Job 12:7
But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Job 12:7. Ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee — If thou observest the beasts, and their properties, actions, and events, from them thou mayest learn this lesson: namely, that which Zophar had uttered with so much pomp and gravity, (Job 11:7-9,) concerning God’s unsearchable wisdom, almighty power, and absolute sovereignty: thou dost not need, says Job, to go into heaven or hell to know it; but thou mayest learn it even from the brute creatures. The beasts of the earth, the fowls of the air, the fishes of the sea, all animals, and even plants, fruits, and flowers, are daily and hourly evidences to us, of the being and infinite perfections of God. The wonderful contrivance and admirable mechanism manifested in their formation, the preparation made for their wants, the exact adaptation of their organs to the particular mode of life for which they are intended; the wonderful regularity observed in their propagation: these things as plainly tell us, they are the work of God, as if they all had intelligible voices and declared it to us. Some commentators suppose that Job referred here to the greater and stronger brute creatures, preying on the lesser and weaker, as a fact illustrative of his argument respecting the power and prosperity of robbers, oppressors, and tyrants; and to the inferior animals in general, ministering to the pride, luxury, and indulgence of ungodly men; the earth and its richest produce being their property, and all nature drudging, as it were, to gratify their lusts. But the following verses seem rather to lead to the interpretation first mentioned, which certainly is the more instructive use of the words.

12:6-11 Job appeals to facts. The most audacious robbers, oppressors, and impious wretches, often prosper. Yet this is not by fortune or chance; the Lord orders these things. Worldly prosperity is of small value in his sight: he has better things for his children. Job resolves all into the absolute proprietorship which God has in all the creatures. He demands from his friends liberty to judge of what they had said; he appeals to any fair judgment.But ask now the beasts - Rosenmuller supposes that this appeal to the inferior creation should be regarded as connected with Job 12:3, and that the intermediate verses are parenthetical. Zophar had spoken with considerable parade of the wisdom of God. He had said (Job 11:7 ff) that the knowledge of God was higher than the heavens, and had professed Job 12:6 to have himself exalted views of the Most High. In reply to this, Job says that the views which Zophar had expressed, were the most commonplace imaginable. He need not pretend to be acquainted with the more exalted works of God, or appeal to them as if his knowledge corresponded with them. Even the lower creation - the brutes - the earth - the fishes - could teach him knowledge which he had not now. Even from their nature, properties, and modes of life, higher views might he obtained than Zophar had. Others suppose, that the meaning is, that in the distribution of happiness, God is so far from observing moral relations, that even among the lower animals, the rapacious and the violent are prospered, and the gentle and the innocent are the victims.

Lions, wolves, and panthers are prospered - the lamb, the kid, the gazelle, are the victims. Either of these views may suit the connection, though the latter seems to me to be the more probable interpretation. The object of Job is to show that rewards and punishments are not distributed according to character. This was so plain in his view as scarcely to admit of argument. It was seen all over the world not only among people, but even in the brute creation. Every where the strong prey upon the weak; the fierce upon the tame; the violent upon the timid. Yet God does not come forth to destroy the lion and the hyaena, or to deliver the lamb and the gazelle from their grasp. Like robbers Job 12:6, - lions, panthers, and wolves prowl upon the earth; and the eagle and the vulture from the air pounce upon the defenseless, and the great robbers of the deep prey upon the feeble, and still are prospered. What a striking illustration of the course of events among people, and of the relative condition of the righteous and the wicked. Nothing could be more pertinent to the design of Job than this appeal, and nothing was more in accordance with the whole structure of the argument in the poem, where wisdom is seen mainly to consist in the result of careful observation.

And they shall teach thee - Shall teach thee that God does not treat all according to their character. He does not give security to the gentle, the tame, and the innocent, and punish the ferocious, the blood-thirsty, and the cruel.

And the fowls - They shall give thee information of the point under discussion. Those that prey upon others - as the eagle and the vulture - are not exposed at once to the divine displeasure, and the tender and harmless are not protected. The general principle is illustrated in them, that the dealings of God are not always in exact accordance with character.

7, 8. Beasts, birds, fishes, and plants, reasons Job, teach that the violent live the most securely (Job 12:6). The vulture lives more securely than the dove, the lion than the ox, the shark than the dolphin, the rose than the thorn which tears it. They shall teach thee, to wit, objectively, i.e. if thou observest the beasts, and their properties, and actions, and events, from them thou mayst learn this lesson. What lesson? I answer, either,

1. That which was last mentioned, Job 12:5. God’s providence doth order things in the like manner among the very beasts, and fowls, and fishes; of which the most ravenous and mischievous fare the best, whilst those which are more harmless, and serviceable, and beneficial to men meet with the hardest usage. Or,

2. That which Zophar had uttered with so much pomp and gravity, Job 11:7-9, concerning God’s infinite wisdom; which, saith Job, thou needest not go into heaven or hell to know, but thou mayst learn it even from the beasts, &c.

But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee,.... And so the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea, in this and Job 12:8; from those instructions may be learned, of instances taken, and examples given, which may illustrate and confirm the same things that had been treated of: either what had been just now confuted, that it is always well with good men, and ill with bad men; the reverse of which had been affirmed and proved, that good men are afflicted, and wicked men prosper; something like to which may be seen in the creatures, and learned of them; thus those creatures that are the most harmless and innocent, and most useful and beneficial, are a prey to others, as sheep and lambs to lions, wolves, and bears, while they range about forests, fields, and plains, fearless and unmolested; and doves and turtles to hawks and vultures; and the lesser fish to the greater, by whom they are devoured, see Habakkuk 1:13; and moreover, these creatures which are most useful and profitable, or are for pleasure and delight, fall more to the share of wicked men than good men; when droves of cattle and flocks of sheep are observed, and the question is put, to whom do they belong? the answer for the most part must be given, to such and such wicked men; and if the gold and silver, and other valuable things the earth produces, should be inquired about whose they are, it must be said, that they are, generally speaking, the property of the men of the world, the profane part of it; or if the fowls of the air, and fishes of the sea, could speak, when asked the question, whose food they commonly were? the answer would be, of the carnal, sensual, and voluptuous men: or rather this may refer to what Job first takes notice of in this answer of his, that his friends represented what they said as uncommon things, deep mysteries, and out of the reach of the vulgar, and which did not fall under common observation; whereas Job suggests he was as well acquainted with them as they were, yea, they were such that almost everybody knew; nay, they might be learnt from the creatures, to which Job here sends them for instruction; the beasts, birds, and fishes, all proclaim that they did not make themselves, nor did their fellow creatures, but some first cause, who is God: that they are sustained, supported, and provided for by him, and are governed, directed, and disposed of as he pleases, and so furnishes out documents of his sovereignty, wisdom, power, and providence:

and the fowls of the air, and they will tell thee: the same things; that God made them, and that they are dependent on him, and are fed and cared for by him, see Matthew 6:26.

But ask now the beasts, {e} and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:

(e) He declares to them that disputed against him, that their wisdom is common to all, and such as the very brute beasts teach daily.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7–10. Such knowledge as the friends possessed of God’s wisdom and power and their action in the world could be learned by any one who had eyes to observe the life and fate of the lower creatures. In all may be seen God’s absolute might and sway prevailing (Job 12:10).

Verse 7. - But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee. Job here begins his review of all creation, to show that God has the absolute direction of it. The order of

(1) beasts,

(2) birds,

(3) fishes, is that of dignity (comp. Genesis 9:2; Psalm 8:7, 8).

Job maintains that, if appeal were made to the animal creation, and they were asked their position with respect to God, they would with one voice proclaim him their absolute Ruler and Director. And the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee. The instincts of birds, their periodical migrations, their inherited habits, are as wonderful as anything in the Divine economy of the universe, and as much imply God's continually directing hand. Job 12:7 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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