"Then Job answered: 2 'No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you. 3 But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Who does not know such things as these? 4 I am a laughingstock to my friends; I, who called upon God and he answered me, a just and blameless man, I am a laughingstock."
A. Is the conversation with the friends continuing or would you say it is at an end? If it continues, what keeps it going? What is the tone with which Job addresses them here?
B. In v. 4 Job let's out an idea for the first time that will become a major point in a later lament--that he has become a "laughingstock" to people. Why might this bother Job so much? What do you know about the Middle Eastern concept of honor? Read Job 30:1-8 and tell how it illumines this verse.
"7 But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; 8 ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. 9 Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?"
A. Do these verses have a function in the course of the "argument" in ch. 12? Job was going to show he was "not inferior" to his friends; now he talks about nature. What is going on?
B. What is the purpose of referring to creatures on land, sea and in the sky?
C. What is the "this" of v. 9?
D. If the "this" refers to Job's present distress, what is the purpose of mentioning it at this point? Do you read it as a subtle put-down of the friends (i.e., if even the dumb creatures know that God has brought this disaster into my life, certainly you should.....)?
"12 With God are wisdom and strength, he has counsel and understanding. 14 If he tears down, no one can rebuild; if he shuts someone in, no one can open up. 15 If he withholds the waters, they dry up; if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land. 16 With him are strength and wisdom; the deceived and the deceiver are his. 17 He leads counselors away stripped, and makes fools of judges. 18 He looses the sash of kings, and binds a waistcloth on their loins. 19 He leads priests away stripped, and overthrows the mighty. 20 He deprives of speech those who are trusted, and takes away the discernment of the elders. 21 He pours contempt on princes, and looses the belt of the strong. 22 He uncovers the deeps out of darkness, and brings deep darkness to light. 21 He makes nations great, then destroys them; he enlarges nations, then leads them away. 24 He strips understanding from the leaders of the earth, and makes them wander in a pathless waste. 25 They grope in the dark without light; he makes them stagger like a drunkard."
A. This is a truly remarkable catalogue of the deeds of God. Is there any overarching theme or leading themes that come to you from it?
B. There seems to be a change in focus of Job's words between v. 16 and v. 17. Describe this change. How is it significant for the remainder of the speech?
C. Take a moment to read Mary's Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55. Do you see similarities or dissimilarities with this speech of Job?
D. There are several apparent quotations or references to Ps. 107 in this speech. I will give a few examples. 1. v. 15--"If he withholds the waters, they dry up; if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land." Compare this with Ps. 107:33-37. The words are not identical, but similar. 2. v. 21-"He pours contempt on princes" is identical to 107:40- "he pours contempt on princes." 3. v. 24- "and makes them wander in a pathless waste," and 107:40- "and makes them wander in trackless wastes." 4. v. 25- "he makes them stagger like a drunkard," and 107:27- "they reeled and staggered like drunkards." A few questions flow from these observations.
1. Why do you think that Ps. 107 is useful for Job's purposes here?
2. When he quotes or refers to Ps. 107, in what way is he doing it? Is he affirming the sense of Ps. 107? Reversing it (as he does with Ps. 139 and Ps. 8)?
3. The effect of Job's "reversal" of the sense of Ps. 107, if that is what you see is taking place, is that he is the first OT writer to argue for a significant theology of reversal. What is the relationship of extreme personal distress to creativity?
4. In what ways, then, does this speech show that Job is "not inferior" to the friends?