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Job 12 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Ch. 12 14. Job’s Reply to Zophar

The distinctive point in Zophar’s discourse was his prominently adducing the omniscient wisdom of God against Job, before the judgments of which, as seen in the providences that befall men, anything called individual conscience ought to be silent. This led Zophar into an eulogy of God’s wisdom, the greatness of which was to him the explanation of the sudden and destructive interferences of God among men (ch. Job 11:10-11). And in contrast with this insight of God Zophar spoke of men as “hollow.”

All this stung Job deeply, for it implied not only ignorance of himself (ch. Job 11:6), but ignorance of God, and he felt keenly the assumption over him (a thing only ventured on because he was afflicted, ch. Job 12:4-5) of these men, who thought themselves entitled to give him instructions regarding the wisdom and the power of God (ch. Job 12:3, Job 13:2). Hence there runs through his reply a continual sarcasm against their assumed superiority, mixed with pathetic references to the lowness into which he had sunk he whose past life had been one of close fellowship with God, ch. Job 12:4 when such men took it on them to give him lessons; and he is never weary ringing changes on the “wisdom” which was the key-note of Zophar’s unfortunate oration No doubt! wisdom will die with you (ch. Job 12:2); “I have understanding as well as you … who knoweth not such things as these?” (ch. Job 12:3); “With God is wisdom” (ch. Job 12:13); and, with a half-concealed reference to the proverb, he wishes at last that they would hold their tongue and it should be their “wisdom” (ch. Job 13:5). In this speech Job for the first time really turns upon his friends in earnest, and he reads them some severe lessons not only on the mental superficiality with which they took in hand his problem, which they thought to unravel by citing a few old saws and “maxims of ashes” (ch. Job 13:12), but also on the moral onesidedness which they shewed. They took the part of God against him not as true men who had really planted their feet on the bottom of things as the world presented them, but from a shallow religiosity which was but partiality for God; and, as they had invoked the rectitude and the omniscience of the Almighty against him, he sists them before the same bar, reminding them that the God before whom they shall have to answer is God of the universe, according to the facts which the universe reveals, and bidding them fear His resentment and chastisement for their very pleading in His behalf, because that pleading was made ignorantly and not in true sincerity (ch. Job 13:4-12, cf. the result, ch. Job 42:7 seq.).

The speech falls into three large sections, which coincide generally with the three chapters, although the limits between the second and third are not very well marked.

First, ch. 12. Job resents the assumed superiority of his three friends in regard to knowledge of the operation of the Divine power and wisdom in the world, and shews by a lofty delineation of them that he is a far greater master in this knowledge than they are.

Second, ch. Job 13:1-22. But this Divine wisdom and power do not, as the friends imagine, explain his calamities. On the contrary, it is against this very action of God in the world that he desires to appeal to God. And their defence of it is false, and from no better reason than out of servility to God. He desires to meet God on the question of his innocence, and challenges Him to appear and answer him.

Third, ch. Job 13:23 to Job 14:22. The challenge remains unanswered. And again, as before, the thought of his sad condition and of the riddles in which he is involved gets the better of Job, and he sinks into a sorrowful wail over the wretchedness of man, his weakness and God’s rigid treatment of him, and the complete extinction of his life in death. But just when the folds of darkness which the mysteries and the pathos of human life wrap around him are thickest, there suddenly arises in his mind, like a star struggling through the clouds, the surprising thought that after this life there might be another, and that God, when His wrath is overpast, might call His creature back to Him again in friendship. The star comes out but for a moment, but Job has once seen it, and on every occasion when it appears again it shines with greater brilliancy.

Ch. 12. In reply to Zophar’s Appeal to the Divine Wisdom and Power, Job shews by a brilliant delineation of them that he is a greater master in the knowledge of these than his friends are

First, Job 12:1-6. Job gives sarcastic expression to his admiration of the wisdom of his friends ( Job 12:2). Then, passing into earnestness, he laments the depth to which he has sunk when men take it on them to inflict such common places on him about God’s wisdom and power on him whose life had been lived with God. This was how men treated one, though righteous, when afflictions befell him; the prosperous wicked man was differently regarded ( Job 12:4-6).

Second, Job 12:7-25. Coming to the matter itself, the display of God’s power and wisdom in the world, especially in the world of life, with its sufferings, the knowledge of which the friends boasted of as exclusively their own (cf. shew thee the secrets of wisdom, ch. Job 11:6), Job

(1) intimates that this knowledge is so common that anyone may learn it who opens his eyes and looks upon the life and fates of the lower creatures all shew that God moves among them with an absolute power and sway ( Job 12:7-10).

(2) The same may be learned by anyone who has ears to hear what aged men tell of God’s ways in the world. Thus Job introduces a brilliant picture (in which much history both of catastrophes in nature and revolutions among men is condensed) of the uncontrolled movement of God in the affairs of the world: the natural world ( Job 12:14-15); those highest in rank among men, the wise, the rulers, the eloquent ( vv, 16 22); and nations ( Job 12:23-25). Zophar had sought to shew that a moral purpose directed the action of God’s wisdom and might “he knows wicked men” (ch. Job 11:11); Job, on the other hand, brings out their immeasurable greatness and the absoluteness with which they dominate among men, and how they confound with an ironical destructiveness everything human that bears any likeness to themselves, “making fools” of judges, and “pouring contempt” upon princes ( Job 12:17 ; Job 12:21).

Consult other comments:

Job 12:0 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Job 12:0 - College Press Bible Study Textbook Series

Job 12:0 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Job 12:0 - Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

Job 12:0 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Job 12:0 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges