Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And Job answered and said,XII.
(1) And Job answered and said.—Each of the friends has now supplied his quota, and Job proceeds to reply to the third, showing that he is far more conversant with the wisdom and majesty of God than they are themselves, though in their own esteem they alone are wise.
I am as one mocked of his neighbour, who calleth upon God, and he answereth him: the just upright man is laughed to scorn.(4) I am as one mocked of his neighbour.—The laughing-stock of his companion—he who called on God, and He answered him. This is either the character Job claims for himself, or it is the supposed taunt of his friends—the righteous and the perfect a laughing-stock, or, the righteous and the perfect might be a laughing-stock. Ridicule is no test of truth or of merit.
He that is ready to slip with his feet is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease.(5) Is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease.—This rendering conveys no sense. The meaning is either that the lamp or torch prepared for feet tottering and uncertain in the darkness is disregarded and rejected by those who are at ease, and need no such aid; in which case one does not see very clearly why Job compares himself to such a torch: or, more probably, there is contempt for calamity in the thoughts of him that is at ease, it is ready at hand for them who are tottering with their feet.
The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly.(6) Into whose hand God bringeth abundantly.—Some understand these words, to him that bringeth his god in his hand (comp. Habakkuk 1:11; Habakkuk 1:16); but the other seems more in accordance with the usage. (Comp., e.g., Proverbs 3:27, &c.)
Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?(9) Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?—This is the only place in the dialogue parts of Job in which the sacred name of Jehovah is found, and Job’s very use of the word in such a context is the clearest evidence of the superior knowledge that he claims. No one of his friends makes use of the name; but Job uses it here, and shows thereby his knowledge of the covenant name.
Doth not the ear try words? and the mouth taste his meat?(11) Doth not the ear try words?—Bildad had appealed to the wisdom of authority and tradition, but Job reminds him that it is given to the wise man not to accept everything he has received, but to discriminate. He allows that wisdom is the prerogative of age, but reminds him that the Ancient of Days must needs be wise indeed.
Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again: he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening.(14) Behold, he breaketh down . . .—God has equal power over the moral and physical world.
He looseth the bond of kings, and girdeth their loins with a girdle.(18) He looseth the bond of kings.—He looseth the confederacy of kings, by which they bind themselves together, and girdeth them to fight against each other. Some understand it of the girdle of servitude in contrast to the girdle of state.
He leadeth princes away spoiled, and overthroweth the mighty.(19) He leadeth princes.—Some understand priests rather than princes. The word appears to be used in both senses; here the parallelism seems to suit princes better. The latter part of this chapter seems to re-echo the sentiments of Eliphaz in Job 5:11-16; but, instead of giving them the optimist direction he had sketched, he confesses that his own position is rather one of blank despair. Eliphaz is quite sure he possesses the key to the interpretation of the ways of Providence. Job ever fears that his ignorance is so profound as to amount almost to sheer hopelessness, Job is thus the type of a man who has felt the hollowness and unreality of traditional orthodox), and is feeling his way in thick darkness, sustained, nevertheless, by an unquenchable faith that there is light, and that the light will eventually dawn. That this character is the more acceptable to the God of truth is made abundantly clear in the sequel. It is to be observed, however, that Job’s breadth of view far exceeds that of Eliphaz, inasmuch as the latter generalises vaguely, while Job declares that not men, but nations, are the subjects of God’s guiding providence.
He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again.(23) He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them.—The latter part of this chapter teaches us a truth that is apt to be forgotten in the present day, which is, nevertheless, the key to much of the history of the world Why is it that nations are marked with such characteristic differences? as, for instance, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Jews in ancient times; the French, the English, and the Germans in our own. Why is it that the counsel of the wisest sometimes faileth, as with Ahitophel—the bravery of the boldest sometimes forsaketh them? but because there is One working underneath it all for His own ends and to His own glory, as seemeth Him good. Zophar, with all his common sense, had scarcely risen to the perception of this truth, for while Job maintained that there was always a deeper depth, he was prepared, at all events, to imply that the dealings of God were intelligible, and approved themselves to the conceptions of human equity. Job, on the other hand, declared that they were inscrutable, and, consequently, from their very darkness, suggested the necessity for faith His teaching here may seem to savour of fatalism, but that is simply because he deals only with one side of the problem. Had he found occasion, he would have stated with equal force the correlative truth of the absolute responsibility of man, even though but as clay in the hands of the potter; for, in fact, were it not so, how then should God judge the world? Into the mazes of this problem Job enters not, being concerned with other questions and mysteries. Job s conception, therefore, of the righteous government of God as far transcended that of his friends as their estimate of his righteousness fell short of the truth. Justly, therefore, he exclaims, “I am not inferior unto you.”