Job 12


Job reproves the boasting of his friends, and shows their

uncharitableness towards himself, 1-5;

asserts that even the tabernacles of robbers prosper; and that,

notwithstanding, God is the Governor of the world; a truth

which is proclaimed by all parts of the creation whether

animate or inanimate, and by the revolutions which take place

in states, 6-25.


Verse 2. No doubt but ye are the people] Doubtless ye are the

wisest men in the world; all wisdom is concentrated in you; and

when ye die, there will no more be found on the face of the earth!

This is a strong irony.

Verse 3. I am not inferior to you] I do not fall short of any of

you in understanding, wisdom, learning, and experience.

Who knoweth not such things as these?] 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


Verse 4. I am as one mocked of his neighbour] Though I am

invoking God for help and salvation, yet my friends mock me in

this most solemn and sacred work. But God answereth me.

The just upright man is laughed to scorn] This is a very

difficult verse, on which no two critics seem to be agreed. Mr.

Good translates the fourth and fifth verses thus:-

"Thus brother is become a laughing-stock to his companions,

While calling upon God that he would succour him.

The just, the perfect man, is a laughing-stock to the proud,

A derision amidst the sunshine of the prosperous,

While ready to slip with his foot.

For a vindication of this version, I must refer to his notes.

Coverdale gives at least a good sense. Thus he that calleth upon

God, and whom God heareth, is mocked of his neighboure: the godly

and innocent man is laughed to scorne. Godlynesse is a light

despysed in the hertes of the rich; and is set for them to stomble

upon. The fifth verse is thus rendered by Mr. Parkhurst: "A torch

of contempt, or contemptible link, (see Isa 7:4; 40:2, 3,)

leashtoth, to the splendours of the prosperous (is he who is)

ready ( nachon, Job 15:23; 18:12; Ps 38:17) to slip

with his foot." The general sense is tolerably plain; but to

emendations and conjectures there is no end.

Verse 6. The tabernacles of robbers prosper.] Those who live by

the plunder of their neighbours are often found in great secular

prosperity; and they that provoke God by impiety and blasphemy

live in a state of security and affluence. These are

administrations of Providence which cannot be accounted for; yet

the Judge of all the earth does right. Therefore prosperity and

adversity are no evidences of a man's spiritual state, nor of the

place he holds in the approbation or disapprobation of God.

Verse 7. But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee] Mr.

Good's paraphrase here is very just: "Why tell ye me that the

Almighty hath brought this calamity upon me? Every thing in

nature, the beasts of the field, the fowls of the heaven, every

inhabitant of earth and sea, and every thing that befalls them,

are the work of his hands; and every thing feels and acknowledges

him to be the universal Creator and Controller. It is the common

doctrine of all nature; but to apply it as ye would apply it to

me, and to assert that I am suffering from being guilty of

hypocrisy, is equally impertinent. He ordains every thing in

wisdom as well as in power; but why events happen as they happen,

why good and evil are promiscuously scattered throughout nature or

human life, ye are as ignorant of as myself."

Verse 10. In whose hand is the soul of every living thing]

nephesh col chai, "the soul of all life."

And the breath of all mankind.] veruach col besar,

"and the spirit or breath of all flesh." Does not the first refer

to the immortal soul, the principle of all intellectual life; and

the latter to the breath, respiration, the grand means by which

animal existence is continued? See Job 10:1.

Verse 11. Doth not the ear try words?] All these are

common-place sayings. Ye have advanced nothing new; ye have cast

no light upon the dispensations of Providence.

Verse 12. With the ancient is wisdom] Men who have lived in

those primitive times, when the great facts of nature were recent,

such as the creation, fall, flood, confusion of tongues, migration

of families, and consequent settlement of nations, had much

knowledge from those facts; and their length of days-the many

hundreds of years to which they lived, gave them such an

opportunity of accumulating wisdom by experience, that they are

deservedly considered as oracles.

Verse 13. With him is wisdom and strength] But all these things

come from GOD; he is the Fountain of wisdom and the Source of

power. He alone can give us unerring counsel, and understanding to

comprehend and act profitably by it. See on Job 12:16.

Verse 14. He breaketh down] 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. In the course of his providence

God breaks down, so that it cannot be built up again. See proofs

of this in the total political destruction of Nineveh, Babylon,

Persepolis, Tyre, and other cities, which have broken down never

to be rebuilt; as well as the Assyrian, Babylonian, Grecian, and

Roman empires, which have been dismembered and almost annihilated,

never more to be regenerated.

He shutteth up a man] He often frustrates the best laid

purposes, so that they can never be brought to good effect.

Verse 15. He withholdeth the waters] This is, I think, an

allusion to the third day's work of the creation, Ge 1:9:

And God said, Let the waters be gathered together unto one

place, and let the dry land appear. Thus the earth was drained,

and the waters collected into seas, and bound to their particular


Also he sendeth them out] Here is also an allusion to the flood,

for when he broke up the fountains of the great deep, then the

earth was overturned.

Verse 16. With him is strength and wisdom] oz

vethushiyah, strength and sufficiency. Strength or power,

springing from an exhaustless and infinite source of potency. In

the thirteenth verse it is said, With him is wisdom and strength;

but the expressions are not the same, chochmah

ugeburah, intelligence and fortitude, or strength in action,

the wisdom ever guiding the exertions of power; but here is

strength or power in essence, and an eternal potentiality.

With him is every excellence, in potentia and in esse. He borrows

nothing, he derives nothing. As he is self-existent, so is he

self-sufficient. We have had the word tushiyah before.

See Clarke on Job 11:6.

The deceived and the deceiver are his.] Some think this refers

to the fall; even Satan the deceiver or beguiler, and Adam and

Eve, the deceived or beguiled, are his. Satan, as this book

shows, cannot act without especial permission; and man, whom the

seducer thought to make his own property for ever, is claimed as

the peculium or especial property of God, for the seed of the

woman was then appointed to bruise the head of the serpent; and

Jesus Christ has assumed the nature of man, and thus brought human

nature into a state of fellowship with himself. Thus he who

sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one, for which

cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren; Heb 2:11.

Verse 17. He leadeth counsellors away spoiled] The events of war

are also in his hand. It is he who gives victory; through him even

the counsellors-the great men and chief men, are often led into

captivity, and found among the spoils.

And maketh the judges fools.] He infatuates the judges. Does

this refer to the foolish conduct of some of the Israelitish

judges, such as Samson?

Verse 18. He looseth the bond of kings] He takes away their

splendid robes, and clothes them with sackcloth; or, he dissolves

their authority, permits their subjects to rebel and overthrow the

state, to bind them as captives, and despoil them of all power,

authority, and liberty. Many proofs of this occur in the

Israelitish history and in the history of the principal nations of

the earth, and not a few in the history of Britain.

Verse 19. He leadeth princes away spoiled, and overthroweth the

mighty.] What multitudes of proofs of this does the history of the

world present! Even the late disastrous war with the French

republic and empire, which began in 1793, and continued without

intermission till 1814, was afterwards renewed, and had a

catastrophe that went nearly to ruin Europe. How many princes, or

rather priests, cohanim, have been spoiled of their power,

influence, and authority; and how many mighty men-captains,

generals, admirals, &c., have been overthrown! But supposing that

the writer of the Book of Job lived, as some think, after the

captivity, how many priests were led away spoiled, both from

Israel and Judah; and how many kings and mighty men were

overthrown in the disastrous wars between the Assyrians,

Babylonians, and Jews!

Verse 20. He removeth away the speech of the trusty] The

faithful counsellor and the eloquent orator avail nothing: Quos

Deus vult perdere, prius dementat; "God infatuates those whom he

is determined to destroy." The writer might have had his eyes on

Isa 3:1-3, which the reader will do well to consult.

The understanding of the aged.] zekenim signifies the

same here as our word elders or elder-men; which includes in

itself the two ideas of seniority, or considerably advanced age,

and official authority. These can do no more to save a state which

God designs to destroy, notwithstanding their great political

wisdom and knowledge, than the child who can neither reason nor


Verse 21. He poureth contempt upon princes] nedibim,

"those of royal extraction;" widely different from the

cohanim mentioned Job 12:19.

Weakeneth the strength of the mighty.] aphikim, the

compact; the well-strung together; the nervous and sinewy.

Perhaps there is a reference here to the crocodile, as the same

term is applied, Job 40:13, to the

compactness of his bones: and as rippah meziach, which

we translate weakeneth the strength, signifies more properly

looseth the girdle, as the margin has properly rendered it, the

reference seems still more pointed; for it is known that "the

crocodile, from the shoulders to the extremity of the tail, is

covered with large square scales, disposed like parallel girdles,

fifty-two in number. In the middle of each girdle are four

protuberances, which become higher as they approach the end of the

tail, and compose four rows." See the quotation in Parkhurst,

under the word aphak. What is human strength against this? We

may say as the Lord said, Job 40:19:

He that made him can make his sword to approach unto him. He

alone can loose the girdles of this mighty one.

Verse 22. He discovereth deep things out of darkness] This may

refer either to God's works in the great deep, or to the plots and

stratagems of wicked men, conspiracies that were deeply laid, well

digested, and about to be produced into existence, when death,

whose shadow had hitherto concealed them, is to glut himself with


Verse 23. He increaseth the nations] Mr. Good translates, He

letteth the nations grow licentious. Pride, fulness of bread, with

extensive trade and commerce, produce luxury; and this is ever

accompanied with profligacy of manners. When, then, the cup of

this iniquity is full, God destroys the nation, by bringing or

permitting to come against it a nation less pampered, more

necessitous, and inured to toil.

He enlargeth the nations] Often permits a nation to acquire an

accession of territory, and afterwards shuts them up within their

ancient boundaries, and often contracts even those. All these

things seem to occur as natural events, and the consequences of

state intrigues, and such like causes; but when Divine inspiration

comes to pronounce upon them, they are shown to be the consequence

of God's acting in his judgment and mercy; for it is by him that

kings reign; it is he who putteth down one and raiseth up another.

Verse 24. He taketh away the heart of the chief] Suddenly

deprives the leaders of great counsels, or mighty armies of

courage; so that, panic-struck, they flee when none pursueth, or

are confounded when about to enter on the accomplishment of

important designs.

And causeth them to wander in a wilderness] A plain allusion to

the journeyings of the Israelites in the deserts of Arabia, on

their way to the promised land. Their chief, Aaron, had his

courage all taken away by the clamours of the people; and so

made them a molten calf to be the object of their worship, which

defection from God was the cause of their wandering nearly forty

years in the trackless wilderness. The reference is so marked,

that it scarcely admits of a doubt; yet Houbigant and some others

have called it in question, and suppose that those chiefs or heads

of families which led out colonies into distant parts are

principally intended. It answers too well to the case of the

Israelites in the wilderness to admit of any other interpretation.

Verse 25. They grope in the dark] The writer seems to have had

his eye on those words of Moses, De 28:28, 29:

The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and

astonishment of heart; and thou shalt GROPE AT NOONDAY, as the

BLIND GROPETH IN DARKNESS. And this also may refer to the

unaccountable errors, transgressions, and judicial blindness of

the Israelites in their journeying to the promised land: but it

will apply also to the state of wicked nations under judicial

blindness. The writer is principally indebted for his imagery, and

indeed for the chief expressions used here, to Ps 107:27:

They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man.

Ps 107:39, 40:

Again, they are minished and brought low through oppression,

affliction, and sorrow. He POURETH CONTEMPT UPON PRINCES, and


Mr. Good has some judicious reflections on this chapter,

particularly on Job 12:13-22: "It should be observed," says he,

"that the entire passage has a reference to the machinery of a

regular and political government; and that its general drift is to

imprint on the mind of the hearer the important doctrine that the

whole of the constituent principles of such a government, its

officers and institutions; its monarchs and princes; its

privy-counsellors, judges, and ministers of state; its chieftains,

public orators, and assembly of elders; its nobles, or men of

hereditary rank; and its stout robust peasantry, as we should

express it in the present day; nay, the deep designing villains

that plot in secret its destruction;-that the nations themselves,

and the heads or sovereigns of the nations, are all and equally in

the hands of the Almighty: that with him human pomp is poverty;

human excellence, turpitude; human judgment, error; human wisdom,

folly; human dignity, contempt; human strength, weakness."

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