Let’s turn in our Bibles to Job chapter 11 for this Job 11 commentary. We’ll be studying the first ten verses of this chapter in this article. To study verses eleven through twenty, see our Job 11 summary article.
Now, after Eliphaz and Bildad struck out, it’s a good thing that Job has one more friend who is ready to help Job understand God’s ways!
His name is Zophar. And he’s going to finish this first of three cycles of speeches in which each of Job’s friends has spoken followed by a rebuttal from Job.
Job 11 Commentary Zophar Introduced
And so, we’re introduced to this last friend in chapter 11 and verse 1.
KJV Job 11:1 Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,
2 Should not [the/this] [multitude/abundance] of words be answered?
and should a man full of talk be [justified/acquitted/vindicated]?
So, once again, as with Job’s other two friends, Zophar is not ready to deal with Job’s claims that contradict their Retribution Theology.
And once again, we see Job’s ideas dismissed in quite a demeaning way. Zophar claims that all of the varied and nuanced ideas that Job is wrestling with – they just all amount to a bunch of worthless words. Job’s just full of talk.
But – the question I think we should be asking is – who really is “full of talk?” The man who is wrestling with the fact that his man-made theology just doesn’t seem to work with the realities of life – which would be Job? Or is it the man who isn’t engaging at all in that kind of wrestling – but is rather content to defend his incorrect view of how God works in the world – Zophar? I’d say it’s Zophar who’s “full of talk.”
Job 11 Commentary Lies and Mocking
Well, what Zophar reveals next is that he considers Job’s verbalized wrestling to be nothing more than lies and mocking in verse 3.
3 Should thy [lies/boasts/idle talk] [make men hold their peace/silence men/reduce people to silence]?
and when thou [mockest/scoff], shall no man [make thee ashamed/rebuke you]?
So, Zophar believes that Job’s communication deserves a rebuke that would shame him.
Job 11 Commentary Rebuke
And so, that’s just what Zophar is going to try to administer here starting in verse 4 – a rebuke to Job.
4 For thou hast said,
My [doctrine/teaching] is [pure/flawless],
and I am [clean/innocent] in thine [eyes/sight].
And, I’m actually not quite sure that this is indeed what Job has said. I can’t recall him speaking of his teaching or doctrine at all.
Maybe, what Zophar means is that by asserting that he is innocent and by arguing with these men, Job is attempting to teach them. And in that context then, Job is claiming that what he is saying to them – his doctrine – is right.
And of course, what Job has been teaching them is that he himself is innocent of any sin that might be causing God to punish him. In that sense, he’s clean.
And Job has been asserting that he should be clean and innocent – not just in the eyes of his friends – but more importantly, in the eyes of God. (The word thine is actually singular.) Job has been teaching them to think of him as an innocent man in God’s sight.
But, of course, Zophar knows better.
Job 11 Commentary God Should Speak
And – whereas Job has been verbally wishing for God to speak and reveal that Job is innocent – Zophar wishes that God would speak… and condemn Job for the secret sin he’s been harboring! Verse 5.
5 But [oh that/if only] God would speak,
and open his lips against thee;
6 And that he would shew thee the secrets of wisdom,
[that they are double to that which is/for sound wisdom has two sides]!
Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth. [God has forgiven some of your sins…]
So, Zophar is thinking that the fact that God is remaining silent about Job is a merciful act.
Job considers God’s silence in a very negative light. But Zophar thinks that by not speaking, God is basically holding back some of his punishment of Job. God isn’t treating Job with the full justice that he has coming to him – in Zophar’s mind.
Job 11 Commentary Can’t Find out God
And then, Zophar moves on to tell Job that God’s ways are past finding out. Verse 7.
7 Canst thou [by searching find out/discover the depths of/discover the essence of] God?
canst thou find out the [Almighty unto/Almighty’s] perfection?
And the implied answer is “No, you can’t find out God by searching.” He’s deep and beyond us.
Job 11 Commentary Transcendent
Then Zophar uses two great contrasts to speak of God’s transcendence that makes him ultimately so unknowable in a number of ways to our senses. Verse 8.
8 [It/God] is as high as heaven; what canst thou do?
deeper than [hell/Sheol]; what canst thou know?
God is high and deep all at once. And therefore, what can the mortal mind and what can unaided eyes do to God or really know about God?
And once more, this points to the great need in this book that goes largely unspoken of. That need is the need for God to reveal himself to man. Without what theologians call “special revelation” – God’s word to mankind – we are all so lost when it comes to understanding God.
The heavens certainly do declare the glory of God (Psalm 19). His creation around us proves to everyone that there is a God (Romans 1). And yet, all we know from these witnesses that God has left us is that there is a God and he’s powerful and eternal.
Otherwise creation – or we could call it “natural revelation” – doesn’t tell us much. What is God like? What is his relationship to man? What does he require of us? Is there some sort of offense that we’ve caused God? If so, what would allow for us to be atoned with this offended all-powerful being? Is there some consequence for not being reconciled to God?
All these questions – and so many more – are responded to with silence by natural revelation. We need special revelation – God’s revealed truth about these matters.
And here’s the thing – Job and his friends seem to – by-and-large – not have this kind of revelation. They’re operating mostly on what they can see and what they’ve been taught and what they assume to be right about God.
And it’s really just at the end of this book – when they finally receive some special revelation – that all of a sudden all of their disputes and arguments cease.
But they don’t have that yet – and so here we go continuing with the assumptions and the guessing.
Job 11 Commentary God is Immense
And in that context, Zophar uses two measures of distance to show how immense God is. Verse 9.
9 The measure thereof is longer than the earth,
and broader than the sea.
So, Zophar gets God’s awesome power. He knows that a being who created the world he lives in must be somehow bigger than what he created.
Job 11 Commentary God Can’t be Held to Account
And then Zophar demonstrates that God is not held to account by any – which is probably a hint to Job to stop questioning his ways. Verse 10.
10 If he [cut off/passes by/comes by], and [shut up/confines you], [or gather together/and calls an assembly/and convenes a court],
then who can [hinder/restrain/prevent] him?
And so, what Zophar has said in verses 7 – 10 is generally right. No one can totally understand God’s ways – especially when he hasn’t revealed the whys or hows of his ways.
And yet, Zophar is using that assertion – which is right – to basically tell Job to be quiet and to stop questioning their man-made Retribution Theology. Because, that’s what Job is questioning. He’s questioning the way that their natural minds perceive that God ought to act.
But there’s a level of separation between how we think that God should act, and how he actually does act. To criticize the way God really acts is wrong. To criticize and sharpen and adjust our conception of how God acts is right.
And once again, the problem for Job and his friends is that they have to wait to the end of the book in order to get some revelation from God that will adjust their thinking about God to match the reality of what God is like.Tags: Old Testament Poetry Old Testament Wisdom