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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Job 12

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Job's Sarcastic Reply

A. Job complains about his friends.

1. (Job 12:1-3) Job sarcastically answers Zophar and his other friends.

Then Job answered and said:
"No doubt you are the people,
And wisdom will die with you!
But I have understanding as well as you;
I am not inferior to you.
Indeed, who does not know such things as these?"

a. No doubt you are the people: It is easy to hear the sarcastic and bitter tone of voice in Job. That tone was appropriately taken, because Job's friends really had acted as if they were the people and if they had all wisdom.

b. I have understanding as well as you. . . . Indeed, who does not know such things as these? In rebuke to Zophar and his friends, Job made two points. First, that he also was a man of understanding. Second, that the theological principles presented by Zophar and the others were really widely known.

i. "All your boasted wisdom consists only in strings of proverbs which are in every person's mouth, and are no proof of wisdom and experience in them that use them." (Clarke)

ii. In response, Job will speak plainly about the wisdom and greatness of God. "I would we had another Job, to chastise the high-sounding language of modern theologians. There are starting up in our midst men, who if they are not heretics in doctrine, are aliens in speech." (Spurgeon)

2. (Job 12:4-6) Job's complaint: "My friends mock and misunderstand me."

"I am one mocked by his friends,
Who called on God, and He answered him,
The just and blameless who is ridiculed.
A lamp is despised in the thought of one who is at ease;
It is made ready for those whose feet slip.
The tents of robbers prosper,
And those who provoke God are secure;
In what God provides by His hand."

a. I am one mocked by his friends: Job complained that even though he was a godly man (one who called on God, and He answered), a man who was just and blameless - even so, he was mocked and ridiculed.

i. The way that innocent Job was mocked by others reminds us of what Jesus endured in His sufferings and on the cross, when He was mocked by the soldiers who beat Him (Matthew 27:29), was mocked by the chief priests as He hung on the cross (Matthew 27:41), and was ridiculed by others (Mark 15:27-31).

b. A lamp is despised in the thought of one who is at ease: Job remembers what his life used to be like. He used to call on God and receive an answer, and in those bright days he didn't feel like he needed a lamp, because his life was at ease. Now it is all different and his friends only mock and misunderstand him.

c. Those who provoke God are secure: Now, it seemed to Job that his life and prior understanding was upside-down. Before, everything seemed to make sense ? the righteous seemed to be blessed and the wicked seemed to be afflicted. Now it is all different.

i. Job did not give up on God, but he had to give up on his prior understanding of God. "Job's creed has crumbled into ruins, 'therefore', he says, 'I leave my creed, but I deny that I have left God.'" (Chambers)

B. Job explains his understanding of God's ways.

1. (Job 12:7-12) All creation knows the power of God.

"But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
And the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you;
And the fish of the sea will explain to you.
Who among all these does not know
That the hand of the LORD has done this,
In whose hand is the life of every living thing,
And the breath of all mankind?
Does not the ear test words
And the mouth taste its food?
Wisdom is with aged men,
And with length of days, understanding."

a. Now ask the beasts, and they will teach you: Job here expands on the idea first made in Job 9:3: Indeed, who does not know such things as these? The point is that what his friends say about God is so elementary that even the animals know it.

i. "If you want to know the ways of the Lord, says Job, just look around you. You can theologize all you want, but if your theories do not mesh with the nature of things as they are, then what good are such theories? Even a dog has more knowledge of God than you do!" (Mason)

ii. That the hand of the LORD has done this: "It is always pointed out that verse 9 is the only place in the poetry where the name Yahweh is used for God. For this reason its authenticity has been doubted by many. Its removal in the interests of a theory that this word distinguishes a prose original from poetic additions is a circle of reasoning. Viewed in a different light, the word acquired enormous importance because its rarity makes it so conspicuous." (Andersen)

b. Does not the ear test words: In these few verses Job recites a truisms; statements that are understood as obviously true. The idea is that as clearly as these things are true, so is the power and majesty of God also easily understood as true.

i. "There is no appeal from the verdict of our palate. We know in a moment whether a substance is sweet or bitter, palatable or disagreeable. Now what the taste is to articles of diet, that the ear is to words, whether of God or man." (Meyer)

2. (Job 12:13-25) Job describes the great power of God.

"With Him are wisdom and strength,
He has counsel and understanding.
If He breaks a thing down, it cannot be rebuilt;
If He imprisons a man, there can be no release.
If He withholds the waters, they dry up;
If He sends them out, they overwhelm the earth.
With Him are strength and prudence.
The deceived and the deceiver are His.
He leads counselors away plundered,
And makes fools of the judges.
He loosens the bonds of kings,
And binds their waist with a belt.
He leads princes away plundered,
And overthrows the mighty.
He deprives the trusted ones of speech,
And takes away the discernment of the elders.
He pours contempt on princes,
And disarms the mighty.
He uncovers deep things out of darkness,
And brings the shadow of death to light.
He makes nations great, and destroys them;
He enlarges nations, and guides them.
He takes away the understanding of the chiefs of the people of the earth,
And makes them wander in a pathless wilderness.
They grope in the dark without light,
And He makes them stagger like a drunken man."

a. With Him are wisdom and strength, He has counsel and understanding: In this section, Job rebuked the previous speech of Zophar (Job 11), especially where Zophar criticized Job for not knowing God and likened him to an empty-headed man (Job 11:7-12). Here Job showed that he did indeed know that God was great in wisdom and strength, and that He was mighty in counsel and understanding.

i. Job's message to his friends was clear: "I do know God and how great He is. Don't criticize me on this point any longer."

b. If He breaks a thing down, it cannot be rebuilt: With wonderful poetic beauty and repetition, Job described the power and majesty of God.

- He showed God's power over material things (If He breaks a thing down, it cannot be rebuilt). "He alone can create, and he alone can destroy. Nothing can be annihilated but by the same Power that created it. This is a most remarkable fact. No power, skill, or cunning of man can annihilate the smallest particle of matter. Man, by chemical agency, may change its form; but to reduce it to nothing belongs to God alone." (Clarke)
- He showed God's power over men (If He imprisons a man).
- He showed God's power over minds (The deceived and the deceiver are His).
- He showed God's power over the wise (He leads counselors away plundered, and makes fools of the judges).
- He showed God's power over rulers (He loosens the bonds of kings … He leads princes away plundered).
- He showed God's power over the eloquent (He deprives the trusted ones of speech).
- He showed God's power over the darkness (brings the shadow of death to light).
- He showed God's power over the nations (He makes nations great, and destroys them).

i. "This may be a mockery of the lopsidedness of Eliphaz's creedal hymn in Job 5:18-26, where everything good happens to the righteous. It is hardly a parody on God's wisdom since in the introduction to the poem (Job 12:13) Job ascribed wisdom to God in conjunction with his purpose and understanding." (Smick)

ii. Disarms the mighty is more literally in the Hebrew, loosens the belt of the mighty. "Which is the idiom for depriving of strength, because it disables the wearer for the contest by letting the garments fly loose, and thus hindering the necessary movement for the putting forth of strength." (Bullinger)

c. He takes away the understanding of the chiefs of the people of the earth: Here Job extended his description of the power of God to the idea of God's ability to take away the understanding of even great men. When He does this, they grope in the dark without light.

i. This shows how easy it is for God to make men wander in the pathless wilderness or stagger like a drunken man. All He must do is merely take away understanding, showing that the wisdom and understanding of man is dependent upon God.

ii. We sense that Job actually described himself, as this prominent man without understanding, a man wanderingin a pathless wilderness, a man groping in the dark without light, and who staggered like a drunken man.

© 2007 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

Study Guide for Esther 1 ← Prior Book
Study Guide for Psalm 1 Next Book →
Study Guide for Job 11 ← Prior Chapter
Study Guide for Job 13 Next Chapter →
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