And Job answered and said,
Verses 1, 2. - And Job answered and said, No doubt but ye are the people. Bitterly ironical. Ye are those to whom alone it belongs to speak - the only "people" to whom attention is due. And wisdom shall die with you. "At your death," i.e., "all wisdom will have fled the earth; there will be no one left who knows anything." At least, no doubt, you think so.
No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.
But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you: yea, who knoweth not such things as these?
Verse 3. - But I have understanding as well as you. "I, however, claim to have just as much understanding [literally, 'heart'] as you, and to be just as well entitled to speak, and to claim attention;" since I am not inferior to you. "I am not conscious," i.e., "of any inferiority to you, intellectual or moral. I do not fall below you in either respect." Yea, who knoweth not such things as these? "Not," Job means to say, "that much understanding is necessary in such a case as this; any man of common intelligence can form a correct judgment on the point in dispute between us." The special point, in Job's mind, seems to be God's complete mastery over the world, and absolute control over all that takes place in it (see the introductory paragraph).
I am as one mocked of his neighbour, who calleth upon God, and he answereth him: the just upright man is laughed to scorn.
Verse 4. - I am as one mocked of his neighbour. You have accused me of mockery (Job 11:3): but it is I that have been mocked of you. The allusion is probably to Job 11:2, 3, 11, 12, and 20. Who calleth upon God, and he answereth him. You mock me, though I have always clung to religion, have called upon God in prayer, and from time to time had my prayers answered by him. Thus it is the just upright man that is laughed to scorn.
He that is ready to slip with his feet is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease.
Verse 5. - He that is ready to slip with his feet is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease; rather, as in the Revised Version, In the thought of him that is at ease there is contempt for misfortune; it (i e. contempt) is ready for them whose foot slippeth. The meaning is, "I am despised and scorned by you who sit at ease, because my foot has slipped, and I have fallen into misfortune."
The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly.
Verse 6. - The tabernacles of robbers prosper. Having set at rest the personal question between himself and his friends, Job reverts to his main argument, and maintains that, the whole course of mundane events being under God's governance, all the results are to be attributed to him, and among them both the prosperity of the wicked, and, by parity of reasoning, the sufferings of the righteous. And they that provoke God are secure (comp. Job 9:24; Job 10:3). Into whose hand God bringeth abundantly. So both the Authorized and the Revised Versions; but recent critics mostly render, "who bring their God in their hand," i.e. "who regard their own right hand as their God" (comp. Virgil, 'Aen., 10:773, "Dextra mihi Dens")
But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:
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
(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.
Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.
Verse 8. - Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee. If the material earth be intended, the appeal must be to its orderly course, its summers and winters, its seedtime and harvest, its former and latter rains, its constant productivity, which, no less than animal instincts, speak of a single ruling power directing and ordering all things. If the creeping things of the earth, the reptile creation, be meant, then the argument is merely an expansion of that in the preceding verse. The instincts of reptiles are to be ascribed, no less than those of beasts and birds, to the constant superintending action and providence of the Almighty. And the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. The testimony will be unanimous - beasts, birds, reptiles, and fishes will unite in it.
Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?
Verse 9. - Who knoweth not in all these; or, by all these; i.e. by all these instances. That the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? literally, the hand of Jehovah. The name "Jehovah does not occur elsewhere in the dialogue, though it is employed frequently in the historical sections (Job 1:6-12, 21; Job 2:1-7; Job 38:1; Job 40:1, 3, 6; Job 42:1, 7-12). The writer probably regards the name as unfamiliar, if not unknown, to Job's neighbours, and therefore as avoided by him in his discussions with them. But here, for once, he forgets to be consistent with himself. Outside Scripture, the name is first found on the Moabite Stone (about B.C. 890), where it designates the God worshipped by the Israelites (see 'Records of the Past,' vol. 11. p. 166, 1. 18).
In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.
Verse 10. - In whose hand is the soul of every living thing. A brief summary of what had been said in vers. 7, 8, to which is now appended the further statement, that in God's hand - wholly dependent on him - is the entire race of mankind also. And the breath of all mankind; literally, and the spirit of all flesh of man.
Doth not the ear try words? and the mouth taste his meat?
Verse 11. - Doth not the ear try words? and the month taste his meat? rather, as the palate tasteth its meat? (see the Revised Version). In other words, "Is it not as much the business of the ear to discriminate between wise and unwise words, as of the palate to determine between pleasant and unpleasant tastes?" The bearing of the verse on the general argument is not clear.
With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.
Verse 12. - With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding. Men get their wisdom gradually and painfully by much experience during a long stretch of time, so that it is not until they are" ancient" that we can call them wise or credit them with "understanding." But with God the case is wholly different.
With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding.
Verse 13. - With him is wisdom and strength. With God wisdom and strength dwell essentially. He is not wiser or stronger at one time than at another. Time and experience add nothing to the perfection of his attributes, which are unchangeable. Such wisdom infinitely transcends any to which man can attain, and therefore is doubtless the wisdom whereby the world is governed. He hath counsel and understanding. God has these qualities as his own. They are not acquired or imparted, but belong to him, necessarily and always.
Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again: he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening.
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.
Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up: also he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth.
Verse 15. - Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up. God, at his pleasure, causes great droughts, which are among the worst calamities that can happen. He withholds the blessed rain from heaven (Deuteronomy 11:17; 1 Kings 8:35; 1 Kings 17:1), and the springs shrink, and the rivers dry up, and a fruitful land is turned into a desert, and famine stalks through the land, and men perish by thousands. Also he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth; i.e. he causes floods and inundations. Once upon a time he overwhelmed the whole earth, and destroyed almost the entire race of mankind, by a deluge of an extraordinary character, which so fixed itself in the human consciousness, that traces of it are to be found in the traditions of almost all the various races of men. But, beside this great occasion, he also in ten thousand other cases, causes, by means of floods, tremendous ruin and devastation, sweeping away crops and cattle, and even villages and cities, sometimes even "overturning the earth," causing lakes to burst, rivers to change their course, vast tracts of land to be permanently submerged, and the contour of coasts to be altered.
With him is strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver are his.
Verse 16. - With him is strength and wisdom; rather (as in the Revised Version), with him is strength and effectual working. God has not only the wisdom to design the course of events (ver. 13), but the power and ability to carry out all that he designs. The deceived and the deceiver are his. Not only does God rule the course of external nature, but also the doings of men. "Shall there be evil in a city, and shall not he have done it?" (Amos 3:6) He allows some to deceive, and others to be deceived. Moral evil is thus under his control, and, in a certain sense, may be celled his doing. But it behoves men, when they approach such great mysteries, to be very cautious and wary in their speech. Job touches with somewhat too bold a hand the deepest problems of the universe.
He leadeth counsellers away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools.
Verse 17. - He leadeth counsellors away spoiled. The wise of the earth cannot resist or escape him; he frustrates their designs and overthrows them, and, as it were, leads them away captive. And maketh the judges fools; rather, and judges maketh he fools. There is no article, and no particular judges are referred to (comp. Isaiah 44:25).
He looseth the bond of kings, and girdeth their loins with a girdle.
Verse 18. - He looseth the bond of kings, and girdeth their loins with a girdle. This may either mean that God at his pleasure both looses kings from captivity, and also binds them with a cord and causes them to be carried away captive; or that he looses the authority which kings have over their subjects, and then lets them be carried away captive by their enemies. The latter is perhaps the more probable sense.
He leadeth princes away spoiled, and overthroweth the mighty.
Verse 19. - He leadeth princes away spoiled; rather, priests (כהנים), as in the Revised Version. This is the only mention of "priests" in the Book of Job, and a priest-caste, such as that of Egypt or of Israel, can scarcely be meant. The priests are placed among the mighty, on a par with kings (ver. 18), princes (ver. 21), and "the strong" (ver. 21). This context makes us naturally think of those priest-kings whom we hear of in the olden times, such as were Melchizedek (Genesis 19:18-20) and Jethro (Exodus 3:1; Exodus 18:1-27), and the Egyptian kings of the twenty-first dynasty ('History of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 2. pp. 408-415), and Ethbaal of Tyro ('History of Phoenicia,' p. 435), and Sethos (Herod., 2, 141), and others. Job's allusion is probably to persons of this exalted class, who no doubt were sometimes defeated and dragged into captivity, like other rulers and governors. And overthroweth the mighty. Schultens understands by ethanim (איחנים) "great teachers;" but the ordinary meaning of the word is "strong" or "mighty" (see Job 33:19; Micah 6:2).
He removeth away the speech of the trusty, and taketh away the understanding of the aged.
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.
He poureth contempt upon princes, and weakeneth the strength of the mighty.
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.
He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death.
Verse 22. - He discovereth deep things out of darkness. By "deep things" are probably meant the "deeply laid schemes" which wicked men concoct in darkness (or secrecy). These God often "discovers," or causes to be laid bare. English history can point to such a case in the discovery of the famous "Gunpowder Plot" in the second year of King James I. And bringeth out to light the shadow of death. There is nothing secret which God cannot, if he choose, reveal; nor is there anything hid which he cannot make known. Dark, murderous schemes, on which lies a shadow as of death, which men plan in secret, and keep hidden in their inmost thoughts, he can, and often does, cause to be brought to light and made manifest in the sight of all. Every such scheme, however carefully guarded and concealed, shall be one day made known (Matthew 10:26). Many are laid bare even in the lifetime of their devisers.
He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them 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.
He taketh away the heart of the chief of the people of the earth, and causeth them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way.
Verse 24. - He taketh away the heart of the chief of the people of the earth; rather. the chiefs of the people or "the popular chief talus" (Lee). He deprives these "chiefs" of their wisdom or courage, or both, and thus brings down the nations under their governance. And causeth them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way; rather, in a chaos - one of the words used in Genesis 1:2 to describe the condition of the material universe before God had ordered and arranged it. The chieftains, deprived of their "heart," are so confused and perplexed that they do not know what to do, or which way to turn.
They grope in the dark without light, and he maketh them to stagger like a drunken man.
Verse 25. - They grope in the dark without light (comp. Job 5:14 and Deuteronomy 28:29). And he maketh them to stagger like a drunken man; literally, to wander - to pursue a devious course instead of a straight one.
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