Job 12:23
He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again.
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(23) He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them.—The latter part of this chapter teaches us a truth that is apt to be forgotten in the present day, which is, nevertheless, the key to much of the history of the world Why is it that nations are marked with such characteristic differences? as, for instance, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Jews in ancient times; the French, the English, and the Germans in our own. Why is it that the counsel of the wisest sometimes faileth, as with Ahitophel—the bravery of the boldest sometimes forsaketh them? but because there is One working underneath it all for His own ends and to His own glory, as seemeth Him good. Zophar, with all his common sense, had scarcely risen to the perception of this truth, for while Job maintained that there was always a deeper depth, he was prepared, at all events, to imply that the dealings of God were intelligible, and approved themselves to the conceptions of human equity. Job, on the other hand, declared that they were inscrutable, and, consequently, from their very darkness, suggested the necessity for faith His teaching here may seem to savour of fatalism, but that is simply because he deals only with one side of the problem. Had he found occasion, he would have stated with equal force the correlative truth of the absolute responsibility of man, even though but as clay in the hands of the potter; for, in fact, were it not so, how then should God judge the world? Into the mazes of this problem Job enters not, being concerned with other questions and mysteries. Job s conception, therefore, of the righteous government of God as far transcended that of his friends as their estimate of his righteousness fell short of the truth. Justly, therefore, he exclaims, “I am not inferior unto you.”

Job 12:23-25. He increaseth the nations, &c. — What he had hitherto said of princes, he now applies to nations and people, whom God either increases or diminishes as he pleases. He enlargeth the nations — He multiplies them so that they are forced to send forth colonies into other lands; and straiteneth them again — Diminishes them by war, famine, or pestilence: or, as ינחם, janchem, more properly signifies, leadeth them in, or bringeth them back, namely, into their own land, and confineth them there. So that whole nations, as well as their princes, are perfectly under his power, and he enlarges their bounds, or reduces them into more narrow limits, as he pleaseth. He taketh away the heart of the chief of the people — Deprives them both of courage and judgment, and causeth them to wander in a wilderness; that is, fills them with confusion, uncertainty, and perplexity of mind, so that they know not which way to turn themselves. They grope in the dark — Like men that cannot see their way. And he maketh them to stagger like a drunken man — Who reels hither and thither without any certainty. So they sometimes take one course, and sometimes another, as resolving to try all experiments, and indeed not knowing what to do. All their counsels and motions are as unsteady and fluctuating as those of a man intoxicated.

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 increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them - He has entire control over them. The sources of prosperity are in his hand, and at his pleasure he can visit them with famine, pestilence, or war, and diminish their numbers and arrest their prosperity. Dr. Good renders this very improperly, "He letteth the nations grow licentious;" but the word שׂגא śâgâ' never has this sense. It means, to make great; to multiply; to increase.

And straiteneth them again - Margin, "leadeth in." So the word נחה nâchâh means. The idea is, that he increases a nation so that it spreads abroad beyond its usual limits, and then at his pleasure leads them back again, or confines them within the limits from where they had emigrated.

23. Isa 9:3; Ps 107:38, 39, which Psalm quotes this chapter elsewhere. (See on [499]Job 12:21).

straiteneth—literally, "leadeth in," that is, "reduces."

What hitherto he said of princes, he now applies to nations and people, whom God doth either increase or diminish as he pleaseth.

He enlargeth the nations; he multiplies them, so that they are forced to send forth colonies into other lands.

Straiteneth them again; or, leadeth them in, or bringeth them back, into their own land, and confineth them there.

He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them,.... As he did before the flood, when the earth was tilled, and all over peopled with them, but at the flood he destroyed them at once. Sephorno interprets it of the seven nations in the land of Canaan, which were increased in it, and destroyed, to make way for the Israelites to inhabit it; and this has since been verified in other kingdoms, large and populous, and brought to destruction, particularly in the four monarchies, Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman, and will be in the antichristian states and nations of the world:

he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again; or "stretcheth" or "spreadeth out the nations" (c), as he did all over the earth before the deluge, and then most remarkably straitened them, when they were reduced to so small a number as to be contained in a single ark: "or leads them" (d); that is, "governs them", as Mr. Broughton renders the word, rules and overrules them, as large as they are; or leads them into captivity, as some Jewish writers (e), as the Israelites; though they have been enlarged, and became numerous, as it was promised they should, yet have been led into captivity, first the ten tribes by the Assyrians, and then the two tribes by the Chaldeans; the Targum is, "he spreadeth out a net for the nations, and leadeth them", that is, into it, so that they are taken in it, see Ezekiel 12:13.

(c) "extendit", Tigurine version, Drusius, Mercerus; "expandit", Beza, Junius & Tremellus, Piscator, Schmidt; "expandens", Schultens. (d) "et ducit eas", Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus, Cocceius, Schmidt. (e) Kimchi, Ben Melech, Bar Tzemach.

He {m} increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again.

(m) In this discourse of God's wonderful works, Job shows that whatever is done in this world both in the order and change of things, is by God's will and appointment, in which he declares that he thinks well of God, and is able to set forth his power in words as they that reasoned against him were.

23. God’s rule among the nations and direction of their fate.

and straiteneth them again] Perhaps, and leadeth them away, cf. 2 Kings 18:17. The clause is obscure, it may not be a direct, but an inverse parallel to the first clause, and mean: he spreadeth abroad (or, scattereth, cf. Jeremiah 8:2; Numbers 11:32), and giveth them settlements again.

Verse 23. - He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them. God's providence concerns itself, not only with the fate of individual men, bet also with that of nations. With Israel, his "peculiar people" (Deuteronomy 14:2), he especially concerned himself, but not with Israel only. Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, Elam, Edom, Ammon, Moab, were likewise objects of his attention, of his guidance, of his chastening hand, of his avenging rod. Particular nations were consigned by God to the charge of particular angels (Daniel 10:13, 20). At his pleasure he can "increase" nations by blessing them with extraordinary fecundity (Exodus 1:7-12), or "destroy" them by internal decay, by civil wars, or by the swords of their neighbours. He enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again; i.e. "enlarges their bounds, or diminishes them." In Western Asia, where Job lived, empires were continually starting up, growing and expanding, increasing to vast dimensions, and then after a while shrinking back again to their original narrow limits Egypt, Elam, Babylon, and the Hittite nation were eases in point. Job 12:2322 He discovereth deep things out of darkness,

And bringeth out to light the shadow of death;

23 He giveth prosperity to nations and then destroyeth them,

Increase of territory to nations and then carrieth them away;

24 He taketh away the understanding of the chief people of the land,

And maketh them to wander in a trackless wilderness;

25 They grope in darkness without light,

He maketh them to stagger like a drunken man.

The meaning of Job 12:22 in this connection can only be, that there is nothing so finely spun out that God cannot make it visible. All secret plans of the wicked, all secret sins, and the deeds of the evil-doer though veiled in deep darkness, He bringeth before the tribunal of the world. The form of writing given by the Masora is עמוּקות with koph raphatum, consequently plur. from עמוּק, like ערוּמים, עצוּמים from ערוּם, עצוּם, not from עמק.

(Note: Kimchi in his Wrterbuch adopts the form עמקּות, but gives Abulwalid as an authority for the lengthened form, which, according to the Masora on Leviticus 13:3, Leviticus 13:25, is the traditional. The two exceptions where the form occurs with a long vowel are Proverbs 23:27 and this passage.)

The lxx translates משגיא πλανῶν, as it is also explained in several Midrash-passages, but only by a few Jewish expositors (Jachja, Alschech) by מטעה. The word, however, is not משׁגּיא, but משׂגּיא with ש sinistrum, after which in Midrash Esther it is explained by מגדיל; and Hirzel correctly interprets it of upward growth (Jerome after the Targ. unsuitably, multiplicat), and שׁטח, on the other hand, of growth in extent. The latter word is falsely explained by the Targ. in the sense of expandere rete, and Abenezra also falsely explains: He scatters nations, and brings them to their original peace. The verb שׁטח is here connected with ל, as הפתּה (Genesis 9:27); both signify to make a wider and longer space for any one, used here of the ground where they dwell and rule. The opposite, in an unpropitious sense, is הנחה, which is used here, as 2 Kings 18:11, in a similar sense with הגלה (abducere, i.e., in servitutem). We have intentionally translated גוים nations, עם people; for גּוי, as we shall show elsewhere, is the mass held together by the ties of a common origin, language, and country; (עם) עם, the people bound together by unity of government, whose membra praecipua are consequently called העם ראשׁי. הארץ is, in this connection, the country, although elsewhere, as Isaiah 24:4, comp. Job 42:5, הארץ עם signifies also the people of the earth or mankind; for the Hebrew language expresses a country as a portion of the earth, and the earth as a whole, by the same name. Job dwells longer on this tragic picture, how God makes the star of the prosperity of these chiefs to set in mad and blind self-destruction, according to the proverb, quem Deus perdere vult prius dementat. This description seems to be echoed in many points in Isaiah, especially in the oracle on Egypt, Job 19 (e.g., כּשּׁכּור, Job 19:14). The connection ברך לא בתהו is not genitival; but דרך לא is either an adverbial clause appended to the verb, as חקר לא, Job 34:24, בנים לא, 1 Chronicles 2:30, 1 Chronicles 2:32, or, which we prefer as being more natural, and on account of the position of the words, a virtual adjective: in a trackless waste, as אישׁ לא, Job 38:26; עבות לא, 2 Samuel 23:4 (Olsh.).

Job here takes up the tone of Eliphaz (comp. Job 5:13.). Intentionally he is made to excel the friends in a recognition of the absolute majesty of God. He is not less cognizant of it than they.

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