1 ¶ And Job answered and said, 2 No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you. 3 But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you: yea, who knoweth not such things as these? 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. 5 He that is ready to slip with his feet is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease.
Job begins his reply to Zophar with a sort of, “you guys are legends in your own minds, Zophar, and, no doubt, you’re the last of the wise men.” This bit of sarcasm is based in his bitterness and disappointment at the way his friends have dealt with him.
Isaiah 5:21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
Job insists that he has no less wisdom than these three friends, that he is on an equal level with them, and then says about their truthful statements, “who doesn’t know the things you’re saying about right and wrong, repentance, and submission to God’s sovereignty?” This isn’t new doctrine. But, he accuses them, his friends, of mocking him.
Psalm 55:12 For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:13 But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.
Job and his friends all believed in God’s authority over them and all believed in God’s sovereignty so he questions why they are mocking his faith and putting themselves up as better than he is. They are laughing him, an upright man, to scorn. These men were not pagans, heathen, mocking Job, but his equals, his friends, and his fellow believers deriding his faith and his character. He is the man or woman in the church who is struggling with disaster, calamity, and sorrow being held in contempt by those who are not going through a bad time at this time.
6 ¶ The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly. 7 But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: 8 Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. 9 Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this? 10 In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind. 11 Doth not the ear try words? and the mouth taste his meat?
Fundamentalist Baptists like to say that God breathed out every word of Scripture or that the Bible is inspired by God. Did God say verse 6? Is that doctrine? Do you believe that statement by Job? The Greek word that they get God-breathed from is a compound word, theopneustos. To say that it means God-breathed is meaningless in the same way that saying that to watch your television is to go home to watch your “far-off seeing.” Compound words can and usually do mean something more or other than what the literal words say strung together.
It is equally meaningless to say that the Bible is inspired by God. Hemingway was inspired by the Spanish Civil War. So, what does that mean to you? To say that the Bible is inspired by God is literally to say that the writers were motivated by their faith to write. Does that mean that any Roman, Byzantine, Medieval, Reformation, or modern Bible commentator wrote or writes direct revelations from God rather than his own opinion? Of course not.
The Bible says that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God,” (2Timothy 3:16). Logically, since Timothy could not possibly have had, by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, the original documents of Moses and Ezekiel, that phrase includes copies and translations, if God had his way with those copyists and translators. In fact, no sane person believes that the original autographs were ever all together in one Bible at any given time, on this earth.
Furthermore, the only other time the word, inspiration, is used is in Job 32:8.
Job 32:8 But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.
Clearly, in most cases, God gave the men who wrote the Bible that the church accepted as true understanding and wisdom, although there are examples of a prophet writing directly what God told him directly. Here, though, is the apostle, Peter, explaining how Paul got his knowledge.
2Peter 3:15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
And regarding the original autographs, so touted by fundamentalists, it appears God did not always care to preserve them.
Jeremiah 36:32 Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words.
Speaking of which, the doctrine of preservation is as important as the doctrine of inspiration. For, if God didn’t preserve what He wanted us to have through faithful copies and translations we would not have a Bible at all.
Psalm 12:6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. 7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
Psalm 119:89 LAMED. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.
So, as a Bible-believer I speak to fundamentalists who insist from pulpits across the land that they are preaching from God’s error-free word on Sunday morning but really mean only a reliable and trustworthy, but flawed, translation. Do you believe that God breathed out (whatever that means), “the tabernacle of the robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly?”
Or, did Elihu record the debate that he witnessed here in Job and did God preserve it because He wanted us to understand a great truth about His sovereignty and authority over us? Do you lack wisdom and understanding? Do you have a hard time understanding written English? All modern theories of God’s inspiration of the Scriptures take Him out of the equation or reduce His influence to one specific moment in history. The same God who can answer their individual prayers each day cannot preserve His words. If their God cannot preserve His words how can He possibly preserve their souls?
Now, Job is expressing a frustration here that many devout people have lamented, that wicked people seem to prosper and get away with their wickedness.
Psalm 73:1 ¶ « A Psalm of Asaph. » Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. 2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. 3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. 5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. 6 Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. 7 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. 8 They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. 9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. 10 Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. 11 And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? 12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. 13 Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. 14 For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.
But, Job acknowledges that God is sovereign and reigns supreme. Nothing happens that He did not either cause to happen directly, what some call His Directive Will, or permit to happen indirectly, as here in Job, what some call His Permissive Will. This is a bitter pill for Christians to swallow.
The twenty first century Christian has a God of whom a twentieth century writer once lamented;
“The conception of Deity that prevails most widely today, even among those who profess to give heed to the Scriptures, is a miserable caricature, a blasphemous travesty of the Truth. The God of the twentieth century is a helpless, effeminate being who commands the respect of no really thoughtful man. The God of the popular mind is the creation of a maudlin sentimentality. The God of many a present-day pulpit is an object of pity rather than of awe-inspiring reverence.” (19)
What is wrong with the twenty first century perception of God among fundamentalists and evangelicals? The modern God can be resisted, opposed, and finds His best efforts sometimes at a loss against man’s will. Can this God be the one who created and sustains all things? He does not control the hurricane but we pray for His “help” in its aftereffects. He does not control the cancer but we pray for his “assistance” in beating it. The God of many fundamentalists and liberals (liberal in a religious, not a political sense, as in, “don’t take your religion too seriously,” which I was raised with) is an absentee landlord who will show up once in awhile to fix the plumbing or replace a window, if you call him repeatedly and whine.
Verse 10 is one evidence that creatures other than man have a soul, the seat of self-identity and will. It is the understanding that there is a me as opposed to a you. It is the place from which the, “I wants,” are generated and the, “I wills,” spring forth. In the case of God, it is God the Father. Cats, dogs, and cattle have souls.
Numbers 31:28 And levy a tribute unto the LORD of the men of war which went out to battle: one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep:
When you come to a verse in the Bible that opposes what you’ve been taught, choose the Bible.
Every breath you take is in God’s hands and by His will. He gave man his breath.
Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
He controls how many you will take.
Matthew 10:30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Psalm 39:4 LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.
Verse 11 is a great one. We do, “chew on words.” And God uses the metaphor contrasting God’s words and food;
Psalm 119:103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Psalm 141:6 When their judges are overthrown in stony places, they shall hear my words; for they are sweet.
Deuteronomy 8:3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.
Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Luke 4:4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
I would strongly recommend chewing on God’s words daily because that, not your conscience which can be seared, or the Quaker’s, “Inner Light,” which can be just spiritual darkness or emotional enthusiasm. A Christian should ask themselves, how much of the Bible do they read each and every day? How much of it do their ears and eyes feed on. The Bible is the principal way God speaks to His people and it is sufficient not only to lead men to salvation but to sanctify them for God.
However, Job here is literally saying that his friends should understand that he is perfectly capable of weighing their words and coming to right conclusions, so be careful when taking it out of context as I did for your edification. When you are expressing a thought that is not specifically representative of the literal meaning of a verse please give the literal meaning as well. As I have pointed out previously in other commentaries, the literal meaning is what it says while its significance is what it means to you in a particular situation or context other than the verse’s own. This verse is either the end of the last thought or the beginning of the next set of verses. From what some commentators say it appears, to me, to be similar to one of Paul’s arguments where, in the end, he states;
1Corinthians 7:40 But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.
(19) Arthur Pink, The Sovereignty of God (1918; repr., Providence Baptist Ministries, 2004), http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Sovereignty/index.htm (accessed 9.12.2014).