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Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Job 12

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And Job answered and said,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 2

No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.

Wisdom shall die with you! - Ironical. As if all the wisdom in the world was concentrated in them, and would expire when they expired. Wisdom makes "a people:" a foolish nation are "not a people" (Romans 10:19).

Verse 3

But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you: yea, who knoweth not such things as these?

Not inferior - not vanquished in argument and "wisdom" (Job 13:2).

Such things as these - such commonplace maxims as you so pompously adduce.

Verse 4

I am as one mocked of his neighbour, who calleth upon God, and he answereth him: the just upright man is laughed to scorn.

Mocked. The unfounded accusations of Job's friends were a 'mockery' of him. He alludes to Zophar's words, "when thou mockes" (Job 11:3).

I am as one mocked of his neighbour, who calleth upon God, and he answereth him - rather, 'who called upon God, and He answered him.' Job speaks of himself in the third person, standing as it were outside of himself, and contemplating himself as an object. 'I am like one mocked of his neighbour, though that one formerly was always answered in all that he called upon God for (enjoying the favour of God: a proof that I could not have been the wicked hypocrite which ye make me out)' (cf. Job 29:3-5).

Verse 5

He that is ready to slip with his feet is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease.

Lamp - a torch. "Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint" (Proverbs 25:19). 'Thoughts and 'feet' are in contrast: also rests 'securely' and 'falterings.' The wanderer, arrived at his night quarters, contemptuously throws aside the torch which had guided his uncertain steps through the darkness. As the torch is to the wanderer, so Job to his friends. Once they gladly used his aid in their need, now they in prosperity mock him in his need. Maurer translates instead of "lamp despised," 'To calamity [ piyd (H6365)] (is due) contempt in the thought of him that is at ease:' and the first clause transposed, 'And it (contempt) is ready for them that slip with their feet.'

Verse 6

The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly.

The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure. Job shows that the matter of fact opposes Zophar's theory (Job 11:14; Job 11:19-20), that wickedness causes 'insecurity' in men's "tabernacles." On the contrary, they who 'rob the tabernacles' (dwellings) of others 'prosper securely' in their own.

Into whose hand God bringeth abundantly - rather, 'who make a god of their own hand;' literally, 'carry God in their own hand' (Habakkuk 1:11, Hebrew, cf. my remark; Psalms 12:4) - i:e., who regard their might as their only ruling principle (Umbreit).

Verses 7-8

But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:

Ask now the beasts ... and the fowls ... and the fish. Beasts birds, fish, and plants, reasons Job, teach that the violent live the most securely (Job 12:6). The vulture lives more securely than the dove, the lion than the ox, the shark than the dolphin, the thorn which tears it than the rose.

Speak to the earth, [ siyach (H7878)] - either 'meditate upon' or "speak to the earth" - i:e., the animals of the earth.

Verse 9

Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?

Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? In all these cases, says Job, the agency must be referred to Yahweh ("the Lord," English version), though they may seem to man to imply imperfection (Job 12:6; Job 9:24). This is the only undisputed passage of the poetical part in which the name "Yahweh" occurs: in the historical parts it occurs frequently.

Verse 10

In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.

In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind. The soul - i:e., the animal life. Man, reasons Job, is subjected to the same laws as the lower animals.

Verse 11

Doth not the ear try words? and the mouth taste his meat?

Doth not the ear try words? and the mouth taste his meat? As the mouth by tasting meats selects what pleases it, so the ear tries the words of others, and retains in the mind and memory what is convincing and pleasing. Each chooses according to his taste. The connection with Job 12:12 is in reference to Bildad's appeal to the "ancients" (Job 8:8). You are right in appealing to them, since 'with them was wisdom,' etc. But you select such proverbs of theirs as suit your views, so I may borrow from the same such as suit mine.

Taste his meat - tastes to find its own suitable food-the food which pleases it. As in Job 9:4, etc., Job dwelt on the terrors of God's power in the world of nature, here he dwells on those terrors in His dealings with man. Instead of dwelling on all that is clear, pleasant, and beneficent, he dwells on all that is inexplicable, dark, and terrible.

Verse 12

With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.

With the ancient is wisdom - "the ancient," the aged (Job 15:10).

Verse 13

With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding.

In contrast "with the ancient is wisdom" (Job 12:12), Job quotes a saying of the ancients which suits his argument - "With Him (God) is (the true) wisdom;" "Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength" (Proverbs 8:14): and by that "wisdom and strength" "He breaketh down," etc., as an absolute Sovereign, not allowing man to penetrate His mysteries: man's part is to bow to His unchangeable decrees (Job 1:21). The Mohammedan saying is, 'If God will, and how God will.'

Verse 14

Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again: he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening.

Shutteth up. "He shall open, and none shall shut; and He shall shut, and none shall open" (Isaiah 22:22). Job refers to Zophar's "shut up" (Job 11:10). The image is from the pits often used as prisons (Jeremiah 37:1-21; Jeremiah 38:6): the mouth was shut over the prisoner. Job's calamity is like such a pit-prison, in which he is shut without any hope of opening.

Verse 15

Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up: also he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth.

Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up; also he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth. Probably alluding to the flood.

Verse 16

With him is strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver are his.

The deceived and the deceiver are his. "If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet" (Ezekiel 14:9). Job means, since God has In His Almighty power all alike, the successful deceiver and his duped victim are equally in His power.

Verse 17

He leadeth counsellors away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools.

Spoiled - [ showlaal (H7758)] stripped of the upper garment and barefoot, as captives (Isaiah 20:4). (Maurer.)

Verse 18

He looseth the bond of kings, and girdeth their loins with a girdle.

He looseth the bond of kings - He looseth the authority of kings-the "bond" with which they bind their subjects: "I will loose the loins of kings" (Isaiah 45:1); "He changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings" (Genesis 14:4; Daniel 2:21).

And girdeth their loins with a girdle - the cord with which they are, bound as captives, instead of the royal "girdle" they once wore (Isaiah 22:21), and the bond they once bound others with. So "gird" - put on one the bonds of a prisoner, instead of the ordinary girdle (John 21:18).

Verse 19

He leadeth princes away spoiled, and overthroweth the mighty.

Princes - rather, priests, as the Hebrew is rendered, Psalms 99:6 (Umbreit). Even the sacred ministers of religion are not exempt from reverses and captivity. [The idea of koheen (H3548) is that of a mediating priest.] But in Job's days patriarch princes exercised this office. So that the English version is probably right. So David's sons (who certainly were not mediating priests) are called by this very Hebrew term, Kohaniym (H3548) (2 Samuel 8:18), 'chief rulers.'

The mighty - `the firm-rooted in power:' the Arabic root expresses overflowing water (Umbreit).

Verse 20

He removeth away the speech of the trusty, and taketh away the understanding of the aged.

He removeth away the speech of the trusty - the approved, those of approved eloquence-`those secure in their eloquence:' ex. gr., the speakers in the gate (Isaiah 3:3). (Beza.)

Understanding - literally, 'taste' - i:e., insight or spiritual discernment, which experience gives the aged. The same Hebrew word [ Ta`am (H2940)] is applied to Daniel's wisdom in interpretation (Daniel 2:14)

Verse 21

He poureth contempt upon princes, and weakeneth the strength of the mighty.

He poureth contempt upon princes. Psalms 107:40 quotes, in its first clause, this verse, and in its second the 24th verse of the chapter.

Weakeneth the strength - literally, 'looseth the girdle:' Orientals wear flowing garments: when active strength is to be put forth they gird up their garments with a girdle. Hence, here, 'He destroyeth their power" in the eyes of the people.

Verse 22

He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death.

He discovereth deep things out of darkness. "He revealeth the deep and secret things" (Daniel 2:22).

Verse 23

He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again.

He increaseth the nations. "Thou hast multiplied the nation," etc., (Isaiah 9:3; Psalms 107:38-39, which Psalm quotes this chapter elsewhere). (See the remark of Job 12:21).

Straiteneth - literally, 'leadeth in' - i:e., reduces. Maurer translates [ yancheem (H5148)] 'He leads them away Straiteneth - literally, 'leadeth in' - i:e., reduces. Maurer translates [ yancheem (H5148)] 'He leads them away (captive)' (2 Kings 18:11). I prefer the English version.

Verse 24

He taketh away the heart of the chief of the people of the earth, and causeth them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way.

He taketh away the heart - intelligence.

Wander in a wilderness - figurative; not referring to any actual fact. This cannot be quoted to prove Job lived after Israel's wanderings in the desert. Psalms 107:4; Psalms 107:40, quotes this passage.

Verse 25

They grope in the dark without light, and he maketh them to stagger like a drunken man.

They grope in the dark without light. "Thou shalt grope at, noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness" (Deuteronomy 28:29). Psalms 107:27. again quotes Job, but in a different connection.


(1) How many are the self-sufficient people who seem to think all the wisdom in the world is centered in themselves (Job 12:2). A more just view of ourselves and of others will lead us "not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith" (Romans 12:3).

(2) The worldly trample heartlessly on the fallen. Even an upright man is "despised" if adversity happen him. So long as one stands firm in prosperity he is spoken well of, but when his feet are ready to slip (Job 12:5), he is treated like the torch almost burnt out, which the traveler, when he has reached his journey's end, casts away, now that he no longer needs its light. The believer ought to show a very different spirit from this to the falling and fallen. For "charity suffereth long, and is kind-doth not behave itself unseemly."

(3) It is a great difficulty to those of weak faith to account for the anomaly that daring and dishonest oppressors "prosper" here. But the truth is, if worldly prosperity were such a real blessing as it is supposed, the ungodly would not be allowed to have so much of it. God values it at a low rate: He makes the very prosperity of fools their destruction (Proverbs 1:32).

(4) He has better things in store for His children: so that the believer can say, "Thou hast put gladness in my heart, (4) He has better things in store for His children: so that the believer can say, "Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their grain and their wine increased" (Psalms 4:7). How apt men are to make onesided quotations, only choosing such passages, especially of Scripture, as suit their own purpose (Job 12:11) and "taste!" In dealing spiritually with others we should not seek out merely texts to condemn, but also texts to edify, heal, and comfort them.

(5) Job in his description of the irresistible might of God dwells more on God's acts of terrible might, in sending sudden reverses on kings, counselors, and nations, than on His marvelous loving-kindness in healing the broken-hearted, loosening the prisoner, and restoring the fallen. We ought never to let the severity of our trials blind us to the tender mercies of our God. The more honourably we think and speak of God, the more cause will He give us to honour and glorify Him.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/job-12.html. 1871-8.
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