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Job reproves the boasting of his friends: he shews that in this life it is frequently well even with those men who offend the Lord; yet allows that nobody could deny their general doctrine, that all things were governed by an Almighty God.
Before Christ 1645.
Job 12:1. And Job answered— In this and the two following chapters Job replies to Zophar. Greatly vexed that his friends should entertain so firm an opinion of his being a wicked man; that they should press him so hard with their maxim, "That affliction was a demonstration of guilt," and should make a mock of his appeal to God, he can no longer refrain from being very sharp in his treatment of them. He taxes them with self-conceit; their maxims he treats as mean and poor, the contrary of which was evident to all observing persons; good men were frequently in distress, while robbers and public plunderers enjoyed their ill-gotten wealth in perfect security; Job 12:2-6. This was so notorious, that it was impossible it could have escaped their observation; Job 12:7 to the end. This was, indeed, the work of Jehovah, who was all-wise and all-powerful, and no one could call him to account. All this he was as sensible of as they could be, for which reason he was the more desirous to argue the point with God; Job 13:1-10. And as for them, if they would pretend to be judges, they should take great care to be upright ones; since God would by no means excuse corruption of judgment, though it should be in his own behalf; and his all-seeing eye would penetrate their motives, though ever so closely concealed from human view; and in his sight, all their maxims of wisdom, on which they seemed so much to value themselves, would be regarded as dross and dung. He was not, he intimated, in the least apprehensive of bringing his cause to an issue; because he was satisfied that the Almighty, far from oppressing him by dint of power, would rather afford him strength to go through his defence; and he was persuaded that the issue would be favourable to him; Job 12:11-19. He, therefore, challenges any one among them to declare himself the accuser; secure enough as to that point, as he well knew they could not make good their charge: and as, in case of false accusation, the accuser was to undergo the punishment due to the accused if guilty, he knew they would run no such hazards, unless they knew themselves able to prove their charge. He, therefore, again ends with a tender expostulation with the Almighty, begging that he might, before his death, have an opportunity of publicly vindicating his integrity; since afterwards he could have no hope of doing it; Job 12:20 to the end of chap. 14: Heath.
Job 12:2. No doubt but ye are the people— No doubt knowledge is yours; perfect wisdom dwells with you!
Job 12:4. I am as one mocked of his neighbour— I am a mocking-stock to my neighbour. "He hath appealed to God, to be sure he will answer him! The integrity of the righteous man is become a scoff." He hath appealed to God, was the mock which had been thrown out to him, and alludes to what he had said, chap. Job 10:7 which had drawn forth that wish of Zophar (Job 12:5-6 of the last chapter), that God would appear, and convict him of his hypocrisy. Heath.
Job 12:5. Is ready, &c.— This is much more beautiful in the original. It is a metaphor taken from the archer, whose arrow is fitted to the string, and ready to be discharged. The word שׁאנן shaanan, here rendered at ease, doth not make so complete a sense as could be wished: its root, שׁאן shaan, particularly refers to such wicked persons as are so void of humanity, that the afflictions of their neighbours are a pleasure to them; and who are so far from endeavouring to alleviate them, that it is their delight to increase them by taunts and insults. I render the whole verse, In calamity, contempt is ready in the thoughts of the insolent, for those whose feet are tottering. Heath.
Job 12:6. Into whose hand God bringeth abundantly— Those who provoke God, enjoy in security whatever God pleases to bestow upon them.
Job 12:8. Or, speak to the earth— Or, survey the earth.
Job 12:9. Who knoweth not, &c.?— Who knoweth not among all these, that it is the hand of Jehovah which hath made them all? From the word Jehovah's being used in this place, some would infer that the book of Job must be at least posterior to the time of Moses, and written by a Jew: a very weak argument! as there seems no doubt that the name Jehovah was well known to Abraham and the patriarchs; nor was it made known to Moses by God, as a new name which he chose for himself, but as a name referring to the great covenant. See Exodus 3:14-15. Job means in these verses to express his firm opinion, that all animate and inanimate nature clearly bore testimony to the creating power and over-ruling providence of God. See Nehemiah 9:6.
Job 12:11-12. Doth not the ear try words? &c.— Doth not the ear try words, as the palate tasteth food? Job, being about to speak of the supreme and absolute dominion of God over his creatures, begins with two proverbial expressions, in which he seems to insinuate that he wished for other judges of what he had to say, who, endued with a more mature and solid understanding of spiritual things, were better able to distinguish sincere piety, and the just complaints of oppressed innocence, from impiety and hypocrisy, and to dispute more prudently concerning God and his providence. Schultens.
Job 12:13. With him is wisdom and strength— With him dwell, &c. Counsel and understanding are peculiar to him. Thus Houbigant; who supposes the expression of dwelling to be in immediate opposition to the foregoing verse, where wisdom is said to BE with old men, but here to DWELL with GOD, as in its proper and peculiar home, the fountain of all human wisdom. Job shews, in the following verses, that the affairs of the world, and the fortunes of men, are subject to such a variety of changes and chances, that all human reason and wisdom must be silent with respect to them; since the same misfortunes involve the good and the wicked, and seem rather to flow from the supreme dominion and unsearchable will of God, than to be distributed according to the rule of exact justice. See Schultens.
Job 12:15. He withholdeth the waters— This seems to refer to the universal deluge; as the latter part of the next verse probably alludes to the fall.
Job 12:19. He leadeth princes away spoiled— He depriveth the priests of their understanding. Schultens.
Job 12:20. He removeth away the speech of the trusty— He bereaveth orators of their eloquence. Heath. On the latter clause Peters observes, that when Job would set out the uncontroulable power of God to defeat all the counsels and purposes of men, one of the strongest phrases that he could find to express it by is, He taketh away the understanding of the aged; for in those early days the highest veneration possible was paid to old age.
Job 12:21. And weakeneth the strength of the mighty— The girdle being an ornament, the loosing it implies disgrace.
Job 12:24. He taketh away the heart, &c.— Bishop Warburton thinks that these words allude to the wandering of the Israelites forty years in the wilderness. But whoever will be at the pains to consult the Hebrew, will find that there is no mention of any wilderness or desart in the passage. The word תהו tohu, so rendered, properly signifies confusion, and is the very word used Genesis 1:0 to express the chaos before the world was brought into form; so that the persons here said to wander in the wilderness, were only bewildered in a metaphorical sense; and so Schultens understands it. It might be rendered, and causeth them to wander in inextricable confusion. Moreover, the wandering of the Israelites was that of a whole people; this is only of the chiefs or heads of the people. Peters. Houbigant thinks that Job refers here to those chiefs or heads of families who, in the first ages of the world, led out colonies into new countries; and especially to such as God in his anger dispersed into distant and solitary places. He says, they are wholly wide of the mark, toto coelo, who suppose that the passage has any reference to the Israelites in the wilderness.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Exasperated by such treatment and insinuations, Job replies with equal severity, and returns the more justly deserved rebuke.
1. He ridicules their arrogance in conceiting themselves the only living oracles: No doubt but ye are the people, ironically admitting their pretensions as the only wise men in the world, compared with whom, Job and others were as the wild ass, ignorant and stupid, and wisdom shall die with you; to be sure, when you are gone the world will, for went of such instructions, soon grow brutish. Note; (1.) Nothing is more disgusting and offensive than the boasts of vanity. (2.) A high conceit of our own importance is as foolish as it is sinful.
2. He pleads a right to the exercise of reason, as well as they: But I have understanding as well as you; my natural faculties are unimpaired; and if I claim equality with you, I may do it without presumption, for I am not inferior to you in parts or knowledge; or falling before you, as one vanquished; or, more than you, an apostate from God, as was suggested. Yea, who knoweth not such things as these? What they had discoursed of the wisdom, justice, power, and sovereignty of God, were subjects that he was equally acquainted with, and which others could speak of as knowingly as they had done; they need not, therefore, on that account think so highly of themselves. Note; (1.) Though a wise man never chooses to speak in his own praise, there may be times when self-vindication may oblige us, as it may seem, to boast ourselves a little, 2 Corinthians 11:6. (2.) When we differ from others in sentiment, it becomes us neither to be overbearing, nor to despise them, however clear the argument may appear to us: they are men as well as we, and may be endued with equal, perhaps superior, understanding.
3. He complains of their insolent usage. I am as one mocked of his neighbour; for so it appeared to him, who expected comfort from his friends, and found nothing but railing accusation; and this was the more cruel from a professor of religion, such as each of them appeared, who calleth upon God, and he answereth him; or he means himself, who, though they insinuated his neglect of prayer, continued ceaseless at a throne of grace. Note; (1.) It is a sore trial to be trodden upon in our afflictions, especially by those from whom we might have hoped for kinder treatment. (2.) When we are reduced in our circumstances, we are apt to be over-jealous, to pervert every inattention into a designed slight, and in trouble to account every word of reproof a reproach and cruelty. (3.) It is a comfort, amidst all the censures of men, even sometimes of good men, that we have a throne of judgment open, and are there sure to be heard with impartiality.
4. He proceeds to confute their suggestion that the righteous were always externally happy. The just upright man is laughed to scorn; it was not merely his own case, but the frequent lot of the righteous: thus Noah, Lot, and others, fared from wicked men. He that is ready to slip with his feet, the righteous in affliction, is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease: the sinners in affluence despise his troubles, and he appears like the lamp ready to go out, the snuff of which is disagreeable and nauseous. Note; (1.) Religion, and the sincere professors of it, have been objects of mockery and scorn in every age: let it not then appear strange if we share in their reproach. (2.) It is too common to see poverty slighted and scorned by those who are at ease; but the portion of Lazarus at the gate is still infinitely preferable to that of Dives at the table.
2nd, The two grand positions that Job's friends lay down he effectually controverts. First, he affirms the sufferings of the upright, and then remarks the prosperity of the wicked.
1. The tabernacles of robbers prosper, such as the Sabaeans who plundered his substance, and many other wicked men who build up their houses by oppression and fraud; and they that provoke God by open and daring iniquities are secure, and frequently in this world live in affluence and at ease: into whose hand God bringeth abundantly of every temporal blessing. Note; (1.) They who abuse the gifts of God, or by dishonest gain enrich themselves, however fair their character may appear among men, will be counted robbers in the day of God. (2.) Many have a rich portion in this life, who have none in another.
2. He appeals for the truth of what he advances to all the creatures, among whom in general the most innocent are the prey to the most rapacious; or he bids them observe the flocks and herds of the wicked, their tables covered with fish and fowl, and every delicacy; and then they will be convinced whether they are in general most affluent who are most pious. Or this is urged as an answer to what Zophar had advanced, of the wisdom, power, and dominion of God, in which there was no such mystery as he seemed to intimate, chap. Job 11:7.; but it might all be read as immediately respecting the brute creation. They were the work of the hands of Jehovah (which name of God nowhere else occurs throughout the whole book); they subsisted by his care, and were at his sovereign disposal: truths clear and evident to enlightened reason, as sounds to the attentive ear, or different savours to the palate; or he intimates, that, if any unprejudiced ear heard their dispute, he would as easily discover the perverseness of their arguments, and the solidity of his own, as the taste discerns between sweet and bitter. Note; The fallen understanding is like a vitiated palate, unable rightly to taste or relish; but when God gives the hearing ear, then we are able to prove all things, and to hold fast that which is good.
3rdly, Job had asserted, that he was not inferior to his friends in understanding; and he shews it.
1. By exalting the wisdom and power of God as much as they had done. However wise the ancients were, and however deeply skilled by long experience any man might appear, he was nothing compared with God, the Ancient of Days, whose wisdom is infinite, his counsels and understanding deep and unfathomable, and his strength almighty and irresistible. Note; If fierce disputants would lay aside the weapons of controversy, and desire to improve the undisputed and glorious truths that both sides admitted, how much more would it be to their own and others' edification and comfort?
2. He mentions a variety of instances wherein this wisdom of God appeared in the various dispensations of his providence in the world. (1.) There is frequently no building up what he makes desolate, as the cities of Sodom; nor any possibility of delivering his prisoners, especially when shut up in the dungeon of hell, where there is a great gulph fixed, so that none, once entered, can ever pass from thence. (2.) He has different engines, able to act either way for the punishment of the sinner, when he pleases. If he bind up the clouds, drought and famine consume the earth; if he open the windows of heaven, a deluge sweeps away the ungodly. Note; If God withhold the rain of Divine influence from an unfaithful soul, it must quickly wither; or if he pour forth the flood of his wrath upon us, who may abide it? (3.) From him is derived all the wisdom of man, the deceived and the deceiver are his; so that the crafty can proceed no farther than his permission: and, as he pleases, he can counteract and disappoint all their deep devices, and make them subservient to the purposes of his own glory. Note; Though all the evil in the world proceeds from the abuse of what God bestows, and can proceed no farther than he pleases, yet is he in no wise to be charged as the author of the evil, which is wholly man's own work. (4.) As an evidence of what was asserted, a proof is added in the infatuation that God is pleased to put on the counsels of the wise; as in the case of Ahitophel, he maketh even those, who, as most eminent for understanding, were created judges in the land, foolish in their determinations. (5.) The greatest are equally under his dominion with the lowest. Kings are not too high for him to humble; he can loose their bonds, the tyrannical oppressions which they laid on their subjects; or their girdles, the ensigns of royalty, strip them off, reduce them to badges of servitude, so that their honour fades into contempt, and all their might affords them no protection. Note; No might of body, no advancement of station, not even the thrones of kings, are the least security, when God pleases to lay men's honour in the dust. (6.) The persuasive orator, intrusted with the concerns of state, who had words at will, hesitates, and is confused, if God withholds his help; and the aged senator, renowned for wisdom, becomes foolish. Have we ready utterance, or solid understanding? Be it remembered who made man's mouth, and teacheth him knowledge, lest, abusing these gifts to minister to our pride, confusion and folly should be our righteous punishment! (7.) The deep-laid plots of men his eye sees, his providence unfolds; the sins covered with darkness, thick as the shadow of death, are unveiled to their perpetual shame. Note; Let no sinner promise himself secrecy or impunity; there is an eye that pierces the darkness, from which no workers of iniquity can hide themselves. (8.) Nations are increased or diminished at his will. They prosper by his arm, and, that withdrawn, rush into ruin. Note; National strength is from God; if he be provoked, when at the summit of prosperity, by undiscerned means, he can quickly breed division, and the disjointed structure falls by its own weight. (9.) The greatest generals and wisest commanders, deprived by him of valour and counsel, lose their courage, are sunk with panic fear, utterly at a loss how to act, and, by mistakes gross as darkness, stumble, and lose the power of resistance, like a drunken man: so weak are the wisest and greatest without God; and so sure is it, that wisdom and power alone belong unto the Lord, and can only be derived from him.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 12". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27