Job 12:1
Repeated reproaches and accusations falling upon the conscience of an innocent man sting him into self-defence. They may do a service by rousing him out of stupor and weakness, and may bring to light the nobler qualities of his soul. We are indebted to the slanders of the Corinthians for some of the noblest self-revelations of St. Paul.

I. OUTBURST OF INDIGNANT SCORN. (Vers. 1-3.) With bitter irony Job rebukes the assumption of these men to know better than himself concerning matters which belonged to the common stock of intelligence, and in which he was in no wise inferior to them. To claim superior knowledge over others is always offensive. To do so against a sick and broken man from the vantage-ground of health and prosperity is nothing less than a cruelty. And to make this pretension in matters of common tradition and acceptance, where all stand about on a level, is an insult to the sufferer's understanding.


1. Cruel inversions of life. Job, who in his just and innocent life, had hitherto stood in confidential relations with God, who had prayed and whose prayers had been heard, is now a butt for laughter and scorn. He calls now and God no longer hears (ver. 4).

2. The injustice of human opinion. (Ver. 5.) "Contempt belongs to misfortune, in the opinion of the secure." A true description of the opinion of the world. If "nothing succeeds like success; then nothing damns like failure in the common opinion of the unfeeling world. "It awaits those whose foot is slipping." As the herd of wolves turn upon the sick and fallen brute, so the thoughtless man tramples upon the man who is down. To those who are banded together by the tie of selfish pleasure only or convenience, the very sight of that which interferes for a moment with their content is hateful. How different the sanctified instincts of pity, compassion, and helpfulness which Christ has planted in his society, the Church! It is the mission of the Christian community to leaven with its principles the heartless mass of society. On the other hand, nothing succeeds like success; "restful dwellings" (ver. 6) and confident security are enjoyed by the wasters or desolators who by word and deed hold God in contempt, and think to make him bend to their purposes. The rude man of violence, who owns no law but that of the strong hand, thinks that where force is there is God, and all must bow to force as if to God. So he "taketh God in his hand;" he "imputes his power unto his god;" he sacrifices to his net, and burns incense unto his drag (Habakkuk 1:11, 16). His motto is like that of the impious warrior, "My right hand is god" (Virg., 'AEn. 10:773, "Dextra mihi deus"). - J.

But I have understanding as well as you.
The whole world, Job feels, is against him, and he is left forlorn and solitary, unpitied in his misery, unguided in his perplexity. And he may well feel so. All the religious thought of his day, all the traditions of the past, all the wisdom of the patriarchal Church, if I may use, as I surely may, the expression, is on one side. He, that solitary sufferer and doubter, is on the other. And this is not all, or the worst. His own habits of thought, his own training, are arrayed against him. He had been nursed, it is abundantly clear, in the same creed as those who feel forced to play the part of his spiritual advisers. The new and terrible experience of this crushing affliction, of this appalling visitation, falling upon one who had passed his life in the devout service of God, strikes at the very foundation of the faith on which that life, so peaceful, so pious, and so blessed, as it has been put before us in the prologue to the tragedy, has been based and built up. All seems against him; his friends, his God, his pains and anguish, his own tumultuous thoughts; all but one voice within, which will not be silenced or coerced. How easy for him, had he been reared in a heathen creed, to say, "My past life must have been a delusion; my conscience has borne me false witness. I did justice, I loved mercy, I walked humbly with my God. But I must in some way, I know not how, have offended a capricious and arbitrary, but an all-powerful and remorseless Being. I will allow with you that that life was all vitiated by some act of omission or of commission of which I know nothing. Him therefore who has sent His furies to plague me, I will now try to propitiate." But no! Job will not come before his God, a God of righteousness, holiness, and truth, with a lie on his lips. And so he now stands stubbornly at bay, and in this and the following two chapters he bursts forth afresh with a strain of scorn and upbraiding that dies away into despair, as he turns from his human tormentors, once his friends, to the God who seems, like them, to have become his foe, but to whom he clings with an indomitable tenacity.

(Dean Bradley.)

Now in these verses Job asserts his moral manhood, he rises from the pressure of his sufferings and the loads of sophistry and implied calumny which his friends had laid upon his spirit, speaks out with the heart of a true man. We have an illustration of independency of thought in religion, and this shall be our subject. A man though crushed in every respect, like Job, should not surrender this.


1. Man has a capacity to form conceptions of the cardinal principles of religion. He can think of God, the soul, duty, moral obligation, Christ, immortality, etc.

2. Man has a capacity to realise the practical force of these conceptions. He can turn them into emotions to fire his soul; he can embody — them as principles in his life.

II. FROM THE DESPOTISM OF CORRUPT RELIGION. Corrupt religion, whether Pagan or Christian, Papal or Protestant, always seeks to crush this independency in the individual soul.

III. FROM THE NECESSARY MEANS OF PERSONAL RELIGION. Religion in the soul begins in individual thinking.

IV. FROM THE CONDITIONS OF MORAL USEFULNESS. Every man is bound to be spiritually useful, but he cannot be so without knowledge, and knowledge implies independent study and conviction.

V. FROM THE TEACHINGS OF THE BIBLE. The very existence of the Bible implies our power and obligation in this matter.

VI. FROM THE TRANSACTIONS OF THE JUDGMENT. In the great day of God men will have to give an account of their thoughts and words as well as deeds. Let us, therefore, have the spirit of Job, and when amongst bigots who seek to impose their views on us and override our judgment, let us say, "No doubt ye are the people, end wisdom shall die with you; but I have understanding as well as you."


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