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Bible Commentaries
Job 12

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



This, along with the next two chapters is a record of Job’s reply to his three friends. Scherer pointed out that the chapter divisions here are fortunate, following the general organization of Job’s speech.(F1) In this chapter, Job sarcastically rejected the theology of his friends, appealing to a number of facts that clearly contradicted their views.

Job’s bitterly sarcastic words here do not contradict the New Testament evaluation of Job as a man of great patience. On the other hand, we should consider that, “The measure of Job’s provocation was so great that only a superhuman being could have avoided being disgusted.”(F2)

As Franks noted, “Eliphaz had appealed to revelation (that vision which he said he had); Bildad appealed to the wisdom of the ancients, and Zophar assumed that he himself was the oracle of God’s wisdom.”(F3) Job answered Zophar’s conceited claim. However, Job, in this speech, did not answer Zophar alone, but all of his `comforters.’ He labeled all of them as “forgers of lies” (Job 13:4), challenging them with his declaration that, “I am not inferior to you (Job 12:3).

Verses 1-6


“Then Job answered and said, No doubt but ye are the people, And wisdom shall die with you. But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you: Yea, who knoweth not such things as these? I am one that is a laughing-stock to his neighbor, I who called upon God, and he answered: The just, the perfect man is a laughing-stock. In the thought of him that is at ease, there is contempt for misfortune; It is ready for him whose foot slippeth. The tents of robbers prosper, And they that provoke God are secure; Into whose hand God bringeth abundantly.”

“And wisdom shall die with you” It is amazing that anyone could suppose that these words were intended as a compliment; but Blair wrote, “Job gives them the benefit of the doubt, saying, `Wisdom shall die with you.’ He inferred that they were wise.”(F4) We agree with Barnes that, “This is evidently the language of severe sarcasm; and it shows a spirit fretted and chafed by their reproaches.”(F5)

“(For) him that is at ease, there is a contempt for misfortune” Job, who had been the greatest man in the East, who had been the special object of God’s blessings, who had called upon God, and whom God had answered, - even that man, who, at the moment, had been reduced by the most superlative misfortunes, was experiencing the contemptuous laughter of his neighbors; and in these words he truly spoke of a universal trait of our fallen human nature, namely, that of despising the unfortunate.

“In sheer exasperation, Job here bewails the situation. He knows that he is a godly man of great wisdom and understanding; but here he is treated like a criminal and a simpleton, solely upon the basis of his friends’ theory, a theory that is flatly contradicted by the fact that known robbers are prospering while he is reduced to mockery.”(F6)

In these words, Job is thoroughly contemptuous of the conceited and arrogant ignorance of his `comforters’; and in this great response, he blistered them with devastating and unanswerable criticisms.

“The tents of robbers prosper” This is the dramatic and unanswerable contradiction of the false theory of his `comforters.’ “This was Job’s original proposition; and he clung to it throughout the whole encounter, i.e., that God does not deal with men in this life according to their character.”(F7)

Verses 7-12

Job 12:6

“But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; And the birds of the heavens, and they shall teach thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee; And the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not, in all these, That the hand of Jehovah hath wrought this, In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind. Doth not the ear try words, Even as the palate tasteth food? With aged men is wisdom, And in length of days understanding.”

What Job declared here was so clearly the truth that only a fool could have denied it. “In the whole creation, the strong prey on the weak, the fierce upon the tame, and the violent upon the timid. God does not intervene to destroy the lion, the tiger, and the wolfe, and to deliver the lambs and the chickens!(F8)

“And the birds of the heavens” The hawks and the eagles are not forbidden to prey upon the small and the weak.

“And the fishes of the sea” Do the big ones ever protect the little ones? The sharks and the barracudas are always as busy as they can be eating up the smaller fishes!

“Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee” Every farmer knows that all of the good crops must suffer from the encroachments of the crab grass, the ragweeds, the cockleburs, the Johnson grass, thistles, briars and grass-spurs. And Job’s observation here is that all of these conditions reflect quite accurately the situation as it exists among men also. Is it the lambs, the doves, and the good crops, along with the righteous man, who are always blessed; and do the disasters always fall upon the wolves, the sharks, the hawks, the weeds, and the robbers? Certainly not!

“The hand of Jehovah hath wrought this” This argument should have silenced Job’s comforters; but it didn’t. There is no blindness as complete as that which exists in the adherents to some false theology. As this is written, a current example of such blindness is being acted out near Waco, Texas, where the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) was trying to arrest David Koresh and his Branch-Davidians!

“With aged men is wisdom” The paragraph divisions in this chapter are unfortunate. Job 12:13 states that, “With God is wisdom”; and Job here offered that as a correction to the stupid notion that aged men are necessarily wise. Wisdom is not with the `old men’ of our world, but with God.

Verses 13-25


“With God is wisdom and might; He hath counsel and understanding. Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again; He shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening. Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up; Again he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth. With him is strength and wisdom; The deceived and the deceiver are his. He leadeth counselors away stripped, And judges maketh he fools. He looseth the bond of kings, And bindeth their loins with a girdle. He leadeth priests away stripped, And overthroweth the mighty. He removeth the speech of the trusty, And taketh away the understanding of the elders. He poureth contempt upon princes, And looseth the belt of the strong. He uncovereth the deep things of darkness, And bringeth out to light the shadow of death. He increaseth the nations, and he destroyeth them; He enlargeth the nations, and he leadeth them captive. He taketh away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth, And causeth them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way. They grope in the darkness without light; And he maketh them to stagger like a drunken man.”

We understand every word of this paragraph as a refutation of the favorite error of his `comforters,’ namely, that “wisdom is with aged men and that length of days and understanding are synonymous” (Job 12:12). Notice how many times God’s wisdom is mentioned here, along with the corollary in each instance that, “Counselors and judges (Job 12:17), kings (Job 12:18), priests and the mighty (Job 12:19), the trusty and the elders (Job 12:20), the princes and the strong (Job 12:21), and the chiefs of the people of the earth (Job 12:24)” - indeed ALL of the men of the whole earth who might have been accounted wise, without exception, when their wisdom was considered along with God’s true wisdom, their true status is described here by Job as, “Stripped (naked), deceived, deceivers, fools, helpless (having their bonds or belts loosed), overthrown, held in contempt, with their speech removed, and their understanding taken away.” Such words as these should certainly have exploded the myth that old men were wise!

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 12". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/job-12.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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