Job 12 Commentary

Job’s reply to Zophar (12:1-14:22)

The reply from Job opens with a sarcastic comment on the supposed wisdom of the three friends. They have merely been repeating general truths that everybody knows (12:1-3). They do not have the troubles Job has, and they make no attempt to understand how Job feels. A good person suffers while wicked people live in peace and security (4-6).

Job does not argue with the fact that all life is in God’s hands. What worries him is the interpretation of that fact (7-10). As a person tastes food before swallowing it, so Job will test the old interpretations before accepting them (11-12).


Being well taught himself, Job then quotes at length from the traditional teaching. God is perfect in wisdom and his power is irresistible (13-16). He humbles the mighty (17-22) and overthrows nations (23- 25). Job knows all this as well as his friends do. What he wants to know is why God does these things (13:1-3). The three friends think they are speaking for God in accusing Job, but Job points out that this cannot be so, because God does not use deceit. They would be wiser to keep quiet (4-8). They themselves should fear God, because he will one day examine and judge them as they believe he has examined and judged Job (9-12).

The friends are now asked to be silent and listen as Job presents his case before God (13). He knows he is risking his life in being so bold, for an ungodly person could not survive in God’s presence. Job, however, believes he is innocent. If God or anyone else can prove him guilty, he will willingly accept the death sentence (14-19). Job makes just two requests of God. First, he asks God to give him some relief from pain so that he can present his case. Second, he asks that God will not cause him to be overcome with fear as he comes into the divine presence. He wants to ask God questions, and he promises to answer any questions God asks him (20-22).

To begin with, Job asks what accusations God has against him. Why is he forced to suffer (23-25)? Is he, for example, reaping the fruits of sins done in his youth? Whatever the answer, he feels completely helpless in his present plight (26-28).

Life is short and a certain amount of trouble and wrongdoing is to be expected (14:1-5). Why then, asks Job, does God not leave people alone so that they can enjoy their short lives without unnecessary suffering (6)? Even trees are better off than people. A tree that is cut down may sprout again, but a person who is ‘cut down’ is dead for ever (7-10). He is (to use another picture) like a river or lake that has dried up (11-12).

Job wishes that Sheol, the place of the dead, were only a temporary dwelling place. Then, after a period when he gains relief from suffering and cleansing from sin, he could continue life in a new and more meaningful fellowship with God. If he knew this to be true, he would be able to endure his present sufferings more patiently (13-17). Instead, the only feeling that accompanies his pain is the feeling of hopelessness. He knows he will be cut off from those he loves most, never to see them or hear of them again. Like soil washed away by a river he will disappear, never to return (18-22).

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