20 Then Zophar the Naamathite replied:
2 “My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer
because I am greatly disturbed.
3 I hear a rebuke that dishonours me,
and my understanding inspires me to reply.
4 “Surely you know how it has been from of old,
ever since mankind was placed on the earth,
5 that the mirth of the wicked is brief,
the joy of the godless lasts but a moment.
6 Though the pride of the godless person reaches to the heavens
and his head touches the clouds,
7 he will perish forever, like his own dung;
those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’
8 Like a dream he flies away, no more to be found,
banished like a vision of the night.
9 The eye that saw him will not see him again;
his place will look on him no more.
10 His children must make amends to the poor;
his own hands must give back his wealth.
11 The youthful vigour that fills his bones
will lie with him in the dust.
Zophar’s second speech focuses on two key ideas: the prosperity of the wicked is short, and his doom is certain.
The have their “short” times of “triumphing” – there may be “passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25), but judgement is coming. Job’s spiritual experience did not line up with Zophar’s rigid expectations, so Job was branded amongst the “wicked”.
It appeared to Zophar that Job seemed to think that evil people had successful lives. Zophar wanted to prove that this idea was wrong.
Contrary to Zophar’s confident assertion, sometimes wicked people live long lives. For example, Noah endured the wickedness of his neighbours for 120 years while he preached and built the ark (Genesis 6:3), and God gave the Canaanites four centuries before He judged them as a nation. Later he allowed the Egyptians, the Assyrians, The Babylonians all to have long periods of prosperity with his people the Israelites in slavery to the evil empires !!
In Job’s day, people respected older people and their ideas (Job 32:6-9). So the people believed that ancient wisdom was very important (Job 8:8-9). Zophar calls on ancient wisdom as the support for his position.
In verses 5-6, the application of Zophar’s words about this wicked, hypocritical, proud person were aimed at Job. He would, like others so wicked, suffer the consequences of his sins (verses 7-29).
This wicked man may be powerful while he is alive. But when he dies, nobody will even remember this man. He asserts that Job will amount to nothing but a forgotten grave.
Job had reached a very high position of prosperity before all of the calamity came upon him. It appears, that Zophar may have been jealous of that high esteem, and had hoped that Job would fall. It did not matter how highly he was thought of, Zophar said he would fall as low as Job had, sitting in the heap of ashes. He said he would fall so low that no one could find him. Some might ask, where he had gone.
It’s a weighty accusation.
I read and wrote about these verses whilst an event that reminded me of a past glory of being highly thought of, esteemed and appreciated. It was an event that I helped pioneer and ran for 16 years. This is what I wrote about that experience.
There is a whole generation here that know nothing of that legacy and a handful that remember but know the height from which I fell. It is strange, to be here but special. I see my fingerprints all over the event. The way it’s organised, the programme, the culture but it’s no longer mine. It gives me both a satisfaction that I built something good and enduring but also a sadness that I miss it and wished I could have carried on.
I suppose I am attempting to step into Jobs shoes of being forgotten, of losing his influence and how that might have felt. It appears that whilst his friends and accusers are focused on that outward thing, his focus is more about what he perceives as his abandonment by God.
My experience has been one of encouragement, Grace and even gratitude from those that knew what I had a hand in building. One person who did not know me innocently asked “is it the first time you have been to one of these events” …there was a time that everyone knew who I was.——————————————————–
12 “Though evil is sweet in his mouth
and he hides it under his tongue,
13 though he cannot bear to let it go
and lets it linger in his mouth,
14 yet his food will turn sour in his stomach;
it will become the venom of serpents within him.
15 He will spit out the riches he swallowed;
God will make his stomach vomit them up.
16 He will suck the poison of serpents;
the fangs of an adder will kill him.
17 He will not enjoy the streams,
the rivers flowing with honey and cream.
18 What he toiled for he must give back uneaten;
he will not enjoy the profit from his trading.
19 For he has oppressed the poor and left them destitute;
he has seized houses he did not build.
These verses represent the heart of how Zophar perceived Job’s life and circumstances. Whilst his observation are general truths about the gains of evil behaviour being short lived and not truly enjoyable. The bounty will be consumed without peace etc., …this we know was not the case in Job’s situation. Verses 12-16 imply that the evil deeds of a man are like a poison with an enticing taste and yet it will not be as tasty as the first bite. It will turn sour in his stomach and ultimately may kill him.
Zophar was listing sins that could have been committed by Job, implying that this was the root of his trouble. He said that he had oppressed the poor and taken their house away from them.
20 “Surely he will have no respite from his craving;
he cannot save himself by his treasure.
21 Nothing is left for him to devour;
his prosperity will not endure.
22 In the midst of his plenty, distress will overtake him;
the full force of misery will come upon him.
23 When he has filled his belly,
God will vent his burning anger against him
and rain down his blows on him.
24 Though he flees from an iron weapon,
a bronze-tipped arrow pierces him.
25 He pulls it out of his back,
the gleaming point out of his liver.
Terrors will come over him;
26 total darkness lies in wait for his treasures.
A fire unfanned will consume him
and devour what is left in his tent.
27 The heavens will expose his guilt;
the earth will rise up against him.
28 A flood will carry off his house,
rushing waters on the day of God’s wrath.
29 Such is the fate God allots the wicked,
the heritage appointed for them by God.”
Zophar’s narrative continues
Money cannot save anyone from death. Ill gained wealth will not save the evil man from the wrath of God!
The evil man’s gains will not even bring him peace in this life. He may through his guilty conscience live in constant fear and weariness of being found out. There is also the fact that what he has can be taken from him at any moment.
Zophar implied that Job constantly hungered for more. He was never satisfied. What may have begun as a sincere but misguided line of questioning from his friends was now a full blown accusation levied against Job.
Zophar said that God would take all of it away from him, so he would have nothing left for other men to take.
God is a fair judge. He will deal with every man according to his deeds. A man might be able to escape from his enemies. But nobody can escape from God.
These verses tell of a harsh judgment of wrath from the hand of God and whilst there is truth in God’s judgment to suggest that Job would be at the mercy of such judgment was brutal.
Verse 24 is literally translated as “The glittering sword” from the Hebrew bârâq. It describes the brightness of the sword piercing the gall which was supposed to be the seat of life (see notes Job 16:13).
Verse 26 implies a fire from heaven, not lit by human hands. Probably lightning or brimstone would consume everything.
This darkness represented total separation from the Light of God. In the case of Job, his wife was left and some of his servants. Zophar said it would not go well with them because they were living in Job’s house.
Zophar thought that everybody would agree with him. But, as Job would explain in chapter 21, Zophar had overlooked the fact that many people who do wicked things are very successful during their lives on earth. They do not die when they are young. It is true that God will punish them in the end.
The implications on Job that he was experiencing punishment and there was more to come although contained some observational truth in the ways of God was theologically flawed.
Job had asked for heaven and earth to witness for him. Zophar was saying that heaven and earth would be opposed to Job. He was trying to offset everything that Job had said.
Zophar was summarizing the things he had said in the last few verses that he thought would come to Job. He thought Job to be full of unrepentant evil and therefore had no heritage.