Job didn’t need to be kicked while he was down, but his three friends seemed to gather for that express purpose! So patiently, he had listened to them as they railed and pointed their fingers at him, reminding him what an utter reprobate he was!
Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that God didn’t share their opinion. In fact, God had already acknowledged Job was upright, a God-fearing man who turned away from evil. Job’s consistent pleas of innocence fall on the deaf ears of three friends who’ve offered their opening arguments about the obvious reasons behind Job’s suffering.
As Job has listened with long-suffering tolerance, I think he reaches the point where he believes he’s reflected long enough about his humbled condition. Maybe he’s getting used to the sores; maybe they’re starting to scab over. His mind is now engaged and he’s recovered some equilibrium. With Job chapter 12, this faithful man begins to reflect some perspective about his circumstances.
There’s an applicable proverb worth mentioning here. In Proverbs 12:18, the verse says:
There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword,
But the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Job’s friends have spoken rashly and failed miserably at providing the “tongue of the wise.” If they had correctly grasped the situation (and their part in this morality play), they’d have salved Job’s wounds, perhaps even lovingly bathed the pitiful body of their suffering associate. Ancient herbs and ointments known for their medicinal qualities could have been applied.
But instead of healing, the words of these friends became “like the thrusts of a sword,” little pin pricks that only served to further wound Job.
Having heard them out (at least for one round), Job’s had plenty of time to measure his response. He’s not speaking rashly, and he does understand how to thrust the sword of his tongue with rapier precision. He commences his counter-argument in chapter 12 and he won’t mince words.
In fact, Job’s first sword thrust is appropriate … biting sarcasm. The Easy-To-Read version translates verse 2 this way: “… you think you are the only wise people left. You think that when you die, wisdom will be gone with you.”
From his 1864 novella, Notes from Underground, Fyodor Dostoevsky notes sarcasm is “the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.” I think this accurately depicts Job’s current heartsick state. He felt the privacy of his soul had been coarsely and intrusively invaded and he responded in suitable fashion.
The sonnet below reflects a touch of Job’s sarcasm, but also his view of God’s central role in the affairs of men and the wider universe. Job will continue this recitation in Chapter 13 … next week.