Job 12:12
With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Job 12:12. With the ancient is wisdom — These words contain a concession of what Bildad had said (Job 8:8-9,) and a joining with him in that appeal; but withal, an intimation that this wisdom was but imperfect, and liable to many mistakes; and indeed mere ignorance and folly, if compared with the divine wisdom, of which he speaks in the following verses. And therefore that antiquity ought not to be received against the truths of the most wise God.

12:12-25 This is a noble discourse of Job concerning the wisdom, power, and sovereignty of God, in ordering all the affairs of the children of men, according to the counsel of His own will, which none can resist. It were well if wise and good men, who differ about lesser things, would see how it is for their honour and comfort, and the good of others, to dwell most upon the great things in which they agree. Here are no complaints, or reflections. He gives many instances of God's powerful management of the children of men, overruling all their counsels, and overcoming all their oppositions. Having all strength and wisdom, God knows how to make use, even of those who are foolish and bad; otherwise there is so little wisdom and so little honesty in the world, that all had been in confusion and ruin long ago. These important truths were suited to convince the disputants that they were out of their depth in attempting to assign the Lord's reasons for afflicting Job; his ways are unsearchable, and his judgments past finding out. Let us remark what beautiful illustrations there are in the word of God, confirming his sovereignty, and wisdom in that sovereignty: but the highest and infinitely the most important is, that the Lord Jesus was crucified by the malice of the Jews; and who but the Lord could have known that this one event was the salvation of the world?With the ancient is wisdom - With the aged. The word ישׁישׁ yâshı̂ysh used here, means an old man, one gray-headed. It is used chiefly in poetry, and is commonly employed in the sense of one who is decrepit by age. It is rendered "very aged" in Job 15:10; "him that stooped for age." 2 Chronicles 36:17; "very old," Job 32:6; and "the aged," Job 29:8 The Septuagint renders it, Ἐν πολλῷ χρόνῳ En pollō chronō "in much time." The sense is, that wisdom might be expected to be found with the man who had had a long opportunity to observe the course of events; who had conversed with a former generation, and who had had time for personal reflection. This was in accordance with the ancient Oriental views, where knowledge was imparted mainly by tradition, and where wisdom depended much on the opportunity of personal observation; compare Job 32:7. 12. ancient—aged (Job 15:10). These words contain a concession of what Bildad had said Job 8:8,9, and a joining with him in that appeal; but withal, an intimation that this wisdom was but finite, and imperfect, and liable to many mistakes; and indeed mere ignorance and folly, if compared with the Divine wisdom, of which he speaks in the next and following verses. And therefore that antiquity which they pretended for their opinion ought not to be received against the oracles or truths of the eternal and most wise God.

With the ancient is wisdom,.... Meaning not himself, who was not very ancient; though some think Eliphaz so understood him; hence those words of his, in Job 15:9; rather, as others, Job tacitly wishes that some ancient man, with whom wisdom was, would undertake to examine the affair between him and his friends, and judge of it, and decide the point; or, as others, he has respect to Bildad's advice to search the fathers, and learn their sentiments, and be determined by them; to which he replies, that though it will be allowed that wisdom is with them, for the most part, yet their judgment of things is no further to be regarded than as it agrees with the wisdom of God, and the revelation he has made of his will; though it seems best of all to consider these words as an adage or proverbial sentence generally agreed to, that it often is, as it might be expected it should, though it is not always, that men well advanced in years are wise; that as they have lived long in the world, they have learned much by observation and experience, and have attained to a considerable share of wisdom and knowledge in things, natural, civil, and religious:

and in length of days is understanding; the understandings of men are improved and enriched, and well stored with useful science, having had the opportunity of much reading, hearing, and conversation; by this Job would suggest, that if his friends had more knowledge of hidden and recondite things, beyond common people, which yet they had not, it was not so wonderful, since they were aged men, and had lived long in the world; or rather it may be that this is mentioned, to observe that from hence, seeing it is so among men, that ancient men have, or it may be expected they should have, a considerable share of wisdom and understanding; it may be most easily and strongly concluded, that God, who is the Ancient of days, has the most perfect and consummate wisdom and knowledge, which is asserted in Job 12:13.

With the {g} ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.

(g) Though men by age and continuance of time attain wisdom, yet it is not comparable to God's wisdom, nor able to comprehend his judgments, in which he answers to that which was alleged, Job 8:8.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. As Job 12:11 indicated the instrument, the ear, through which one learned, this verse refers to the source from which the information was to be obtained, viz. the ancients, that is, the aged men.

Verse 12. - With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding. Men get their wisdom gradually and painfully by much experience during a long stretch of time, so that it is not until they are" ancient" that we can call them wise or credit them with "understanding." But with God the case is wholly different. Job 12:1211 Shall not the ear try sayings,

As the palate tasteth food?

12 Among the ancients is wisdom,

And long life is understanding.

13 With Him is wisdom and strength;

Counsel and understanding are His.

The meaning of Job 12:11 is, that the sayings (מלּין, Job 8:10, comp. Job 5:27) of the ancients are not to be accepted without being proved; the waw in וחך is waw adaequationis, as Job 5:7; Job 11:12, therefore equivalent to quemadmodum; it places together for comparison things that are analogous: The ear, which is used here like αἰθητήριον (Hebrews 5:14), has the task of searching out and testing weighty sayings, as the palate by tasting has to find out delicious and suitable food; this is indicated by לו, the dat. commodi. So far Job recognises the authority of these traditional sayings. At any rate, he adds (Job 12:12): wisdom is to be expected from the hoary-headed, and length of life is understanding, i.e., it accompanies length of life. "Length of days" may thus be taken as the subject (Ewald, Olsh.); but בּ may also, with the old translations and expositors, be carried forward from the preceding clause: ἐν δὲ πολλῷ βίῳ ἐπιστήμη (lxx). We prefer, as the most natural: long life is a school of understanding. But - such is the antithesis in Job 12:13 which belongs to this strophe - the highest possessor of wisdom, as of might, is God. Ewald inserts two self-made couplets before Job 12:12, which in his opinion are required both by the connection and "the structure of the strophe;" we see as little need for this interpolation here as before, Job 6:14. עמּו and לו, which are placed first for the sake of emphasis, manifestly introduce an antithesis; and it is evident from the antithesis, that the One who is placed in contrast to the many men of experience is God. Wisdom is found among the ancients, although their sayings are not to be always implicitly accepted; but wisdom belongs to God as an attribute of His nature, and indeed absolutely, i.e., on every side, and without measure, as the piling up of synonymous expressions implies: חכמה, which perceives the reason of the nature, and the reality of the existence, of things; עצה, which is never perplexed as to the best way of attaining its purpose; תּבוּנה, which can penetrate to the bottom of what is true and false, sound and corrupt (comp. 1 Kings 3:9); and also גּבוּרה, which is able to carry out the plans, purposes, and decisions of this wisdom against all hindrance and opposition.

In the strophe which follows, from his own observation and from traditional knowledge (Job 13:1), Job describes the working of God, as the unsearchably wise and the irresistibly mighty One, both among men and in nature.

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