Job 12:7
But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach you; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell you:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Job 12:7. Ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee — If thou observest the beasts, and their properties, actions, and events, from them thou mayest learn this lesson: namely, that which Zophar had uttered with so much pomp and gravity, (Job 11:7-9,) concerning God’s unsearchable wisdom, almighty power, and absolute sovereignty: thou dost not need, says Job, to go into heaven or hell to know it; but thou mayest learn it even from the brute creatures. The beasts of the earth, the fowls of the air, the fishes of the sea, all animals, and even plants, fruits, and flowers, are daily and hourly evidences to us, of the being and infinite perfections of God. The wonderful contrivance and admirable mechanism manifested in their formation, the preparation made for their wants, the exact adaptation of their organs to the particular mode of life for which they are intended; the wonderful regularity observed in their propagation: these things as plainly tell us, they are the work of God, as if they all had intelligible voices and declared it to us. Some commentators suppose that Job referred here to the greater and stronger brute creatures, preying on the lesser and weaker, as a fact illustrative of his argument respecting the power and prosperity of robbers, oppressors, and tyrants; and to the inferior animals in general, ministering to the pride, luxury, and indulgence of ungodly men; the earth and its richest produce being their property, and all nature drudging, as it were, to gratify their lusts. But the following verses seem rather to lead to the interpretation first mentioned, which certainly is the more instructive use of the words.12:6-11 Job appeals to facts. The most audacious robbers, oppressors, and impious wretches, often prosper. Yet this is not by fortune or chance; the Lord orders these things. Worldly prosperity is of small value in his sight: he has better things for his children. Job resolves all into the absolute proprietorship which God has in all the creatures. He demands from his friends liberty to judge of what they had said; he appeals to any fair judgment.But ask now the beasts - Rosenmuller supposes that this appeal to the inferior creation should be regarded as connected with Job 12:3, and that the intermediate verses are parenthetical. Zophar had spoken with considerable parade of the wisdom of God. He had said (Job 11:7 ff) that the knowledge of God was higher than the heavens, and had professed Job 12:6 to have himself exalted views of the Most High. In reply to this, Job says that the views which Zophar had expressed, were the most commonplace imaginable. He need not pretend to be acquainted with the more exalted works of God, or appeal to them as if his knowledge corresponded with them. Even the lower creation - the brutes - the earth - the fishes - could teach him knowledge which he had not now. Even from their nature, properties, and modes of life, higher views might he obtained than Zophar had. Others suppose, that the meaning is, that in the distribution of happiness, God is so far from observing moral relations, that even among the lower animals, the rapacious and the violent are prospered, and the gentle and the innocent are the victims.

Lions, wolves, and panthers are prospered - the lamb, the kid, the gazelle, are the victims. Either of these views may suit the connection, though the latter seems to me to be the more probable interpretation. The object of Job is to show that rewards and punishments are not distributed according to character. This was so plain in his view as scarcely to admit of argument. It was seen all over the world not only among people, but even in the brute creation. Every where the strong prey upon the weak; the fierce upon the tame; the violent upon the timid. Yet God does not come forth to destroy the lion and the hyaena, or to deliver the lamb and the gazelle from their grasp. Like robbers Job 12:6, - lions, panthers, and wolves prowl upon the earth; and the eagle and the vulture from the air pounce upon the defenseless, and the great robbers of the deep prey upon the feeble, and still are prospered. What a striking illustration of the course of events among people, and of the relative condition of the righteous and the wicked. Nothing could be more pertinent to the design of Job than this appeal, and nothing was more in accordance with the whole structure of the argument in the poem, where wisdom is seen mainly to consist in the result of careful observation.

And they shall teach thee - Shall teach thee that God does not treat all according to their character. He does not give security to the gentle, the tame, and the innocent, and punish the ferocious, the blood-thirsty, and the cruel.

And the fowls - They shall give thee information of the point under discussion. Those that prey upon others - as the eagle and the vulture - are not exposed at once to the divine displeasure, and the tender and harmless are not protected. The general principle is illustrated in them, that the dealings of God are not always in exact accordance with character.

7, 8. Beasts, birds, fishes, and plants, reasons Job, teach that the violent live the most securely (Job 12:6). The vulture lives more securely than the dove, the lion than the ox, the shark than the dolphin, the rose than the thorn which tears it. They shall teach thee, to wit, objectively, i.e. if thou observest the beasts, and their properties, and actions, and events, from them thou mayst learn this lesson. What lesson? I answer, either,

1. That which was last mentioned, Job 12:5. God’s providence doth order things in the like manner among the very beasts, and fowls, and fishes; of which the most ravenous and mischievous fare the best, whilst those which are more harmless, and serviceable, and beneficial to men meet with the hardest usage. Or,

2. That which Zophar had uttered with so much pomp and gravity, Job 11:7-9, concerning God’s infinite wisdom; which, saith Job, thou needest not go into heaven or hell to know, but thou mayst learn it even from the beasts, &c. But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee,.... And so the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea, in this and Job 12:8; from those instructions may be learned, of instances taken, and examples given, which may illustrate and confirm the same things that had been treated of: either what had been just now confuted, that it is always well with good men, and ill with bad men; the reverse of which had been affirmed and proved, that good men are afflicted, and wicked men prosper; something like to which may be seen in the creatures, and learned of them; thus those creatures that are the most harmless and innocent, and most useful and beneficial, are a prey to others, as sheep and lambs to lions, wolves, and bears, while they range about forests, fields, and plains, fearless and unmolested; and doves and turtles to hawks and vultures; and the lesser fish to the greater, by whom they are devoured, see Habakkuk 1:13; and moreover, these creatures which are most useful and profitable, or are for pleasure and delight, fall more to the share of wicked men than good men; when droves of cattle and flocks of sheep are observed, and the question is put, to whom do they belong? the answer for the most part must be given, to such and such wicked men; and if the gold and silver, and other valuable things the earth produces, should be inquired about whose they are, it must be said, that they are, generally speaking, the property of the men of the world, the profane part of it; or if the fowls of the air, and fishes of the sea, could speak, when asked the question, whose food they commonly were? the answer would be, of the carnal, sensual, and voluptuous men: or rather this may refer to what Job first takes notice of in this answer of his, that his friends represented what they said as uncommon things, deep mysteries, and out of the reach of the vulgar, and which did not fall under common observation; whereas Job suggests he was as well acquainted with them as they were, yea, they were such that almost everybody knew; nay, they might be learnt from the creatures, to which Job here sends them for instruction; the beasts, birds, and fishes, all proclaim that they did not make themselves, nor did their fellow creatures, but some first cause, who is God: that they are sustained, supported, and provided for by him, and are governed, directed, and disposed of as he pleases, and so furnishes out documents of his sovereignty, wisdom, power, and providence:

and the fowls of the air, and they will tell thee: the same things; that God made them, and that they are dependent on him, and are fed and cared for by him, see Matthew 6:26.

But ask now the beasts, {e} and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:

(e) He declares to them that disputed against him, that their wisdom is common to all, and such as the very brute beasts teach daily.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7–10. Such knowledge as the friends possessed of God’s wisdom and power and their action in the world could be learned by any one who had eyes to observe the life and fate of the lower creatures. In all may be seen God’s absolute might and sway prevailing (Job 12:10).Verse 7. - But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee. Job here begins his review of all creation, to show that God has the absolute direction of it. The order of

(1) beasts,

(2) birds,

(3) fishes, is that of dignity (comp. Genesis 9:2; Psalm 8:7, 8).

Job maintains that, if appeal were made to the animal creation, and they were asked their position with respect to God, they would with one voice proclaim him their absolute Ruler and Director. And the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee. The instincts of birds, their periodical migrations, their inherited habits, are as wonderful as anything in the Divine economy of the universe, and as much imply God's continually directing hand. 1 The Job began, and said:

2 Truly then ye are the people,

And wisdom shall die with you!

3 I also have a heart as well as you;

I do not stand behind you;

And to whom should not such things be known?

The admission, which is strengthened by כּי אמנם, truly then (distinct from אמנם כּי, for truly, Job 36:4, similar to כּי הנּה, behold indeed, Psalm 128:4), is intended as irony: ye are not merely single individuals, but the people equals race of men (עם, as Isaiah 40:7; Isaiah 42:5), so that all human understanding is confined to you, and there is none other to be found; and when once you die, it will seem to have died out. The lxx correctly renders: μὴ ὑμεῖς ἐστὲ ἄνθρωποι μόνοι (according to the reading of the Cod. Alex.); he also has a heart like them, he is therefore not empty, נבוב, Job 11:12. Heart is, like Job 34:10, comp. נלבב, Job 11:12, equivalent to νοῦς διάνοια; Ewald's translation, "I also have a head even as you" ("brains" would better accord with the connection), is a western form of expression, and modern and unbiblical (vid., Division "Herz und Haupt," Psychol. iv. 12). He is not second to them; מן נפל, like Job 13:2, properly to slip from, to be below any one; מן is not the comparative (Ewald). Oetinger's translation is not bad: I cannot slink away at your presence. Who has not a knowledge of such things as those which they, by setting themselves up as defenders of God, have presented to him! אתּי היה is equivalent to ידעתּי, σύνοιδα, Isaiah 59:12.

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