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FRAMEWORKS: Job 11: Zophar (1/2)


[Preliminary 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.]



v.1-3 It's impossible to sit silently while you bluster on


v.Then Zophar the Naamathite replied: 

v.2 “Are all these words to go unanswered? Is this talker to be vindicated? 

v.3 Will your idle talk reduce others to silence? Will no one rebuke you when you mock? 


v.4 You make yourself out to be righteous


v.4 You say to God, ‘My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight.' 


v.5,6 If God would speak He would reveal the truth about you


v.5 Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you 

v.and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom, for true wisdom has two sides. Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin. 


v.7-9 You are powerless & ignorant before God's might, wisdom & knowledge


v.7 “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? 

v.8 They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know? 

v.9 Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea. 


v.10-12 If He convicts, you have no answer for He sees and knows all about you


v.10 “If he comes along and confines you in prison and convenes a court, who can oppose him? 

v.11 Surely he recognizes deceivers; and when he sees evil, does he not take note? 

v.12 But the witless can no more become wise than a wild donkey's colt can be born human. 


v.13-15 Your salvation will come in submission to Him and repentance


v.13 “Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, 

v.14 if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, 

v.15 then, free of fault, you will lift up your face; you will stand firm and without fear. 


v.16-20 Your outcome will be restoration, blessing, security & peace while sinners perish


v.16 You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by. 

v.17 Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning. 

v.18 You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. 

v.19 You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid, and many will court your favour. 

v.20 But the eyes of the wicked will fail, and escape will elude them; their hope will become a dying gasp.”



[Concluding 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 time.


For 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.


Indeed 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.


Generally 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 [v.13-15]

- Blessing WILL follow repentance [v.16-20], either now or in eternity.


The 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.


Before 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.]


Continue to Chapter 12