if he imprisons a person, there is no escape. 2
both the one who goes astray 7
and the one who misleads are his.
and binds a loincloth 15 around their waist.
and takes away the discernment 21 of elders.
12:21 He pours contempt on noblemen
12:22 He reveals the deep things of darkness,
and brings deep shadows 24 into the light.
he extends the boundaries of nations
of their understanding; 29
he makes them wander
in a trackless desert waste. 30
he makes them stagger 32 like drunkards.
1 tn The use of הֵן (hen, equivalent to הִנֵּה, hinneh, “behold”) introduces a hypothetical condition.
2 tn The verse employs antithetical ideas: “tear down” and “build up,” “imprison” and “escape.” The Niphal verbs in the sentences are potential imperfects. All of this is to say that humans cannot reverse the will of God.
3 tc The LXX has a clarification: “he will dry the earth.”
4 sn The verse is focusing on the two extremes of drought and flood. Both are described as being under the power of God.
6 tn The word תּוּשִׁיָּה (tushiyyah) is here rendered “prudence.” Some object that God’s power is intended here, and so a word for power and not wisdom should be included. But v. 13 mentioned wisdom. The point is that it is God’s efficient wisdom that leads to success. One could interpret this as a metonymy of cause, the intended meaning being victory or success.
7 tn The Hebrew text uses a wordplay here: שֹׁגֵג (shogeg) is “the one going astray,” i.e., the one who is unable to guard and guide his life. The second word is מַשְׁגֶּה (mashgeh), from a different but historically related root שָׁגָה (shagah), which here in the Hiphil means “the one who misleads, causes to go astray.” These two words are designed to include everybody – all are under the wisdom of God.
8 tn The personal pronoun normally present as the subject of the participle is frequently omitted (see GKC 381 §119.s).
9 tn GKC 361-62 §116.x notes that almost as a rule a participle beginning a sentence is continued with a finite verb with or without a ו (vav). Here the participle (“leads”) is followed by an imperfect (“makes fools”) after a ו (vav).
10 tn The word שׁוֹלָל (sholal), from the root שָׁלַל (shalal, “to plunder; to strip”), is an adjective expressing the state (and is in the singular, as if to say, “in the state of one naked” [GKC 375 §118.o]). The word is found in military contexts (see Mic 1:8). It refers to the carrying away of people in nakedness and shame by enemies who plunder (see also Isa 8:1-4). They will go away as slaves and captives, deprived of their outer garments. Some (cf. NAB) suggest “barefoot,” based on the LXX of Mic 1:8; but the meaning of that is uncertain. G. R. Driver wanted to derive the word from an Arabic root “to be mad; to be giddy,” forming a better parallel.
11 sn The judges, like the counselors, are nobles in the cities. God may reverse their lot, either by captivity or by shame, and they cannot resist his power.
14 tc There is a potential textual difficulty here. The MT has מוּסַר (musar, “discipline”), which might have replaced מוֹסֵר (moser, “bond, chain”) from אָסַר (’asar, “to bind”). Or מוּסַר might be an unusual form of אָסַר (an option noted in HALOT 557 s.v. *מוֹסֵר). The line is saying that if the kings are bound, God can set them free, and in the second half, if they are free, he can bind them. Others take the view that this word “bond” refers to the power kings have over others, meaning that God can reduce kings to slavery.
15 tn Some commentators want to change אֵזוֹר (’ezor, “girdle”) to אֵסוּר (’esur, “bond”) because binding the loins with a girdle was an expression for strength. But H. H. Rowley notes that binding the king’s loins this way would mean so that he would do servitude, menial tasks. Such a reference would certainly indicate troubled times.
18 tn The original meaning of אֵיתָן (’eytan) is “perpetual.” It is usually an epithet for a torrent that is always flowing. It carries the connotations of permanence and stability; here applied to people in society, it refers to one whose power and influence does not change. These are the pillars of society.
19 tn The Hebrew נֶאֱמָנִים (ne’emanim) is the Niphal participle; it is often translated “the faithful” in the Bible. The Rabbis rather fancifully took the word from נְאֻם (nÿ’um, “oracle, utterance”) and so rendered it “those who are eloquent, fluent in words.” But that would make this the only place in the Bible where this form came from that root or any other root besides אָמַן (’aman, “confirm, support”). But to say that God takes away the speech of the truthful or the faithful would be very difficult. It has to refer to reliable men, because it is parallel to the elders or old men. The NIV has “trusted advisers,” which fits well with kings and judges and priests.
20 tn Heb “he removes the lip of the trusted ones.”
21 tn Heb “taste,” meaning “opinion” or “decision.”
22 tn The expression in Hebrew uses מְזִיחַ (mÿziakh, “belt”) and the Piel verb רִפָּה (rippah, “to loosen”) so that “to loosen the belt of the mighty” would indicate “to disarm/incapacitate the mighty.” Others have opted to change the text: P. Joüon emends to read “forehead” – “he humbles the brow of the mighty.”
23 tn The word אָפַק (’afaq, “to be strong”) is well-attested, and the form אָפִיק (’afiq) is a normal adjective formation. So a translation like “mighty” (KJV, NIV) or “powerful” is acceptable, and further emendations are unnecessary.
25 tn The word מַשְׂגִּיא (masgi’, “makes great”) is a common Aramaic word, but only occurs in Hebrew here and in Job 8:11 and 36:24. Some
26 tn The difficulty with the verb נָחָה (nakhah) is that it means “to lead; to guide,” but not “to lead away” or “to disperse,” unless this passage provides the context for such a meaning. Moreover, it never has a negative connotation. Some vocalize it וַיַּנִּיחֶם (vayyannikhem), from נוּחַ (nuakh), the causative meaning of “rest,” or “abandon” (Driver, Gray, Gordis). But even there it would mean “leave in peace.” Blommerde suggests the second part is antithetical parallelism, and so should be positive. So Ball proposed וַיִּמְחֶם (vayyimkhem) from מָחָה (makhah): “and he cuts them off.”
27 sn The rise and fall of nations, which does not seem to be governed by any moral principle, is for Job another example of God’s arbitrary power.
28 tn Heb “the heads of the people of the earth.”
29 tn Heb “heart.”
30 tn The text has בְּתֹהוּ לֹא־דָרֶךְ (bÿtohu lo’ darekh): “in waste – no way,” or “in a wasteland [where there is] no way,” thus, “trackless” (see the discussion of negative attributes using לֹא [lo’] in GKC 482 §152.u).
31 tn The word is an adverbial accusative.
32 tn The verb is the same that was in v. 24, “He makes them [the leaders still] wander” (the Hiphil of תָּעָה, ta’ah). But in this passage some commentators emend the text to a Niphal of the verb and put it in the plural, to get the reading “they reel to and fro.” But even if the verse closes the chapter and there is no further need for a word of divine causation, the Hiphil sense works well here – causing people to wander like a drunken man would be the same as making them stagger.