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Bible Commentaries
Job 12

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-12

Job Speaks (12:1-14:22)

Everyone Knows What You Know (12:1-12)

The speech of Job is partly answer and partly summary, as it completes the first round of the discussion. It begins with a sarcastic reference to the friends, and particularly to the speech of Zophar. "No doubt you are the people," Job says, in recognition of their claim to infallible knowledge. Zophar has declared (Job 11:12) that it was highly unlikely that a stupid man (like Job) would "get understanding" (literally, "get a heart," for the heart was regarded as the seat of the intellect). Job indignantly replies that he already has a "heart" (vs. 3) and is at least the mental equal of his counselors.

Verse 4 is an appeal, made once again, for the friends to consider the true facts in the case, which are the meaningless contradictions of Job’s life. He, the just and blameless man, is now the laughingstock, the symbol of forsakenness and even of God’s judgment. Verse 5 seems to be a side reference to the attitude of the friends, as Job remarks on the way in which ease blinds men to the misfortune of others. The last line of the verse may be translated, "a blow for those whose feet slip," meaning that the friends’ position of security impels them to join in the common practice of hitting a man when he is down. Verse 6 is a repetition of Job’s basic contention (ch. 9) that wickedness is not punished by God, or that his actions are indiscriminate. The last line of the verse probably refers to idolatry.

Job further maintains that it is perfectly obvious that what has happened is the doing of the Lord, that it is not accidental. Whether he means his own calamity or the relative security of the wicked and the idolatrous (vs. 6) is not clear. At any rate, he regards it as a commonplace of knowledge, apparent in the very order of nature, and so not to be argued. The last part of verse 9 is a parallel to Isaiah 41:20, and includes the single use of the divine name, "Yahweh" (English, "Lord"), in the speeches themselves (see comment on ch. 28). Because of this it has sometimes been suggested that the entire section (vss. 7-12) is out of place here, and that in fact it sounds more like one of the friends than like Job. Such a view is supported by the difficulty of verse 12 as it stands, since it is hardly likely that Job would here admit the wisdom of his elder friends (see the remark of Eliphaz on their greater age in Job 15:10). But verse 12 may well be a sarcastic question, or, better, a quotation in preparation for the thought of verse 13. Thus Job would be parodying the claims of the friends and denying them any special wisdom.

Verses 13-25

I Also Know the Wisdom and Power of God (12:13-25)

In contrast to the kind of wisdom the friends claim (and which Job abhors) he asserts that with God alone are wisdom and power (vs. 13; although the word "God" does not appear, the pronoun is emphatic). This basic fact is then elaborated in a description of the working of God’s power and the incomprehensibility of his wisdom. Detailed comment is not necessary here, as the illustrations cited are clear enough. God’s mighty acts are seen, for example, in droughts and floods (vs. 15), in the overthrow of human authorities (vss. 17-19, 21), in the reversals of national fortunes (vs. 23), and even in God’s penetration of and control of the realms of darkness and mystery (vs. 22).

This recital, with its overtones of actual submission to apparent unreasoning, and unreasonable, activity of God, is not to be taken as an indication that Job has reversed his position. As the following chapter makes clear, he is unchanged in the basic protest he would make. Here he simply attempts to establish a common ground with the friends, that the argument may proceed.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Job 12". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/job-12.html.
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