And so here we find ourselves in Job chapter 20 for this Job 20 commentary.
Job 20 Commentary: Zophar is Influenced to Respond
Where in verses 1-3, Zophar is influenced to respond to Job.
KJV Job 20:1 Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,
2 [Therefore do/This is why] my [thoughts/troubled thoughts/disquieting thoughts] cause me to [answer/respond],
[and for this/even because of ] [I make haste/my inward agitation/my feelings within me].
3 I have heard the [check/reproof] [of my reproach/that insults me/that dishonors me],
and the spirit of my understanding causeth me to answer.
So, Zophar is saying that he’s responding to Job because Job rebuked him and that insulted Zophar.
Not the best reason to open your mouth. He’s not responding out of patient love. He’s responding out of a hurt ego and personal pride.
Job 20 Commentary: You Ought to Know
But personal pride and ego are all we get from these three friends.
And so it makes sense that starting in verse 4 Zophar brings to Job’s attention a few things that Job should have known all along.
Zophar proudly asserts a few things about the way the wicked man is dealt with in this life that Zophar himself – the very wise and learned and understanding man that he is – has learned in his lifetime.
4 Knowest thou not this of old,
since man was placed upon earth,
Job 20 Commentary: Brief Duration of the Wicked Man’s Joy and Existence
And the first thing that Zophar wants Job to know in verses 5-9 is that the wicked man might exist for a while in this life – hey, he might even have some joy – but these will be brief in duration for him.
5 That the [triumphing/elation] of the wicked is [short/brief],
and the joy of the [hypocrite/godless] but for a moment?
6 Though his [excellency/loftiness/stature] [mount up/reaches] to the heavens,
and his head [reach unto/touches] the clouds;
7 Yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung:
they which have seen him shall say, Where is he?
8 He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found:
yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night.
9 The eye also which saw him shall see him no more;
neither shall his place any more behold him.
So, that’s pleasant. Job pleaded with these men for mercy in chapter 19 and what does he get from Zophar? Well, whatever it is, it isn’t mercy.
Zophar is telling Job that the wicked man is not long for this life. And by extension, he’s warning and threatening Job that if he doesn’t turn from his sin that Zophar supposes that Job is engaged in – well, Job is a goner.
Job 20 Commentary: The Poor
And so, then, Zophar moves on to accuse Job of something specific. What is Job’s sin? Well, he’s been spending a good bit of time denying his friend’s accusations. And so, Zophar now feels the need to get specific with Job.
In particular, Zophar wants to remind Job that wicked men oppress the poor. That’s not an accusation that any of the friends have made yet against Job. But Zophar is now starting to suspect that Job was being unjust to the poor. And so, Zophar declares that his children will need to make matters right with the poor people that Job has oppressed.
10 His children [shall seek to please/must recompense] the poor,
and his hands shall [restore/give back] [their goods/his wealth].
And I find this statement to be bizarre. Job has no children any more. And so – if Zophar is trying to make a point and accuse Job of something – why bring up what the wicked man’s children are going to have to do – seeing that Job has none?
Job 20 Commentary: Only the Wicked Die Young
Then, Zophar continues and declares to Job that the wicked man typically dies in the prime of his life with strength and vitality.
11 His bones are full [of the sin of his youth/of his youthful vigor],
which [i.e., vigor…] shall lie down with him in the dust.
Job 20 Commentary: Wicked Man’s Consumption
And then Zophar goes on to speak of the wicked man – and he seems to be preoccupied with the metaphor of eating and consumption in verses 12-16.
12 Though [wickedness/evil] be sweet in his mouth,
though he hide it under his tongue;
13 Though he [spare/desires/retains for himself] it, and [forsake it not/won’t let it go];
but keep it still within his mouth:
14 Yet his [meat/food] in his [bowels/stomach] is turned [i.e., sour…],
it is the [gall/venom] of [asps/cobras/serpents] within him.
So, the wicked loves wickedness so much it’s as if he devours it. And it turns out to give him heartburn, as it were. Even worse – poison!
But not only does the wicked eat wickedness – he also eats riches in verses 15.
15 He hath swallowed down riches,
and he shall vomit them up again:
God shall cast them out of his belly.
And so, the wicked man tries to devour riches – but God won’t let him have them.
And so, the wicked man is consigned to eating poison in verse 16.
16 He shall suck the poison of [asps/cobras/serpents]:
the viper’s [tongue/fangs] shall slay him.
And this approach that Zophar is taking is really crude – if you haven’t noticed. He’s spoken of dung or human refuse – of swallowing and vomiting – of sucking poison. It’s almost like Zophar wants to shock Job into buying his evidence that he thinks will convince Job to fess-up and admit that he’s hiding secret sin that God is punishing him for.
Job 20 Commentary: More of the Eating Metaphor
Well, more about food – verse 17.
17 He shall not [see/look at (or on)] the [rivers/streams],
the [floods/rivers], [the brooks of/flowing with/which are torrents of] honey and butter.
And more of the eating metaphor in verse 18.
18 That which he [labored for/attained] shall he [restore/give back],
and shall not [swallow it down/assimilate it]:
according to his substance shall the restitution be,
and he shall not rejoice therein.
So, the wicked man – according to verses 18 and 19 which we just read will have a bunch of things. But in the end he just needs to give all of it back.
And I imagine that Zophar is seeing this happening in Job’s life. God took all of his stuff – see – he must be wicked – because this only happen to wicked people!
Job 20 Commentary: Poor Again
And once more, Zophar narrows-in on the kind of sin he believes that Job has committed – he’s oppressed the poor – verse 19.
19 Because he hath oppressed and hath [forsaken/abandoned] the poor;
because he hath [violently taken away/seized] an house which he builded not;
And so, this is why God is punishing Job in Zophar’s mind – he’s been evil to poor needy helpless individuals.
And what’s so interesting with Zophar grasping on to this particular sin that he thinks that Job is committing is that he has done nothing to inquire of the validity of these accusations. He’s not asking Job any questions. He – as far as we know – hasn’t conducted any research. He’s just guessing!
And that’s what all these friends are doing. They see Job’s suffering and they immediately assume that he’s done something wrong. And so, they pull out of their hat whatever sin they think he’s committed – and without a shred of integrity they hurl that accusation at their friend and see if it will stick.
This is not the way to deal with people – even when you think they’ve sinned. Don’t assume. Do the research.
Job 20 Commentary: More Digestion
And yet, Zophar isn’t going to do anything of the sort. And so, he continues in verses 20-23 to use the digestive metaphor to assert that wicked men will ultimately have nothing in this life because God will give it to the needy.
20 Surely he shall not feel [quietness/satisfaction] in his [belly/appetite],
he shall not [save/retain anything] of that which he desired.
21 There shall [none of his meat/nothing for him to devour] be left;
therefore shall [no man look for/it not last (or endure)] his [goods/prosperity].
22 In the fulness of his sufficiency he shall be [in straits/cramped/distressed]:
[every hand of the wicked/the hand of everyone who suffers/the full force of misery] shall come [upon/against] him.
23 When he is about to fill his belly,
God shall cast the fury of his wrath upon him,
and shall rain it upon him while he is eating.
So, I hope we’re catching on to the fact that Zophar is continuing in various ways to speak of eating and digestion.
And I hope no one accuses me of being light with God’s word when I suggest that perhaps at this point in the debate, Zophar in particular is getting really hungry.
I don’t know what else might explain how much this man talks about eating in this chapter. In fact, maybe that’s why he doesn’t come back for a third lecture at Job. This is Zophar’s second and last denunciation of Job. The other two friends end up getting a third shot at him. And some wonder why Zophar doesn’t speak a third time. I am starting to wonder if the guy was so hungry that he spent much of his second lecture speaking of food – and then by the time his turn rolls around next he’s gone finding food somewhere.
Maybe that’s not the real story. But it’s an intriguing possibility – if not a bit of comic relief in the midst of a message explaining a passage of Scripture that isn’t very happy and is portraying accurately a man who is not speaking truth. Or at least, he’s not applying truth accurately.
Well, let’s move on.
Job 20 Commentary: Weapons Attack the Wicked
Zophar finally removes food from his mind for a few moments – long enough in order to speak of the fact that wicked men are inevitably attacked with weapons.
24 He [shall/may] flee from the iron weapon,
and the bow of [steel/bronze] shall [strike/pierce] him through.
25 It is drawn, and cometh out of [the body/his back];
yea, the glittering [sword/point] cometh out of his [gall/liver]:
terrors [are/come] upon him.
And once more here we see Zophar’s total lack of decorum and appropriateness. It’s as if he glories in the gory. He pictures the process of an arrow piercing into a man’s liver and the glittering bile that he envisions dripping from the tip of the arrow.
And, to any normal person, this level of detail and the enthusiasm with which Zophar gives it would be just uncomfortable. And so, if I’m still wondering why this is Zophar’s last speech in this book, I start to wonder if maybe even his two friends – when his turn comes around next time – if they’re just like “Hey, Zophar, don’t worry about it. We got this. No more need to hear about glittering bile and vomit and dung. Just maybe go get yourself some food or something.”
Again, a little humor – but maybe not too far off from the explanation as to why this is Zophar’s last speech.
Job 20 Commentary: Total Destruction
And last, Zophar in verses 26-28 speaks of the total destruction of the wicked man.
26 [All/Complete/Total] darkness [shall be hid/is held in reserve/waits to receive] [in his secret places/for his treasures]:
a fire [not blown/unfanned/that hasn’t been kindled] shall consume him;
it shall go ill with him that is left in his tabernacle.
So, his stuff, himself, and his dependents will all be swallowed into total darkness.
27 The heaven shall reveal his iniquity;
and the earth shall rise up against him.
So, from the highest to the lowest, the wicked man’s sin will not be hidden.
28 The increase of his house shall depart,
and his goods shall flow away in the day of [his/God’s] wrath.
And that’s the key – God’s wrath. God is angry at Job. That’s why bad things are happening to Job. What else could cause this?!
And with that, Zophar speaks his last sentence and bows out of the scene.
29 This is the portion of a wicked man from God,
and the heritage [appointed/decreed] unto him by God.
So, God is punishing Job for his sin – in particular the supposed fact that Job has oppressed the poor. Case closed. Zophar will say no more.
And yet, Job will say more. And in particular, next time in chapter 21 he is going to speak very plainly to these men that oftentimes wicked men do not meet with the fate that these three friends keep saying they meet with. Oftentimes, wicked men prosper. That’s what we’ll study next time, Lord-willing.