In Job 16:4, Job said:
I also could speak as you do,
If your soul were in my soul’s place.
I could heap up words against you,
And shake my head at you;
As I learnt from a commentary, Job’s complaint to his friends was that their advice was just ancient proverbs and old maxims strung together and applied to him in a stereotypical general way. There was a lack of thought and reflection by his friends, on the reality of his situation and therefore of the relevance of what they had to say.
It seems to me chapter 20 of Job is lots more of the same. One of Job’s comforters beating on the same drum, that as time tested wisdom points out, it’s the wicked who suffer, insinuating Job must be wicked.
In verses 22-25 of chapter 21, my sense is that Job is pointing out that life is sometimes more mysterious and hard to explain than the truth drawn from ancient proverbs and time tested maxims and wisdom. Though they convey much truth, sometimes life does not fit into their mold, into the truth they convey. God sometimes allows things and does things that are mysterious to us, that we don’t understand and that the wisdom of the ages can’t explain. As Job says in verse 22 of chapter 21:
22 “Can anyone teach God knowledge,
Since He judges those on high?
Don’t lets make the mistake that Job’s friends made, applying proverbs, sayings and “pre-packaged” wisdom to all situations as if it gives an explanation for everything. In doing that we stereotype the cause of problems and their solutions. One does not have to live long to observe and experience that some things in life just don’t fit into any proverbial mold, category or explanation. That life is mysterious at times to the point it simply stops our mouth, leaves us silent, speechless.
As the writer of Ecclesiastes says in chapter 5 verse 2 of the book:
For God is in heaven, and you on earth;
Therefore let your words be few.
We can learn from Job’s comforters, that when we face puzzling situations that are hard to explain we do well to….let our words be few.