Job Chapter 12: Job replies to Zophar’s Lack of Wisdom and RailingsMar 5th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Job, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)
Job Chapter 12: Job replies to Zophar’s Lack of Wisdom and Railings
Job 12:1 And Job answered and said,
Job 12:2 No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.
Zophar had just finished his comments, and Job now replied. Zophar and the other two comforters had assumed a superior attitude all along, so Job, with a form of sarcasm, noted that they were presuming to give him counsel. However, their type of counsel was shallow and meaningless. Quotations and sayings that had come down historically were being parroted. With Zophar, the last speaker, uttering certain common, well-known sayings, Job now said, “I and others know about the sayings you are using because they are axioms that have been handed down.” That meaningless type of counsel would not last, whereas the counsel of the ancients, who lived prior to the Flood, was time-proven and meaningful. Not only did the shallow, empty axioms the three counselors used from time to time not originate with them, but the three comforters were not really sympathetic to Job in his predicament.
Job 12:3 But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you: yea, who knoweth not such things as these?
Job was saying, “The advice you are giving me is common knowledge. One does not need great wisdom to use these sayings.” The three comforters’ lack of empathy and entry into Job’s suffering hindered their counsel from being meaningful to him.
Job 12:4 I am as one mocked of his neighbour, who calleth upon God, and he answereth him: the just upright man is laughed to scorn.
Job said that he was “as one mocked of his neighbour [Zophar].” Zophar called upon God, who supposedly answered him and granted wisdom. In other words, the “neighbor” in this case was Zophar, the one giving the counsel. The three comforters felt so confident in their relationship with God that in giving advice to Job, they were actually lecturing him. They assumed a superior attitude and looked down on him. The “just upright man” (Job) still did not know why he was suffering the affliction, and he honestly wanted to know the reason for his experience.
Job was an object of laughter and scorn. If we reason backwards, it was because God did not answer Job that the three laughed him to scorn. Job had been calling on God and was troubled because he did not receive an answer. However, the three comforters felt that God was not silent with them. Their attitude was, “It is obvious, Job, that God is not answering you because you have done something wrong, and up to this point, you are continuing to try to justify yourself.” Job then responded that in examining his own heart, he could not find the fault and thus felt he was just. Of course he did realize, as stated earlier, that he was an earthly creature just like everyone else in some respects, but in his lifestyle and intent before his affliction, he had consistently tried to please God. Not understanding the permission of evil, he was puzzled as to the reason for his affliction.
Comment: The literal version of the Bible reads as follows: “I am a laughingstock to his friend; he calls on God, and he answers him: the just, the upright one, is a mockery.”
Job was being sarcastic in implying that God was listening to the three comforters but not to him. He was questioning the validity of their ability to counsel him because they were really lecturing him and not giving constructive advice and empathizing with him as a friend would do. Lacking respect for Job because of his present condition, Zophar made remarks that were crude and completely unwarranted. In seeing people who are crippled, blind, lame, etc., we must realize that their physical condition has nothing to do with them as individuals before God. We must guard against a judgmental attitude that can adversely affect our reasoning.
Along another line, the environment, such as the weather on a dark, damp, cold day, can affect our feelings and, consequently, our reasoning. Conversely, we are happy on a sunny day with the birds singing. Unfortunately, these things sometimes warp our thinking, judgment, and decision making—but they should not.
Job 12:5 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 is in line with what was just said, but the translations differ radically because the word “lamp” has various meanings such as “torch” or “red-hot brand.” However, the King James translators seem to have correctly captured the gist of what Job was saying by using “lamp.”
One primary reason is that before his affliction, Job had the reputation of being the greatest man in the East; that is, he was a “lamp.” His brilliance and counsel had been an example as well as his sympathy for the poor and his prayer mode, but the three were saying, “Look at Job’s sad state now.” They were implying that Job’s reputation was superficial and that he did not really possess the qualities he was reputed to have. For proof, they pointed to his current state and appearance.
The attitude of the three was, “Job, instead of giving counsel to others, you are the one in need of counsel.” Jesus was similarly taunted while on the Cross. “You claim to be a physician. You gave advice and healed many people, but look at your pathetic state now. If you are what you claim to be, come down off the Cross.” Such criticism can pierce the heart of the one to whom it is directed. Thank God, Jesus did not come down from the Cross! Of course the ones doing the criticizing were not on the Cross. They were at ease while speaking to someone in dire physical straits. Armchair counselors often do not have experimental knowledge. Job’s feet were ready to slip in his sorrowful state, yet he was despised by those who were at ease.
The Apostle Paul followed the principle “To the weak I am weak, to the strong I am strong, and to the Jew I am a Jew.” In other words, we are to judge the situation or environment of the one we are addressing.
Comment: The American Standard Version reads, “In the thought of him that is at ease, there is contempt for misfortune; it is ready for them whose foot slippeth.”
Job 12:6 The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly.
Verse 6 reminds us of Malachi 3:15, “Now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” The three saw Job as a victim of disease, a curse, and misfortune, but Job replied, “Your advice does not fit the picture because in nature, as well as among mankind, the wicked prosper. They that do evil live a comfortable life.” Of course it is understood that both the righteous and the unrighteous suffer hard circumstances and have good experiences, but Job was taking only one side of the coin.
The Bible says that the righteous prosper, but how? They may not prosper in the current life, but eventually, in the long-term experience, after the present life has passed away, the righteous will benefit more than the wicked. The destiny of the wicked in the next life will have a negative twist that must be overcome, whereas those who maintain their righteousness add years to their life—not necessarily in the present life but in the future life. One may be laying up treasures now that cannot be discerned, but in the next life, it will be manifest that they benefited from their experiences in the current life. Job was saying, “You are judging me because of my condition, but look at nature and at mankind. What you are saying is only a half truth. It is half true and half wrong.”
Comment: The following Scriptures fit the circumstance. “Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning” (Psa. 73:12-14). “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree” (Psa. 37:35). “Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? Wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins” (Jer. 12:1,2).
Reply: Job had happy days previously. The Lord rewarded him for many years with goods, cattle, and family. The time of his affliction was much shorter. Therefore, when we look at Job’s entire experience, he had more than 50 years of great benefits, so his suffering was of relatively short duration. From God’s standpoint, it was but a watch in the night. And later Job was rewarded with lengthening of days in the present life. Although his experience was really very short-term, it was like a severe illness or great pain in that a minute can seem like an hour.
Comment: In regard to the “tabernacles of robbers,” Job may have been thinking specifically of the Chaldeans and the Sabeans, who had actually pillaged his flocks.
Job 12:7 But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:
Job 12:8 Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.
It is interesting to see all the beasts that Job brought into the picture. In spite of his condition and the badgering of the three comforters, his mind was collected enough to reason in detail.
Job 12:9 Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?
We are reminded of how Paul occasionally resorted to natural reasoning to rebut the thoughts of false or misinformed brethren. For instance, he said, “Doth not even nature itself teach you?” (1 Cor. 11:14). He summed up what Job said here. And we may say, “Does not common sense tell you?”
Job 12:10 In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.
The soul of every living thing and the breath of all mankind are in God’s hand. The wisdom of the ancients was available to those living in Job’s day, which, if we are correct, was before the Bible was written in its current form. Moses came after Job and collated the Bible at that time. In other words, there was common understanding back there without the Pentateuch. Job and the comforters were quite cognizant of much understanding they had gleaned from the ancients who lived after the Flood, such as Noah and Shem, let alone Abraham and Isaac.
But the knowledge of the comforters was superficial. They lived much shorter lives and did not have the same grasp of science, animals, and humanity that those who lived for 300 years had.
Job 12:11 Doth not the ear try words? and the mouth taste his meat?
Job 12:12 With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.
Job 12:13 With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding.
Job was saying that just as he and the three comforters possessed the two senses of hearing and tasting, so the axioms or proverbs that had come down through history had withstood the test of time. For us today to get the benefit of understanding why these sayings were time-honored, we have to stop and meditate upon them. There are two types of brilliant people: (1) those who simply collect and remember a million facts and repeat them and (2) those who reason on the facts they collect. Job was saying, “Does not the man with average intelligence realize the variety of food that God made and the different kinds of music? All of these are pleasurable and beneficial to mankind.” Job was questioning the depth of understanding of the three who were trying to give him advice when, regardless of age, they were really youngsters in understanding.
Comment: Zophar, the youngest, was the last comforter to speak. It is interesting that after his remarks, Job reasoned on wisdom: “With the ancient is wisdom.”
The hoary head would be particularly applicable to the profound understanding of Noah, for example, who lived 350 years after the Flood. And Shem lived even longer. We forget that the wisdom before the Flood was carried over by those who were especially esteemed for their knowledge and understanding.
Q: Isn’t God the One with wisdom and length of days?
A: In verse 12, the Hebrew word translated “ancient” is in the plural, the thought being, “With the aged [ones of the past] is wisdom.” However, in uttering these words, Job almost naturally thought of the Ancient of days, the most ancient One, that is, God Himself. In reasoning concerning Zophar, the comforter who had just spoken, Job thought, “Who is more ancient than God Himself?” Then, from verse 13 through the rest of the chapter, Job continued to speak about God.
Job was saying, in verse 12, that the aged ones of the past, such as Noah and Shem, had far more length of days than the three comforters, and the wisdom and experience they passed down was much more meaningful. The wisdom of the comforters was more in the nature of axioms and platitudes and superficial experience. In short, the three were not qualified to be advising Job.
Job 12:14 Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again: he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening.
Comment: The NIV reads, “What he [God] tears down cannot be rebuilt; the man he imprisons cannot be released.” Thus Job was showing the sovereignty of God; that is, once God does something, it cannot be undone.
Reply: Yes, the latter half of the verse seems to refer to a prisoner. We are reminded of the statement that when Jesus opened the door in the Philadelphia period of the Church, no man could shut it (Rev. 3:8).
Job 12:15 Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up: also he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth.
In different ways in nature, we observe the withholding and also the giving of rain. Wadis are a good example. Being bone-dry for most of the year, wadis are like highways for walking to various destinations in the wilderness, but when the rains come, flash floods race through them like a roaring freight train. Floods coming down wadis are sometimes beneficial in bringing silt, but in the Sinai area, where the upper regions have little soil to provide friction, the water rushes down with such great force that it even carries loose stones and boulders at times. In other words, a dry spell can be followed by an overwhelming inundation of water.
Also, Job and the others were familiar with the conditions in ancient Egypt, where a dry period was followed by flood waters coursing down the Nile River and causing a four-month flood in the delta area. Although restrictive in some ways, the four months of flood waters blessed the land.
Q: Could Job have been referring back to the Flood of Noah’s day?
A: Yes. Taking that suggestion a little deeper, we can reason as follows. Since no rain had fallen prior to the Flood, and dew, or mist, had come up from the ground, no one back there would ever have dreamed that water would come down from above. For 1,656 years, the water, or moisture, for growing crops had come from a ground distillation and not from clouds above. The Flood fits well into the principle of the omnipotence of God—everything is completely within His control.
Job 12:16 With him is strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver are his.
“The deceived and the deceiver are his.” A variety of explanations and translations are available on this portion of text. One suggestion is that it refers to the Adversary and those whom he has deceived. They are entrapped and boxed in, even though they are seemingly given great liberties. They are completely subservient to the strength and power of God.
Comment: Verses 14-25 are similar in structure, referring to God: He breaketh, He shutteth, He withholdeth, He sendeth, He leadeth, He maketh, He looseth, He girdeth, He overthroweth, He removeth, He taketh away, He poureth, He weakeneth, He discovereth, He bringeth out, He increaseth, He destroyeth, He enlargeth, He straiteneth, and He causeth.
Reply: Yes, there is a rhythmic flow. In fact, many expositors who are familiar with the Hebrew think of the Book of Job as a song. The language is so beautiful and rhythmic that the book is considered to be wonderful, deep lessons which are poetically expressed.
Job 12:17 He leadeth counsellors away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools.
God causes wise men to be stripped of their supposed wisdom.
Job 12:18 He looseth the bond of kings, and girdeth their loins with a girdle.
In the case of an autocratic king who rules with a mighty hand, God can strip such a one of that authority and bind the king’s loins with a girdle, if it so pleases Him in His providence. In ancient history books, we sometimes see an illustration of a king who became a prisoner, and in his humiliation, he was divested of his gorgeous robes and left with only a loin cloth, which is a symbol of servitude. In other words, in God’s providence, a despot can become a humble slave. These various verses are like opposites: the Lord giveth; He taketh away.
No stratum of society, including the elite or privileged classes, escapes the pervasive control that God has over humanity—not kings, princes, heirs to the throne, judges, priests, ministers, or counselors. Nothing can escape His attention, and nothing can be done without His permission. Of course we are speaking not in the sense of authorization or endorsement but in the sense of the Heavenly Father’s having, at His fingertips, absolute control over His entire domain, physical and spiritual.
Job 12:19 He leadeth princes away spoiled, and overthroweth the mighty.
Some translations have the thought “He [God] makes priests walk away stripped [disrobed, naked], and the mighty he overthrows.”
Comment: According to Young’s Analytical Concordance, that same Hebrew word is translated “priest” 725 times and “prince” only once.
Job 12:20 He removeth away the speech of the trusty, and taketh away the understanding of the aged.
“The trusty” would be close counselors or advisers. The one in authority felt that there was no possibility of betrayal and that the individuals could be trusted to give sound counsel. Some marginal notes render this portion of the verse, “He [God] turns aside the lips of the trusted.” The lips move when a person talks, and it is as though God can control the very enunciation of words. For instance, to provide opportunity for King Saul to come to his senses, God mechanically moved his lips to prophesy. Down through history, God has given opportunities of repentance to evil people who follow pernicious ways in trying to better themselves in one way or another. For those who do not favorably respond, their obstinacy and perseverance in self-will become even more apparent to an independent observer.
God “taketh away the understanding of the aged.” Verse 20 is another example of the backand- forth reasoning that pervades this chapter, from verse 14 on, pertaining to God’s omniscience and omnipotence to have others, if He so desires, do His bidding.
Job 12:21 He poureth contempt upon princes, and weakeneth the strength of the mighty.
God can pour scorn on nobles, causing them to lose the esteem and honor of their positions.
Instead of their position and stature eliciting admiration, the situation can be reversed to provoke scorn.
In addition, God “weakeneth the strength of the mighty.” One translation has, “He unties the belt of the mighty.” For example, a world-renowned champion wrestler may be given a belt with a large gold buckle to honor him as being mighty. God can untie or break that recognition of might. People who have a belt as a badge of honor usually flaunt it before others, as though challenging anyone to untie it, but the Lord can remove the belt with the utmost ease.
Job 12:22 He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death.
In this case, the two halves of the verse state the same thing. To the average citizenry, death is the deepest darkness, the deepest unknown. Spiritually speaking, the principle is as follows. We have been brought out of darkness into the marvelous light of truth. The secrets, or mysteries, in God’s Word are covered to the natural mind, but to the consecrated, they are wonderful light and understanding.
Job 12:23 He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again.
God enlarges nations, and He straitens them (boxes them in, makes them narrow). An example is natural Israel, to whom wonderful promises were given but not appreciated. Consequently, the opposite experience of the Diaspora came upon the Israelites. Egypt is another example; the ten plagues straitened this rich, powerful nation.
Job 12:24 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.
Job 12:25 They grope in the dark without light, and he maketh them to stagger like a drunken man.
“He taketh away the heart of the chief of the people of the earth.” A common expression is to take the starch out of a person. God “causeth them [the chief people] to wander in a wilderness where there is no way [no delineation of a path to a destination].” Winds blowing the sand in a desert quickly cover a person’s footsteps, erasing all traces of a path. What a scary position to be in! How thankful we are, as Christians, to be able to communicate with the Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus for advice! When we are in situations like this, where there is no clear direction as to how to proceed, we have the blessing of being able to lean more heavily upon God and His providence. However, these verses are talking not about the consecrated but about mankind in general. The unconsecrated grope in darkness without light; they stagger to and fro like a drunken man. Excerpts of the vocabulary in the Book of Job are reflected elsewhere in Scripture, such as the Psalms. “They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end” (Psa. 107:27; compare Isa. 24:20). The excerpts show that the Book of Job was available to Jewry in later generations. Even though Job dwelled in the land of Uz, his writings were known in Israel.
Job’s long reply, which covers chapters 12-14, followed the words of Zophar, the least and the last of the comforters to speak in the first round. Zophar’s comments, short as they were, provoked Job to speak longer in response to him than to the others, perhaps because of the coarseness and the blunt manner of the remarks. Subsequently, the other two comforters also became blunt and coarse as a result of what Zophar started. He opened a Pandora’s box, as it were, with his statements. He loosened the tongues of Eliphaz and Bildad to be more explicit in their evil surmising of Job’s real problem being the supposed sin he was concealing from them.
Comment: In Job 11:2, Zophar said, “Should not the multitude of words be answered? And should a man full of talk be justified?”
Reply: What Zophar said brought out the baser instincts of the other two comforters.
In later chapters, we will reflect on the type and antitype of Job, the three comforters, and Elihu. When we look back at the end of the book, we will get an overall dimension that will be profitable and helpful in providing up-to-date information on not only principles of character but also enlightenment with regard to what has been happening during the history of the Church and the Gospel Age.