Sometimes we say foolish things in the middle of a debate.
Especially in the middle of a heated debate.
Remember when you were kids and you would get into one of these kinds of arguments.
“My dad is better than your dad”
Classic argument- also one that can get very heated.
Do you remember how the arguments went?
Usually something like this:
“My dad is a thousand times better than your dad.
Well my dad is a million times better than your dad.
Well my dad is infinity times better than your dad.
Well my dad is infinity plus 1 times better!”
Then the stunning logic and sound reasoning would get even better and sound something like this:
Naa Auhh! Yaa Huhh! (Repeat endlessly)
Bad arguments, faulty logic, heated emotions, and a prideful insistence that you are right can lead to some dangerous pitfalls.
Yet even as believers, sometimes we allow our thinking about God to be clouded by these kinds of arguments.
And it can lead to some dangerous conclusions about how we view God.
Job 12 picks up in the middle of a heated debate.
We must keep in mind what Zophar has just said to Job in order to understand the emotional climate that so weights Job’s words with meaning.
Zophar: (Paraphrase of Job 11:1-6)
Job close your mouth!
You are a man full of empty words.
It’s my turn to tell you what is right.
You are full of babbling, and you are nothing but a mocker.
You claim “” My doctrine is pure, I am clean there is nothing wrong with me
Oh I wish that God would come down and teach you a thing or two so that you would finally have a little understanding.
Know this Job- you got less that what you deserved.
God should have punished you even more, so be quite and just be thankful already!
It is in this climate that Job now replies to his friends.
This is the second longest speech by Job (12-14).
He is fed up with the unhelpful counsel given by his three friends.
He is fed up with the faulty logic and reasoning given by his three friends.
He is fed up with the unhelpful solutions given by his three friends.
So- Job is going to let them have it.
But worst of all is that Job is standing on the edge of a terrible pitfall in his thinking about God.
“Job’s whole life had been built on the belief that God helps the good and hinders the bad.
This is the teaching that all the friends will affirm in one way or another.
It is also Job’s belief.
They cannot say anything else without suggesting that moral effort is not worth while or that God is somehow unfair.
But a terrible pitfall is not far away from all of them.
The friends must infer from Job’s suffering that he has sinned; Job must infer from his innocence that God is unjust.”
This is the danger that haunts Job’s thinking- God is unjust.
Here is Job’s complaint.
The hand of the Lord has done this to me.
And what is the dangerous pitfall that Job is standing at the precipice of?
God is unjust.
What is so clouding Job’s thinking that he is in danger of making the accusation that God is unjust?
I. Bad Counsel
A. Their Superiority
Job’s opening statements bleed with sarcasm.
An imaginative paraphrase of 12:2 might run something like this: Truly you are world-class wise men!
Whatever will mankind do when you die?
For wisdom will vanish from the face of the earth with you!
Go soak your heads!
Here Job is refuting Zophar’s special pleading argument.
No, actually Zophar, you do not surpass me in wisdom.
You speak as if you are the only wise person left on the planet, but I am every bit as intelligent as you are.
“Indeed, what they speak is such common knowledge that their wisdom fails to offer him any insight into his sufferings.”
The implication is- Job you can’t because you lack understanding.
But I have plumed deeper into the wisdom and the knowledge of God and I know better.
Sensing that Zophar has implied that he is lacking in wisdom, Job counters with the assertion that he is in no way inferior to (nāp̄āl)
His friends have implied that there wisdom is superior to Job’s wisdom.
They don’t give any good reasons why that is however.
It’s a “I’m better than you are” argument.
I’m superior so you have to listen to me.
And Job is saying, wait a minute!
I also have understanding.
I am not inferior to you.
In fact what you have told me is such common knowledge that every one already knows it.
Retribution theology was so common that it was familiar to everyone.
It’s like Job is saying to them, “You have not given me some new kind of deep wisdom from God, so stop pretending that you are superior to me.”
This is bad counsel.
B. Their Humiliation
I am “mocked” (lit.
a victim of ridicule i.e. laughingstock) of my “neighbor” (lit.
a person you know well and regard with affection and trust, i.e. friends).
I am the laughingstock of even my own friends.
This could well be a reference to Zophar’s earlier comments
You can easily hear the mocking tone that Zophar may have used to deliver these words.
Job you are a stupid man and you will as soon get wisdom when a man is born as a wild donkey’s colt.
That is humiliating and insulting.
It is also not hard to picture Eliphaz and Bildad having to hid a smile behind there hands upon hearing Zophar’s insult.
Me, the one who called upon God and He answered me, a just and an upright (blameless) man, I am laughed to scorn.
It’s just not right, it’s just not fair.
Have you ever been made the object of humiliation by someone else?
Worse, these are Job’s friends.
Yet they mock him and ridicule him.
And notice Job’s implication- it’s just not fair.
The bad counsel of these friends instead of helping Job, have made matters worse.
And they have pushed Job towards that dangerous pitfall of believing that God is unjust.
C. Their Contempt
This is a challenging verse to translate.
The word translated “lamp” in the KJV can be divided into a preposition plus a noun which would then be translated as “for misfortune”.
So the verse would read something like this:
The thought/opinion of those who are at ease is contempt for misfortune, as one who is read to slip with his feet.
In other words, “ Zophar and his friends could afford to be smug because they were rich and healthy.