Job 12:21
He pours contempt on princes, and weakens the strength of the mighty.
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Job 12:21-22. He poureth contempt upon princes — That is, he makes them contemptible to their subjects and others; and weakeneth the strength of the mighty — The word מזיח, meziach, here rendered strength, occurs also Psalm 109:19, where it is translated girdle. The clause might here have been rendered, He looseth the girdle of the mighty, a phrase which signifies weakness, Isaiah 5:27; as the girding of the girdle denotes strength and power, Isaiah 22:21; Isaiah 45:5. Both these phrases are taken from the quality of their garments, which, being loose and long, disabled a man for walking or working. He discovereth deep things out of darkness — That is, the most secret and crafty counsels of princes: which are contrived and carried on in the dark.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 poureth contempt upon princes - He has power to hurl them from their thrones, and to overwhelm them with disgrace.

And weakeneth the strength of the mighty - Margin, as in Hebrew "looseth the girdle of the strong." The Orientals wore loose flowing robes, which were secured by a girdle around the loins. When they labored, ran, or traveled, their robes were girded up. But this is common everywhere. Wrestlers, leapers, and runners, put a girdle around them, and are able thus to accomplish much more than they otherwise could. To loosen that, is to weaken them. So Job says that God had power to loosen the strength of the mighty. He here seems to labor for expressions, and varies the form of the image in every way to show the absolute control which God has over people, and the fact that his power is seen in the reverses of mankind. Lucretius has a passage strongly resembling this in the general sentiment:

Usque adeo res humanas vis abdita quaedam

Obterit; et pulchros fasces, saevasque secures,

Proculcare, atque ludibrio sibi habere, videtur.

Lib. v. 1232.

So from his awful shades, some Power unseen

O'erthrows all human greatness! Treads to dust

Rods, ensigns, crowns - the proudest pomps of state;

And laughs at all the mockery of mad!


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 poureth contempt upon princes, i.e. he makes them contemptible to their subjects and others.

Weakeneth, Heb. he looseth the girdle; which phrase signifies weakness, as Isaiah 5:27; as the girding of the girdle notes strength and power, as Isaiah 22:21 45:5; both these phrases being taken from the quality of their garments, which being loose and long, did disenable a man for travel or work. He poureth contempt upon princes,.... Not on good princes, such as rule in righteousness, and decree judgment and govern their subjects according to good laws, in a mild and gentle manner, and answer to their name of free, liberal, beneficent and munificent. These, as there is an honour due unto them, it is the will of God they should have it; much less are princes, in a figurative sense, meant, good men, the children of God, who are born of him the King of kings, and so princes in all the earth; but, in a literal sense, bad princes, that oppress their subjects, and rule them with rigour, and persecute good men; such as rose up against Christ, as Herod and Pontius Pilate; persecutors of the saints, as the Roman emperors, and the antichristian princes in the papacy; these God sometimes brings into contempt with their subjects, deposes them from their government, reduces them to a mean, abject, and servile state; or they die a shameful death, as Herod was eaten with worms, and many of the Heathen emperors died miserable deaths; and the vials of God's wrath will be poured out upon all the antichristian states, and their princes: pouring denotes the abundance of shame they are put to, as if they were clothed and covered with it, it being plentifully poured out like water, or as water was poured upon them, which is sometimes done by way of contempt, see Psalm 107:40;

and weakeneth the strength of the mighty; the strength of men, hale and robust, by sending one disease or another upon them, which takes it away from them; or by "the mighty" are meant men in power and authority; kings, as the Targum paraphrases it, mighty monarchs, whose strength lies in their wealth and riches, in their fortresses and powerful armies; all which God can deprive them of in an instant, and make them as weak as other men. Some render it, "and looseneth the girdle of the mighty" (b), the same as loosening the loins of kings, Isaiah 14:1; ungirding them, and taking away their power and authority from them, rendering them unfit for business, or unable to keep their posts and defend their kingdom.

(b) "et zonam potentium laxat", Tigurine version, Piscator, Beza, Schmidt; so Jarchi, Ben Gersom, Bar Tzemach, & Ben Melech.

He poureth contempt upon princes, and weakeneth the strength of the mighty.
21. contempt upon princes] Or, nobles, ch. Job 34:18; cf. Psalm 107:40.

weakeneth the strength of the mighty] lit. looseth the girdle of the strong. As the garments were girt up for active labour or battle, to loose the girdle means to incapacitate; Isaiah 5:27.Verse 21. - He poureth contempt upon princes; literally, upon the munificent. But the word has often the more generic sense of "princes," "great men" (see 1 Samuel 2:8; Proverbs 25:7, etc.). And weakeneth the strength of the mighty; literally, looseth the belt of the strong. But our version sufficiently expresses the meaning. 14 Behold, He breaketh down and it cannot be built again,

He shutteth up, and it cannot be opened.

15 Behold, He restraineth the waters and they dry up,

And He letteth them out and they overturn the earth.

16 With Him is might and existence,

The erring and the deceiver are His.

God is almighty, and everything in opposition to Him powerless. If He break down (any structure whatever), it can never be rebuilt; should He close upon any one (i.e., the dungeon, as perhaps a cistern covered with a stone, Lamentations 3:53, comp. Jeremiah 38:6; על with reference to the depth of the dungeon, instead of the usual בּעד), it (that which is closed from above) cannot be opened again. In like manner, when He desires to punish a land, He disposes the elements according to His will and pleasure, by bringing upon it drought or flood. יעצר, coercet, according to the correct Masoretic mode of writing יעצר with dagesh in the Ssade, in order clearly to distinguish in the pronunciation between the forms j'a-ssor and jaa'ssor (יעצר);

(Note: Vid., my notice of Br's Psalter-Ausgabe, Luth. Zeitschr. 1863, 3; and comp. Keil on Leviticus 4:13 (Comm on Pent., Clark's transl.).)

ויבשׁוּ (for which Abulwalid writes ויבשׁוּ) is a defective form of writing according to Ges. 69, 3, 3; the form ויהפכוּ with the similarly pointed fut. consec., 1 Samuel 25:12, form a pair (zuwg) noted by the Masora. By תּוּשׁיּה, which is ascribed to God, is here to be understood that which really exists, the real, the objective, knowledge resting on an objective actual basis, in contrast with what only appears to be; so that consequently the idea of Job 12:16 and Job 12:13 is somewhat veiled; for the primary notion of חכמה is thickness, solidity, purity, like πυκνότης.

(Note: The primary notion of חכם, Arab. hkm, is, to be thick, firm, solid, as the prim. notion of Arab. sachfa (to be foolish, silly) is to be thin, loose, not holding together (as a bad texture). The same fundamental notions are represented in the expression of moral qualities (in distinction from intellectual) by צדק, Arab. sdq, and רשׁע, (Arab. rs', rsg).)

This strophe closes like the preceding, which favours our division. The line with עמּו is followed by one with לו, which affirms that, in the supremacy of His rule and the wisdom of His counsels, God makes evil in every form subservient to His designs.

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