Job 12:14
Behold, he breaks down, and it cannot be built again: he shuts up a man, and there can be no opening.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) Behold, he breaketh down . . .—God has equal power over the moral and physical world.

Job 12:14. Behold, he breaketh down — Houses, castles, cities; and it cannot be built again — It is not in the power of any creature to repair what he designs utterly to destroy. He shutteth up a man — In prison, or in straits and troubles; and there can be no opening — Without his permission and providence. Yea, he shuts up in the grave, and none can break open those sealed doors. He shuts up in hell, in chains of darkness, and none can pass that great gulf.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?Behold, he breaketh down - None can repair what he pulls down. Cities and towns he can devote to ruin by fire, or earthquake, or the pestilence, and so completely destroy them that they can never be rebuilt. We may now refer to such illustrations as Sodom, Babylon, Petra, Tyre, Herculaneum, and Pompeii, as full proof of what is here affirmed.

He shutteth up a man - He can shut up a man in such difficulties and straits that he cannot extricate himself; see Job 11:10. The Chaldee renders this, "he shuts up a man in the grave (בקבורתא) and it cannot be opened." But the more correct idea is, that God has complete control over a man, and that he can so hedge up his way that he cannot help himself.

14. shutteth up—(Isa 22:22). Job refers to Zophar's "shut up" (Job 11:10). He breaketh down, to wit, houses, castles, cities, which God designeth to destroy utterly.

He shutteth up; if he will shut up a man in prison, or in any straits or troubles.

There can be no opening, without God’s permission and providence. Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again,.... Which some restrain to the tower of Babel; but though the builders of it were obliged to desist from building, it does not appear that it was broken down, but seems to have continued many ages after: others more probably refer it to the destruction of Sodom, as Sephorno, which was an utter destruction, a perpetual desolation, and that city never was rebuilt to this day; and the same may be observed of many other cities that have had their foundations razed up, and have never been rebuilt, Thebes, Tyre, &c. and as will be the case of Rome, or the great city of Babylon, when once destroyed; yea, this has been true of kingdoms and states, such as Jeremiah was to root out, pull down, and destroy; that is, by prophesying of their destruction, as the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, and others, whose names and nations are no more, see Jeremiah 1:10; and the four monarchies broken down and destroyed, and made as the chaff of the summer threshing floor, by the kingdom of Christ, Daniel 2:35; and may be exemplified in particular persons and families; in Job and his family, the Lord broke him with breach upon breach; he broke him in his estate and substance; he broke down the hedge about him, and exposed him to thieves and robbers that plundered him of his substance; he broke down his family, that had been so largely and happily built up, by taking away his children by death; and he broke his constitution by diseases, afflictions, and sorrows, to which Job may have here respect, when he at this time never expected to have his losses in his substance, and in his family, and in his health, repaired, as they were; nor could it have been done without the will and pleasure of God; and oftentimes, when such breaches are made, there is no reparation; a man's wealth, and health, and family, are never built up again:

he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening; if he shut up a man in a prison, there is no opening the doors of it to let out unless he pleases; whether it be the prison of sin, in which all are concluded, in the fetters and with the cords of which they are held, and will continue, unless those shackles are broken off by powerful and efficacious grace, and the Lord proclaims liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, and gives it; or whether it be the prison of the law, in which sinners are shut up, and held as condemned malefactors; there is no deliverance from it but by Christ, who has redeemed his people from the curse and condemnation of it; and by his Spirit, as a spirit of adoption, who delivers them from the bondage of it, and makes them free indeed; or whether it be the prison of afflictions, straits, and difficulties in life, with which even good men are surrounded, being bound in fetters, and holden in cords of affliction; there is no opening for them, or getting out of them, unless the Lord breaks their bands asunder, and brings them out of darkness and distress, as out of prison houses, and so opens and makes a way for their escape; or whether he shuts them up, and they are so straitened in their souls that they cannot come forth in the free exercise of grace, and discharge of duty, as it was with Heman, when he said, "I am shut up, and I cannot come forth", Psalm 88:8; and as it was with David, when he prayed, "bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name", Psalm 142:7; there is no opening for them till the spirit of the Lord opens their hearts and their graces, and brings them forth into exercise; and "where he is there is liberty", 2 Corinthians 3:17; or if he shuts up a man in the grave, as the Targum paraphrases it, brings him to the house appointed for all living, and locks him up in it; there can be no opening for him till the resurrection morn, when Christ, who has the keys of hell and death, will unlock the graves, and the dead shall come forth, as Lazarus did at his call, John 11:43, or if "he shuts upon a man" (r), as the words may be rendered; shuts the gates of heaven upon a man, as the door into the marriage chamber of the Lamb will be shut upon and against the foolish virgins, as well as profane sinners, there can be no opening, cry as long as they will; see Matthew 25:10; and as God shut the door of Eden, or the earthly paradise, against Adam, when he drove him out, Genesis 3:23, to which Sephorno refers this passage; or if the Lord shuts up a man in hell, there is no opening, no way of escape from thence. We read of "spirits in prison", 1 Peter 3:19, which is to be understood not of the limbus or purgatory of the Papists, but of hell; and these "spirits" are the disobedient in the times of Noah, who dying, or being swept away with the flood, were cast into hell, where they have lain ever since, and will lie unto the judgment of the great day; between the place of the damned, and of the happy, in Abraham's bosom, is a great gulf, that there is no passing from one to the other, which is the immutable and unalterable decree of God, which has fixed the everlasting states of men, Luke 16:26.

(r) "super virum", Montanus, Mercerus, Bolducius; "super viro", Schmidt, Michaelis.

Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again: he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
14. breaketh down] e.g. fenced cities, devoting them to ruin, cf. ch. Job 15:28.

shutteth up a man] In prison, as captive kings and the like, cf. Jeremiah 22:24 seq., 2 Kings 25:27 seq.Verse 14. - Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again. Professor Lee thinks that the allusion is to the cities of the plain (Genesis 19:24-29). But the sentiment is so general, that we may well doubt if particular instances were in Job's mind. At any rate, the destructive agencies of nature must be as much included as any supernatural acts. He shutteth up a man (comp. Job 11:10). God "shuts up" men when be hedges them in with calamities or other circumstances, which take away from them all freedom of action (Job 3:23; Job 19:8) When he does this, the result follows - There can be no opening. No other power can give release. 7 But ask now even the beasts - they shall teach it thee;

And the birds of heaven - they shall declare it to thee:

8 Or look thoughtfully to the ground - it shall teach it thee;

And the fish of the sea shall tell it thee.

9 Who would not recognise in all this

That the hand of Jehovah hath wrought this,

10 In whose hand is the soul of every living thing,

And the breath of all mankind?!

The meaning of the whole strophe is perverted if זאת (Job 12:9), is, with Ewald, referred to "the destiny of severe suffering and pain," and if that which precedes is accordingly referred to the testimony of creation to God as its author. Since, as a glance at what follows shows, Job further on praises God as the governor of the universe, it may be expected that the reference is here to God as the creator and preserver of the world, which seems to be the meaning of the words. Job himself expresses the purpose of this hymn of confession, Job 12:2., Job 13:1.: he will show the friends that the majesty of God, before which he ought, according to their demands, to humble himself in penitence, is not less known to him than to them; and with ואולם, verum enim vero, he passes over to this subject when he begins his third answer with the following thought: The perception in which you pride yourselves I also possess; true, I am an object of scornful contempt to you, who are as little able to understand the suffering of the godly as the prosperity of the godless, nevertheless what you know I also know: ask now, etc. Bildad had appealed to the sayings of the ancients, which have the long experience of the past in their favour, to support the justice of the divine government; Job here appeals to the absoluteness of the divine rule over creation. In form, this strophe is the counterpart of Job 8:8-10 in the speech of Bildad, and somewhat also of Job 11:7-9 in that of Zophar. The working of God, which infinitely transcends human power and knowledge, is the sermon which is continuously preached by all created things; they all proclaim the omnipotence and wisdom of the Creator.

The plural בּהמות is followed by the verb that refers to it, in the singular, in favour of which Genesis 49:22 is the favourite example among old expositors (Ges. 146, 3). On the other hand, the verb might follow the collective עוף in the plural, according to Ges. 146, 1. The plural, however, is used only in Job 12:8, because there the verb precedes instead of following its subject. According to the rule Ges. 128, 2, the jussive form of the fut. follows the imperative. In the midst of this enumeration of created things, שׂיח, as a substantive, seems to signify the plants - and especially as Arab. šı̂h even now, in the neighbourhood of Job's ancient habitation, is the name of a well-known mountain-plant - under whose shade a meagre vegetation is preserved even in the hot season (vid., on Job 30:4.). But (1) שׂיח as subst. is gen. masc. Genesis 2:5); (2) instead of לערץ, in order to describe a plant that is found on the ground, or one rooted in the ground, it must be על־הארץ or בארץ; (3) the mention of plants between the birds and fishes would be strange. It may therefore be taken as the imperative: speak to the earth (lxx, Targ., Vulg., and most others); or, which I prefer, since the Aramaic construction לו סח, narravit ei, does not occur elsewhere in Hebrew (although perhaps implicite, Proverbs 6:22, תשׂיחך equals לך תשׂיח, favulabitur, or confabulabitur tibi), as a pregnant expression: think, i.e., look meditatively to the earth (Ewald), since שׂוּח (שׂיח), like הגה, combines the significations of quiet or articulate meditation on a subject. The exhortation directs attention not to the earth in itself, but to the small living things which move about on the ground, comprehended in the collective name רמשׂ, syn. שׁרץ (creeping things), in the record of creation. All these creatures, though without reason and speech, still utter a language which is heard by every intelligent man. Renan, after Ewald, translates erroneously: qui ne sait parmi tous ces tres. They do not even possess knowledge, but they offer instruction, and are a means of knowledge; בּ with ידע, like Genesis 15:8; Genesis 42:33, and freq. All the creatures named declare that the hand of Jehovah has made "this," whatever we see around us, τὸ βλεπόμενον, Hebrews 11:3. In the same manner in Isaiah 66:2; Jeremiah 14:22, כּל־אלּה is used of the world around us. In the hand of God, i.e., in His power, because His workmanship, are the souls of all living things, and the spirit (that which came direct from God) of all men; every order of life, high and low, owes its origin and continuance to Him. אישׁ is the individual, and in this connection, in which נפשׁ and רוּח ( equals נשׁמה) are certainly not unintentionally thus separated, the individual man. Creation is the school of knowledge, and man is the learner. And this knowledge forces itself upon one's attention: quis non cognoverit? The perf. has this subjunctive force also elsewhere in interrogative clauses, e.g., Psalm 11:3 (vid., on Genesis 21:7). That the name of God, JEHOVAH, for once escapes the poet here, is to be explained from the phrase "the hand of Jehovah hath made this," being a somewhat proverbial expression (comp. Isaiah 41:20; Isaiah 66:2).

Job now refers to the sayings of the fathers, the authority of which, as being handed down from past generations, Bildad had maintained in his opposition to Job.

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