. V. 10. In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, the life which He has given to all creatures, and the breath of all mankind, literally, “the spirit of all flesh of man.” All this must be acknowledged by all observers of nature. V. 11. Doth not the ear try words, prove sayings or proverbs, testing their inner worth, and the mouth taste his meat? Even as the palate discriminates between the foods which are taken into the mouth, so the spirit of man should distinguish between matters brought to its attention. V. 12. With the ancient is wisdom; aged men, in the course of their long life, acquire a true insight into the nature of things; and in length of days understanding; when a person has lived many years and always carefully observed things, his judgment is usually reliable. But now, by way of contrast and in bringing out a climax, Job refers to God. V. 13. With Him is wisdom and strength, He possesses them as His personal qualities, as His essential attributes; He hath counsel and understanding, the ability to discern what is right and wrong, sound and corrupt. V. 14. Behold, He breaketh down, in the irresistible exercise of His almighty power, and it cannot be built again, man being powerless before His might; He shutteth up a man, imprisoning him in troubles as in a cistern or dungeon, and there can be no opening, there is no escape from His power. V. 15. Behold, He withholdeth the waters, restraining all calamity at His will, and they dry up; also He sendeth them out, releasing their devastating power, and they overturn the earth. V. 16. With Him is strength and wisdom, true, essential knowledge; the deceived and the deceiver are His, both he who errs and he who causes others to err. God’s wisdom is far above that of all men, whether they use their knowledge for the good of their fellow-men or abuse it in leading others astray. V. 17. He leadeth counselors away spoiled, stripped of everything they valued, especially the badges of their rank, and maketh the judges fools, depriving them of both their power and prestige. V. 18. He looseth the bond of kings, breaking the fetters, the yoke, with which they kept their subjects in obedience, and girdeth their loins with a girdle, placing them in bonds, in turn. V. 19. He leadeth princes, priests who were at the same time rulers, away spoiled, all their authority being taken from them, and overthroweth the mighty, those who considered themselves firmly established, mighty and influential persons. V. 20. He removeth away the speech of the trusty, taking away the eloquence of the people’s orators and counselors, and taketh away the understanding of the aged, so that they no longer have the right judgment. V. 21. He poureth contempt upon princes, upon the nobility of the land, and weakeneth the strength of the mighty, literally, either, “He causes the dam of the canals to sink down,” or, “He lets down that which holds together the containing of great capacity”; that is, He disables the mighty for the contest by causing their undergarments to hang down loosely, a fact which hinders them in fighting. V. 22. He discovereth deep things out of darkness and bringeth out to light the shadow of death; that is, all the dark plans and the wickedness of men which they believe hidden from the eyes of men He brings forth into the light. Cp. 1 Cor. 4, 5. V. 23. He increaseth the nations, making them great, giving them prosperity, and destroyeth them; He enlargeth the nations, spreading them abroad, increasing their territory, and straiteneth them again, causes them to be carried away into captivity and to lose all they gained. V. 24. He taketh away the heart of the chief of the people of the earth, the understanding of those who are held together by the ties of a common origin, language, and country, and causeth them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way, in pathless wastes, following leads which are utterly foolish. V. 25. They grope in the dark without light, and He maketh them to stagger like a drunken man. Cp. Is. 19, 14. The entire passage reminds one of the great hymn of Mary with its praise of the strength and mercy of God, Luke 1, 46-55. Job certainly proved that he was in no wise inferior to Eliphaz in His knowledge of the wisdom and strength of Jehovah.