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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Job 12

 

 

Verses 1-22

CHAPTERS 12-14 Job’s Answer to Zophar

1. His sarcasm (Job 12:1-6)

2. He describes God’s power (Job 12:7-25)

3. He denounces his friends (Job 13:1-13)

4. He appeals to God (Job 13:14-28)

5. The brevity and trouble of life (Job 14:1-6)

6. The ray of light through hope of immortality (Job 14:7-22)

Job 12:1-6. He answers not only Zophar but the others as well. Before this Job had expressed his disappointment in them, rebuked them for their unkindness, and assailed as worthless their arguments, but now he treats them in a very sarcastic manner.

No doubt but ye are the people

And wisdom shall die with you.

Was he then without any understanding or inferior to them? Do you think I am ignorant of the things you have spoken to me about? You mock me; I am nothing but a laughingstock. You as my neighbors come to me and say, “He calls on God, that He should answer him.” Yet I am the just, the perfect man; you make sport of me. You are at ease and treat the one who is down, overwhelmed by misfortune, with contempt. But remember:

The tents of robbers prosper,

And they that provoke God are secure;

Abundance does He give unto them.

This is what Zophar had claimed in his address, that the wicked do not prosper. (See Job 11:2; Job 11:14; Job 11:19-20.) Robbers often prosper and those who are secure are often those who provoke God. Perhaps his friends with their prosperity might belong to that class.

Job 12:7-25. This is also in answer to Zophar’s argument. Zophar had spoken of the greatness of God. The wisdom which Zophar had tried to impress upon him is so elementary that the beasts themselves know something about it.

But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee;

And the fowls of the air, and they shall tell 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 the Lord hath wrought this?

In whose hand is the soul of every living thing,

And the breath of all mankind.

Job outstrips Zophar’s speech in every way. He is ahead in the controversy. In Job 12-13 Job seems to have Bildad’s statement in mind (Job 8:8-9), and he declares now that with God is wisdom and might; He hath counsel and understanding. But what follows, while true in itself, is but the one side of God’s doings, and the darkest pessimism, such as suited his mind. God spoils counsellors, maketh judges fools, looseth the bonds of kings, leadeth priests away spoiled, overthroweth the mighty, pours contempt on princes; He increaseth the nations and destroyeth them.

He taketh away the heart of the chiefs of the people in the earth,

And causeth them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way.

They grope in dark without light.

And He maketh them stagger like a drunken man.

It is a dreadful picture Job has drawn of God by the one-sided description of His greatness. Not a word of His love and mercy. It is in full keeping with his despairing heart.

Job 13:1-5. He had told in the previous words that he was not an ignorant man. What his wise friends had told him he understood perfectly; both nature and history had taught him the greatness of God which they had emphasized. What ye know, I know; I am not inferior to you. I am just as good as you are. What he desires is not to speak with them but to the Almighty; he wants to reason with God. The parallelism of verses 4 and 5 is interesting and has been rendered as follows:

But as for ye, plastered with lies are ye,

Physicians of no value are ye all

Would ye but altogether hold your peace;

That, of itself, would show that ye are wise.

Still stronger is his rebuke as found in Job 13:7-13. He warns them that their whole course is wrong. They are presumptuous in talking deceitfully for God. All this he speaks in self-defense, that he is innocent, and with it the subtle accusation against God once more, that He is unjust. He also warns them that “He will surely reprove you” and this came true.

Job 13:14-28. Then his words addressed to God Himself. He dares to approach Him. Knowing the greatness and awfulness of God, and perhaps conscious too of not having Him honoured as he should have done, he says, this would be the meaning of the rather difficult verse (Job 13:14), “Come what may I take my life in my hand and risk it.” The paraphrase of the Companion Bible expresses it correctly.

Aye, come what may, I willingly the risk will take; and put my life into my hand.

But at that moment when he makes this resolve His faith breaks through and he utters one of the sublimest words which ever came from human lips. “Yea, though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” And thousands upon thousands have spoken it after him, thus honouring God with faith’s sweetest song in the night.

He wants God to hear his speech diligently and have declaration come into His ear. He expresses his hope that God would yet declare him just, that is justify him, then who will dare to contend with him? And then that pleading of his with so much pathos! Relieve me from the sufferings, withdraw thine hand far from me, which rests upon me; and let not thy terror make me afraid. Then call Thou, and I will answer (Job 13:20-22). Or let me speak, he says, and answer Thou me. Then once more the right note, that note which finally must be sounded to the full in his wretched misery--”How many are mine iniquities and sins? Make me to know my transgression and my sins.” But it was only momentarily. He breaks out in fresh charges against God. His self-righteousness has blinded him so that he asks, “wherefore hidest Thou Thy face, and holdest me for Thine enemy?” Horrible charges he brings against His Maker, the charges of injustice (Job 13:26-28). He wanted to listen to God, but He gives Him no chance to speak. When finally God speaks Job is in the dust.

Job 14:1-6. A true picture he has drawn in these words of man’s frailty. Besides this unclean, for, who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one. He requests that he might be let alone “till he shall accomplish as an hireling his day.”

Job 14:7-22. There is hope for a tree, he declares, though cut down, but it may sprout again. “But man that dieth, and wasteth away; Yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?” He speaks of man “who lieth down and riseth not.” That is the language of man apart from revelation. It is the expression of one who is in darkness and uncertainty. Frequently teachers of errors, like soul-sleep, the annihilation of the wicked, etc., in defense of their false teachings quote Job and the utterances of these friends as if these were true revelations from God, when their words are only the expressions of the human mind, and often false and misleading. What Job spoke and his friends is given in an unfailing inspired account, but revelation is a different matter altogether.

Then Job’s desire is to be hidden in Sheol, until His wrath be past. “That Thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!” In this he expresseth the wish to believe that there is hope and that some one might give him the assurance about it--”If a man die, shall he live again?” But this ray of hope is only for a moment and once more he gives way to despair and continues his awful suspicions that God is his enemy. The first series of controversies are a complete failure. Job by justifying himself has dishonored God, and his friends by condemning him and not giving him the comfort he needed have sinned as well.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Job 12:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/job-12.html. 1913-1922.

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Saturday, January 25th, 2020
the Second Week after Epiphany
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