Doubtless You Are the People, and Wisdom Will Die with You! (Job 12.2)

Don Carson on Job:


JOB’S RESPONSE TO ZOPHAR TAKES UP three chapters (Job 12-14), the first of which was part of yesterday’s reading. There Job accuses Zophar and his friends, in scathing language, of mouthing traditional platitudes and thinking their utterances are profound: “Doubtless you are the people, and wisdom will die with you!” (Job 12:2). Job adds: “But I have a mind as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Who does not know all these things?” (Job 12:3)—that is, the things to do with God’s sovereignty, greatness, and unfathomable power and wisdom. So Job spends most of chapter 12 reviewing and deepening this vision of God’s greatness.

But here in Job 13, Job takes the argument a step farther. The common ground he shares with these three friends is plain enough: “My eyes have seen all this, my ears have heard and understood it. What you know I also know; I am not inferior to you” (Job 13:1-2). The question is what to make of God’s transcendent sovereignty. His friends use this base to argue that such a God can certainly sniff out evil and punish it; Job himself now turns the argument in a different direction.

First, far from prompting him to cringe in fear, reflection on who God is prompts Job to want to speak with the Almighty, to argue his case with God (Job 13:3). His conscience really is clear, and he wants to prove it. He is convinced that if he could get a hearing, at least God would be fair and just.

Second, by contrast, the miserable friends merely smear him with lies (Job 13:4). They are “worthless physicians”—i.e., they do nothing to help Job in his pain.

Third, and worse, Job insists that they “speak wickedly on God’s behalf,” that they “speak deceitfully for him” (Job 13:7). They cannot find concrete evidences of gross sin in Job’s life, yet they think they are speaking for God when they insist Job must really be evil. Thus in their “defense” of God, they say things that are untrue and unfair about Job: they “speak wickedly on God’s behalf.” How can God be pleased with their utterances? Ends do not justify means. It is always important to speak the truth and not fudge facts to fit our theological predispositions. Far better to admit ignorance or postulate mystery than to tell untruths.

Fourth, Job himself, for all that he wishes to enter into dialogue with God, is still not speaking as an agnostic. True, Job wants his day in the divine court. But for him, God is still God, and so he confesses, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15). Even the alternative reading (NIV footnote—the issues are complex) acknowledges that God is God: the difference is in Job’s response.