I had the Bible reading last week and tried to do it as Brother Friend advised: “Put some fire in your talk . . . or put your talk in the fire.”
I read Job 12:1-2 as though Job is kicking back at his accusers—it seems pretty obvious.
Then Job said in reply: 2 “Surely you are the people who know, And wisdom will die out with you! 3 But I too have understanding. I am not inferior to you. Who does not know these things?
‘Look, any donkey knows the things you are saying, but what makes you think it applies to me?’ is his complaint.
Then, some sarcasm about how the wicked and the fools sail along breezily, suffering no punishment at all: “The carefree person has contempt for calamity, Thinking it is only for those whose feet are unsteady. 6 The tents of robbers are at peace, And those who provoke God are secure, Those who have their god in their hands.”
Then—a bit more interpretive, his contrasting accusation that, whereas Eli, Bill, and Zop can’t read what’s going on, even the animals, birds, fish, and the very earth, can. Everyone knows what’s going on except these three guys—and they would teach that trio if the latter weren’t so blockheaded: ‘The hand of Jehovah has done this—unjustly caused all his calamity:
However, ask, please, the animals, and they will instruct you; Also the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you. 8 Or give consideration to the earth, and it will instruct you; And the fish of the sea will declare it to you. 9 Who among all these does not know That the hand of Jehovah has done this?
The rest of the chapter is Job’s diatribe that God plays havoc with what he’s created, for who knows what reason? Maybe just for his own amusement. I’m not sure those final verses . . .
He makes counselors go barefoot, And he makes fools of judges. He loosens the bonds imposed by kings, And he binds a belt around their waist. He makes priests walk barefoot, And he overthrows those who are firmly established in power; He deprives trusted advisers of speech And takes away the sensibleness of old men; He pours out contempt upon nobles, And he makes powerful ones weak; He reveals deep things from the darkness, And he brings deep darkness into the light; He makes nations grow great in order to destroy them; He enlarges nations, that he may lead them into exile. He takes away the understanding of the leaders of the people And makes them wander in trackless wastelands. They grope in darkness, where there is no light; He makes them wander about like drunken men. (17-25)
. . . should be read as though Job, in his distress, nonetheless rises to the occasion to deliver an impromptu talk in praise of God, praising him for thwarting the plans of the wicked. Nah, in happier times, yes, but not now. Now, in the midst of unrelenting anguish following unspeakable tragedy, is he not bewailing that God thwarts them all? Good or bad—it makes no difference to him. ‘Is not wisdom and understanding found in the aged?’ (vs 12) Well, nobody is older than He. “With him there are wisdom and mightiness; He has counsel and understanding.” And to what end does he put these qualities? To set up his creatures like dominoes, then nudge the end one to see the entire row topple!
Remember, we’ve opened the door in recent years to Job venting some ‘wild talk.’ (6:3) Is he not doing it here?
From chapter 10, the previous week’s reading: “You have given me life and loyal love; You have guarded my spirit with your care.” A good sentiment. But the next verse is less good. “But you secretly intended to do these things. I know that these things are from you.” (vs 12-13) Translation? He set me up for a fall!
I think Job felt this way because that’s how felt in my own perfect prolonged storm of calamitous events—less severe than Job’s in most respects, but as severe in others. If you didn’t know of the heavenly events described in the book’s first two chapters, which Job didn’t, is that not exactly what one might think in his shoes?
And long ago I read somewhere that ‘scholars’—the critical kind, no doubt, think the first two chapters of Job were cobbled on later, that they are not original. Someday I’ll look to see whether they provide any justification for this view beyond that it reads too ‘fundamentalist’ for them, and that it solves the problem, whereas they prefer windy back-and-forth that flatters the intellect but doesn’t solve the problem unsolved, thereby leaving them to spin it any way they like. “I would never say that higher education is valueless,” says a sister who has benefited from her degree, “but it does have a way of taking things that are simple and making them complicated.”
*(Indeed, the ‘educated’ think there are two Jobs; one is the first two and last chapters, the other all the rest. I think the appeal is to put one in position to understand neither, yet continue to flatter the intellect. In the case of the unattached first, you get to isolate it and thus reassure your educated friends that you, too, are not so stupid as to believe in a literal devil. In the case of the unattached 2nd, you get to spin wordy treatises on the wordy speeches, unconcerned about whether they go anywhere.)
Sort of like when Ted Putsch, my impetuous Bible student from Tom Irregardless and Me, who hasn’t yet learned tact and should be locked up for six months until he does, leans into my full-of-himself return visit, Bernard Strawman, with, “Look, it couldn’t be simpler! Or is that the problem with you?!”
****** The bookstore