Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And Job answered and said,
Job 12:1-14:22. Job's Reply to Zophar
No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.
2. wisdom shall die with you—Ironical, as if all the wisdom in the world was concentrated in them and would expire when they expired. Wisdom makes "a people:" a foolish nation is "not a people" (Ro 10:19).
But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you: yea, who knoweth not such things as these?
3. not inferior—not vanquished in argument and "wisdom" (Job 13:2).
such things as these—such commonplace maxims as you so pompously adduce.
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. The unfounded accusations of Job's friends were a "mockery" of him. He alludes to Zophar's word, "mockest" (Job 11:3).
neighbour, who calleth, &c.—rather, "I who call upon God that he may answer me favorably" [Umbreit].
He that is ready to slip with his feet is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease.
5. Rather, "a torch" (lamp) is an object of contempt in the thoughts of him who rests securely (is at ease), though it was prepared for the falterings of the feet [Umbreit] (Pr 25:19). "Thoughts" and "feet" are in contrast; also rests "securely," and "falterings." The wanderer, arrived at his night-quarters, contemptuously throws aside the torch which had guided his uncertain steps through the darkness. As the torch is to the wanderer, so Job to his friends. Once they gladly used his aid in their need; now they in prosperity mock him in his need.
The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly.
6. Job shows that the matter of fact opposes Zophar's theory (Job 11:14, 19, 20) that wickedness causes insecurity in men's "tabernacles." On the contrary, they who rob the "tabernacles" ("dwellings") of others "prosper securely" in their own.
into whose hand, &c.—rather, "who make a god of their own hand," that is, who regard their might as their only ruling principle [Umbreit].
But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:
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.
Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.
8. speak to the earth—rather, "the shrubs of the earth" [Umbreit].
Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?
9. In all these cases, says Job, the agency must be referred to Jehovah, though they may seem to man to imply imperfection (Job 12:6; 9:24). This is the only undisputed passage of the poetical part in which the name "Jehovah" occurs; in the historical parts it occurs frequently.
In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.
10. the soul—that is, the animal life. Man, reasons Job, is subjected to the same laws as the lower animals.
Doth not the ear try words? and the mouth taste his meat?
11. As the mouth by tasting meats selects what pleases it, so the ear tries the words of others and retains what is convincing. Each chooses according to his taste. The connection with Job 12:12 is in reference to Bildad's appeal to the "ancients" (Job 8:8). You are right in appealing to them, since "with them was wisdom," &c. But you select such proverbs of theirs as suit your views; so I may borrow from the same such as suit mine.
With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.
12. ancient—aged (Job 15:10).
With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding.
13. In contrast to, "with the ancient is wisdom" (Job 12:12), Job quotes a saying of the ancients which suits his argument, "with Him (God) is (the true) wisdom" (Pr 8:14); and by that "wisdom and strength" "He breaketh down," &c., as an absolute Sovereign, not allowing man to penetrate His mysteries; man's part is to bow to His unchangeable decrees (Job 1:21). The Mohammedan saying is, "if God will, and how God will."
Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again: he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening.
14. shutteth up—(Isa 22:22). Job refers to Zophar's "shut up" (Job 11:10).
Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up: also he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth.
15. Probably alluding to the flood.
With him is strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver are his.
16. (Eze 14:9).
He leadeth counsellers away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools.
He looseth the bond of kings, and girdeth their loins with a girdle.
18. He looseth the bond of kings—He looseth the authority of kings—the "bond" with which they bind their subjects (Isa 45:1; Ge 14:4; Da 2:21).
a girdle—the cord, with which they are bound as captives, instead of the royal "girdle" they once wore (Isa 22:21), and the bond they once bound others with. So "gird"—put on one the bonds of a prisoner instead of the ordinary girdle (Joh 21:18).
He leadeth princes away spoiled, and overthroweth the mighty.
19. princes—rather, "priests," as the Hebrew is rendered (Ps 99:6). Even the sacred ministers of religion are not exempt from reverses and captivity.
the mighty—rather, "the firm-rooted in power"; the Arabic root expresses ever-flowing water [Umbreit].
He removeth away the speech of the trusty, and taketh away the understanding of the aged.
20. the trusty—rather, "those secure in their eloquence"; for example, the speakers in the gate (Isa 3:3) [Beza].
understanding—literally, "taste," that is, insight or spiritual discernment, which experience gives the aged. The same Hebrew word is applied to Daniel's wisdom in interpretation (Da 2:14).
He poureth contempt upon princes, and weakeneth the strength of the mighty.
21. Ps 107:40 quotes, in its first clause, this verse and, in its second, Job 12:24.
weakeneth the strength—literally, "looseth the girdle"; Orientals wear flowing garments; when active strength is to be put forth, they gird up their garments with a girdle. Hence here—"He destroyeth their power" in the eyes of the people.
He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death.
22. (Da 2:22).
He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again.
23. Isa 9:3; Ps 107:38, 39, which Psalm quotes this chapter elsewhere. (See on Job 12:21).
straiteneth—literally, "leadeth in," that is, "reduces."
He taketh away the heart of the chief of the people of the earth, and causeth them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way.
wander in a wilderness—figurative; not referring to any actual fact. This cannot be quoted to prove Job lived after Israel's wanderings in the desert. Ps 107:4, 40 quotes this passage.
They grope in the dark without light, and he maketh them to stagger like a drunken man.
25. De 28:29; Ps 107:27 again quote Job, but in a different connection.