Job 11: Zophar
[First of two speeches]
Comments: Zophar is going to try to bring a theological
perspective but doesn't realise that suffering and guilt are not
always linked. Whereas Job, in the previous chapter, was simply
asking questions, Zophar now seeks to bring theological answers.
Because of the complexity of these speeches, seeking to bring
answers, we need to comment more fully. For a note on interpreting
this chapter, see the end of it.]
It's impossible to sit silently while you bluster on
Zophar the Naamathite replied:
all these words to go unanswered? Is this talker to be vindicated?
your idle talk reduce others to silence? Will no one rebuke you
when you mock?
You make yourself out to be righteous
say to God, ‘My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight.'
If God would speak He would reveal the truth about you
how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against
disclose to you the secrets of wisdom, for true wisdom has two
sides. Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin.
You are powerless & ignorant before God's might, wisdom &
you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the
are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper
than the depths below—what can you know?
measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea.
If He convicts, you have no answer for He sees and knows all about
he comes along and confines you in prison and convenes a court,
who can oppose him?
he recognizes deceivers; and when he sees evil, does he not take
the witless can no more become wise than a wild donkey's colt
can be born human.
Your salvation will come in submission to Him and repentance
if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to
you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to
dwell in your tent,
free of fault, you will lift up your face; you will stand firm
and without fear.
Your outcome will be restoration, blessing, security & peace
while sinners perish
will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone
will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning.
will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you
and take your rest in safety.
will lie down, with no one to make you afraid, and many will court
the eyes of the wicked will fail, and escape will elude them;
their hope will become a dying gasp.”
Comments: It is worth noting that the spectrum of
views of commentators indicates the difficulty interpreting the
nature of some of these speeches. Rather like e-mails it is often
impossible to fully discern the tone of voice of the speaker and
thus the words can have different meanings. Some would impose
a strident, forceful voice on Zophar as he speaks for the first
example in our subheading summary for v.1-3 we have accepted that
viewpoint because of the words used – vindicated, idle talk, mock.
However the different translations also suggest different understandings
yet simply conveying in v.2 that Job uses lots of words. When
they get to v.3 there is a plethora of different words: lies,
boastings, babbling, fictions, empty talk, loose talk, empty prattle.
The same word is used in Isa 16:6 and Jer 48:30 for ‘babble',
simply meaning in those contexts, false words. The word ‘mock'
seems fairly condemnatory but the truth is that in the previous
chapter Job does not mock God; he has challenged Him to
come out with His condemnation but that is not mockery. This may
be Zophar's wrong assessment of Job or possibly various interpreters
stepping over the line.
Zophar may have stepped over the line of truth in v.4 when he
claims Job says he is flawless. He doesn't! A reading of chapter
10 shows him very open-minded about his state, willing to acknowledge
guilt, but wanting it clarified.
though, Zophar makes some reasonable points:
God sees and knows the whole truth about each of us [v.5,6]
God's greatness is a mystery so we need revelation [implied v.7-9]
IF God says we are guilty, we ARE! [v.10-12]
Repentance IS the way back to God (see 1 Jn 1:9), that is true
Blessing WILL follow repentance [v.16-20], either now or in eternity.
only problem is that Job hasn't sinned. These are all good theological
points but they don't address the present problem – suffering
in the face of innocence. Zophar doesn't do Job any favours by
taking him to ‘theological school'. He simply needs love and acceptance.
we finish with this chapter we have to face a difficult dilemma.
The danger is that we hesitate to confront sin because a) of our
own imperfections, b) we don't see the whole picture or c) we
think it should only be God who speaks in such a way. However,
the fact that we are ALL imperfect should not, according to the
clear teaching of the New Testament letter writers, be afraid
of calling a spade a spade, as long as we do it in love, with
compassion, and looking for the good of the ‘sinner' [see Jas
5:20 for example], speaking as part of the ‘body of Christ' under
the direction of the head.] Our goal – as God's is – is always
to be restoration where that is possible. Sometimes however, in
a fallen world where things go wrong, people are nasty, and Satan
interferes, AND SO suffering is NOT linked with Guilt. That is
the big picture of Job.]