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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Job 12

 

 

Verse 1

Job 12:1 And Job answered and said,

Ver. 1. And Job answered and said] Being nipped and nettled with his friends’ hard usage of him, and harsh language to him, but especially with Zophar’s arrogant and lofty preface in the former chapter, he begins now to wax warm, and more roughly and roundly to shape them an answer.


Verse 2

Job 12:2 No doubt but ye [are] the people, and wisdom shall die with you.

Ver. 2. No doubt but ye are the people] The select peculiar people, the only ones, as a man is put for a good man, Jeremiah 5:1, a wife for a good wife, Proverbs 18:22, a name for a good name, Ecclesiastes 7:1. As Athens was said to be the Greece of Greece, and as one promising to show his friend all Athens at once, showed him Solon; or as the Latin poet, saying of Fabius Maximus,

Hic patria est, murique urbis stant pectore in uno (Silius).

So saith Job by a holy jeer (not to disgrace his friends, but to bring them to more modesty and moderation, if it might be), Certes, ye are not one or two men, but specimen totius orbis, an epitome of the world, or at least the representative of some whole people (Vatablus); ye have got away all the wit from myself and others, whom ye look upon as so many wild ass’s colts in comparison of yourselves. Thus the pope (Simon Magus like) pretends to be some great thing, Acts 8:9, even the Church virtual; and that in his breast, as in Noah’s ark, is comprehended all wisdom and worth. Ye know nothing at all, saith he (Caiaphas-like), to all others, John 11:49. So do his janizaries, the Jesuits, who will needs be taken for the only scholars, politicians, and orators of the world. The Church, say they, is the soul of the world; the clergy, of the Church; and we, of the clergy; the empire of learning is ours, &c.

And wisdom shall die with you] As being locked up in your bosoms. Suetonius telleth us of Palaemon, the grammarian, that he was heard to say that learning was born with him, and would die with him. The Gnostics would needs be held the only knowing men; Illuminates, in Spain, the only spiritual men; Swenkfeldians, in Germany, styled themselves the confessors of the glory of Christ; our Antinomians, the hearers of the gospel, and of free grace. But what saith Solomon? "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth," Proverbs 27:2. And that which had been much to a man’s commendation if from another, soundeth very slenderly from himself, saith Pliny. Aben Ezra and Rabbi Levi set another sense upon this verse, as if it were no irony, but a plain assertion to this effect: Questionless you are to be counted among the common sort of people. See John 7:49. Neither is there in you anything excellent or extraordinary, that ye should be looked upon as drained from the dregs or sifted from the brans of the very vulgar; your wisdom, if ever you had any, is even dead and decayed with you, and you have outlived your prime, &c.


Verse 3

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?

Ver. 3. But I have understanding as well as you] Think not that you have engrossed all the knowledge, and that you have the monopoly of wisdom in your breasts; for surely I may come into the balance with you, and claim as great a share in understanding as yourselves. Zophar was pleased to call me hollow and heartless, Job 11:12; but I have a heart (so the Hebrew here hath it), that seat of understanding; and that shall appear in the ensuing discourse: where Job proveth that by solid arguments concerning which Zophar had but barely propounded. And whereas this patient man was not without his impatience, yet he discovereth more grace, even in his distempers, than his friends did in their seeming wise carnages. Breaking out in the body shows strength of nature. Some infirmities discover more good than some seeming beautiful actions.

I am not inferior to you] Heb. I fall not lower than you. See Nehemiah 6:16, Esther 6:13, Job 13:2. He meaneth that he was much their superior, and did better understand the doctrine of God’s providence than they. This he speaketh not out of any vain glory, or ambitious boasting, but as David, and Paul, and others after them did, commending themselves, either in defence of their own wronged innocence, or when it appeared unto them that the concealing of their good parts and practices might turn to the hindrance of the truth, or to the harm of the Church, or to the impairing and impeaching of God’s glory. In these cases self-commendation is not unseemly; but a Job may lawfully stand upon, not his comparisons only, but his disparisons also.

Yea, who knoweth not eueh things as these?] viz. That God rewardeth the righteous, and punisheth the ungodly. The heathen saw this by the rush candle of nature’s dim light. "Doth not nature itself teach you?" saith Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:14. And again, "This ye know, that no whoremonger, &c., hath any inheritance in the kingdom of God and of Christ," Ephesians 5:5.


Verse 4

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.

Ver. 4. Iam as one mocked of his neighbour] Those that should countenance and comfort me contemn and scorn me. I am their laughter and pastime; so he took it, since they sat so heavily upon the skirts of his conscience, and would not weigh his reasons brought in his own defence.

Who calleth upon God, and he answereth him] i.e. I, Job, do make God my refuge when these jeering neighbours of mine do shame my counsel, Psalms 14:6, and would mock me out of my religion; but God favoureth me though men frown; and where human help faileth Divine appeareth. Or thus rather: I am derided by those who profess to call upon God, and to hear often from heaven. They are hard hearted to me, though themselves have liberally tasted of God’s tenderness; and they pull up the bridge of mercy before me, which themselves have oft gone over.

The just upright man is laughed to scorn] "Shame shall be the promotion of fools," Proverbs 3:35, and such a dissembler as Doeg may well be derided, Psalms 52:6-7. But what hath the righteous done? And why should just, upright Job be laughed to scorn? But this is no news. Christ and his people have ever been for signs and for wonders in this mad world, always beside itself in point of salvation. "He that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey," or is accounted mad, Isaiah 59:15. If he will needs be a just upright man, if he will live godly in Christ Jesus (if he be so set upon it, that none shall hinder him), he shall suffer persecution, this of the tongue howsoever, 2 Timothy 3:12. A wolf flieth not upon a painted sheep. We can look upon a painted toad with delight; it is the reality of godliness that is hated.


Verse 5

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.

Ver. 5. He that is ready to slip with his feet] He who is in a declining, tottering condition, ready to fall and perish under the burden of his afflictions, though formerly he was looked upon and made use of as a lamp or torch, yet when he is at an under, and brought low, is shamefully slighted by such as have the world at will; like as a torch when wasted and waxen short is cast out of the hands, and trodden on with the feet of him that held it. The holiest men, if afflicted, do but smother instead of shining. When Christ himself was a man of sorrows, he was therefore despised and rejected of men, who hid, as it were, their faces from him, and esteemed him not, Isaiah 53:3. The prodigal’s elder brother speaks scornfully of him, because poor, Luke 15:30, "This thy son." He saith not, This my brother, &c. Gregory saith, that the poor just man is here compared to a lamp extinct, because he shineth inwardly by the virtue of an upright heart; but outwardly is as it were extinct, because there is nothing outward to commend him; no glorious apparel, no goodly houses, &c.; whence they are slighted by the rich wretches of this world. But such a lamp (saith he, following the Vulgate translation) is set for an appointed time; that is, the day of judgment, when he shall shine most brightly, even as the sun, &c., when the world’s favourites shall be thrust into utter darkness.


Verse 6

Job 12:6 The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth [abundantly].

Ver. 6. The tabernacles of robbers prosper] By robbers here understand all such as sin against the second table, but especially oppressors and wrong dealers, whether by force or fraud. As by those that provoke God ( qui res Dei interturbant, so the Tigurines translate), that irritate and disquiet him, attempting to put him out of temper, are meant sinners against the first table. See the like 1 Timothy 1:13 : I was against God a blasphemer, against man a persecutor, against both injurious; but I obtained mercy, special mercy. So do not these robbers and God-provokers in the text: thrive they may, and be in a peaceable condition; yea, they may be secure and confident of the continuance of their prosperity. Confidences are to them, saith the Hebrew, verity; for they trust in uncertain riches, while God bringeth into their hands, viz. whatsoever they wish, yet not as love tokens, but as wrath tokens; these fatting beasts are but fitting for the slaughter. God oft giveth in wrath to some which he withholdeth from others in great mercy. Meanwhile Zophar’s twofold assertion in the former chapter, Job 12:17; Job 12:20, that good men prosper here, and bad men suffer, falls to the ground, while Job disproves it, 1. By experience in this verse and the former. 2. By the testimony of the creatures, those catholic preachers, Job 12:7-25. By the testimony of the senses, and of ancient men, Job 12:11-12.


Verse 7

Job 12:7 But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:

Ver. 7. But ask now the beasts of the earth, and they shall teach thee] Even the wildest of them that abide in the wilderness. There is not one of these, or else of the fowls of the air, but can both teach thee, and tell thee that the world is ordered by a providence, that God is powerful, wise, just, &c., and must therefore be loved and served. That he suffereth the bad to oppress the good, as the beasts do devour the little ones; as the hurtful fowls destroy the harmless; as the great fishes eat up the smaller: man, who was once the captain of God’s school, is now, for his truantcy, turned down into the lowest form, as it were, to learn his A B C’s again; yea, to learn it from the meanest creatures. See Proverbs 6:6, Jeremiah 8:7, Matthew 6:26; where it appeareth, that in the ant, stork, swallow, &c., God hath set before us, as in a picture, the lively resemblance of many excellent virtues, which we ought to pursue and practise. These are the right laymen’s books, the images that may truly teach people the knowledge of God, and of his will, of themselves, and of their duties; which we should the rather learn, because God hath given us wisdom beyond them, Job 37:11, and yet by sending us to them, shameth our dulness and disobedience.


Verse 8

Job 12:8 Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.

Ver. 8. Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee] Teach thee? what? Surely many good lessons; as that of humility and modesty, considering our origin, Terra quam terimus docet terram quam gerimus; that of fruitfulness, while she liberally yields her riches and strength, and brings forth food for the maintenance of those innumerable armies of creatures that live upon her; but especially, and for the purpose, this the earth teacheth, that the tabernacles of robbers prosper, that oppressors swallow down most of her delicates, eat the fat and drink the sweet, ruffle in her silks, and rifle in her hidden treasures of gold and silver.

And the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee] These muti magistri silent teachers, have somewhat also to say to thee, and by a dumb kind of eloquence read thee a divinity lecture, while they are able to produce many such particular examples of violence in the seas; and will further declare (or cipher up unto thee) how oft they are served up to great men’s tables, and do fill the fat paunches of oppressors. It is not unlikely that Job, in this frequent sending Zophar to school to the unreasonable and inanimate creatures, closely twitteth him with those quicker questions of his, Job 11:8, "What canst thou do? what canst thou know?" &c., giving him also to know that he need not travel as far as heaven or hell for instances of God’s infinite power and wisdom, since we may contemplate the footsteps of God in each creature; and since he is so near unto us that he may be almost felt with our hands, as Paul speaketh ( ψηλαφησειαν), Acts 17:27.


Verse 9

Job 12:9 Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?

Ver. 9. Who knoweth not in all these, &c.] Or, by all these before mentioned creatures, &c., and therefore, Zophar, you have showen no more wisdom in your lofty discourse than the birds, beasts, and fishes have taught and told us. It is a silly vanity to pretend mysteriousness about vulgar truths; to dig deep for that which lieth above ground, Theologia cryptica; to talk of new truths, and never before heard of, when as the hearer may well say, as here, Who knows not such things as these? Of some in these days it is observed, that they call upon their hearers to mark, it may be they shall hear that which they have not heard before; when the thing is either false, or if true, no more than ordinarily is taught by others.

That the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?] That he alone made all without tool or toil, and that he alone manageth and ordereth all according to the good pleasure of his will; neither need he subscribe his name to his work; for the very things that he hath made proclaim that he made them. Meanwhile, hereby we may see how much we are beholden to Aristotle, Aelian, Gesner, and other learned men, who have written books concerning the nature of living creatures.


Verse 10

Job 12:10 In whose hand [is] the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.

Ver. 10. In whose hand is the soul of every living thing] That is, the life of every beast, flowing from a sensitive soul, Leviticus 17:10-11. This, God both giveth to the creature and conserveth it; he suffereth it not to be taken away from little sparrows, or the like, without order from him; much less befalleth any such thing to man without his singular providence, since our very hairs also are numbered, Matthew 9:30, Luke 12:7. The Jewish doctors do therefore offer manifest injury to Job when they say, that he held indeed that God created, and doth preserve, the several kinds of things, but permitteth the particulars and individuals to be hap hazard; whereas here he delivereth his judgment plainly to the contrary, when he saith,

And the breath of all mankind] Heb. The spirit of all man’s flesh (and so Broughton readeth it), that is, of every man’s body: hence God is called the God of the spirits of all flesh, Numbers 16:22, and the Father of spirits, Hebrews 12:9, and the former of the spirit of man within him, Zechariah 12:1. "My times are in thy hand," saith David, Psalms 31:15. God preserves our lives as a light in a lantern, and we may be glad it is in so safe a hand; we should therefore honour him, as Daniel telleth Belshazzar, Daniel 5:23; yea, "let everything that hath breath praise the Lord," Psalms 150:6; or, as the Hebrew hath it, Let every breath praise the Lord: as oft as we breathe we are to breathe out the praise of God, and to make our breath like the smoke of the tabernacle; this we should do the rather because our breath is in our nostrils, Isaiah 2:22, every moment ready to puff out, and the grave cannot praise God, death cannot celebrate him, Isaiah 38:18.


Verse 11

Job 12:11 Doth not the ear try words? and the mouth taste his meat?

Ver. 11. Doth not the ear try words? &c.] The mind may as easily conceive of these truths as the ear judgeth certainly of the variety of sounds, and the tongue of the diversity of tastes; neither may you think that I will, without any examination or distinction, allow your discourses; or that I can take it well that you reject, as void of reason, whatsoever I have said, without once weighing it. The ear is one of the two learned senses, it is an instrument of discipline; only it should be kept clean and free from prejudice or passion, which will be as gall in the ear. See Exodus 6:9. Demosthenes called oft upon his Athenians to get their ears purged of choler, Quaedam animalia fel in aure gestant, and Alexander, when he heard a cause, was wont always to keep ους αδιαβλητον, one ear free from the other party: he would not be prepossessed, Mercer observeth, that the Hebrew word for an ear doth in the dual number signify a pair of balances (Ozen, oznajin), to note that a judicious Christian taketh not up truth upon trust, but considereth first, and afterwards believeth. He trieth all things, and then holdeth fast that which is good, but abstaineth from all appearance of evil, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22. The ear and the mind are in the Greek tongue very like in sound, ους νους: the mind judgeth of the truth of words by the ears, as the beam in a pair of balances determineth the just weight of things by the two scales. He that is spiritual discerneth all things, 1 Corinthians 2:15, he hath spiritual senses, Philippians 1:9, senses exercised, habitually exercised, to discern good and evil, Hebrews 5:14; his service is a rational service, Romans 12:1, his obedience the obedience of faith, Romans 16:26. Whereas the natural man is carried away as he is led, 2 Corinthians 12:2, pulled away with the error of the wicked, 2 Peter 3:17, taken prisoner by seducers, 2 Timothy 3:6, and by them made prize of, Colossians 2:8, as having either no skill or no will to examine what is doctrinally propounded to him.

And the mouth taste his meat?] Heb. The palate, sensorium, which is the proper instrument of tasting. Now the order of nature requireth, saith Merlin, that seeing our bodily senses are so nimble and able to discern what is sour, what sweet, &c., our understandings also should do the same by right reason; and the contrary is very absurd and unbecoming a man; neither can there be any good excuse made for our dulness, if we bend not our minds to the search of the truth, forasmuch as there is so much ado made to please the palate, eyes, ears, and other senses. Catullus wished all his body were nose, that he might spend all his time in sweet smells. Philoxenus, that his neck were as long as a crane’s, that he might take more delight in meats and drinks (it seems that he placed tasting not in the mouth, but in the throat). Boccacio, the Italian poet, said, that he was born al’amore delle donne, for the love of women; and of a prodigal pleasure monger in London, we read, that to please all his five senses at once, he allowed to the delight of every different sense a several hundred pounds (Theatre of God’s Judgments). {See Trapp on "Amos 6:6"} There is a sancta crapula, a holy gluttony, as Luther calleth a hearty feeding on divine viands, a finding fatness and sweetness beyond that of the honey and honeycomb in God’s ordinances, Psalms 63:5-6; crying to Jesus Christ as the spouse doth, Song of Solomon 8:13, Cause me to hearken to thy voice; and obeying him, thus bespeaking us, Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved, till you are even inebriated with loves, Song of Solomon 5:1.


Verse 12

Job 12:12 With the ancient [is] wisdom; and in length of days understanding.

Ver. 12. With the ancient is wisdom] Heb. With the decrepit, who have a long, long being upon earth, and are now become wondrous old, even fourscore and upward; with such is wisdom, or else it is a shame for them. See 1 John 2:12, Hebrews 5:12. True it is, that wisdom doth not always lean upon a staff nor look through spectacles. Age is no just measure of wisdom. There are beardless sages (as was Solomon) and grey headed children, as Rehoboam. Macarius was called μειρακιογερων, the old youth (Samuel, Daniel, Timothy, were such). When Arsacius, who succeeded Chrysostom, was an old dotrel of fourscore years, adorandm rubiginis, rust to be worshipped, as one saith of some ancient authors; and Nectarius, who succeeded Nazianzen, was a mere novice, and preferred to that place only because he was of a venerable aspect, and of a bishop like presence and deportment, Veneranda canitie, et vultu sacerdote digno (Baron.). Of the Brabants Erasmus testifieth, that the older they are the more foolish. And Job here seemeth to tax his friends, that though old, yet they were not overly wise, not worthy of their years, since they understood not what he spake concerning God’s providence. Is wisdom with the ancient? saith he, and understanding in length of days? so some read it as a question, q.d. it ill appeareth.

And in length of days understanding] By reason of their much observation and frequent experience, together with their ability to draw other things out of those they have observed, and from former events to presage future. This is to be understood as such old men are like flowers which have their roots perfect when they themselves are withering; as, with roses, keep a sweet savour though they lose their colour; as, like the sun, they shine most amiably at their going down. But lest we should attribute too much to such sages, Job shows, in the next verse, that all their wisdom is but derivative, and that all their understanding is but a spark of God’s flame, a drop of his ocean.


Verse 13

Job 12:13 With him [is] wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding.

Ver. 13. With him is wisdom and strength, &c.] Wisdom, strength, counsel, and understanding, are all concentred in the Ancient of days; complete he is in all excellence and perfection, all which meet in him, and continue always in the highest degree. The mighty God "fainteth not, neither is weary; there is no searching of his understanding," Isaiah 40:28. He is also no less good than great and wise; good, original, universal, all sufficient, and satisfactory, proportionate, and fitting for our soul; which, as it was made by him, and for him, so it is never at quiet till it resteth in him. See Job 9:4.

He hath counsel and understanding] Counsel he hath, but without consultation; wisdom, but without experience; knowledge, but without discourse; decree, but without deliberation: Loquimur de Deo, &c., We speak of God, saith one, not as we ought, but as we are able. And these things we speak of God, saith Augustine, because we find not what better to speak of him. But Job hath a mind to say the utmost that may be said.


Verse 14

Job 12:14 Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again: he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening.

Ver. 14. Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again] As he did the old world, Sodom and Gomorrah, many monarchies and empires, the tower of Babel, and other castles and houses which now live by fame only, if at all. If God have a mind to ruin these, who shall raise or repair them? Julian, the apostate, in spite of the Christians, set the Jews to work to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem, but they could never effect it by reason of a terrible earthquake, that slew the workmen and marred the materials (Am. Marcel., Socrat. 3, Theod., Ruffin.). The Arian bishops held a second council at Nice, with the purpose of having abolished the memory of the first together with the Nicene Creed, and to have established Arianism (Func.); but God disappointed them, and sent them packing thence by a huge earthquake, which overturned a great part of that city, and killed a number of people. Constans, nephew to Heraclius, the Greek emperor, and (three hundred years after him) Otho, emperor of Germany, endeavoured, but in vain, to make Rome the seat of their empires, as anciently it had been (Theophanes, Zonares, Cedrenus). God would not allow it so to be, saith Genebrard, because the kingdom of the Church, foretold by Daniel, was to have its seat there. If he had said, the kingdom of Antichrist, foretold by Paul and John the divine, he had hit the nail on the very head.

He shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening] He clappeth him up close prisoner, as Manasseh, Zedekiah, Bajazet, Boniface VIII, &c., or fasteneth him to his bed by some chronic disease (as he did Abimelech, Ahaziah, Asa, Aeneas, Acts 9:33), or otherwise straiteneth him, that he knows not how to help himself, as he did Pharaoh, Saul (when the Philistines were upon him on every side), those refractories in Isaiah, Isaiah 9:2, and shall do the whore of Babylon, Revelation 18:9-19, when her lovers shall bewail her, but not be able to help her, Job 12:9-10. For when God shutteth up any in this sort, they must lie by it till he please to release them and extricate them, as he did Joseph, Jehoshaphat, David, Peter, Valentinian, and many others, when they were even forsaken by their hopes.


Verse 15

Job 12:15 Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up: also he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth.

Ver. 15. Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up] He not only, when he pleaseth, imprisoneth men, but waters also, that they cannot get out of the clouds, those bottles of rain, those airy sponges, vessels as thin as the liquor that is contained in them; it is from the power of God that they dissolve not upon us at once, and overwhelm us. Bartholinus reports that in the year of grace 1551 a great number of men and cattle were drowned by the sudden breaking of a cloud; various vineyards, stone walls, strong houses, were destroyed and ruined. At sea, sometimes, ships are by the same means sunk; seamen call it a water spout. Again, it is by the anger and judgments of God that the clouds are sometimes so closed up, that they yield no more water than iron or adamant. "If I shut up heaven," saith he, "that there be no rain," 2 Chronicles 7:13, Deuteronomy 28:23-24. God threateneth, as a punishment of men’s sins, that the heavens over their heads shall be brass, and the earth under them shall be iron; that the rain of their land shall be made powder and dust; from heaven shall it come down upon them, &c., by exceeding great drought, grains of dust shall ascend into the air with the wind, and come down as the drops of rain in a shower when it is kindly weather. Thus it was in Ahab’s days, 1 Kings 18:1; {See Trapp on "Joel 1:20"}

And they dry up] The rivers, fruits of the earth, roots of trees, all dry up, languish, and perish; fevers also, and other acute diseases, abound.

Also he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth] They did so with an accent in the general deluge, and in Deucalion’s flood in Thessaly, besides many other great tracts and parts of the earth overturned by water. Pliny and Seneca give us sundry instances of towns and countries laid waste by water (Plin. Nat. Hist., lib. ii. cap. 90, 92; Sen. Nat. Quaest., lib. vi. cap. 23). What great damage was lately done about Amsterdam by water, and what breaking down of bridges, mills, and other houses, by excessive rain and floods thereupon, besides marring of grounds and rotting of cattle in many places among us, needeth not here to be related.


Verse 16

Job 12:16 With him [is] strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver [are] his.

Ver. 16. With him is strength and wisdom] i.e. Such strength as he exerciseth most wisely, mightily, and righteously. Sic volo, sic iubeo, I wish so, so I command, saith the tyrant, Right or wrong, thus it shall be. Volumus et iubemus, saith that man of sin, We will and command, &c., neither must any one mute or say so much as What dost thou? upon pain of damnation. When Constantius would have Paulinus, Lucifer, and other bishops subscribe against Athanasius, and communicate with the Arians, he yielded to no other reason but this, Quod ego volo, pro canone sit, Do as I bid, or get you into banishment. But God, though he hath all power in his hand, and may do whatsoever he pleaseth, yet with him is strength and equity (so Vatablus rendereth the word Tushijah here used), or the being, substance, and permanence of all creatures (so Munster), which subsist merely by his manutention; or, the rule and certain law of wisdom and judgment, by which wisdom acteth, saith Mercer. So then the Lord, though he make his will a law, yet he cannot do otherwise than well, because nothing but wisdom and equity is in it.

The deceived and the deceiver are his] This Job produceth as a proof of God’s insuperable strength and unsearchable wisdom, that he hath an over ruling hand in the artifices and sleights of men, even the "cunning craftiness" (as the apostle speaketh), Ephesians 4:14, "whereby they lie in wait to deceive." These he not only and barely permitteth in his just judgment upon the deceived (whether through ignorance or idleness), but disposeth, also, and ordereth both the deceiver and the deceived (whether in spiritual things or civil) to his own righteous ends and holy purposes. See Ezekiel 14:9, 1 Kings 22:19-20, 2 Thessalonians 2:11, Isaiah 19:14, and then conclude, with Job, that wisdom and strength are his, who can thus draw light out of darkness, and powerfully order the disorders of the world to his own glory, and the good of his people: "For there must be heresies, that they which are approved may be made manifest," 1 Corinthians 11:19. Meanwhile, here is the comfort of every good soul, that none can take them out of the Father’s hands, John 10:29, and it is impossible that the elect should be totally and finally deceived, because both the deceived and the deceiver are God’s; by him, and from him, and for him are deceivers and deceived (so Broughton translateth this text). By him, for he suffereth and ordereth them; from him, for he sendeth them; and for him, for they promote his glory and serve his ends. He many times suffereth the tree of the Church to be shaken, that rotten fruit may drop off. There are those who set this sense upon the words; they are both in God’s hands, the deceiver, to have revenge taken upon him, and the deceived, who revengeth not himself, to have his cause righted, as 1 Thessalonians 4:6; an argument both of God’s wisdom, to find out the deceiver, however subtle; and likewise of his power, in punishing them, however potent.


Verse 17

Job 12:17 He leadeth counsellors away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools.

Ver. 17. He leadeth counsellors away spoiled] viz. Of wit, wealth, and honour. This should be a warning to them, not to take ill causes in hand, not to call evil good and good evil, not to justify the wicked for a reward, and to take away the righteousness of the righteous from him; not to bolster out a bad cause, and to outface a good, lest if they improve their wits and parts to so evil an end, God make them as despicable as before they were honourable. They may see what the Lord did to Ahithophel, that oracle of his time; to Pharaoh’s counsellors, Isaiah 9:11-12; to Pharaoh himself, Exodus 1:10 with Proverbs 28:15.

And he maketh the judges fools] Broughton rendereth the verse thus, He brings counsellors to badness, and judges to stark madness. He infatuateth them, not by infusing folly into them, anymore than the sun, when he shineth not in our horizon, causeth darkness in the air, which of itself and of its own nature is dark. But when God withholdeth that light of wisdom which he had imparted to a man, his inbred darkness must needs show itself. More than this, it sometimes cometh to pass, that when God delivereth a man up for his sins to a reprobate and injudicious mind, he is thenceforth deprived sometimes of natural wisdom and common sense, that the divine revenge may be the more apparent.


Verse 18

Job 12:18 He looseth the bond of kings, and girdeth their loins with a girdle.

Ver. 18. He looseth the bonds of kings] He degradeth them, taking away all command and authority from them, which is the bond that bindeth the people to obedience and subjection, Job 30:11, Isaiah 45:1; Isaiah 45:5; as our Henry III, who was called Regni dilapidator, unloved by his people, and far a less king, saith Daniel, by striving to be more than he was; the just reward of violations.

And girdeth their loins with a girdle] With a rope, say the Vulgate; he brings them from the throne to the prison (Val. Max. Christ.); he layeth affliction upon their loins, as Psalms 66:11. An instance hereof (beside the late king, and Corradinus, king of Germany, likewise beheaded at Naples) we had here in Richard II, brought forth in a royal robe to be deposed, and then hunger starved in prison; as also in Henry VI, who having been the most potent monarch for dominions that ever England had, was afterwards (when deposed) not the master of a mole hill, nor owner of his own liberty, but baffled and beaten by every base fellow. Some interpreters make the sense this way: God sometimes looseth the bonds into which princes are brought, and advanceth them again to kingly dignity, the ensign whereof was of old a precious girdle. So it befell Manasseh, Nebuchadnezzar, Jehoiakim, restored and honoured again as a king, by Evilmerodaeh, 2 Kings 25:28. Historians write, that Nebuchadnezzar was so offended with his son and successor, Evilmerodach, as he cast him into prison, and that in prison he and Jehoiakim became acquainted together, which resulted in his advancement afterwards.


Verse 19

Job 12:19 He leadeth princes away spoiled, and overthroweth the mighty.

Ver. 19. He leadeth away princes spoiled] Or priests. Ducit sacerdotes inglorios, so the Vulgate translateth, He leadeth away the priests without glory, dishonoured. Priests were generally much esteemed and privileged in all ages. Alexander the Great gave greatest respect to Jaddus, the Jewish high priest. When the Gauls had burnt Rome, and were besieging the capitol, Gaius Fabius Dorso, attired as a priest, with his sacrifice and other necessaries in his hand, marched through the midst of the enemies, astonished at his resolution, offered his sacrifice on the hill Quirinalis, and returned in safety. The Bardi, a kind of priests, were here in Albion of such esteem among the greatest commanders, that if two armies were even at push of pike, and a bard had stepped in between them, they would have held their hands, hearkened to his advice, and not have offered to strike till he were out of danger: Magna fuit quondam capitis reverentia sacri. Howbeit, such also have been carried captive, and slain by the enemy, as was Seraiah, the high priest, by Nebuchadnezzar; and before him the two sons of Eli (whose white ephod covered foul sins), slain by the Philistines. "The Lord hath despised, in the indignation of his anger, both the king and the priest," Lamentations 2:6. "Both the prophet and the priest go about into a land that they know not," Jeremiah 14:18. The word Cohen is used indifferently to signify a priest or prince, an ecclesiastical or secular governor. Broughton rendereth it here dukes; others, presidents or praefects of provinces. Honour is no shelter against the wrath of God.

And overthroweth the mighty] Such as might seem immoveable as a rock, or tree firmly rooted, these God shaketh and shattereth to pieces; he rooteth them up, and ruineth them. Let no man think to prevail by strength, 1 Samuel 2:9, since the weakness of God (if any such thing there were) is stronger than men, 1 Corinthians 1:25. He will smite his enemies (as so many puny boys) in the hinder parts, and so put them to a perpetual reproach, Psalms 78:66. Yea, he will not only smite them on the loins, but through the loins, Deuteronomy 32:11, that they never rise again. Let them, therefore, learn to meddle with their match, Ecclesiastes 6:10, and take heed how they fall into the punishing hands of the living God.


Verse 20

Job 12:20 He removeth away the speech of the trusty, and taketh away the understanding of the aged.

Ver. 20. He removeth away the speech of the trusty] Or, of the eloquent, as Demosthenes, the most eloquent of the Greeks, being by them frequently sent as an ambassador to Philip, king of Macedonia, thrice stood speechless before him, and on thirty different occasions forgot those things which he had thought to have spoken, as Tzetzes testifieth (Chiliad 7). So Latomus, of Lovain, that apostate and persecutor of the truth, having prepared an elegant oration to make to Charles V, emperor, was so confounded, that he could hardly speak a word of sense, the grief whereof broke his heart. The counsellor and the eloquent orator, the prudent and the ancient, are reckoned up as the stay and the staff, the beauty and bulwark, of a nation, Isaiah 3:2-3. These God removes at his pleasure, and, for a general judgment, causing either them to die or their abilities to die and decay, or crossing their attempts, that they shall speak persuasively, but not persuade people, but beslighted and exploded of all. Yea, though they be truth speakers ( veracium), so the Vulgate hath it, or trusty, as our translation, confiding men, as they are called, worthy to be trusted; such faithful counsellors as Polybius was to Scipio, who never miscarried in anything wherein he followed his advice, as the historian testifieth; yet God can remove or change the speech of such, by leaving them to their own unfaithfulness and inconstancy, as we have plentifully experimented in these late discriminating and shedding times.

And taketh away the understanding of the aged] Heb. And taketh the sense, or savour, or taste of the elders or senators, that they shall be no more able to discern and determine what is true or false, right or wrong, than old Barzillai could skill of the court meals and music. See this threatened Isaiah 29:14. Such old men, as either were bred scholars, or have had much experience in the management of great affairs, are presumed to be of great understanding; but God can either take such away, as he threateneth to do, Isaiah 3:3-4, or take away their wisdom, to render them useless to the public; as it is reported of Theodorus Gaza and of Albertus Magnus, those great scholars, that for certain years before they died they did so dote, and were so childish, that they could not write their own names, or read a letter on the book. Let, therefore, the eloquent and the aged take heed they abuse not their abilities, lest they forget and lose them.


Verse 21

Job 12:21 He poureth contempt upon princes, and weakeneth the strength of the mighty.

Ver. 21. He poureth contempt upon princes] Or nobles, or gentlemen, which are, or should be, free, bounteous, munificent benefactors ( ευεργεται): if they be not Nedibim, but Nebalim, liberal, but churlish (see these opposed, Isaiah 32:5), it is just in God to pour contempt, to lay abundance of shame and scorn upon them, as sordid penny fathers, ignoble Euelios, poor-spirited men, the base brood, or rather blot, of their better forefathers. Of our Edward II it is chronicled, that never was prince received with greater love and opinion of all than he, or never any that sooner lost it: for his very first action in recalling his minion, Pierce Gaveston, discovered a headstrong wilfulness, that was uncounsellable; hence he was slighted by his subjects, pursued by his wife and son, and at length cruelly murdered (Daniel). Mercer observeth that David hath the selfsame words, Psalms 107:40, that are found here and Job 12:24. Neither need we wonder, since they both spoke by the same spirit.

And weakeneth the strength of the mighty] Heb. He slackeneth the girdle of the impetuous, that, like strong streams in narrow straits, bear down all before them. So do soldiers in war. See 2 Samuel 22:36, Job 6:11. But God can loose their girdles (or belts, which bind their garments, and buckle their armour close to them), he can dispirit them, and make them feeble and faint hearted, as he did Samson, and those Assyrians, Psalms 76:5-6. By this whole discourse of Job it appeareth that he had very diligently observed God’s providence, and way of administration in the several ranks of men, and alterations of commonwealths; whereby he had learned secretly to admire and adore God’s judgments, which thing we ought also similarily to do.


Verse 22

Job 12:22 He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death.

Ver. 22. He discovereth deep things out of darkness] As he did to Joseph and Pharaoh by dreams, to the prophets by visions and revelations, and still doth to his people by his Spirit: "for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God," 1 Corinthians 2:10. He bringeth to light also the hidden things of darkness, hellish conspiracies, as in the gunpowder plot; the deep reaches of kings to maintain their authority and compass their designs, resolving to suffer never a rub to lie in their way that might hinder the true running of their bowl Philip de Comines dived so deep and wrote so plainly of the stately affairs (those arcana imperii), that Katharine de Medicis (queen-mother of France) was wont to say that he had made as many heretics in policy as Luther had done in religion. She saw not that God had set Comines to work, and that he will yet further bring out to light (that all men may see) the shadow of death; that is, the things that are most obtruse, and most unlikely ever to have been discovered. See Matthew 16:26, with the note, and say, "Woe to them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord," Isaiah 29:15. The gunpowder plot was a deep thing of darkness, it was underground, they were so long digging in their vault of villany; and a long time it was kept secret under oaths and strongest concealments; but a bird of the air revealed it, and that which had wing told the matter, Ecclesiastes 10:20. It was a quill, a piece of a wing, brought all to light by a blind letter put (by a providence) into a wrong hand; the danger was at the very ακμη, within eight hours of being acted, when, from a match ready fired, we received a matchless deliverance. Say then,

Sοι χαριν οιδα θεω ευσπλαγχνω ος μ εφυλαξας.


Verse 23

Job 12:23 He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them [again].

Ver. 23. He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them] It is all one with God whether against a single man or a whole nation, Job 34:29, when he once taketh them to do. "The wicked shall be turned into hell," and (that they may not hope to escape because a multitude) "all the nations that forget God," Psalms 9:17. Soon after the flood the Babel builders were scattered; Sodom and her sisters were not only consumed with fire from heaven, Genesis 19:23-29, but thrown forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire, 1:7. Some nations were ejected, and others substituted, Deuteronomy 2:10; Deuteronomy 2:12; Deuteronomy 2:20. Some utterly wasted and rooted out, such as the Edomites, Ammonites, Moabites, &c., that live by fame only; others not so much as by fame, their very names being blotted out from under heaven. "The cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land is utterly desolate," Isaiah 6:11. Now all this is the Lord’s own doing, and should be marvellous in our eyes. He plants, and plucks up; he builds, and breaks down, Jeremiah 31:28.

He enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again] Or, that he may straiten them again: so in the former clause, that he may destroy them. This if he may justly do to whole nations, why should it seem so strange that he suffereth particular persons, though wicked, to prosper for a season; and though righteous, for a while to suffer hardship?


Verse 24

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.

Ver. 24. He taketh away the heart of the chief of the people] That is, of the greatest part of the people of the world (say some). These God suffereth to walk in their own ways, Acts 14:16; to become vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart is darkened; professing themselves to be wise, they become fools, Romans 1:21-22. As the philosophers of old, and the Chinese at this day, who are known to be ingenious, and used to say of themselves, that all other nations of the world see but with one eye, they only with two (Description of the World, of China and Cataia), yet continue they gross idolaters, mere heathens, having no less than a hundred thousand gods, which they worship one while and whip another, if they come not at a call. But the most interpreters, by chief or heads of the people, here understand their governors, of whom, though Job had said as much in effect before, [Job 12:17] viz. that God dispiriteth and besotteth them for a plague to the people who follow their rulers (and fall with them), as the body of a beast followeth the head; yet because few observe and improve this truth, therefore he repeateth and illustrateth it by three elegant similes. And first,

He causeth them to wander in a wilderness, &c.] Not knowing which way to extricate themselves. They beat their brains about it, but to no purpose; they are so bewildered and puzzled, as if they were treading a maze; and this God causeth, he is active in it, while he withdraws his light, and delivereth them up to their own foolish hearts, and to the prince of darkness, to be further benighted, 2 Corinthians 4:4.


Verse 25

Job 12:25 They grope in the dark without light, and he maketh them to stagger like [a] drunken [man].

Ver. 25. They grope in the dark without light] This is the second simile, setting forth this judiciary act of God in taking away the heart of the heads of the earth; grope they do, and would fain find out a way by feeling, but they feel darkness, and not light (so the Hebrew); they try to help themselves and their people out of misery, as the last Greek emperor did notably; but it would not be (Turk. Hist. 345).

And he maketh them to stagger like a drunken man] Who, having lost the use of reason, knoweth neither where he is nor what he was, but reeleth and falleth oft, and cannot rise again, much less go forward. So fareth it with evil rulers when God smiteth them with a spirit of giddiness and of slumber. See Isaiah 19:24; Isaiah 40:20.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 12:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/job-12.html. 1865-1868.

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