Job 12:20
He removeth away the speech of the trusty, and taketh away the understanding of the aged.
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Job 12:20. He removeth away the speech of the trusty — Of those wise and experienced counsellors that were trusted by the greatest princes. He either, 1st, Takes away from them the gift of utterance, or restrains them in the use of it; so that they are not able to express their thoughts with such clearness and force as they used to do. Or, 2d, He brings the affairs of their employers into such straits and difficulties, that they know not what to say or advise. Or, 3d, He takes away their understanding, which should suggest and direct their speech, as it here follows. Or, 4th, He permits them to betray their trust, and either not to speak when they ought, or to speak otherwise than they ought, and to use their understanding and eloquence, not to direct, but to deceive and so to destroy their princes and other superiors.

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?He removeth away the speech of the trusty - Margin, "lip of the faithful." "He takes away the lip," that is, he takes away the power of giving safe counsel or good advice. The "trusty" or "faithful" here refer to those of age and experience, and on whose counsel men are accustomed to rely. The meaning here is, that their most sagacious anticipations are disappointed, their wisest schemes are foiled. They fail-in their calculations of the coarse of events, and the arrangements of Providence are such that they could not anticipate what was to occur.

The understanding of the aged - To whom the young were accustomed to look up with deference and respect. The meaning here is, that they who were accustomed to give wise and sound advice, if left by God, give vain and foolish counsels.

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).

Removeth away the speech; either,

1. By taking away or restraining the gift of utterance from them, that they should not be able to express their thoughts with such clearness and power as they used to do; which God oft doth to wise and eloquent men. Or,

2. By bringing them into such straits and troubles that they know not what to say or advise. Or,

3. By taking away their understanding, which should suggest and direct their speech, as it here follows. Or,

4. By permitting them to betray their trust, and either not to speak when they should, or to speak otherwise than they should and to use their wit and rhetoric not to direct, but to deceive, and so destroy a prince.

Of the trusty, i.e. of those wise and eloquent counsellors that were, and for their great abilities might be, trusted by the greatest princes with all their affairs.

He removeth away the speech of the trusty,.... Speech is proper to mankind, and a benefit unto them, whereby they can converse together, and communicate their minds to each other; this is the gift of God, he gives to men in common the faculty of speaking; to some the tongue of the learned to speak various tongues, either in an ordinary or in an extraordinary manner; and he that gives can take away; he that made man's mouth or lip can make it speechless, as he does at death; when he takes away man's breath, he takes away his speech; the state of the dead is a state of silence; and sometimes he does it while living, by striking dumb, as he did Zechariah the father of John the Baptist; and even without so doing, as in the builders of Babel, he took away the speech they had, and gave them another; and sometimes he suffers not men to speak what they would, but what is contrary to their inclinations and desires, as in Balaam, who would willingly have cursed Israel, but could not. Now that God should take away by any means the speech of liars, and faithless persons, as Ananias and Sapphira, by striking them dead, Acts 5:1; and of false teachers, deceivers, and bold blasphemers of God, and of his Son, and of the blessed Spirit, whose mouths ought to be stopped, is no wonder; but it seems strange that he should remove the speech of "trusty" or "faithful" (x) men, that speak the truth, and are to be credited and believed; and as the preceding words are understood of ecclesiastic persons, these may be continued concerning them; and the character agrees with ministers of the word, who are in trusted with the rich treasure of it; that is put in earthen vessels, and committed to the trust of faithful men; who appear to be such when they speak the word faithfully, declare the whole counsel of God, and keep back nothing profitable to men; when they speak plainly, without ambiguity, and sincerely, without mixing or adulterating it; and are faithful as to God, who has appointed them, and put them into the ministry, so to the souls of men under their care: now God sometimes takes away the speech of these, not by changing their voice, or ordering them, instead of the gracious promises of the Gospel, to deliver out the menaces and threatenings of the law; but either by commanding them to be dumb and silent, and speak no more to an incorrigible and rebellious people; as Ezekiel was bid to prophesy no more to the house of Israel, and the apostles to preach no more to the Jews; or by suffering them to be silenced by the edicts of wicked princes, and their violent persecutions of them, so that the teachers of men are removed into corners, and not to be seen or heard; and also by death, when their faces are no more seen, and their speech no more heard. Some, both Jewish and Christian interpreters, derive the word here used from the root "to speak", and render it "speakers" or "orators" (y); so Mr. Broughton translates the words, "he bereaveth the orators of lip"; he takes away their eloquence from them, deprives them of their speaking well, and strips them of their natural and acquired abilities, by which they have become good speakers; and such who use their talents well in this way are beneficial to a commonwealth, and it is a loss when they are removed, or their speech removed from them, see Isaiah 3:3;

and taketh away the understanding of the aged; or "elders" (z), as Mr. Broughton, either in age or office; elders in age, with whom understanding, reason, judgment, counsel, and wisdom, by all which the word is interpreted, may be thought to be, and it is expected they should, and oftentimes are, though not always; yet all this God can take away, and does when he pleases, and they become like children in understanding; through the infirmities of old age their memories fail them, their reason is impaired, their understanding and judgment are weakened, and they become unfit to give advice themselves, and are easily imposed on, and drawn aside by others, as may be observed in Solomon, the wisest of men, when he was grown old. This is to be understood of the natural understanding in things natural and civil, but not of the spiritual understanding, which is never taken away, but rather increased in old age; the true light of grace shines more and more unto the perfect day; it is a gift of God without repentance, which he never revokes and removes: it may intend the natural "taste" (a), as the word may be rendered; this is often and generally taken away from the aged, as in old Barzillai, who could not taste what he ate and drank, as to distinguish and relish it, 2 Samuel 19:35; but not the spiritual taste, of the Lord as gracious, of the good word of God, and the fruits of divine grace; the taste and savour of which remain with the people of God in old age; or this may design men in office, either civil magistrates, called senators, the elders of the people, judges, and counsellors, who instead of being taught more wisdom, which their offices require, sometimes become infatuated, their understanding of civil things is taken away from them, their wise counsels become brutish, and they like children; or ecclesiastic persons, elders of churches, who, having talents for public usefulness, either neglect them, or make an ill use of them, and therefore are taken away from them; their right arm is dried up, and their right eye darkened, Matthew 25:28.

(x) "veracibus", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Schultens; "fidis", Mercerus, Piscator; "fidelibus", Bolducius. (y) "Dicendi peritis", Beza; eloquentibus, Junius & Tremellius; so Kimchi, Ramban, Ben Gersom, Ben Melech, Sephorno. (z) "seniorum", Cocceius, Michaelis; "senatorum", Schultens. (a) "gustum", Drusius, Schultens.

He removeth away the speech of the {l} trusty, and taketh away the understanding of the aged.

(l) He causes their words to have no credit, which is when he will punish sin.

20. the speech of the trusty] Eloquent men, able to recommend and carry their plans. The word “understanding” means sense or discretion (Proverbs 11:22).

Verse 20. - He removeth away the speech of the trusty. God deprives trusted statesmen of their eloquence, destroys their reputation and their authority. And taketh away the understanding of the aged. He turns wise and aged men into fools and drivellers, weakening their judgments and reducing them to imbecility. Job 12:20It is unnecessary to understand כהנים, after 2 Samuel 8:18, of high officers of state, perhaps privy councillors; such priest-princes as Melchizedek of Salem and Jethro of Midian are meant. איטנים, which denotes inexhaustible, perennis, when used of waters, is descriptive of nations as invincible in might, Jeremiah 5:15, and of persons as firmly-rooted and stedfast. נאמנים, such as are tested, who are able to speak and counsel what is right at the fitting season, consequently the ready in speech and counsel. The derivation, proposed by Kimchi, from נאם, in the sense of diserti, would require the pointing נאמנים. טעם is taste, judgment, tact, which knows what is right and appropriate under the different circumstances of life, 1 Samuel 25:33. יקּח is used exactly as in Hosea 4:11. Job 12:21 is repeated verbatim, Psalm 107:40; the trilogy, Psalm 105-107, particularly Psalm 107, is full of passages similar to the second part of Isaiah and the book of Job (vid., Psalter, ii. 117). אפיקים (only here and Job 41:7) are the strong, from אפק, to hold together, especially to concentrate strength on anything. מזיח (only here, instead of מזח, not from מזח, which is an imaginary root, but from זחח, according to Frst equivalent to זקק, to lace, bind) is the girdle with which the garments were fastened and girded up for any great exertion, especially for desperate conflict (Isaiah 5:27). To make him weak or relaxed, is the same as to deprive of the ability of vigorous, powerful action. Every word is here appropriately used. This tottering relaxed condition is the very opposite of the intensity and energy which belongs to "the strong." All temporal and spiritual power is subject to God: He gives or takes it away according to His supreme will and pleasure.
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