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Deeper Commentary

Job 12:1 Then Job answered- Job now seems angry in this speech, descending at times to sarcasm.

Job 12:2 No doubt, but you are the people, and wisdom shall die with you-
Job is responding to the friends' insistence that Job stood condemned according to the wisdom of those who had gone before. Job is saying that he doesn't accept that, and that rather the friends are projecting their ideas onto the previous 'wise men', creating those men after their own likeness and mental image. In fact, Job is saying, the friends consider that they themselves are the source of all wisdom, they see themselves as the unequalled pinnacle of wisdom, so great that when they die, so will their wisdom. In other words, their wisdom was just they themselves.

Job 12:3 But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Yes, who doesn’t know such things as these?-
Job refused to take false guilt and to be pushed down by men. Our opinion is a priori as valid as that of any other believer, no matter how they seek to shore it up allusion to other sages.

Job 12:4 I am like one who is a joke to his neighbour, because I called on God, and He answered. The just, the blameless man is a joke-
The restoration prophet Jeremiah quoted this about himself (Jer. 20:7; Lam. 3:14 s.w.), as representative of Judah in captivity, who were mocked [s.w. 'joked at') daily (Jer. 48:27 s.w.) by their neighbours, the Babylonians and the peoples of their confederacy.

Job 12:5 In the thought of him who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune. It is ready for them whose foot slips-
Suffering is intended to produce empathy with others; as 2 Cor. 1 makes clear, this is a large reason for our experience of suffering. Job is realizing this; that there can be no empathy with the suffering from those who haven't suffered. And thus he was being led towards realizing that his sufferings were not just for himself, but were to be used to comfort others. And those "others" were the friends, whom he was to save by his forgiveness and prayers for them. LXX "For it had been ordained that he should fall under others at the appointed time, and that his houses should be spoiled by transgressors"- connecting with the destruction of the great houses of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (Jer. 52:13).

Job 12:6 The tents of robbers prosper. Those who provoke God are secure, who carry their God in their hands-
Job makes several references to the arguments of the satan in his replies to the friends; as if they were in fact the satan, and as if he knew perfectly well what they had said to Yahweh. Thus he tells the friends that those who provoke God are secure, whereas the satan had suggested that Job would provoke God to His face if his security was taken away. Job says that such people who provoke God have all things given into their hand by Yahweh; and it is hard not to see in this a reference to the satan, into whose hand Job had been delivered. It was as if Job was saying to them: 'You are the ones who have provoked God, you are the ones into whose hand God has delivered me; so actually you are the wicked, not me'. For more connections between the friends and the satan, see on Job 1:6.

Job 12:7 But ask the animals now, and they shall teach you; the birds of the sky, and they shall tell you-
At the end of the book, we are told that it is God who not only created Behemoth, but can effortlessly control him in accord with His purpose. That’s the comfort of the message. Indeed the descriptions of the natural world which lead up to the Leviathan / Behemoth passages are there to underline this point; and it’s interesting that those passages zoom in upon the cruelties and even brutalities within nature. Yet these are all of God’s ultimate design and creation, and under His providential control. Job had earlier perceived this; for he responds to the friends’ allusions to an evil ‘Satan’ figure as the source of his suffering by observing: “Ask the animals... The birds of the air... [they show that] the hand of the Lord [and not any supernatural ‘Satan’] has done this” (Job 12:7–9). Job himself turned to the natural creation for lessons, and so God's final appeal to that same creation was only really leading him further from where he had already arrived.

Job 12:8 Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach you. The fish of the sea shall declare to you-
"Declare" is literally 'to number'. Job's idea was that one had only to look at the natural creation, and they would 'number up' the extent of God's activity. But later Job has to be taught that man cannot number up these things (s.w. Job 38:37; 39:2). They could not be numbered by man, but only by God. This is the same word used in the restoration prophecy of Jer. 38:22: "As the host of the sky cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured", so God's grace would be poured out in restoring His people. Job was being taught the same lesson. He finally believed it, but the exiles generally didn't, and so their restoration didn't happen after the pattern of Job's.

Job 12:9 Who doesn’t know that in all these, the hand of Yahweh has done this-
Satan asks God: "Put forth Your hand". The hand of God is an Angelic phrase. God agrees- "he is in your hand" (:6). Thus Satan's hand is God's hand, which in practice was articulated through an Angel. Job seems to emphasize the place of God's hand in bringing his trials- Job 2:5,6,10; 6:9; 10:7; 13:21; 19:21; 27:11 AVmg; 28:9. Job in Job 12:9 feels that in the same way as God's hand had created the natural creation- and the Angels did this- so that same Angelic hand was upon him for evil. "By His Spirit (God makes His Angels spirits) He hath garnished the Heavens; His hand hath formed the crooked serpent" (Job 26:13). Thus Job associates God's Spirit with His hand, which is Satan's hand. It seems far more fitting that this hand and spirit should be Angelic rather than human. For no one human being could bring these sufferings upon Job. The human Satan, the fellow worshipper, was reflected in an Angel in the court of Heaven. Again, it was Angelic work that formed the Heavens. Job recognized that his trials came from the hand of God, but knew that His hand would not kill him- "with Thy strong hand Thou opposest Thyself against me... howbeit He will not stretch out His hand to (bring me to) the grave" (Job 30:21,24 AV). This was exactly the brief given to satan- to try Job, but "preserve his life". The hand of God creating evil (Job 2:10,11) must surely refer to God's "Angels of evil" (Ps. 78:49) rather than to man- in the restoration context, the people and Cyrus had to be taught that no one except God (including human satans!) created evil (Is. 45:5-7).


Job 12:10 in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?-
As noted on :9, this alludes to God's command to the Satan: "He [Job] is in your hand". But Job insists that he is in God's hand. He is labouring this point (:9), because he is perhaps answering the implication of the friends that he has sinned and is therefore in the hands of some cosmic evil being, out of God's control.

Job 12:11 Doesn’t the ear try words, even as the palate tastes its food?-
The idea is that truth should not just be accepted because the source is an old or reputedly wise man (:12). For even their wisdom is nothing compared with God's (:13). Job is looking for truth to come from direct revelation from God rather than through the wisdom of men. And that desire appears frustrated by God's apparent silence. But all this builds up towards the final wonder of God Himself appearing and speaking at the end of the book.

Job 12:12 With aged men is wisdom, in length of days understanding-
See on :11. Job may be being sarcastic here, and perhaps we could put a question mark at the end of this sentence. For to predicate wisdom upon years lived becomes laughable compared, therefore, to the wisdom of the God who is from everlasting (:13). Therefore Job is looking for truth to come from direct revelation from God rather than through the wisdom of men. And that desire appears frustrated by God's apparent silence. But all this builds up towards the final wonder of God Himself appearing and speaking at the end of the book.

Job 12:13 With God is wisdom and might. He has counsel and understanding-
See on :11,12. Job has complained about God's apparent silence and failure to speak or dialogue with him throughout all the suffering. But Job doesn't doubt that God does have "counsel and understanding". Again, all this builds up towards the final wonder of God Himself appearing and speaking at the end of the book. Job can be read as implying that he doesn't have "counsel and understanding", but God does. This again makes his representative of Israel under judgment, who were left "without counsel and understanding" (s.w. Dt. 32:28).    

Job 12:14 Behold, He breaks down, and it can’t be built again. He imprisons a man, and there can be no release-
Here Job starts to go wrong. Because he feels that at this moment, he has no hope of restoration- therefore he assumes that this is how God is. But this was how the depressed exiles felt. The restoration prophecies speak of release from the prison of captivity, and the broken down Zion being "built again" (Jer. 24:6; 31:4). The fact Job was 'released' and restored, despite his momentary lack of faith that this were possible, was intended as a pattern for the exiles.

Job 12:15 Behold, He withholds the waters, and they dry up. Again, He sends them out, and they overturn the earth-
 The theme of 'drying up' or 'withering' is significant. Bildad considers Job to have been 'dried up' by God's judgment (Job 8:12), and the word is used of how God withered or dried up Judah at the hands of their invaders (Jer. 12:4; 23:10; Ez. 17:9,10,24; Zech. 11:17; Lam. 4:8; Is. 40:7,8- although the prophetic word of God requiring their restoration would endure, despite their drying up). The dry bones of Judah in captivity were withered or dried up (Ez. 37:11). So Job's 'drying up' was again, a sharing in the representative suffering of God's people. Job's personal response to his 'drying up' was to reflect that God dries up waters and also sends them forth as floods (Job 12:15 s.w.); He can give and He can take, just as Job had initially realized (Job 2:10). Just as He dried up Job / Israel, so He could abundantly send forth waters; just as He did at the Red Sea. Restoration and salvation was just as easy for Him as destruction, to put it another way. The drying up of Job was also understood by him as referring to his death (Job 14:11), but God could raise him from the dead and have a desire to him again (Job 14:15). Eliphaz wrongly argues that the Divine 'drying up' of a person means permanent extinction (Job 15:30), as does Bildad (Job 18:16); but Job always sees the 'drying up' as part of a Divine action which also has a counterpart, the pouring out again of waters, or resurrection of the dried up, withered bones. Likewise Judah in captivity thought that their drying up, their dry bones, were incapable of revival (Ez. 37:11); but the message is that they could indeed be revived, and their drying up was but a presage to their eternal revival.        

Job 12:16 With Him is strength and wisdom. The deceived and the deceiver are His-
Job is poetry, and poetry works by using familiar words and images in new ways. Hence myths can be alluded to and used, but in order to present them in a different context and to achieve more powerfully a conclusion rather than just baldly stating it; i.e. that Yahweh is all powerful and that there are actually no abiding realities behind the myths. Thus poetry is an appropriate medium through which to articulate this message. “The deceived and the deceiver are His” is poetry which even comes through somewhat in translation (Job 12:16). The expectation is that the deceiver is Satan, and God is with or sympathetic to the deceived. But no. Such dualistic expectations are set up, but crushed at the end of the strophe: both deceived and deceiver are God’s. For there is no dualistic cosmos out there. Indeed, "the deceiver" may refer to some superhuman tempter, similar to how many today understand 'Satan'. And Job is saying that God is far more powerful than any such being. Or we can note that the words for "deceived" and "deceiver" are usually used about sin and those leading into sin. Despite all that, God is still there, and His people "are His"; the words are used about spiritually "wandering" Judah in their captivity (Ez. 34:6), who were still "His" in that He would never ultimately reject His people.

Job 12:17 He leads counsellors away stripped. He makes judges fools-
This was to be seen in the leading away of the leaders of Judah "stripped" in exile, despite their apparent wisdom. Again Job is being driven to the view that God alone has wisdom, as the judges and counsellors represented by the friends simply have no wisdom. As noted on :11-13, all this builds up towards the final wonder of God Himself appearing and speaking at the end of the book.

Job 12:18 He loosens the bond of kings. He binds their waist with a belt- L
XX "He seats kings upon thrones, and girds their loins with a girdle", exactly the language used of Cyrus. Being a leader was a gift from God which He could give and take at will, according to the wisdom of His own plans, which as yet Job could not perceive, but which was to be revealed at the end of the book.

Job 12:19 He leads priests away stripped, and overthrows the mighty-
So relevant to the leading into captivity of the priests such as Ezekiel. Job appears to have been a priest for his family, and his overthrow was therefore representative of Judah's; and his path to restoration was to be theirs, if they perceived it. He could not of himself save anyone, only show an example to be followed; as stated explicitly to the exiles in Ez. 14:14,20. And this is true of us all.

Job 12:20 He removes the speech of those who are trusted, and takes away the understanding of the elders-
The "trusted" and "elders" are oblique references to the friends. All human wisdom is removed compared to God's wisdom. But that wisdom is only finally revealed at the end of the book. The lesson of Job is to wait patiently for that, suffering when we cannot assign meaning to event for the moment, in the knowledge that finally there is a Divine wisdom at work through it all.

Job 12:21 He pours contempt on princes, and loosens the belt of the strong-
Job is starting to perceive that God's style is to radically invert everything. The high are brought low, the humble exalted. This explained why Job had been brought down, and led Job towards an expectation that he the humbled, the weak, would be restored. This theme of radical inversion, the first being last and the last first, is found throughout the restoration prophets, especially Isaiah. The humbled exiles were to see in their humiliation a situation pregnant with hope for restoration.

Job 12:22 He uncovers deep things out of darkness, and brings out to light the shadow of death-
Earlier, Job has longed to go to the darkness of death never to return (Job 10:21), where "the land [is] dark as midnight, of the shadow of death, without any order, where the light is as midnight’" (Job 10:22). The lack of "order" and darkness suggests a return to the situation as described before the creation of Genesis 1. Job is failing to perceive that his 'decreation' or 'uncreation', like the destruction of Judah's kingdom and temple, was all a necessary prelude to the new creation promised in the restoration prophecies. And it was the essence of that which Job experienced in his own restoration. And this is why Job 12:22 is such a significant breakthrough in Job's thinking, when he starts to accept that "He uncovers deep things out of darkness, and brings out to light the shadow of death".

Job 12:23 He increases the nations, and He destroys them. He enlarges the nations, and He leads them captive-
As noted on :21, Job was beginning to perceive that all goes in cycles of exaltation and humiliation, but he is to finally learn that for God's people, that humiliation is required for them to be exalted and restored as God intends. We too are to humble ourselves under His hand, that we may be exalted in due time. Perhaps Peter had his eye on Job's restoration as he wrote that (1 Pet. 5:6). These things are clearly relevant to the captives who were in Babylon, at the hands of an 'enlarged' Babylon which would also be 'destroyed' in due time.

Job 12:24 He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth, and causes them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way-
This is quoted in Ps. 107:40 as a summary of the history of Israel, but the Psalm goes on to say that "the poor" of Israel would be "set on high from affliction" (Ps. 107:41). Again Job's experiences were understood by the Psalmist as typical of all Israel.

Job 12:25 They grope in the dark without light. He makes them stagger like a drunken man
- Yet this was in fact the experience of Job himself (see on Job 5:14). Job was experiencing darkness at noon. But in this Job looked ahead to the sufferings of the Lord Jesus on the cross. He like the Lord suffered as a sinner without having personally sinned. Job was representative of sinful Israel under judgment, for to "grope at noonday" was their punishment for breaking the covenant (s.w. Dt. 28:29).